Time and again, Davis shows the importance of understanding transgender rights as a matter of all rights.
In Beyond Trans, Heath Fogg Davis tackles topics of gender theory, LGBTQIA+ activism, and deeply ingrained social perspectives.
Davis uses four provocative contemporary case studies on gender-segregated aspects of society—identity documents, public bathrooms, single-gender universities, and sports—to show that such segregation is unnecessary and often harmfully reinforces a rigid separation along binary lines.
The male/female binary leaves no place not only for those who identify as trans, he shows, but for anyone who is androgynous or nonbinary, as well as for many others in the LGBTQIA+ community, and even cisgender people in some cases.
While the tone of Beyond Trans is academic, the topic is very personal to Davis, a biracial trans man who struggled with appearing neither precisely male nor female at times during his transition. The moments where his personal story comes up offer an organic and refreshingly intersectional perspective on sex identity.
The book assumes some prior knowledge of gender and sex identity topics, and the occasionally dense language could be a deterrent for those less well versed.
In a controversial move, Davis pointedly departs with the current transgender civil rights strategy to focus on the “assimilation” and “accommodation” of transgender people into male or female categories. It is eye-opening to see such a conscious shift in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights—from advocating for amendable sex markers on identification to doing away with the sex markers altogether.
This alluring and compelling scientific approach is at its most captivating with Davis’s dissection of all-woman colleges, which he recognizes as a welcome respite for the historically underrepresented sex. Davis critiques these sex-segregated institutions and recognizes that there are reasons they exist, while also proving that their feminist missions must necessarily include trans women, even though that could seem problematic for a technically “single-sex” school.
This book takes a perhaps seemingly singular topic and makes it approachable through passionate and relevant analysis of modern issues. Davis time and again shows the importance of understanding transgender rights as a matter of all rights, and does so in a challenging, memorable, and accessible way.
Paige Van De Winkle
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