Review:: Beyond Trans by Heath Fogg Davis

Beyond Trans Goes beyond transgender to question the need for gender classification.

Beyond Trans pushes the conversation on gender identity to its limits: questioning the need for gender categories in the first place. Whether on birth certificates or college admissions applications or on bathroom doors, why do we need to mark people and places with sex categories? Do they serve a real purpose or are these places and forms just mechanisms of exclusion? Heath Fogg Davis offers an impassioned call to rethink the usefulness of dividing the world into not just Male and Female categories but even additional categories of Transgender and gender fluid. Davis, himself a transgender man, explores the underlying gender-enforcing policies and customs in American life that have led to transgender bathroom bills, college admissions controversies, and more, arguing that it is necessary for our society to take real steps to challenge the assumption that gender matters.

He examines four areas where we need to re-think our sex-classification systems: sex-marked identity documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports; sex-segregated public restrooms; single-sex colleges; and sex-segregated sports. Speaking from his own experience and drawing upon major cases of sex discrimination in the news and in the courts, Davis presents a persuasive case for challenging how individuals are classified according to sex and offers concrete recommendations for alleviating sex identity discrimination and sex-based disadvantage.

For anyone in search of pragmatic ways to make our world more inclusive, Davis’ recommendations provide much-needed practical guidance about how to work through this complex issue. A provocative call to action, Beyond Trans pushes us to think how we can work to make America truly inclusive of all people. (via Goodreads)

I received an eARC from Netgalley and the publisher, New York University Press, in exchange for an honest review.

So often, nonfiction and research about trans and gender-noncomforming people is just really bad.  This is a huge problem in research and academia, but I’ll go on about that in another post, not in this book review.

This book, was not. It was awesome. It was feminist, intersectional down to its bones, and gives wonderfully reasoned arguments about gender identity.

Heath Fogg Davis is a biracial black transgender man and an Associate Professor at Temple University. His focuses are on anti-discrimination law, transgender civil rights, political theory, race, gender and sexuality studies. You can read some of his published research on his Temple U site.

This book was very academic, and yet also very personal. It’s an extensive collection of case studies similar to what you might find in a doctoral thesis, only book length.

Davis did a great job of explaining the terms and discussion points that those who are less knowledgeable about transgender, nonbinary and genderqueer people’s issues.

He also presents tangible solutions to each of the problems that he discusses, which was awesome.

I honestly don’t feel qualified, as a cisgender person who knows nothing about most policies, to review and parse the arguments that Davis made. What I’m going to do in this review instead is talk about the things Davis does, so that people interested and knowledgeable can find it.

“More often than not, I think there are better, more efficient ways for an organization to meet its policy goals than invoking sex classification.”

Davis argues that sex markers should be removed from personal identity documents in order to prevent sex-identity discrimination, and because there are more accurate ways for the government to gather that demographic information.

He believes that the safety and privacy issues in public restrooms could easily be solved by constructing them differently.

Davis argues that women’s colleges should get the HBCU treatment and be called “historically female colleges” and formulate more accurate sex-related questions in order to get more accurate data and foster a more feminist education.

The final case study involves sex-segregated sports, which would use actual physiological measures for categorizing instead of the more imprecise category of sex.

“My hope is that change makers will use it as a template for making their organizations better for everyone.”

I saw that my genderqueer friend Monika had reviewed this book, and I am linking their review with permission here! If you see other trans, nonbinary or genderqueer reviews of this book, I’d love to link them up here!

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in these issues and the government and organizational policies that surround it. You can pick up a copy on AmazonIndiebound, or your other favorite bookseller!

5 thoughts on “Review:: Beyond Trans by Heath Fogg Davis

  1. So good to hear that it’s #ownvoices and QTPOC and thanks for presenting the key points of Davis’ work! I saw it on NetGalley and was hoping lots of folx would review. The aspect of sports always reminds me of Semenya and what a mess those “experts'” attempts at locking down categories was!
    Off to check out Monika’s review, thanks for the link!

    1. I’m hoping to see lots more ownvoices reviews, because I found myself agreeing with a lot of Davis’s policy ideas, but I was hesitant with sports due to privacy issues in that.

  2. I am so fucking excited to read this book. I spotted it in the NYU Press catalog last year and I have been screaming about it ever since. My foolish foolish brain did not remind me to place a hold on it the instant it showed up in my library catalog, so now I have to wait for the other good-taste-having people who are currently reading it to finish it and bring it back. BUT I CANNOT WAIT oh man I cannot wait, people in my life are tired of hearing how excited I am for this book. :p

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