Paisley Currah: "Sex is as Sex Does"
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Open to the Public
In conversation with Red Washburn and Joshua-Sealey Harrington
Sex Is as Sex Does reveals the hidden logics that have governed sex classification policies in the United States and shows what the regulation of transgender identity can tell us about society’s approach to sex and gender writ large. Ultimately, Currah demonstrates, because the difficulties transgender people face are not just the result of transphobia but also stem from larger injustices, an identity-based transgender rights movement will not, by itself, be up to the task of resolving them. Providing examples from different states, government agencies, and court cases, Currah explains how transgender people struggle to navigate this confusing and contradictory web of legal rules, definitions, and classifications. Unlike most gender scholars, who are concerned with what the concepts of sex and gender really mean, Currah is more interested in what the category of “sex” does for governments. What does “sex” do on our driver’s licenses, in how we play sports, in how we access health care, or in the bathroom we use? Why do prisons have very different rules than social service agencies? Why is there such resistance to people changing their sex designation? Or to dropping it from identity documents altogether?
Paisley Currah is a Professor of Political Science and Women’s & Gender Studies at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Currah has written widely on transgender issues, including on topics such as discrimination, sex reclassification, and the transgender rights movement. He is the co-founder of the leading journal in transgender studies, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. His current book project looks at the contemporary legislative assaults on transgender people, especially transgender youth, in the United States. He is also working on an edited volume, with Blas Radi, on transgender people and the state in the Americas. Currah has advocated for transgender rights at all levels of government. He was a founding board member of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, served on the founding board of directors of Global Action for Trans Equality, and sat on the advisory board of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Program. Currah co-edited, with Shannon Minter and Richard Juang, Transgender Rights, the first book on the movement for transgender rights, which won the Sylvia Rivera Award in Transgender Studies and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Currah received an MA and PhD in Government from Cornell University and a BA (Hon.) in Political Studies from Queen's University at Kingston, Canada. He also teaches for Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights.