As we commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance, we would like to call attention to Talia Mae Bettcher’s recent article, “Trapped in the Wrong Theory,” which explores transphobic violence as a mechanism of what she calls “reality enforcement:”
Since the most extreme cases of reality enforcement tend to occur where there is a maximal intermeshing of oppressions, I believe these cases ought to be understood as paradigmatic. Notably, we find other commonly associated features (sexualized context of discovery, sexual violence, murder, blaming the victim) in these cases. So an account of reality enforcement ought to begin with the premise that it is essentially an instantiation of racist violence, sexist violence, transphobic violence, and violence against sex workers all at once (roughly along the lines of my account of the fusion of reality enforcement and sexual manipulation in the case of trans women, discussed above). By identifying shared structural features across differences, one can outline a trajectory of transphobic violence: as variations of reality enforcement move away from paradigmatic cases, they will tend to lose some of the commonly associated features and hence become less severe or less likely. Since reality enforcement can be understood as a form of violence that cuts across racial, class, cultural, and gender differences differently, we can talk of a form of violence that cannot be reduced to sexism, racism, or classism while at the same time being fundamentally interwoven with all three.
While the threat of transphobic violence remains pervasive, Bettcher also highlights the vibrancy of trans communities, arguing that “we should recognize a multiplicity of trans worlds in relation to a multiplicity of dominant ones.”
Because the Signs editorial offices are housed at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, we would like to draw particular attention to the murder of Eyricka Morgan, a former student at Rutgers and activist in the Newark LGBTQ community, who was killed in New Brunswick on September 26 by a roommate in the boarding house where she was living.