Transforming Citizenships

Transgender Articulations of the Law

247 pages

2 halftones

December, 2013

ISBN: 9781479818921



Also available in


American StudiesLaw

Part of the Sexual Cultures series


Isaac West is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Communication Studies and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa.

All books by Isaac West

Transforming Citizenships engages the performativity of citizenship as it relates to transgender individuals and advocacy groups. Instead of reading the law as a set of self-executing discourses, Isaac West takes up transgender rights claims as performative productions of complex legal subjectivities capable of queering accepted understandings of genders, sexualities, and the normative forces of the law.
Drawing on an expansive archive, from the correspondence of a transwoman arrested for using a public bathroom in Los Angeles in 1954 to contemporary lobbying efforts of national transgender advocacy organizations, West advances a rethinking of law as capacious rhetorics of citizenship, justice, equality, and freedom. When approached from this perspective, citizenship can be recuperated from its status as the bad object of queer politics to better understand how legal discourses open up sites for identification across identity categories and enable political activities that escape the analytics of heteronormativity and homonationalism.


  • "West uses the lens of transgender to show how citizenship can be performatively produced.”


  • "Challenging critiques of the LGBTQ rights movement that portray it as an assimilationist, uncritical adoption of heterosexual norms, Transforming Citizenships offers a robust account of transgender citizenship claims and their world-making potentials. In conceptualizing the law not as an abstraction but as enacted in everyday articulations beyond the courtroom, West compellingly shows how transformative different sorts of legal engagements might be."

    —Paisley Currah, co-editor of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly

  • "In Transforming Citizenships, Isaac West offers a bold 'impure politics,' a new vision for queer understandings of the law, the way law operates in culture, and perhaps most importantly, the ways critics can make the discourse around it more effective. In his performance of each of these detailed case studies, West offers examples of how a rich community of criticism focused on the law can help reshape the conditions of the present and future."

    —John M. Sloop, Vanderbilt University