October 2022

Captive Genders- Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex

Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, Second Edition: Stanley, Eric A., Smith, Nat, McDonald, CeCe: 9781849352345: Amazon.com: Books

Edited by Erica A. Stanley and Nat Smith


In Captive Genders- Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex Erica Stanley and Nat Smith have gathered a collection of essays and academic pieces by current and former prisoners, activists, and academics to help understand the complexity of being incarcerated as trans or queer. The book highlights the historical surveillance and abuse of power by the police force upon the LGBTQ+ community and how it has structurally excluded the community, leading to poverty and incarceration, which continues to affect the community today.


The book features 28 essays, stories and/or academic papers, written by various authors highlighting different issues trans and queer people face. The essays in the book recount narratives from historical events such as the Stonewall Rebellion in June of 1969 to various other historical raids caused by homophobic sentiments and resulting in police brutality. Other narrative included in the book are the police harassment trans and queer youth face on the street, the lack of medical care for HIV/AIDS-positive inmates and about the kind of aggressive comments and (sexual) violence directed primarily at trans people in the corrupt prison industry.


The book also features many biographical recounts, such as Kalaniopua Youngs’ essay where she, as a mixed Native trans woman, was sentenced to jail and the violence and hardship that she faced and how she had to turn to sexual favour for protection. Another biography story is that of Paula Rea Witherspoon, who is a incarcerated (as of when the book was published in  2015) transsexual woman. She also tells how difficult getting employment as a trans women led to her probation being revoked, resulting in being sentenced and her transsexual identity being stripped from her in the prison industrial complex.


What becomes evident when reading this book is how anti-trans rhetorics and queer violence has contributed to “justified” police brutality and incarceration of a vulnerable community. The book addresses the multitude of complex trans identities and how they are affected by race, class and status ( e.g. immigrant, undocumented, etc.) and how that is viewed by the prison industrial complex. The book does not give grace to crimes committed by trans or queer individuals, instead, it emphasises ending the cycle of oppressed people being pitted against one another, where there is no “good” and “bad” people but rather a system of racism, state violence and capitalism that prey on the poor and contributes to a culture of violence.


Eric Stanley works at the intersection of radical trans/queer politics, abolitionist study, and critical theory. They are an assistant professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

Nat Smith has worked with Critical Resistance and the Trans Gender/Variant and Intersex Justice Project.

“An exciting assemblage of writings—analyses, manifestos, stories, interviews—that traverse the complicated entanglements of surveillance, policing, imprisonment, and the production of gender normativity…. [T]he contributors to this volume create new frameworks and new vocabularies that surely will have a transformative impact on the theories and practices of twenty-first century abolition.”—Angela Y. Davis, professor emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz


“Captive Genders reminds and instructs that life is about relationships and desires free from neglect and repression, gendered constraints, policing and brutality, and disappearance. The anthology contributors share transformational insights, mini-memoirs, analyses and theories about captivity. Their writings lead and nurture us to a deeper understanding and struggle for justice with freedom and peace.”
-Joy James, author of Seeking the Beloved Community 


“Captive Genders is an essential book that brings home that trans and gender non-conforming lives are deeply structured by the prison, that violence can never be an antidote to violence, that abolition must extend to the gender binary, and that formerly incarcerated Black trans women will lead the way.”
-Jin Haritaworn, author of Queer Lovers and Hateful Others: Regenerating Violent Times and Places


“The powerful analysis and compelling arguments in this collection force readers to conclude that the political and theoretical connection between prison abolition and trans and queer liberation is fundamental to social transformation and justice.”
-Beth E. Ritchie, author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation