Paisley Currah

Position: Professor
Campus Affiliation: Brooklyn College|Graduate Center
Degrees/Diplomas: PhD Cornell University, BA Queen’s University
Research Interests: feminist, queer, and transgender theory; gender, sexuality, and the law; politics of sex classification
Currah has written widely on transgender issues, including on topics such as discrimination and sex reclassification, and the transgender rights movement. He is the author and editor of over 30 articles and books and co-founded the leading journal in transgender studies, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. Currah’s newest book, Sex Is Sex Does: Governing Transgender Identity (New York University Press, 2022) 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. He is currently editing an international collection on transgender people. His next monograph compares the transgender rights movement with womens’ movements. At the Graduate Center, Professor Currah teaches courses on biopolitics and transgender theories and politics. He is a founding editor, with Susan Stryker, of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. He is co-editor of Corpus: An Interdisciplinary Reader on Bodies and Knowledge and Transgender Rights. Currah sits on the editorial boards of the American Political Science Review, GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian StudiesPolity, and WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly.


Paisley Curah, Sex Is Sex Does: Governing Transgender Identity (New York University Press, 2022)
Every government agency in the United States, from Homeland Security to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to your local elementary school, has the authority to make its own rules for sex classification. Many transgender people find themselves in the bizarre situation of having different sex classifications on different documents. Whether you can change your legal sex to “F” or “M” (or more recently “X”) depends on what state you live in, what jurisdiction you were born in, and what government agency you’re dealing with. In Sex Is as Sex Does, noted transgender advocate and scholar Paisley Currah explores this deeply flawed system, showing why it fails transgender and non-binary people.
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?
In this thought-provoking and original volume, 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 that, 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.
corpusMonica J. Carpenter and Paisley Currah, eds., Corpus: An Interdisciplinary Reader on Bodies and Knowledge (Palgrave, 2011).
Corpus begins with the argument that traditional disciplines are unable to fully apprehend the body and embodiment and asserts that critical study of these topics urgently demands interdisciplinary approaches. The collection’s 13 previously unpublished essays grapple with the place of bodies in a range of twenty-first century knowledge practices, including trauma, surveillance, aging, fat, food, feminist technoscience, death, biopolitics, and race, among others. The book’s projected audience includes teachers and scholars of bodies and embodiment, interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners, and scholars interested in the any of the substantive content covered in the book. The collection may be of interest to anyone reading or writing in the areas of: cultural studies; queer, gender and sexuality studies; body and power; biopolitics; intersectional approaches to the body; anthropology of the body; sociology of the body; embodiment and space; digital bodies; anthropology of knowledge production; health, illness, and medicine studies; science, knowledge, and technology studies; and philosophy and social theory.
transgeder rightsPaisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter, eds., Transgender Rights (University of Minnesota Press, 2006).
Transgender Rights packs a surprising amount of information into a small space. Offering spare, tightly executed essays, this slim volume nonetheless succeeds in creating a spectacular, well-researched compendium of the transgender movement.” -Law Library Journal
Over the past three decades, the transgender movement has gained visibility and achieved significant victories. Discrimination has been prohibited in several states, dozens of municipalities, and more than two hundred private companies, while hate crime laws in eight states have been amended to include gender identity. Yet prejudice and violence against transgender people remain all too common.
With analysis from legal and policy experts, activists and advocates, Transgender Rights assesses the movement’s achievements, challenges, and opportunities for future action. Examining crucial topics like family law, employment policies, public health, economics, and grassroots organizing, this groundbreaking book is an indispensable resource in the fight for the freedom and equality of those who cross gender boundaries. Moving beyond media representations to grapple with the real lives and issues of transgender people, Transgender Rights will launch a new moment for human rights activism in America.
Contributors: Kylar W. Broadus, Judith Butler, Mauro Cabral, Dallas Denny, Taylor Flynn, Phyllis Randolph Frye, Julie A. Greenberg, Morgan Holmes, Bennett H. Klein, Jennifer L. Levi, Ruthann Robson, Nohemy Solórzano-Thompson, Dean Spade, Kendall Thomas, Paula Viturro, Willy Wilkinson.
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