Dean Spade

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Dean Spade
Alma materBarnard College
UCLA School of Law
OccupationLawyer, activist, author
EmployerSeattle University School of Law
Known forTransgender activism
Home townNew York City

Dean Spade (born 1977) is a lawyer, writer, trans activist, and Associate Professor of Law at Seattle University School of Law. In 2002, he founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a non-profit law collective in New York City that provides free legal services to transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming people who are low-income and/or people of color.[1] Spade was a staff attorney at SRLP from 2002 to 2006, during which time he presented testimony to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission[2] and helped achieve a major victory for transgender youth in foster care in the Jean Doe v. Bell case.[3] More recently, Spade was involved with the campaign to stop Seattle from building a new jail.[4][5]

The Advocate named Spade one of their "Forty Under 40" in May 2010.[6] Utne Reader named Spade and Tyrone Boucher on their list of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World" in 2009,[7] for their collaborative project Enough: The Personal Politics of Resisting Capitalism.[8]

Spade was the 2009-2010 Haywood Burns Chair at CUNY Law School, the Williams Institute Law Teaching Fellow at UCLA Law School and Harvard Law School, and was selected to give the 2009-2010 James A. Thomas Lecture at Yale Law School. He received a Jesse Dukeminier Award[9][10] for the article "Documenting Gender".[11] Spade has written extensively about his personal experience as a trans law professor and student. This includes writings on transphobia in higher education as well as the class privilege of being a professor.[12][13][14] He has also written about the limitations of the law's ability to address issues of inequity and injustice.[15][16] His research interests have included the impact of the War on Terror on transgender rights, the bureaucratization of trans identities, models of non-profit governance in social movements, and the limits of enhanced hate crime penalties.[17] His first book, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law, was released in January 2012 from South End Press and nominated for a 2011 Lambda Literary Award in the category of Transgender Nonfiction.[18][19]

Spade has collaborated extensively in the past, including editing two special issues of Sexuality Research and Social Policy with Paisley Currah [20] and coauthoring a guide to Medical Therapy and Health Maintenance for Transgender Men with Dr. Nick Gorton.[21] Spade has collaborated particularly frequently with sociologist Craig Willse. Their collaborative projects include I Still Think Marriage is the Wrong Goal,[22] a manifesto and Facebook group. Willse and Spade were also the co-creators of MAKE, "propaganda for activist agitation", a paper zine (1999–2001) and website (2001–2007).[23] In the past, Spade has written other zines including Piss and Vinegar (2002), telling the story of his transphobic arrest during the 2002 World Economic Forum protests in New York City. Mimi Nguyen interviewed Spade and Willse about the experience in Maximumrocknroll.[24]



  • Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. New York: South End Press. 2011. ISBN 9780896087965. OCLC 601132754.


  • "Out of time: from gay liberation to prison abolition : Building an abolitionist trans & queer movement with everything we've got" (with Morgan Bassichis & Alexander Lee), in Captive Genders : Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, eds Nat Smith & Eric A. Stanley (Oakland, CA : AK Press, 2011.). ISBN 9781849350709. OCLC 669754832. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • "Fighting to win", in That's Revolting! : Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, ed. Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (Brooklyn : Soft Skull Press : Distributed by Publishers Group West, 2008.). ISBN 9781593761950. OCLC 182552895. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • "Compliance is gendered : struggling for gender self-determination in a hostile economy", in Transgender Rights, ed. Paisley Currah (Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 2006.). ISBN 0-816-64311-3. OCLC 68221085. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • "Undermining gender regulation", in Nobody Passes : Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, ed. Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (Emeryville, CA : Seal Press, 2006.). ISBN 9781580051842. OCLC 71285289. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Afterword in Exile & Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation by Eli Clare (1999)

Personal life[edit]

Spade grew up in rural Virginia, the child of a single mother who was sometimes on welfare.[25]

I started cleaning other people's houses around age nine and cleaned offices and houses throughout my childhood with my mom and sister. I got my first cleaning job without my mom when I was eleven and worked cleaning and painting vacant low-quality rental apartments during the summer between sixth and seventh grade.[26]

At the age of 14, Spade's mother died of lung cancer, and Spade went to live with two sets of foster parents.[27]

Spade graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College with a bachelor of arts degree in political science and women's studies,[27] and then graduated from the UCLA School of Law in 2001. Spade has written about seeking a mastectomy for sex-reassignment surgery in Los Angeles during this time period, and how the reliance on a mental-health/disability model to gain access to such surgery did not fit a person with a non-binary gender expression.[28]

Spade identifies as Jewish,[29] and was a leader of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA).[30]


  1. ^ "SRLP (Sylvia Rivera Law Project)". SRLP (Sylvia Rivera Law Project). Retrieved 2017-10-11.
  2. ^, accessed 7-2-10
  3. ^ "Landmark Foster Care Case: Jean Doe vs. Bell". SRLP (Sylvia Rivera Law Project). 2012-09-26. Retrieved 2017-10-11.
  4. ^ Holt, Emily (2/6/09). "Activists oppose new Seattle jail proposal". The Spectator.
  5. ^, accessed 7-2-10
  6. ^ "Forty Under 40." 'The Advocate' May 2010.
  7. ^ "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World: Tyrone Boucher and Dean Spade: Cocreators, Enough." 'Utne Reader' November–December 2009.
  8. ^ Enough: The Personal Politics of Resisting Capitalism accessed 6-17-10
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Past Volumes - Dukeminier Awards Journal - Williams Institute". Williams Institute. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  11. ^ Dean, Spade, (2008). "Documenting Gender". HASTINGS L.J. 59.
  12. ^ Spade, Dean (Winter 2010). ""Be Professional"" (PDF). Harvard Journal of Law and Gender.
  13. ^ Spade, Dean (Winter 2011). "Some Very Basic Tips for Making Higher Education More Accessible to Trans Students and Rethinking How We Talk about Gendered Bodies". Radical Teacher. 92: 57–62 – via EBSCOHost.
  14. ^ "the dirty details of my new salary | Enough". Retrieved 2017-10-11.
  15. ^ Spade, Dean (Summer 2013). "Intersectional Resistance and Law Reform". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 38: 1031–1055. doi:10.1086/669574 – via EBSCOHost.
  16. ^ Spade, Dean (2010). "For Those Considering Law School". Harvard Unbound. 6 – via EBSCOHost.
  17. ^ "Dean Spade on Prison Abolition and Anti-Transgender Violence," Out-FM on WBAI, 1/30/12 accessed 2-20-12
  18. ^ Spade, Dean (2011). Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. South End Press: New York. ISBN 978-0-89608-796-5 [1]
  19. ^ "24th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced." 'Entertainment Weekly' March 2012 accessed 3-25-12
  20. ^ Currah, Paisley and Dean Spade, guest co-editors. (2007). "The State We're In: Locations of Coercion and Resistance in Trans Policy, Part I." Sexuality Research and Social Policy: Journal of National Sexuality Resource Center IV (iv). Articles in PDF available online at
  21. ^ Gorton N, Buth J, and Spade D. Medical Therapy and Health Maintenance for Transgender Men: A Guide For Health Care Providers Lyon-Martin Women's Health Services. San Francisco, CA. 2005. ISBN 0-9773250-0-8
  22. ^ I Still Think Marriage is the Wrong Goal accessed 6-17-10
  23. ^ MAKE zine archives accessed 6-17-10
  24. ^ Interview in Maximumrocknroll accessed 6-17-10
  25. ^ "Enough: The Personal Politics of Resisting Capitalism: Who We Are". Enough: The Personal Politics of Resisting Capitalism.
  26. ^ Dean Spade (Winter 2010). ""BE PROFESSIONAL!"" (PDF). Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.
  27. ^ a b Cynthia Lee (May 22, 2007). ""Transgender lawyer's appeal for justice"". UCLA Today.
  28. ^ Dean Spade (September 2013). "Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender". Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice.
  29. ^ Dean Spade (January 15, 2016). "Creating Change: Pinkwashing ICE, Pinkwashing Israel". Retrieved April 2, 2016. As a Jewish trans activist...
  30. ^ Natalie Oswin (ed.). "Interview with Dean Spade".

External links[edit]