‘Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States’ (Beacon Press, Boston) is an astounding book that investigates how queer people are both the target of, and often complicit with, the U.S. criminal legal system. It is a great companion book to ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’, Michelle Alexander’s searing critique of the war on drugs and the resulting surge in criminalizing people of color in the United States.
Painstakingly researched and written by Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock – all of whom have worked tirelessly for social justice causes – the book uncovers the underlying, interlocking causes and effects of how our thinking about sex, class, race, and gender is contributing to a system that is both out of control and dangerous, particularly to those who deviate from socially mandated gender and sexual norms.
In a chapter titled ‘Gleeful Gay Killers, Lethal Lesbians, and Deceptive Gender Benders’, the authors document how the image of the sexually degraded predator continues to resurface with a regularity that would be banal were it not for the devastation wrought on the LGBT lives it touches. “Queers are cast as a perpetual threat not only to children and innocent adults, but to the normalcy, promising futures, and rigidly gendered, raced, and classed social order that those innocent lives represent.”
The authors credit the work of LGBT advocacy organizations to repeal sodomy laws and pass hate crimes legislation. But they also contend that, in mainstream gay discourse, “messages are crafted to emphasize reassuring images of LGBT normalcy and friendliness, not to embrace and highlight the struggles of segments of the LGBT population that continue to be criminalized.”
The final chapter ‘Over the Rainbow: Where Do We Go From Here?’ lists a number of resources dedicated to solving this problem. Simultaneously informative and infuriating, ‘Queer (In)Justice’ ends with a clarion call to build and work toward a vision of communities where all LGBT people are free from violence and responsible to each other and to the broader communities of which we are part. It’s an amazing book with great intellectual depth, integrity, and foresight.