Terrorizing Gender


Terrorizing Gender

Transgender Visibility and the Surveillance Practices of the U.S. Security State

Mia Fischer

Expanding Frontiers: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Series

282 pages
13 illustrations, index


November 2019


$45.00 Add to Cart

May 2022


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2019


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2019


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

2020 Diamond Anniversary Book Award from the National Communication Association (NCA) 

The increased visibility of transgender people in mainstream media, exemplified by Time magazine’s declaration that 2014 marked a “transgender tipping point,” was widely believed to signal a civil rights breakthrough for trans communities in the United States. In Terrorizing Gender Mia Fischer challenges this narrative of progress, bringing together transgender, queer, critical race, legal, surveillance, and media studies to analyze the cases of Chelsea Manning, CeCe McDonald, and Monica Jones. Tracing how media and state actors collude in the violent disciplining of these trans women, Fischer exposes the traps of visibility by illustrating that dominant representations of trans people as deceptive, deviant, and threatening are integral to justifying, normalizing, and reinforcing the state-sanctioned violence enacted against them.

The heightened visibility of transgender people, Fischer argues, has actually occasioned a conservative backlash characterized by the increased surveillance of trans people by the security state, evident in debates over bathroom access laws, the trans military ban, and the rescission of federal protections for transgender students and workers. Terrorizing Gender concludes that the current moment of trans visibility constitutes a contingent cultural and national belonging, given the gendered and racialized violence that the state continues to enact against trans communities, particularly those of color.

Author Bio

Mia Fischer is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Denver.



“Fischer’s novel approach . . . yields utterly compelling analytical results and promises to make a lasting contribution to work on the racialized surveillance practices of the state by accenting its gendered aspects.”—Rachel Hall, Women’s Studies in Communication

Terrorizing Gender is an incendiary contribution to media studies and transgender studies. With brilliant rigor, Fischer shows how recent U.S. transgender visibility has occasioned a revival of narratives presenting trans people as deviant and threatening. . . . The result, as Fischer masterfully illustrates, is an extremely limited public trans visibility, premised on replicating white supremacy and violent policing of those trans people who do not or will not comply with state regulation. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in transgender politics and media.”—Aren Z. Aizura, assistant professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies at the University of Minnesota, and author of Mobile Subjects: Transnational Imaginaries of Gender Reassignment


“Mia Fischer’s Terrorizing Gender valuably unsettles normative assumptions and reveals precarious implications of the vaunted transgender ‘tipping point.’. . . Terrorizing Gender’s compelling necropolitical critique floodlights the conditions and obfuscations of trans precarity, and its closing call to embody Tourmaline’s politics of ‘nobodiness’ offers a promising glimpse of visibility’s queer future.”—Charles E. Morris III, professor in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University and coeditor of QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking  

“Methodologically innovative and theoretically sophisticated, this brave book exposes how transgender people in the United States are increasingly subject to state-sanctioned violence and surveillance practices. . . . This book will occupy a central place on my shelf as it bridges the fields of surveillance, trans, and media studies, and critical race and feminist theory. I can’t wait to teach it.”—Shoshana Magnet, associate professor at the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, University of Ottawa

“An essential resource for students of queer and trans media, and more broadly media studies students seeking to understand the relationship between representation and lived experiences. . . . The substantiation in Terrorizing Gender of the many ways in which (hyper)visibility in the media reproduces and reinforces the state’s regulation of trans lives is a timely and valuable addition to the existing trans, queer, and feminist media scholarship on visibility and will assuredly inform the future of these fields.”—Ash Kinney d’Harcourt, Feminist Media Studies

"Terrorizing Gender ultimately asks media scholars to move beyond reductive debates over “good” and “bad” representation, instead pointing to the more insidious ways in which visibility as a directive both obscures more entrenched struggles in marginalized communities as well as contributes directly to increased political violence toward those who are most at risk."—Erique Zhang, International Journal of Communication

“Reveal[s] a set of interlocking and coordinated harms, psychic and physical, that course through individual and group actors, mass media representations, and the state.”—Jeanie Austin, RGWS: A Feminist Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
Introduction: A Transgender Tipping Point?    
1. Pathologizing and Prosecuting a (Gender) Traitor    
2. Transpatriotism and Iterations of Empire    
3. Blind(ing) (In)justice and the Disposability of Black Life    
4. Materializing Hashtag Activism and the #FreeCeCe Campaign    
5. Sex Work, Securitainment, and the Transgender Terrorist    
Coda: The Perils of Transgender Visibility    


2020 Diamond Anniversary Book Award from the National Communication Association 

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