There’s a danger with a book like Julia Serano’s Excluded that it might not receive the audience it deserves. From its subtitle, Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive, there’s the very real possibility that those excluded are already all-too-aware of this problem and that those included don’t wish to venture outside their safety zones.
But failure to read Serano’s book would be a tragedy for both camps, as Excluded carries on from her remarkable 2007 book, Whipping Girl, in leading the discussion around trans rights, double standards and gender entitlement and does so with wit, warmth and insight throughout. Serano masterfully blends the personal with the political, even when she’s taking down the “perversion” of that very concept.
I’ll admit that, as a cisgender male, I flopped down on the sofa with this book in a spirit of “taking my medicine.” Throughout my own learning curve, I can’t say I’ve always been entirely conscious or sensitive of trans issues, but I've been troubled by the anger the very idea of cissexism provokes in some people, especially lesbian or gay people who've experienced our own marginalization. Serano's point is easy to see, and I hoped her latest lessons wouldn’t sting me too badly. What I found, however, was a book that’s consistently entertaining in its fascinating explorations of our overlapping identities and a writer more interested in building ever-larger activist communities than scoring points at ignorant oppressors.
Serano takes a holistic approach to feminism and embraces ambiguity throughout — taking direct aim at transphobic ideas and attitudes within heterosexual and queer communities, while also warning of the limits of “queerer-than-thou” anger. She deftly plays peacemaker in what seems like a cold war between trans people and bisexuals and champions the femme from oppression by straight men, gay men and lesbians alike.
“When we look at the world through any one single lens, we are bound to overlook many things,” Serano writes. Excluded is a bracing and necessary antidote to our collective bad habit of viewing life through a fixed perspective, and it's one of the year’s best reads.