Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

Book CoverFinished this on my flight out to a labor conference in Italy. Beautifully written (truly — it’s gorgeous). I’ll add more later but the only disappointment was that it didn’t cover more. In particular, he argues that real equality means that minority groups (e.g., homosexuals) are treated as equal even if they don’t “cover”. That is, even if they keep their own gay culture and are thus allowed to be their authentic selves. As the author recognizes, there’s a real danger here of suggesting both that (1) there is some essential gay culture and (2) if someone is gay but doesn’t perform that culture they aren’t being their authentic self. That’s all problematic. The author’s response is that he just wants people to be able to be their “authentic self.” Fair enough but the hard question is what on earth an authentic self even is. And, more to the point, to say that the law and culture should let us be our authentic selves seems to imagine that selves come before our experiences in the world and society. In other words, law and culture and the rest all create the conditions under which we develop into selves in the first instance. How that law and culture are constructed will thus determine to some large degree what I experience as my authentic self. So isn’t the hard question what sort of authentic selves law and culture should help cultivate?

I recommend reading How Our Lives Become Stories either during or immediately following this book.

2 thoughts on “Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights

  1. Clare Flourish

    What it feels like for me is that there is not one Trans way of being, but many different ones. And, just on one characteristic, there is not one way to be a cis woman, but more or less feminine. Possibly when society rubs away a characteristic in youth, we suppress it for a while, but feeling more confident in ourselves let it out in middle age. Being ourselves is liberating, not just for us queers.

    1. heathermichellewhitney

      Thanks, Clare. It’s always interesting to think whether what we think of as our authentic selves would look like/feel differently if we were raised in radically different circumstances. Like, for instance, a world where there were no gender roles. I do wonder what it would feel like to “be a woman” in such a place.


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