Policing Motherhood, Controlling Families: Race, Reproductive Governance, and Trans Women's Parenting Rights. By: Siegel, Derek. 2024. Gender & Society. Vol. 38 Issue 1, p60-88.

Transgender people face multiple challenges to securing and maintaining parenting rights, yet most studies on trans parenthood focus exclusively on trans masculine people’s experiences and feature majority white samples. To address gendered and racialized gaps in knowledge, I conducted 54 semi-structured interviews with trans women in the United States, who parent or wish to parent, across race and class backgrounds. Using the intersectional frameworks of racialized transmisogyny and reproductive governance, I examine the barriers to parenting rights that trans women encounter in adoption and custody disputes. I find that judges and case workers use racist and anti-trans stereotypes when evaluating “parental fitness,” which (1) institutionalizes racialized transmisogyny in the law, (2) increases the regulatory power of legal institutions, and (3) reinforces dominant mothering ideologies. I also discuss how everyday people (i.e., partners and family members) co-construct the legal and symbolic meaning of motherhood, illustrating the centrality of trans reproduction to the policing of trans and other minoritized communities. Plain Language Summary: Policing Motherhood, Controlling Families: How Race and Class Shape Trans Women’s Parenting Rights Transgender people face multiple challenges to securing and maintaining parenting rights, yet people who study trans parenthood mostly talk to trans men and white people. To further our understanding of this topic, I spoke with 54 trans women in the United States, who parent or want to be parents in the future, across race and class backgrounds. My goal was to understand the barriers to parenting rights that trans women encounter in adoption and custody disputes and how that connects to larger patterns of inequality for trans people and other marginalized groups. I find that judges and case workers use racist and anti-trans stereotypes when evaluating “parental fitness” (the legal standard used in these cases). This sets a precedent for legal discrimination and creates more opportunities for the state to intervene in marginalized people’s everyday lives. Lastly, I discuss how judges, case workers, and everyday people (i.e., partners and family members) reinforce norms about what it means to be a “good mother,” and why that matters in terms of people being able to build the kinds of families they want.