An Open Letter Regarding The Assault on the Civil Rights and Liberties of Trans People

To Whom It May Concern: We write this letter to each of you because of the current President’s move to construct two binary-based gender categories that effectively serve to erase trans people and trans identities. We are among many who identify with and advocate on behalf of LGBTQIA+ communities. This most recent attack on the well-being of trans individuals is in fact another iteration of the long and calculated march to limit the rights and freedoms of LGBTQIA+ individuals. New rights remain tenuous rights until they are at last stitched into the cultural and political bone marrow of this country. We would love nothing more than to say that this is all a rarity and anomaly but in truth this is the reality of America and always has been. However, it is critical to realize that it does not have to be. We do not need to exist in a world that divides people, parties, minds, hearts, and bodies. We do not need to exist in a world where individual identity is relegated to a matter of debate. Perhaps the greatest executive over-reach in this most recent proclamation is that the paths marched by trans individuals and communities and the lived experiences derived from that march are all irrelevant and inconsequential. We wish so deeply that this was not the reality that each of you must face. We wanted so badly for the quality of today to be vastly different from the realities that some of us faced when we first came out. We wanted each of you to be free and wanted your identities to be acknowledged and celebrated. We wanted fewer and fewer people to bristle at the profound courage that it takes to proclaim one’s true self first in whispers and then in shouts to the world. In truth, the most courageous thing that anyone can ever do is dare to be them self.

We worry that the essence and symbolism of last week’s assault will be lost in the minds of the masses. We fear that people will continue to misperceive trans rights and view their compromise as inconsequential – that trans people will continue to be seen as separate and that the arc of legal protections gained by this powerful community will be seen as having no meaningful impact and bearing on the general population. After all, LGBTQIA+ rights have always been wrongly categorized throughout history as special rights. This intentional politically-based mislabeling has resulted in the lingering public skepticism that granting legal legitimacy to LGBTQIA+ individuals would be akin to granting extra protections and benefits – when in truth we were all just trying to level the proverbial playing field.

We cannot pretend to know what will happen next and cannot pretend that the path forward as it relates to the pursuit of restoration of justice will be fully transparent and easily discernible. In this moment we want so much to be able to offer each of you certainty and protection. However, we do want to speak in this moment to our students and community members to affirm that trans people shall never be erased. The world as we know it now makes it exceedingly complicated to be one’s true self. The path of self-actualization is a myriad of trade-offs rather than pure pursuit of truth. The act of navigating this context and this space is exhausting and we loathe that each of you have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders in your routine movement through the day. However, coming out as yourself should never be met with a myriad of oppressive socio, political, and cultural assaults to correct for courageous self-disclosure.

Hermann Hesse once said, “I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?” Self-discovery and self-disclosure can be among the most terrifying and among the most exhilarating moments in one’s life and we truly have the opportunity to respond to Hesse’s inquiry by making things less difficult. To our trans students and trans community members, you are you - undeniably you - and you have risen above the oppressive structures and insidious gender binaries and hetero-normatively to be you and to live authentically as you. The world is better because of you. You exemplify what freedom can be and we love that we live in a world where you exist.

Jean-Paul Sartre once said in No Exit: “You are -- your life, and nothing else.” So here we conclude in this fantastic arc of reflection that the sum total of one’s life is their capacity to be free. It is their capacity to be less complicated and obscured by the noise and pollution of judgment. It is their capacity to be less complicated and obscured by the perpetual doubting of one’s own legitimacy. You are – your life in all of its tenuous moments, shaky nights, doubts and insecurities. You are – your life in all of its awkward fumbling, practice gestures, and ambiguities. You are – your life in all of its beautiful evolutions and iterations. And you are someone to see. Moreover, you are someone who will not be alone in this struggle.

Respectfully, Susan Westgate (Professor) Queer Community Alliance Emily Burton (Student) Anna Britton (Student) Amanda Fox (Student) Debbie Gioia (Acting Assistant Dean for Student Services) Dawn Shafer (Interim Associate Dean for Student Affairs) Jodi Frey (Professor and Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee) Megan Meyer (Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs) Adam Schneider (Professor and co-chair of DAO) Fernando Wagner (Professor and co-chair of DAO) Richard Barth (Dean) Saudia Nix (Student) Chigo Oguh (Student) Kimberly Hurley (Student) Molly McCracken (Student) Elizabeth Blake (Student) Sophie Siebach-Glover (Student)

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