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UIU Diversity and Inclusion Blog

#2 Black Trans Lives Matter

by Nickie Michaud Wild, PhD

June 2020 will forever be remembered as a tipping point in the United States’ history of race and politics. After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, protests spread rapidly throughout the country. It was also Pride Month, and besides frequent declarations that Black Lives Matter, activists also drew attention to another truth, that Black Trans Lives Matter. Why have activists emphasized this, and why is it important?

It is important to first realize that the United States does not do a very good job of tracking murders by gender identity.

Scholars focusing on the experiences of transgender people have historically hesitated to specify the relative risk of transgender homicide because of substantial limitations of available data. The definition of transgender itself varies and can represent a very broad or very narrow category of people who defy traditional expectations of gender. Although this definitional issue may seem academic at first, it has significant consequences for how to categorize both murder victims and the estimated transgender population. (Stotzer, 2017)

It’s easy to gain an understanding of murder rates by age or location, for example; these data points are practically uncontestable and are not subject to interpretation. With this in mind, it is extremely important to listen to the lived experiences of trans individuals, especially in regards to the higher levels of violence they face.

This is where trans communities come in, and why they are vitally important sources of information. They have long reported that Black trans women are disproportionately killed in the United States relative to their numbers in the population. What this means is that each individual Black trans woman has a higher likelihood of being murdered compared to most other people. In fact, these women are often victims of “overkill,” a term that means that the person who murdered them was acting in a particularly violent, premeditated way.

This heightens the importance of understanding intersectionality, when two or more of your identities come together to create a harsher form of disadvantage. Critics of the theory say it puts us into ever smaller and smaller distinct categories, but without it certain forms of oppression may not even come to light.

This year, Pride Month was more important and special than ever, as it dramatically highlighted the intersection of Black Lives Matter and Pride Month. The history of Black trans involvement has always been inextricably linked to the beginning of the Gay Rights Era, with Black transgender activists like Marsha P. Johnson, who was an integral part of the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969 and lifelong activist.

In addition, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 6-3 decision on June 15, 2020, that gay and transgender employees cannot be discriminated against or fired because of their identity, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex.”

Identities are not the only thing that are intersectional – so are forms of discrimination and institutional disadvantage. Job loss impacts housing, child welfare, access to healthcare and safety. Work on eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence, and prejudice, even very specific ones, has the same effect but in a positive and intertwined way. If communities unite to protect and advocate for each other, and for the members they have in common, their resources expand. This is basic social movement theory, where people’s time and energy for activism are resources that are just as important as money. There have been specific protests and vigils calling for the end of the violence towards Black trans women, but these tend to be in major cities; however, there are multiple ways to help even if you can’t attend. Calling attention to the problem is a great way to start, as is calling out bigotry whenever you hear or see it.

If you are in the LGBTQ+ community and are missing the support networks during the Coronavirus pandemic that you would normally be able to turn to for help, The Trevor Project has launched an online support community for teens and young adults.

#1: Welcome and an Introduction

By John Grummel, PhD

Welcome to the UIU Diversity and Inclusion Blog and thank you for joining this conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion. I would like to first thank the UIU Diversity and Inclusion Committee, especially members Dr. Nickie Michaud Wild and Danielle Cushion, whose efforts made this a much better introduction to our first UIU Diversity and Inclusion Blog. Upper Iowa University is committed to promoting and facilitating diversity and inclusion in its many forms. This blog, created by the UIU Diversity and Inclusion Committee, will address various diversity issues and concerns relevant to its students, faculty and staff, and many issues that could be addressed, particularly given the events of 2020. In future blog entries, members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the wider UIU community will address numerous issues concerning diversity, equity and inclusion.

Topics will include the current national (international) protests sparked by the senseless killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police including police brutality against people of color, Black Lives Matter, white privilege, systematic racism and microaggressions. We will also discuss Pride; the recent Supreme Court decision indicating that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s sex, among other factors) also covers sexual orientation and transgender identity. There will be discussions of the oppression and violence against the LGBTQ+ community, especially violence against transgender individuals (at least 15 transgender women or gender non-conforming people of color have been murdered already this year). We will also discuss the state-sponsored oppression of the LGBTQ+ populations in numerous U.S. states.

There will be discussions addressing the increase in ethnic, religious, or racial violence, such as the increase in the number of attacks against Asians after President Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “China Virus” in late March 2020. There will also be posts concerning the continued discrimination against persons with disabilities 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disability Act.

As Dr. Ahmad points out in the June 9, 2020, edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, equity in 2020 must be more than just a university diversity statement, and that “there is simply no way that colleges and universities can—or should—remain quiet or neutral at this critical juncture in history.”

The UIU Diversity and Inclusion Blog is intended to be a part of a broader action—to be more than just a diversity and inclusion statement –to promote and facilitate inclusion at Upper Iowa University. We will endeavor to create a discussion about diversity and inclusion that explains how the two, while often used interchangeably, are different. Through these discussions we aim to illustrate the importance of both, promote understanding and ultimately facilitate action.

Furthermore, we hope that others will get involved – if you are unsure how to participate in this conversation, contact members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. UIU already has a student Pride organization (which needs more members) and is looking to create a Black Student Union, among other organizations, actions and events. If you are interested in working on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee or one of its subcommittees (LGBTQ+/Ally, Engaging Men, Human Resources, Disabilities, Athletics, Multicultural-Diverse, Student Activities), please contact us. Again, I would like to thank you, the UIU community, on behalf of the UIU Diversity and Inclusion Committee for joining us on this journey.

UIU Diversity and Inclusion Committee
Jean Merkle (Co-Chair), Dean of Students ([email protected])
John Grummel (Co-Chair), Associate Professor of Political Science ([email protected])
Crystal Cole, Director of Counseling and Wellness ([email protected])
Danielle Rosario Cushion, Associate Athletic Director of Student Affairs ([email protected])
Erin Doherty, Head Lacrosse Coach ([email protected])
Matthew Foy, Associate Professor of Communications ([email protected])
Mary K. Hutson, Head Competitive Cheer Coach ([email protected])
Colleen M. Irving, Director of Disability Services ([email protected])
Jager, Joy, Project Coordinator Project Stand UP ([email protected])
Nickie C. Michaud Wild, Assistant Professor of Sociology/Pride Club faculty advisor ([email protected])
Olivia L. Schnur, Counselor ([email protected])
Brock Wissmiller, Associate Athletic Director ([email protected])

Upper Iowa University Diversity and Inclusion Committee Mission

The Upper Iowa University Diversity and Inclusion Committee is committed to promoting and facilitating social justice, diversity, and inclusion by embracing, enhancing, and celebrating diversity and inclusion at all levels of the University and the surrounding communities. Upper Iowa University defines diversity beyond race and disability; embracing one’s culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, religion and variety of thought and seeks to attract and serve a diverse and inclusive group of employees and students. Upper Iowa University and the UIU Diversity and Inclusion Committee recognize that diversity and inclusion are fundamental to the quality and excellence of the faculty, staff, and student body.