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Trans*Forming Higher Education Collaborative Think Tank (Part 1)

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by dr. Saby Labor in Audio, Blog, Resources
May 31, 2020 0 comments

Context note: This discussion was recorded in July, 2019 prior to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, Riah Milton​, and Dominique Rem’Mie​ Fells, and Ahmaud Arbery. To support the Movement for Black Lives, please consider a monthly or one-time donation.

To kick off season three, I invite you to join me for a discussion at a gathering of the Trans*forming Higher Education Collaborative in Tucson, Arizona. T.H.E. Collaborative is “a group of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) educators dedicated to addressing transgender oppression in and through higher education” (T.H.E. Vision Statement, 2018). We centered the work of adrienne maree brown’s book, “Emergent Strategy”, by focusing on three questions. We had a very robust convening around these questions, so you have the honor of digesting the entirety of the discussion in three parts.

About our guests:

About Melvin Antoine Whitehead:

Melvin A. Whitehead, Ph.D. will begin his position as a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Student Affairs Administration at Binghamton University in Fall 2020. Melvin’s scholarship uses a critical (power-conscious) lens to address problems related to inequities, power, and privilege in higher education. His research interests include racism, whiteness, and anti-blackness on U.S. college campuses. Previously, Melvin was a librarian at Joliet Junior College, where he worked with LGBTQ+ students to develop a speakers bureau for facilitating campus discussions about gender and sexuality, worked with practitioners to implement intersectional approaches to the College’s Safe Zone Ally program, and pushed for equitable and inclusive changes in campus policies and practices.

About D-L Stewart:

Dr. D-L Stewart is a professor in the School of Education, Co-Coordinator of Student Affairs in Higher Education, Co-Director of Campus Initiatives for the Race and Intersectional Studies for Educational Equity (RISE) Center, and affiliated faculty in the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research at Colorado State University. Over the course of his faculty career, he has focused most intently on the history and philosophy of higher education, as well as institutional systems and structures that affect the postsecondary experiences, growth and development, as well as success of racially minoritized and queer and trans* students. Dr. Stewart examines these topics through intersectional, critical, and poststructural frameworks that incorporate ableism, religious hegemony, and classism alongside racism, patriarchy, and queer- and trans-antagonism. In addition to over 50 journal publications and book chapters, D-L is an author or editor of four books, most recently, Black Collegians’ Experiences in U.S. Northern Private Colleges: A Narrative History, 1945-1965 (Palgrave, 2017) and co-editor with Elisa Abes and Susan R. Jones of a forthcoming text, Rethinking College Student Development Theory Using Critical Frameworks (Stylus, 2019).

About Sy Simms:

Sy Simms (They/Them) is a Black Transgenderqueer afrofuturist who is currently a doctoral student at the University of Arizona.  Sy’s research addresses student affairs practitioners’ motivations and intentions in engaging in diversity and justice work with, alongside, and for marginalized communities.

About Z Nicollazo:

Dr. Z Nicolazzo is an associate professor of Trans* Studies in Education and a Co-Chair of the Transgender Studies Research Cluster at the University of Arizona.  Her work focuses on how discourses of gender circulate in college contexts, which particular attention paid to how such discourses mediate life for transgender college students, faculty, and staff.

About Alex C. Lange:  

Alex C. Lange has an impatient, enduring hope for a just, caring, and thriving world. They are currently a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at the University of Iowa. Alex’s research examines both those on the margins in higher education along lines of sexuality, race, and gender as well as the forces that pushes those people to the margins, including whiteness/white supremacy, heterosexism, and trans-antagonism. They are a co-author on the book Identity-Based Student Activism: Power and Oppression on College Campuses (published by Routledge) and were part of the collective that authored ACPA’s A Bold Vision Forward: A Framework for the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization. Their collaborative research on queer and trans college student and student activism has been published in outlets such as the Journal of College Student Development and The Review of Higher Education. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @itsAlexCL

About Alden Jones:

Alden Jones is a doctoral candidate at The University of Texas at Austin. Their research is centered around trans* and queer students, faculty, and staff in various contexts. More specifically, their dissertation focuses on black trans* women and femme students and their collegiate experiences.

About S Simmons:

Black, trans*genderqueer, educator, advocate, spouse, friend, and Beyoncé fan. S. Simmons is originally from Chicago Heights, IL and is the eldest of three. Dr. S, as he is affectionately called, is a first-generation college graduate and earned their B.S. and M.S. in Psychology from Iowa State University, and PhD in Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago. Over the course of their career, S has held several positions within higher education including Admissions Counselor, Pre-Collegiate Program Coordinator for gifted and talented students and students of color, Educational Program Specialist for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program, and assistant director and interim director of a Gender and Sexuality Center. In all of S’s roles, he has provided leadership and guidance on diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts within and across departments. Apart from leading in higher education, S is happily married to Danielle for over 11 years and they have a cute dog, Drake, yes like the rapper, that joined the family over 8 years ago. Ask anyone who knows S and they will tell you S is passionate, caring, and leads with love.

About T.J. Jourian:

Dr. T.J. Jourian is an unaffiliated scholar, advocate, and educator with Trans*Formational Change, LLC. Motivated by intersectional, collaborative, and liberatory movements and frameworks, his mission and scholarship centers trans and queer people of color in achieving the democratic and freedom-seeking potential of higher education institutions, non-profit organizations, and other entities. T.J. is also the events and resources coordinator of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a Quaker organization serving Meetings in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Show Highlights: 

  • Learn about the eight contributors of Trans*forming Higher Education (T.H.E.) Collaborative 3:15
  • Hear about adrienne maree brown and her book, “Emergent Strategy” 06:50
  • Explore the connection between trans identity and time traveling 7:45
  • Learn more about the importance of critical connections and virtual kinship with other trans folks 12:00
  • Engage with what it means to live and work in the shadow of a border 15:07
  • Hear about the meaningfulness and magic of the shared convening space 17:07
  • Connect with our participants as they discuss the importance of creating possibilities 26:27
  • Listen as participants unpack hierarchies and institutional expectations 27:36 

Notable Quotes:

  • “To be trans is to be a time traveler or to always be in multiple times. There are so many different ways that trans people are always thought of as either in the future, like, I often hear… oh, the way that you’re thinking is just ahead of the game…. But there’s also certain negative visions of trans people in the future as well—which means that we don’t exist in the future. I think there’s such a strong element of time and what that means for being trans.” – Z 9:01

  • “I think very few of us are in places, geographically, where we are part of a critical mass of trans-ness but being able to connect critically, those critical connections, deep connections with other trans people within and across time and space boundary—we have existed in together virtually… those virtual kinship networks that have allowed us to create and deepen binding wells of relationality that make this physical coming-together even more powerful.” – D-L 12:06

  • “I haven’t thought about how to be a trans person in this space…. I just get to be.” – Sy 13:00

  • “I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be in the shadow of a border…. What does it mean for my work, what does that mean for the students, faculty, and staff that I engage with?” – Z 15:12

  • “Our insistence upon crossing institutional boundaries and borders is itself an act of resistance to the individualism of the academy.” – D-L 16:38

  • “Convening with you all reminds me of how I’m holding tight in my body every day in this institution and doing this work. I feel like I’m actively kind of looking in and also watching myself and my own coping mechanisms that are with me each day that I didn’t notice until I retreated.” – Saby 19:13

  • “Feeling is a legitimate way of knowing.” – S 20:45

  • “What could you envision if non-trans people didn’t make you have to think about gender all the time?” – Z 22:52

Links Mentioned:

Connect with members of T.H.E. Collaborative:

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