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Z Nicolazzo “Recrafting Language, Building Kinship Networks, and Unconventional Partnerships Towards Transgender Liberation”

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Z Nicolazzo highlights her current work in higher education with the primary goal of public engagement and service. Her current areas of interest include cultural discourses about gender and their asymmetrical impact on transgender people in higher education, as well as inquiry into research methodologies and epistemologies that are trans-infused. Z also uplifts the importance of kinship networks for transgender and queer communities. Z concludes her interview by asking a powerful question: “What are you willing to give up for justice?” Z drops absolute brilliance and breaks down language into its simplest form, yet simultaneously pointing to the complexity, fluidity, and influence of language in our practice serving students.

About Z:
Z Nicolazzo is an assistant professor in the Adult and Higher Education program and a faculty associate in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, both at Northern Illinois University. Z’s first book is titled, “Trans* In College: Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion”. When Z isn’t working, she enjoys cycling, watching Liverpool, her favorite English football team, and cuddling with her 11 year old westie, Grrtrude.

Read Full Transcript

Show Highlights:

  • Listen to how being trans has shaped Z’s life 07:40
  • Hear more about Z’s thoughts on how gender shapes many aspects of our world 11:33
  • Explore Z’s journey towards working for transgender liberation 26:07
  • Z shares some resources for other college professionals focusing on diverse perspectives 30:41
  • Learn more about kinship networks and why they’re so important 34:36
  • Z espouses advice on breaking down silos across campus 41:54

Notable Quotes:

  • “When we think about spaces on college campuses, we’re usually thinking about physical locations…What the participants and I really came to understand was there were virtual spaces that were incredibly important for students’ meaning making and world making practices.” 17:12
  • “Really inviting people and wanting people, myself included, to be more careful and more thoughtful about what is that we mean and who is it that we’re thinking about when we’re using particular words. That all has an impact on actual practice we do.” 19:35
  • “The biggest lesson I’ve learned has been about cultivating kin. I learned this from my participants from the book project I did. They’re an amazing group of people. I went in thinking I’d study community but didn’t think about building community.” 34:38
  • “To think more collectively, rather than individualistically, is part of the work. A lot of people might say it is ancillary or isn’t what student affairs is about. This is the work because it seeps into everything we do. It changes who we can quite literally be in community with.” 47:35
  • Two inspirational quotes
    • The first quote comes from Audre Lorde: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” 58:11
    • And the second quote comes from Reina Gossett: “I believe dependency is one of our greatest sources of power.” 58:29

Links Mentioned:


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