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Trans*Forming Higher Education Collaborative Think Tank (Part 2)

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by dr. Saby Labor in Audio, Blog, Resources
June 7, 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.

Episode 31, Part One centers the question:
“What does it mean for us to convene across and within geographies and institutional hierarchies?”

Episode 31, Part Two centers the question:
“What does it mean to build something that has never been built before?”

Episode 31, Part Three continues the discussion from part two, as well as centers the question:
“What does trans*forming higher education mean to you?”

In the spirit of brown’s work, T.H.E. Collaborative centered this Emergent Strategy principle: 
“There is a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it.”

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: 

  • Get a recap of the first part of this conversation. 1:26

  • Connect with our guests as they discuss what it means to create new possibilities 03:22

  • Listen in as we discuss what it means to embody our dreams and visions 8:43

  • Engage with what it means to imagine possibilities instead of end goals 15:58

    Notable Quotes:
  • “What we’re trying to do here is to create a possibility, not the possibility.” – Alex C. Lange 4:00

  • “I think that, in some ways, the beautiful thing about trans-ness is that we don’t have to subscribe to any binary if we don’t want to… inherently, we get to be here and move something that never gets done. There’s this potential around gender that, we as trans people, get to have that other people don’t.” – Sy Simms 5:05

  • “We’re dreaming it and we’re living it, and because we’re living it, we can create it.” – S Simmons 6:59

  • “This gives us something real to work toward. We use words like ‘dream’ and ‘visioning,’ and that can sometimes feel touchy-feely and out there, but it’s not—this can be real. It’s been real for us. The real challenge then becomes: how do we take it out of this space?” – T.J. Jourian 7:39

  • “Perhaps we can connect dreaming and visioning to heart and feeling, but I think we also have to dream with our bodies. How do we feel that in our limbs, in how we move in a space, and how, in what ways—in ‘small is all’—the small is moving our body in a way? In dreaming? In sleep-walking? How do we sleep-walk the dream out?” – D-L Stewart 8:43

  • “How can we walk the dream and refuse, in some ways, to be woken up?” – D-L Stewart 11:11

  • “This, for me, feels like freedom—and freedom is really confusing.” – Z Nicollazo 11:38

  • “We slip out of togetherness that way we slip out of the womb, and it’s messy and we’re surprised to be alone. Somehow, this feels like messy and birth, but somehow positive as opposed to aloneness, so it’s like a reimagined, different birth…. This feels like we are each other’s trans doulas.” – Alden 15:15

  • “We’re coming together to take over the world… It’s the planning to take over the world that we change ourselves as we plan, and that’s as much as part of the world takeover as trying to make anything happen in a specific way out in the world.” – D-L Stewart 17:34

Links Mentioned:

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

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