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Statement on Inclusion for Trans, Non-binary, and Gender Nonconforming People

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We, the undersigned community members of the CCCC Disability Studies Standing Group, affirm the immanent value and dignity of all trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming students, scholars, activists, and community members. In light of editor of Disability & Society Michele Moore’s blatant transphobic claims made on social media and in her work, we stand by the open letter to the Disability & Society editorial board with its insistence that “gender liberation...support the principles of dignity and self-respect for everyone.” Unfortunately, Moore’s behavior is but one example of a growing trend among liberal scholars who devalue trans existence in the name of “reasoned debate.” As rhetoricians, we encourage open conversation and an exchange of ideas, but we reject any argument that calls into question the legitimacy, equality, or dignity of an individual’s gender identity or expression.

Transphobia is a violent ideology, so it is especially troubling when its rhetoric is forwarded by leaders within Disability Studies (DS). Ableism and transphobia share a common root: a belief in the fictional “normal” body, what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson terms “the normate,” and the fanatical disciplining, isolating, and eradicating of bodies that fall outside the narrowly defined parameters of “normal.” Transphobic ableism isn’t just a theoretical concept with abstract consequences. Activists Eli Clare, Dominick Evans, Lydia Brown, and many others note that disabled trans people, especially trans people of color, disproportionately face violence and discrimination. We also wish to highlight research by scholar-teachers like G Patterson and Cassius Adair, who point out that transphobia and ableism greatly affect access in educational settings, preventing trans students from making meaningful connections with instructors, peers, and course materials. As DS scholars, teachers, and activists, we insist that access is a baseline expectation for any inclusive praxis, whether in the classroom or in society more broadly.

In this moment, we turn to the activist art of Sins Invalid that reminds us Disability Justice must be intersectional in order to liberate all disabled people. In our attempts to transform the academy and our communities, we must work towards a comprehensive inclusivity or else we reinscribe ideologies and power structures that harm us all. The following guidelines offer some beginning steps we can all take toward making our field more accessible and inclusive of trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people. However, as scholars such as Tara Wood, Jay Dolmage, Margaret Price, and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson have rightly stated, practicing inclusivity must go beyond checklists and be understood as a constant praxis (See Wood, et al.).

  1. Respect and use people’s names and pronouns. Apologize and correct yourself if you mess up.
  2. Cite trans scholars in your work on disability and gender.
  3. Make room in your syllabus, classroom, and everyday spaces for trans scholars, activists, and individuals, especially those who are multiply marginalized.
  4. Begin any statement about trans people or experience with the assumption that all gender identities and expressions are valid.
  5. Understand that transphobia is entangled with and sustained by other forms of oppression such as coloniality, nationalism, xenophobia, sexism, ableism, racism, and classism. Transphobia sustains these in turn.
  6. Acknowledge that trans politics affects disabled people, and disability politics affects trans folks. Moreover, trans disabled people exist, and they/we are vital members of the DS community.
  7. Recognize that as we continue to fight against the hyper-medicalization and unnecessary pathologization of disabilities, some trans people seek out and depend on life-saving services that medicine offers.
  8. Seek connections across fields, programs, and forms of scholarship that are attentive to intersectional positions, flexible to include a range of bodies, and open to future revision as we inevitably continue to broaden our understanding of gender, disability, race, sexuality, and beyond.
  9. Listen deeply, rhetorically, and in solidarity with people who occupy different identities than you do. You can begin with the suggested readings below.

We ask that you join us in showing support for our transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming students, colleagues, and their communities by signing and sharing this statement.

Suggested Reading

Adair, Cassius. “Bathrooms and Beyond: Expanding a Pedagogy of Access in Trans/Disability Studies.” TSQ, vol. 2, no. 3, 2015, pp. 464-468.

Alexander, Jonathan. “Transgender Rhetorics: (Re)Composing Narratives of the Gendered Body.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 57, no. 1, 2005, pp. 45-82.

Baril. A. “Needing to Acquire a Physical Impairment/Disability: (Re)Thinking the Connections between Trans and Disability Studies through Transability.” Hypatia, vol. 30, 2015, pp. 30-48.

Chin, Matthew. “Making Queer and Trans of Color Counterpublics: Disability, Accessibility, and the Politics of Inclusion.” Affilia, vol. 33, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 8–23.

Clare, Eli. Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure. Duke UP, 2017.

Driskill, Qwo-Li. Asegi stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-spirit Memory. U of Arizona P, 2016.

- - -. “The Revolution Is for Everyone: Imagining an Emancipatory Future through Queer Indigenous Critical Theories.” Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics and Literature. Edited by Qwo-Li Driskill, Chris Finley, Brian Joseph Gilley, and Scott Lauria Morgensen, U of Arizona P, 2011, pp. 211-221.

Ezie, Chinyere. “Deconstructing the Body: Transgender and Intersex Identities and Sex Discrimination--The Need for Strict Scrutiny.” Columbia Journal of Gender & Law, vol. 20, no. 1, 2011, pp. 141-200.

Flynn, Taylor. “Transforming the Debate: Why We Need to Include Transgender Rights in the Struggles for Sex and Sexual Orientation Equality.” Columbia Law Review, vol. 101, 2001, pp. 392-420.

Fredriksen-Goldsen, Karen I., et al. “Physical and Mental Health of Transgender Older Adults: An At-risk and Underserved Population.” The Gerontologist, vol. 54, no. 3, 2013, pp. 488-500.

Hall, Kim Q. “Queer Breasted Experience.” “You’ve Changed”: Sex Reassignment and Personal Identity. Edited by L. J. Shrage, Oxford UP, 2009, pp. 121-134.

Harley, Debra A., et al. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender College Students with Disabilities: A Look at Multiple Cultural Minorities.” Psychology in the Schools, vol. 39, no. 5, 2002, pp. 525-538.

Kuppers, Petra. “Trans-ing Disability Poetry at the Confluence.” TSQ, vol. 1, no. 4, 2014, pp. 605-613.

Malatino, Hilary. Queer Embodiment: Monstrosity, Medical Violence, and Intersex Experience. U of Nebraska P, 2019.

Markman, Erin R. “Gender Identity Disorder, the Gender Binary, and Transgender Oppression: Implications for Ethical Social Work.” Smith College Studies in Social Work, vol. 81, no. 4, 2011, pp. 314-327.

McKinney, Jeffrey S. “On the Margins: A Study of the Experiences of Transgender College Students. “Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education, vol. 3, no. 1, 2005, pp. 63-76.

Patterson, G. “Entertaining a Healthy Cispicion of the Ally Industrial Complex in Transgender Studies.” Women & Language, vol. 41, no. 1, 2018, pp. 146-151.

- - -. “The Unbearable Weight of Pedagogical Neutrality: Religion and LGBTQ Issues in the English Studies Classroom.” Sexual Rhetorics. Edited by Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes, 2016, pp. 134-146.

Puar, Jasbir. “Disability.” TSQ, vol. 1, no. 1-2, 2014, pp. 77-81.

Rawson, K. J., and Cristan Williams. “Transgender*: The Rhetorical Landscape of a Term.” Present Tense, vol. 3, no. 2, 2014.

Rawson, K. J. “”Accessing Transgender // Desiring Queer(er?) Archival Logics.” Archivaria, vol. 68, 2009, pp. 123-140.

Valentine, David. Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category. Duke UP, 2007.

Wood, Tara, et al. “Moving Beyond Disability 2.0 in Composition Studies.” Composition Studies, vol. 42, no. 2, 2014, pp.147-150.

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