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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Opinion | Stop asking women if they want children
Opinion | Stop asking women if they want children
By Grace Harris, Staff Columnist • June 12, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

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Opinion | Stop asking women if they want children
Opinion | Stop asking women if they want children
By Grace Harris, Staff Columnist • June 12, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Op-Ed | On transphobia, racism and homophobia: An open letter to leadership at the University of Pittsburgh

The+Cathedral+of+Learning
TPN File Photo
The Cathedral of Learning

Good afternoon.

 

On Friday, March 10, I sent an email to various University leadership, including Ann Cudd, Carla Panzella, Patrick Gallagher, Clyde Pickett and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Within this email was contained a letter advocating against Turning Point USA’s March 27 event, titled “Save Women’s Sports with Riley Gaines,” and explaining exactly how the Turning Point USA chapter at the University of Pittsburgh endangered student life and violated University guidelines because of this event.

 

I will remind you what Riley Gaines has said regarding trans people: “We’re watching the denial of the most basic of truths. When you can’t acknowledge what a woman is, there’s a huge problem. This is deeper than just sports. This is a systematic erasure of what a woman is.” Never mind that trans identity is canon and has existed for thousands of years. Michael Knowles said on March 4 at the Conservative Political Action Conference that “… for the good of society … transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.” I say again that to simplify this rhetoric as “offensive” and “marginalizing” is to irresponsibly shy away from recognizing the very real and documented danger that such rhetoric creates. 

 

This is precisely why critical literacy is necessary as it relates to the histories of race, sexuality and gender; in the absence of critical thought and systematic efforts to combat bigotry and discrimination, systematic oppression prevails. After all, it is enslavement, torture and the marking of the body as “other” on which the United States was and continues to be built.

 

There exists an inextricable link between the systems which regulate queerness and those which regulate the body of color. Ideologies of gender were shaped by constructions of race, and miscegenation was a question of both race and sexuality. Specifically, the reading of anatomy to determine non visible factors such as intelligence and behavior became a standard process and a model for 19th-century fascination with anthropometry, or human anatomical measurement. The body then became a marker through which to determine belonging, or alternatively otherness. Therefore, to reject the intellectualized violence created by state-sanctioned and bodily trespass, there must likewise be methodological efforts to remediate the resulting cultural and pedagogical environment — which is an effect of colonial thought generally and also specifically tied to sex, sexuality and race study and their histories. In other words, to use institutional power to reject the continuous othering of the trans body is to do the same for the Black body, the Indigenous body and the Brown body.

 

I truly believed that, in my letter, with its justifications and considerable research, there had been outlined a clear path for the University to denounce these events, and to prevent them from occurring on campus. I made it easy, one might say, describing in detail the ways in which Turning Point had violated guidelines as a student organization at the University. And yet you allowed bigotry and hate to take space on this campus.

 

The Turning Point organization in July had a convention, wherein Marjorie Taylor Greene, Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson spoke to attendees. These people represent the community to which Turning Point appeals, and that which Turning Point aims to reproduce in its national university chapters. All three have been found to support nationalist ideals; cater toward white Christians (only); spread mis- and disinformation and anti-queer and racist rhetoric knowingly; undermine the legitimacy of our democracy; and directly attack queer and Black people. Marjorie Taylor Greene continuously and publicly dehumanizes and invalidates trans existence and Black experience, insofar as she advocates for the removal of educational curricula which touch on the realities of race, racism, gender and sexualities, including the removal of books covering these topics from schools and libraries.

 

Yet you allowed this organization to have a place on campus. Never mind that I explained how Riley Gaines has discriminated against trans and queer people in rhetoric. Never mind that Tucker Carlson a few weeks ago at the annual Turning Point Action Conference had said, “If you’re an American, you have a right to decide who you hate. You have a fundamental right … If you’re an adult, you get to decide, and you get to decide on the basis of whatever you want.”

 

Right-wing nationalists such as Carlson and those who lead and appeal to Turning Point USA resemble hate groups who have become comfortable and remained successful in operation. The increased prevalence and proliferation of such ideology mark a culture dependent on the erasure of “othered” bodies.

 

Yet you allowed this organization to have a place on campus.

 

Transphobia and queerphobia more broadly have been shown to increase rates of physical violence against trans and queer people, just as racism with Black people, and must not be tolerated by any institution. On July 29 O’Shae Sibley — a Black and queer man — was murdered for dancing while getting gas.

 

I send this final letter as a reflection on how I leave the University of Pittsburgh — unheard and  unsafe. I send this in the hope that, on the eve of another event such as those with Riley Gaines and Michael Knowles, you will remember these words and understand that your ability — which you certainly have — to oppose the rising tide of oppression might one day be the difference between living in a world free and living in a world absent of the rights we should all have as humans living on the same land.

 

Good day.

 

Note: For further reading, consider Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” (2010), Octavia E. Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” (1993) and “Parable of the Talents” (1998), and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” (1985).