There was lots of interest in this thread, which you can check out on twitter. Lots of trans/nb/queer people feel singled out by this practice and not empowered by it. It really also depends A LOT on the circumstances in which one is asked, why, and by whom. I speak up about this not because I need to have my gender understood at all times, but because so many people now think that asking pronouns is THE way to understand and validate someone’s gender. It is also important for me to acknowledge that some trans/nb/queer people really DO LIKE being asked their pronouns. And I think most important of all is that when someone does state their pronouns, we respect that statement and use the pronouns they have offered. Very sincere people on this thread – often educators and healthcare providers – are asking for clarification as to what the right thing is. I would say this is a great time for people to take a step back and consider what their goal is. If trans/nb/queer safety and inclusion is the goal, what are all the things you are doing or could be doing in your life, workplace, medical practice, classroom, etc. to help achieve that goal? Take the focus off of pronouns for a day or a week or a month and look at the big picture. Ask your trans/nb/queer clients, friends, students, patients what they need, what would help. Gender is a social relation and that is why there is not one simple singular way to approach talking about it that is 100% awesome and legible to everyone. Each of us has a gender and an ongoing relationship to gender – not just those people who clearly reject or challenge dominant norms. Here’s a great recent interview with Judith Butler from The Guardian and a wonderful essay by Gabrielle Bellot about the past, drawing on my research, also in The Guardian.
The theme for the inaugural Provost and Dean of the Faculty’s Lecture Series is the history of anti-Black racism in America. As James Baldwin famously wrote, “The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it…history is literally present in all that we do.” Underpinning and guiding this series is the conviction that history is a powerful and necessary tool for helping us deepen our understanding of racism in America today. The series will launch with a talk by Professor Mary Frances Berry on Wednesday, August 26.
The official event page for the lecture series and seminar can be found HERE
The lecture series is open to the general public
The mini-seminar is open to Amherst College students, staff, and faculty.
Elizabeth Hinton, “The Minneapolis Uprising in Context,” Boston Review May 29
Kellie Carter Jackson, “The Double Standard of the American Riot,” Atlantic June 1
Jelani Cob, “Race, Police & the Pandemic,” Frontline Dispatch June 2 (listen)
Treva Lindsay, “The Lack of Mobilized Outrage For Police Killing Black Women,” Bustle June 3
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, “America’s Dilemma Explodes,” Project Syndicate June 4 (listen)
Brittney Cooper, “Why are Black Women and Girls Still an Afterthought,” Time June 4
Matthew Delmont, “Changing hearts & minds won’t stop police violence,” Washington Post June 5
Saidiya Hartman, “The End of White Supremacy, An American Romance,” Bomb June 5
Anne C. Bailey, “The Day I met James Baldwin at Harvard,” June 6
Michelle Alexander, “America, This is Your Chance,” New York Times June 8
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “How Do We Change America,” New Yorker June 8
T.J. Tallie, “Asymptomatic Lethality:Cooper, Covid, Potential for Black Death,” Nursing Clio June 8
Keisha Blain, “The Black Women who paved the way for this moment,” Atlantic June 9
Mary Frances Berry, “BLM and the Importance of Protest,” PBS June 10 (watch)
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, “Out of Options in Terms of Reform,” Democracy Now June 10 (watch)
Cameron Awkward-Rich, “I Wish I knew how it would feel to be free,” Paris Review June 11
Khiara Bridges, “The Many Ways Institutional Racism Kills Black People,” Time June 11
Annette Gordon-Reed, “The Problem of Police for People Living While Black,” NY Review June 13
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “The End of Black Politics,” New York Times June 13
Jelani Cobb, “An American Spring of Reckoning,” New Yorker June 14
Imani Perry, “Racism is Terrible. Blackness is Not.” Atlantic June 15
Elizabeth Alexander, “The Trayvon Generation,” New Yorker June 15
Robin Kelley, “What Kind of Society Values Property Over Black Lives?” New York Times June 18
Tera Hunter, “Juneteenth and National New Beginnings,” Essence June 19
Martha Jones, “Ida, Maya, Rosa, Harriet: The Power in Our Names,” New York Times June 19
Kellie Carter Jackson, “Black Joy–Not Corporate Acknowledgment,” Atlantic June 19
Daina Ramey Berry & Hannibal Johnson“What is Juneteenth?,” NPR June 19
Jelani Cobb, “Juneteenth and the Meaning of Freedom,” New Yorker June 19
Daina Ramey Berry, “The History and Meaning of Juneteenth,” The Daily June 19 (listen)
Annette Gordon-Reed, “Growing up with Juneteenth,” New Yorker June 19
Keisha Blain, “Destroying Confederate monuments isn’t erasing history,” Washington Post June 19
Annette Gordon-Reed, “Must we allow symbols of racism on public land,” Harvard Gazette June 19
Angela Davis, “Protests Recognize Long Overdue Anti-Racist Work,” Here & Now June 19 (listen)
Sydney Baloue, “Voguing for Our Lives. Again,” New York Times June 20
Koritha Mitchell, “Changing Tides: Black Feminists Mobilizing for Trans Women,” Bitch June 23
Robin Kelley, “The Rebellion against Racial Capitalism,” The Intercept June 24 (listen)
Nikole Hannah-Jones, “It is Time for Reparations,” New York Times June 24
Salamishah Tillet, Vanessa Friedman, “It’s Time to End Racism in the Fashion Industry,” NYT June 24
Caroline Randall Williams, “You Want a Confederate Monument?” New York Times June 26
Destin Jenkins, “What Does it Really Mean to Invest in Black Communities,” The Nation June 29
The Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Amherst College welcomes Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, Associate Professor of History Smith College for a virtual salon, Wednesday April 15th 4:30-5:30pm EST
Professor Pryor specializes in 19th-century U.S. history and race. Her first book, Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War, is a social history of black activists who, long before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, fought against segregation on public vehicles. Her essay, “The Etymology of [the n-word]: Resistance, Language, and the Politics of Freedom in the Antebellum North,” won the Ralph D. Gray Prize for the best article of 2016 in the Journal of the Early Republic. Her next project, inspired by the article as well as her teaching at Smith College, is a historical and pedagogical study of the n-word framed, in part, by her experience as a biracial woman in the United States.
Amherst College faculty, staff, and students all welcome. The Zoom link will be made available the day of the event. Amherst College email address is required for login. Video and sound will be turned off for all but the guest speaker and the host facilitator, Jen Manion, Associate Professor of History, Amherst College and CHI advisory board member. Participants will be invited to submit questions via the chat function, which Prof. Manion will share with Prof. Pryor for discussion.
More on Prof. Pryor’s work can be found here:
“Tackling the N-word on Campus,” NEPR, February 28, 2018
“Why it’s so hard to talk about the N-word,” December 2019
“The Etymology of [the n-word]: Resistance, Language, and the Politics of Freedom in the Antebellum North,” Journal of the Early American Republic (2016).
coming this spring
Amherst College January 30th at 4:30pm the Science Center, Lipton Lecture Hall
The Feminist Thought group of the Center for Humanistic Inquiry welcomes all to attend a public lecture by Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling, the Nancy Duke Lewis Professor Emerita of Biology & Gender Studies in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology & Biochemistry at Brown University & founder of the Science & Technology Studies Program at Brown University. The author of three books & over 60 scholarly articles, she is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The Five Sexes, Revisited
Many years ago, we started a Center and transformed the campus culture. A group of students, faculty, and staff contributed to this report. I just stumbled across it online and am so happy to see it has been digitized and preserved — it is a very recent queer history of student activism and organizational change!
“What Greta Thunberg Means to Me,” Sunday Nov. 10th Noon at Johnson Chapel. A gathering for Amherst College students, faculty and staff hosted by Prof. Jen Manion and Prof. Michael Kunichika and choir director, Prof. Martha Umphrey. There will be a light reception.
For inspiration, here is Greta’s speech at the UN Climate Action Summit and her #FridaysforFutureCampaign. Some varied reporting on can be found here by Robinson Meyer “Why Greta Makes Adults Uncomfortable,” from the Atlantic and “The Problem with Greta Thunberg’s Climate Activism,” by Christopher Caldwell in the New York Times.
Songs under consideration for this week…
Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall
Eye of the Tiger
What’s Going on? Marvin Gaye
If I could turn back time
Cat Stevens, where do the children play
Louis Armstrong, What a wonderful world
Marvin Gaye, Mercy mercy me the ecology
What is secular chapel?
Read this wonderful reflection by Ben Gilsdorf ’21 “What Amherst’s Secular Chapel Means to Me”
Jennifer Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders and Professor of Law at Western New England University will join us at Amherst College on Tues. Oct 29th at 4:30pm in Paino Lecture Hall, Beneski Museum.
For an important essay from which I learned a great deal, see Jennifer L. Levi & Daniel Redman, The Cross-Dressing Case for Bathroom Equality, 34 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 133 (2010).
For an important essay on bullying, see Jennifer Levi, Bullying and the Laws Pertaining to It, GPSOLO, Jan./Feb. 2017, at 30
And another important essay addressing equal protection for transgender people, see Kevin M. Barry, Brian Farrell, Jennifer L. Levi, & Neelima Vanguri, A Bare Desire to Harm: Transgender People and the Equal Protection Clause, 57 B.C. L. REV. 507 (2016)
For more information about Jennifer’s work with GLAD, click here.
For more information about Jennifer’s many publications, click here.
Some other great resources curated by Jennifer L. Nye, J.D. Lecturer in Law and Social Justice, History Department, Co-Chair, Five College Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Certificate at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Supreme Court Considers Whether Civil Rights Act Protects L.G.B.T. Workers (NY Times, Oct. 8, 2019) Podcast: ACLU Podcast: THE HISTORIC TRANS RIGHTS CASE BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT, interview with Chase Strangio, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project and one of the lawyers representing the trans plaintiff, Aimee Stephens. Podcast: Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan, who represented the two gay male plaintiffs, on Amicus with Dalia Lithwick. And the GLAD Amicus Brief filed in the Bostock/Altitude Express and Harris Funeral Homes cases
Some thoughts while reading the transcript:
- Can I object to Justice Robert’s question that literally makes no sense? “In other words, if the objection of a transgender man transitioning to woman is that he should be allowed to use, he or she, should be allowed to use the women’s bathroom, now, how do you analyze that?”
- Roberts pushed hard for “transgender status” as the key issue at hand rather than sex-based discrimination. “Because if it’s just biological sex, there’s no problem b/c there is no disadvantage. But if you’re looking at transgender status, there is a huge problem…”
- Bursch for petitioner (funeral home) states “What Title VII says is that sex-based differentiation is not the same as sex discrimination.” hmmmm….
- The basis of the Bursh/funeral home/anti-trans argument is to fundamentally deny the existence & legitimacy of trans people. It may work before #SCOTUS but young people will not stand for it. #future#LGBTQ#RiseUpOctober8
- EEOC/anti-trans side argued, “If you treat an aggressive woman worse than an aggressive man, you are violating Title VII because you’re treating similarly situated people differently.” Is someone going to clue him in? #AG#stud#pride
- SOTOMAYOR: “We can’t deny that homosexuals are being fired merely for being who they are & not because of religious reasons. . .They may have power in some regions, but they are still being beaten, they are still being ostracized from certain things.” #scotus#thanks#RiseUpOct8
- History shows this not to be true at all: EEOC “Everybody here agrees that Congress never thought that by prohibiting discrimination based on sex, they would also be prohibiting discrimination based on two very different traits, sexual orientation and gender identity.”