UCSC Queer Trans Coalition Fights for Inclusivity

1297

Updated 6/4, 10 p.m.

Editors’ Note:

In light of the Queer Trans Coalition’s recent post questioning the accuracy and intent of the article “The Queer Community Has Let Us Down,” City on Hill Press recognizes the mistakes in our reporting and editing process. There was a lack of analysis and connection made between the oppression of trans people and trans people of color by UCSC and the state, and the queer community and Pride events. There was no mention of the queer and trans community’s continual fight for all-gender restrooms and against police violence, the lack of support staff for trans students and the lack of representation among UCSC administration.

The article has been updated with more specific details about the oppressions the trans community faces and the ongoing work of the Queer Trans Coalition.

We recognize that our coverage of the protest was problematic and contributed to the lack of representation and misrepresentation trans students face on our campus. We appreciate students who are willing to change the conversation and challenge media, including City on a Hill Press.

Read the UCSC Queer Trans Coalition’s full statement regarding the CHP story here.

____________________________________________________________

Kresge Presents PRIDE, a daylong festival complete with rainbow balloons and performances from a variety of student organizations, is meant to be a celebration recognizing the historical accomplishments of the LGBTQ community. But protesters at Saturday’s PRIDE argued that pride celebrations have become increasingly commercialized and exclude people who identify as queer or trans as well as queer and trans people of color.

Organized by the Kresge Multicultural Education Committee and the PRIDE Committee, the 10th annual event featured a two-hour march followed by a festival held on Kresge Lower Street.

“Love and support are the biggest [messages],” said third-year march committee leader Jessica Bowen. “We’re not ignoring the problems the LGBTQ community has to face, but we’re celebrating the amazing people in the LGBTQ and allied community and the people who work hard to advance their rights.”

Many students participating in PRIDE voiced their appreciation for a space that allows them to celebrate their identity and LGBTQ culture. The members of the Queer Trans Coalition have a perspective that they say goes often unnoticed — not just at the university, but nationwide.

Before the beginning of the march that looped around campus, Queer Trans Coalition members yelled through megaphones to criticize the march’s exclusion of people of color and the transgender community. They held signs that read, “Gay agenda = white cis gay agenda” and “I deserve 2 feel safe.”

The Queer Trans Coalition — a group that formally rose out of the town hall meeting with Chancellor George Blumenthal in response to the Kresge hate crime and Title IX investigation — protested against Kresge PRIDE and the idea of celebrating a community that continually experiences struggles that go unacknowledged.

“In the language of Title IX, which is federal law, it states that basically it protects people from discrimination on the basis of gender performance which is essentially trans people,” said Rose, a member of the coalition who goes by her first name. “The reality is that these [policies] haven’t been enforced.”

Students have had to lead activism for virtually all issues affecting trans students, including all-gender multi-stall bathrooms, a trans resource center, a trans specialist and safer housing for trans students.These are all concerns that have been voiced by students but have yet to be directly addressed by administration.

Rose said Pride celebrations have increasingly become centered around gay marriage, while leaving out conversations about oppressions trans people of color face nationwide. She said the exclusivity of Pride events too similarly mirrors the way trans people of color are continually silenced by entities on the university, state and nationwide level.

“[Pride] prioritizes gay marriage while trans women of color are still getting murdered around the globe and no one seems to back that or get behind that or tries to do anything about it,” Rose said. “In a lot of ways, the gay agenda has betrayed the struggle that we are trying to bring forth that are representative of how the university treats us.”

Although the Queer Trans Coalition was formed during an event that addressed violence against trans people on campus, it also works to address the inadequacies of public policy in regard to the protection of trans people and trans people of color around the nation.

In the first month and a half of 2015, seven trans women were murdered, compared to the 12 deaths of trans women in all of 2014. In a recent report conducted by the African American Policy Forum, 38 percent of black trans people have reported harassment in interactions with police. Fourteen percent of black trans people have reported assault and six percent reported sexual assault.

“I can’t feel safe at PRIDE,” Rose said. During Kresge PRIDE, Rose said her transgender sister from the coalition was sexually assaulted at their table.

Kresge PRIDE adviser Omar Aziz said Kresge Resident Life, the Title IX Office and campus police are currently working together, but no official report has been submitted to campus police or the Title IX Office. UCSC police Chief Nader Oweis said inquiries have been made, but the victim has not been identified and there is no further information regarding what happened.

half. Photo by Casey Amaral.
Protesters took the stage and began to tear the pride flag in half. Photo by Casey Amaral.

 

Chair and associate professor of feminist studies Marcia Ochoa said protesting is an important aspect of LGBTQ culture because that’s how social movements are formed. Ochoa said people should be concerned about how the trans community has been affected by recent events on campus.

Yet the coalition confronted PRIDE participants and said the event is a celebration of a battle that the LGBTQ community has yet to win.

“I would like to celebrate my identity,” Rose said. “I would like to have the space to do that, but the reality is that this university profits off of reselling the images of positive queer life by making it look like it’s an acceptable space for queer people when the reality is it accepts gay men and gay women and more likely so if you’re white or cisgendered.”

Kresge PRIDE organizers said they didn’t anticipate the appearance of the coalition and had a hard time responding to its opinions, but they understood there has been a lack of visibility of the transgender community on campus.

“PRIDE can be alienating sometimes,” said Kresge PRIDE organizer Steven Hernandez. “I know we try our best to make it open to everyone, but I agree with them so it’s conflicting for me to organize the march, knowing there are still a lot of battles to be won.”

Coalition members took the stage at the festival to express that the queer community has let them down. Before members of the coalition left the stage, they defaced the rainbow flag by writing “assimilation” over the bright colors, tearing it apart with a knife and throwing the debris in the air.

“To me, [the rainbow flag] represents the power structures that exist within the queer community that are affected by capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, white racism, transmisogyny,” Rose said. “Dismembering the rainbow flag is dismembering those structures of power that keep us marginalized in the queer community.”

Rose said confronting the community was a “cathartic moment” for her. For two years on campus she has been “civilly” organizing with various resource centers like the Cantú Queer Center, but she has not seen much change in policies that affect the transgender community.

During the march, Rose said the coalition posted toilet signs on bathroom doors to “degender the spaces” and help make such spaces more inclusive for trans students. She explained that marking restrooms “man” or “woman” upholds the gender binary that perpetuates violence against women and people who are trans.

Last fall, UC President Janet Napolitano announced the UC-wide conversion of single stall restrooms to all-gender restrooms, but allocated no funding leaving universities — and often student organizers themselves — to come up with the money.

For the first time, Rose is beginning to see around campus that people are recognizing and discussing the issues surrounding people who identify as queer or trans as well as queer and trans people of color.

It’s important to recognize the origins of pride and realize that protesting is embedded in its history, Chair and associate professor of feminist studies Marcia Ochoa said. Mainstream culture has transformed the idea of pride into a celebration, and the community can’t keep its politics if it becomes a “meaningless party.”

“Gay pride was always an insurrection,” Ochoa said. “It was always a commemoration of a riot and we have to remember that if we’re going to keep true to the principles it espouses.”