Editor’s note: This statement from the Office of the Vice President for Diversity at Colorado State University was originally drafted in response to the announcement on Friday, June 12, that the federal Department of Health and Human Services has reversed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in health care and insurance. On Monday, June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling affirming existing civil rights law that protects LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in the workplace.
Over the past several weeks, as a country and a university, we have been called to turn our attention to racism and anti-Blackness, to take a hard look in the mirror and interrogate how white supremacy persists in ourselves, our communities, our institutions, and our culture at large. Something that cannot be overlooked, is how white supremacy is inextricably linked to, and invested in, upholding other oppressive systems, such as patriarchy and colonized assertions of a gender binary, which leaves the Trans community, and especially Black Trans Women and Trans Women of Color, particularly vulnerable to multiple forms of violence.
Dustin Parker. Neulisa Luciano Ruiz. Yampi Méndez Arocho. Monika Diamond. Lexi. Johanna Metzger. Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos. Layla Pelaez Sánchez. Penélope Díaz Ramírez. Nina Pop. Helle Jae O’Rega. Tony McDade. Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells. Riah Milton.
These are the names of 14 Transgender people who have been killed due to transphobic violence since the start of 2020. Four of these deaths have happened in the past two weeks, alongside violent attacks on others, like Iyanna Dior. They are names we have heard and can look up to learn their stories, but we also know the prevalence of underreporting and misgendering with respect to crimes against Trans folx means there are many more stories we don’t know.
As we entered the month of June in the midst of national protests against police brutality and systemic racism, the LGBTQ+ community made sure to remind us of the history of Pride, which started with demonstrations against police brutality and the Stonewall uprising in 1969, led by Trans Women of Color. We can draw strength from such stories of resistance and recognize the resilience and power that has always characterized marginalized communities.
But we want to make clear a very simple point – Trans and Non-Binary people deserve to live. We must honor and support the lives of the Trans community and do far more than just recognize them in death.
Last Friday, the Federal administration moved to restrict healthcare nondiscrimination protections for Queer and Trans people. This is part of a broader agenda to remove civil rights protections that prohibit discrimination towards Transgender people in healthcare and other key areas of life, like housing, employment, and education. But it presents as an especially targeted and aggressive action; one that comes in the middle of a pandemic when access to healthcare is even more critical than usual. We are grateful to the Pride Resource Center, the CSU Health Network, the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, and the State of Colorado for their commitments to continue providing quality support and healthcare for Trans and Non-Binary folx. And yet, we recognize that news of the Federal ruling can still cause immense fear, grief, and pain, particularly given how it happened on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, which took the lives of 49 people in a space made for Queer joy and community on a night celebrating Queer Latinx folx.
To our Trans, Non-Binary, and BlPOC Trans community members: We see you and we are here for you. Your life matters. We recognize there is more we can and must do to better support and advocate for you at CSU. Our Trans and Non-Binary employees have already done their part to make that abundantly clear. Data from our 2018 Employee Climate Survey show that Trans and Non-Binary employees report less favorable experiences at CSU than any other demographic groups on nearly all counts.
When we call on our university community to do more, we recognize it starts with us and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity. We commit to reviewing and expanding our training programs and resources to ensure gender diversity is a cornerstone of how we educate the rest of campus. We will redouble our efforts to center the needs of our Trans and Non-Binary community by working with our university partners to create more Trans inclusive policies and practices, with deliberate attention on advocating for full Trans healthcare coverage for employees. And we will continue to reflect on how our own work can be done through a more intersectional approach to better serve the most vulnerable at our University. This is among the top of our priorities, as we recognize that intersectional interventions, which start by centering the needs of multiply marginalized groups, provide more access, inclusion, and support for all those we serve.
If you would like to read more about how you can support your Trans colleagues, peers, and students, the Pride Resource Center offers a list of resources where you can start. The “Educate Yourself” section of the VPD website also has numerous articles to help expand your awareness of Trans issues. Pride Resource Center is also hosting three upcoming Safe Zone Trainings this summer and you can register here. We also call on all faculty, staff, and university leadership to establish or strengthen committee charges to implement more Trans inclusive policies. We encourage you to utilize the Employee Climate Survey data, specifically the Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender Non-conforming report, to gain insight on specific areas for improvement. Finally, you can directly support CSU LGBTQ+ students through monetary donations to Pride Resource Center’s Leah Memorial Fund.
There is an important shift happening in our country, and we are hopeful this can be the most intersectional, liberating civil rights movement of our time. We commit to not let this moment and movement pass without including Trans lives, especially Black Trans lives, at the heart of our efforts for justice.
Note: As this message was being finalized Monday morning, a Supreme Court ruling was released that states existing civil rights law protects LGBTQ+ workers from discrimination in the workplace. This is a developing story and more clarity is needed to understand whether it impacts the Federal administration ruling on Friday. The SCOTUS ruling is a much–needed victory for our LGBTQ+ community and we will be keeping a close eye as more information is released.