Guest Opinion | An open letter to transgender students

The University of Iowa Trans Inclusivity Coalition and 29 co-signatories write to transgender students: you are seen and supported.

We write to you in the midst of a paradox. Seven years on from what Time Magazine labeled “The Transgender Tipping Point,” we find ourselves fixed in place, teetering back and forth as the broader culture decides what to make of us.

Some of us have realized benefits far beyond those which we ever could have imagined.

But far too many of us, particularly Black and brown transgender women, the forebearers of our liberation, know that increased visibility often brings increased risk.

We wake each day to stories told about us but not by us. We read that our existence is brave and also — somehow — a threat.

And while we know, having seen this pattern play out time and time again, that this reaction to our difference is nothing new, something about the current moment feels worse than before.

We see cynical attempts to erase our rights taking hold across the country. We hear the language of oppression co-opted to oppress the most vulnerable among us.

We’re worn down. We’re tired. We’re frustrated. We’re scared.

We’ve heard that you are too.

We wish that we could fix this, that we could leverage our privilege and position to build a safer world. But we know the work of liberation lasts a lifetime, and so we offer instead our ear and our hand, our perspective and our encouragement.

We know that transgender lives, ever politicized, are irreducible to politics or policy.

We reject as painfully unimaginative the claim that civil rights are a zero-sum game. When one of us finds a seat at the table we all benefit. It is our duty to pull up a chair for the next to come.

We know that to be transgender is neither novel nor dangerous, a trend nor a fad.

The names we call ourselves may be new. But people who look, and live, and love like us have existed since time immemorial. We can be found in the margins of ancient texts. We can be heard in histories handed down through generations.

We are part of a greater global narrative, one that resists and transforms gender, despite historical and current colonization.

Despite our erasure from the canon and curriculum — despite the loss of so many elders to an earlier and ongoing pandemic — we find ways to persist and to pass on our stories.

And so here, in this time, we make a pledge.

We pledge to see and support you. We pledge to listen to your concerns and to lift them up. We’ll partner with allies across this institution and teach them how to be better for you.

We pledge to speak up and to act up, trading our stability to ensure your safety.

Because while it may not always live up to its potential, Iowa at its best has taken us in. We fight for Iowa because it is our home. And so long as you are here, whether four years or for a lifetime, we fight for you too.

May you learn and discover here. May you grow and thrive.

Trans Inclusivity Coalition

University of Iowa

March 2021

If you or your peers need anything — we mean that — you can write to us at [email protected]. We hold space during every meeting for student voices and would be happy to welcome you.

This letter was authored by the trans members of our coalition, with support from allies of all identities, as well as the co-signatories below:

  • Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Division of Student Life
  • Office of Graduate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Office of Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement
  • Afro-American Cultural Center
  • Latino Native American Cultural Center
  • Asian Pacific American Cultural Center
  • Pride Alliance Center
  • International Student Support and Engagement
  • Undergraduate Student Government
  • Graduate & Professional Student Government
  • Graduate Student Senate
  • Delta Lambda Phi Social Fraternity – Gamma Gamma Chapter
  • Gamma Rho Lambda – Rho Chapter
  • UI Health Care LGBTQ Clinic
  • University Counseling Service
  • LGBTQ Counseling Clinic
  • RVAP
  • WRAC
  • Equal Meds
  • OutLaws
  • oSTEM
  • Reaching OUT in Business
  • Spectrum UI
  • UI Trans Alliance
  • Council on Disability Awareness
  • Council on the Status of Women
  • Latinx Council
  • LGBTQ+ Council
  • Native American Council
  • Pan Asian Council