'What Now?' prompts critical thinking about trans inclusivity

By Maddie Forshee | 11/18/15 10:40pm

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Emory Fralick attends the Transgender Remembrance day on Nov. 17 in Allendale, MI.

by Kasey Garvelink / Grand Valley Lanthorn

In 2015, there have been 22 murders of transgender people in the U.S.

This year has seen nearly double the amount of trans peoples’ lives lost than any other year that data has been collected. Michigan is home to two of those murders, both occurring in Detroit in July and August.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is celebrated annually on Nov. 20. To shed light on the plight of the issues that trans people face, Cael Keegan, an assistant professor in the women, gender and sexuality studies department, presented to the Grand Valley State University community on Tuesday.

Keegan’s talk, titled “What now?: Gender justice and the LGBTQ movement after marriage," aimed to look at the stark contrast between achieving marriage equality and the rise of anti-transgender violence in America.

“How do we make sense of this paradox when we’re being told, ‘oh, we’ve reached this moment of gay equality’,” Keegan said. “(I’m) trying to figure out why those things co-exist right now and what might we do about it.”

The event drew about 80 attendees, mostly students. There were many students and faculty members there that are involved in the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, but there were a few people who were new as shown by the diversity of the question and answer session after the talk.

“I’ll probably be asking more questions than I will be able to answer about anything,” Keegan said.

Though he was talking about the future, Keegan dove into the discussion by talking about the history of the AIDS crisis and the institutional failures that LGBT people faced.

“We’re living in a very strange moment,” he said. “We’re being told by the media, by politicians, even by gay rights leaders themselves that LGBTQ people are experiencing progress and equality, that we’ve reached a tipping point and that it gets better. So how do we explain this rising rate of violent eradication of transgender bodies?”

Keegan discussed the problems that marriage equality causes and the privileges of an institution that protect heteronormative culture.

“Trans people are highly aware that the mainstream LGB rights movement has done little to nothing on our issues for 40 years,” he said.

Keegan said thinking “out-of-the-box” about institutional affordances and privileges that trans people are excluded from is one way to begin thinking about the future of the LGBT movement.

He also talked about his fears that the stagnation of the LGBT movement after the “AIDS cocktail” legalization is going to happen once again now that marriage equality has been achieved, an issue that LGBT people have been fighting for for over 20 years.

“What Now?” served as a jumping point for attendees to self-reflect about the LGBT movement.

“We want attendees to gain a critical perspective on the current state of LGBTQ people in the United States after marriage equality,” said Marla Wick, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center.

On the actual Transgender Day of Remembrance, Keegan suggests that people go to a vigil in the community and use his talk as a frame of reference of remembering those who have lost their lives.

“A vigil is to reflect and think of the people we’ve lost,” he said. “This talk is meant to produce some analysis and productive conversation about what we might do in response to the levels of violence in our communities. It’s a good time to talk about what we’ve been dealing with culturally.”

For more information about the Milton E. Ford Resource Center, visit www.gvsu.edu/lgbtrc.

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