We had quite a year in the GSC! The landmark transgender-affirming policy, the Gender Equity and Access Policy was approved in December. This would not have been possible without the deep commitment from members of the University community who advocated loud and clear regarding the necessity of this policy. Thank you to our transgender, gender non conforming, and nonbinary leaders, particularly the Transgender Advisory and Action Team (TAAT) for their physical and emotional labor over the years. Thank you to the 36 systemwide staff and faculty who are now trained as facilitators of gender equity curriculum.
Our engagement with student leaders from the Queer Student Cultural Center (QSCC), oStem, Compass, Queer Science, OutLaw, Multiracial Student Union, Lavender House, and many other student groups stands out in my mind as a remarkably important aspect of our year. Student leaders from the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) and UMN Law Council also demonstrated an unrelenting commitment to advancing LGBTQ+ equity initiatives on campus. So many students shared with us how they were leveraging their academic assignments, research opportunities, and co-curricular experiences to make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people. Fierce student leaders – thank you!
The spring semester brought countless opportunities for communication, innovation, and perseverance. In February, Schochet Endowment Graduate Associate, Qui, hosted an absolutely beautiful convening of LGBTQ+ student and faculty scholars, as well as several other research colloquiums for graduate students throughout the year. In March, we moved to remote work due to COVID-19 public health guidance, offering 20+ virtual programs in five weeks for students.
This summer, we witnessed the continued disparate impacts on the lives of Black community members because of systemic and individual forms of anti-Black racism. George Floyd, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many others, have been murdered. We saw the rollback of transgender nondiscrimination protections in healthcare and the simultaneous advancement of LGBTQ+ employment protections, alongside the social uprising and “(re)awakening” of our society to the existence of anti-Black racism and the necessity of addressing it directly and immediately. We saw U of M Student Body PresidentJael Kerandi, and U of M President Joan Gabel demonstrate how to make important and challenging decisions when faced with the daily realities of anti-Black racism. In the GSC, we were inspired by their leadership and were moved to create related strategic initiatives for the upcoming academic year. We will share more with you on this work in the fall.
In the fall, the Association of American Universities (AAU) sexual assault climate survey results were shared on campus. The reports from transgender, genderqueer or nonconforming, and questioning (TGQN) students were alarming. Because of this, the GSC joined efforts on a qualitative study led by the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct (PIPSM) to understand the risk and protective factors. This study will directly inform LGBTQ+ undergraduate student sexual violence prevention efforts in the upcoming academic years. I want to reiterate that campus partners involved in this study are committed to enacting changes based on insights shared by student participants in the study. Thank you to the student researchers, finn, Carly, and Courtney, as well as all the students who shared their experiences and insights with us throughout the process. A special thank you to Katie Eichele, the Aurora Center, Alicia Lexinger, and the members of the PIPSM committees for their everyday labor to prevent and respond to instances of sexual misconduct.
As I reflect on this past year, I am humbled by the creativity, talents, and authenticity of the GSC staff team. As the leader of this small and mighty team, I’m tremendously proud and awed by all the hard work and brilliance they have put forth. They are the unsung heroes of the queer and trans brilliance at the University. Student leaders, University leaders, community leaders who have helped us bring about change this past year – we applaud you.
Thank you deeply and wholeheartedly,
dr. Saby Labor, director
Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life (GSC)
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities