Trans Rights are Human Rights

Content Warning: trauma and violence

June 16, 2020

Dear Mount Holyoke community, 

Yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) workers from workplace discrimination is a huge victory for activists who have waged the long battle for equal protection under the law. It is even more poignant today, as over the last few weeks our country has witnessed heart wrenching cases of racial trauma and an increase of violence towards LGBTQ+ people, including the recent murders of two Black trans women, Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem'Mie” Fells whose deaths are further evidence of the specific and targeted manner in which so many trans women of color have experienced. The clarion call for Black Lives Matter must include Black trans lives — and at Mount Holyoke, it will. These murders, coupled with Friday’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights has removed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, are devastating. 

However, I like so many of you felt some measure of hope and such pride in watching the demonstrations on Sunday in Brooklyn, New York, and other parts of the country, as crowds were galvanized to act on these injustices. June typically involves many celebrations of LGBTQ+ Pride to commemorate the Stonewall riots, but this year has been markedly different because of the global pandemic and ongoing racial violence. Through our work in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, we assert that “trans rights are human rights”. We pay tribute to Black trans freedom fighters such as Marsha P. Johnson, whose erasure from the movement would have been complete had it not been for the groundbreaking work of this year’s BOOM! Community Day keynote speaker, Tourmaline

As I was writing this, I became aware of the tragic murders of 19-year-old Oluwatoyin Salau and 75-year-old grandmother Victoria Sims. Our condolences are extended to their families and all who have been affected. What little we know of their deaths seems to explicate further the unique and pernicious manifestations of gender-based violence. Just before she went missing, Oluwatoyin, a Black Lives Matter activist, said that she had been assaulted. Her death reminds us that our work to end racial oppression must allow us to better understand the tragic consequences of what Moya Bailey has coined “misogynoir,” misogyny directed towards Black women. We must all contribute to the call for an intersectional approach to challenging racial oppression.

Mount Holyoke College is a women’s college that is gender diverse and we know that our work is unceasing as we seek to more fully actualize our vision of what it truly means to be an inclusive community. 

May we remain undaunted in our struggle for justice and liberation, 

Kijua Sanders-McMurtry