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Micah Renner is a senior psychology major and Voices of Love leader at PLNU. This article was written in response to an opinion piece about the Equality Act.
Around the same time that I wrote about the harmful nature of debating the lives of transgender people through legislation, a piece against the passage of the Equality Act was written. Our two articles were linked as the opposing “opinion piece[s] on this topic [the Equality Act].” Attention was brought to the latter piece by folks on the PLNU campus because of the harmful language and ideologies present. It was argued that the article should be removed, that people are unsafe by proxy of its publication.
The nature of this conversation is complex and layered. The justified upset at the way this article was written missed an important point about the larger structural systems of oppression on campus. While problematic, the article and its author are not the source of unsafety or unrest in LGBTQIA+ individuals here. They make the tension more vocal but the true threat to PLNU students is the ambiguity people face of not knowing where they stand in certain spaces on campus. To say the author established this fear wold be giving him too much power while displacing the true sources of insecurity faced by queer students.
Additionally, while the rights of vulnerable groups should not be subject to public discourse because of the implications it has on their health/safety, that is what continues to unfold across the nation with anti-trans legislation. As people in positions of power try to ban transgender students from playing sports, accessing gender affirming care and more, the language and misinformation pervading these conversations continues to cause harm. The article referred to trans women in ways which negate their identity despite the availability of guides created by organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, on how to use proper language in transgender coverage.
The author also tried to insinuate inclusion as a threat to public safety. Allowing people to exist as who they are and, for example, use a bathroom appropriate for their gender identity does not cause harm. In fact, there have been no cited increases in public safety incidents where nondiscrimination laws exist.
It should also be noted that the work of social justice is entrenched in intersectionality (a term Merriam-Webster defines as: the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination … intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups). While there was an attempt to place the Equality Act in opposition to the civil rights movement, it should not be made to seem like issues facing different communities can be neatly separated to exercise anger or bigotry at a specific group.
As a transgender man, actively transitioning while at this university, I recognize how this article exacerbated our community’s discomfort in some ways, but the tension existed well before the author decided to speak his mind. The apprehension in coming to class each day, in being a Voices of Love leader, in trying to always provide grace for those who may not deserve it — that is something myself, and the other LGBTQIA+ individuals on this campus, choose to overcome everyday in the ways we show up. Despite the lack of readily available affirmation or protection for who we are — both at the university and national levels — we exist in an unchangeable and beloved truth.
It is also worth noting that while many of us have had to find ways to be articulate and patient in defending our identities, queer individuals should not have to be the grounds by which others work through their discomfort about who we are.
By: Micah Renner