Monday, March 21, 2022 2:00pm to 3:15pm
About this Event
755 Library Road, Rochester, NY 14626
Rainbow Lecture 2022 with Milo Obourn, Associate Professor and Chair of Women and Gender Studies, SUNY Brockport
"Beyond Trans Rights: What do Dave Chappelle and CRT Debates have to do with Coalitional Trans Justice?"
Guests have the option of participating remotely. If you would like to participate online, you may register for the webinar here.
This talk reads current debates around transgender rights, the reemergence of a visible politics of censorship in the US, and the backlash to Dave Chappelle’s transphobic humor in “The Closer” to suggest that we expand the logic of equity and freedom for transgender people beyond that of inclusion and toward a deeper critique of the ways in which cisgenderism has underpinned various forms of racism, colonialism, ableism, and homophobia. In doing so, we are more likely to develop tools for undermining broad systems of oppression in ways that lead to structural, intersectional change, without assuming equivalency between the struggles of trans individuals and groups from different national, cultural, racial, ethnic, gendered, and embodied locations.
Milo Obourn is Professor of English and Women & Gender Studies and Chair of Women & Gender Studies at SUNY Brockport where they teach courses in gender and sexuality studies, disability studies, critical race studies, and U.S. literature and culture. Milo is the author of Reconstituting Americans: Liberal Multiculturalism and Identity Difference in Post-1960s US Literature (2011; Palgrave) and Disabled Futures: A Framework for Radical Inclusion (2020; Temple University Press).
More details about this lecture:
Movements for transgender justice are predominantly figured, particularly in this moment in US history, as rights *for* transgender people, i.e. rights for those who are 1) an exception to a norm and 2) a distinctly vulnerable group. This approach tends to reinforce the idea that trans folks are a small minority asking for special language, bathrooms, understanding etc. And it favors white, transmasculine, American and European transgender and gender expansive people in the fight for access to rights and recognition. While state violence does function in some similar ways across various lines of identity in the United States, “rights” movements tend to stress the unique ways in which singular populations experience that violence and are figured as particular threats to the state and then to disrupt this figuration as “threat” by gaining legal access and support for their safety and access to spaces and opportunities. This approach not only historically leaves those within each group with less privilege behind, it also makes difficult the construction of strong coalitional politics and leads to competition or even violence between minority groups.
This talk does not suggest that we compare transgender oppression to other forms of identity-based oppression, or even that we build coalitions based on similarities in marginalization experiences, but rather that we expand the logic of equity and freedom for transgender people beyond that of inclusion, toward a deeper critique of the ways in which cisgenderism has underpinned various forms of racism, colonialism, ableism, and homophobia. In doing so, we are more likely to develop tools for undermining broad systems of oppression and violence in ways that lead to structural and intersectional change, without assuming equivalency between the struggles of trans individuals and groups from different national, cultural, racial, ethnic, gendered and embodied locations.
This talk will look at current transphobic politics aimed at legally limiting transgender people’s access, as well as the countermovement to uphold the civil and human rights of transgender people via legislation and policy. I will argue that a focus on the politics of erasure, including but not limited to censorship, might be a more fruitful way than rights-based discourses to think about ways structural transphobia intersects with racism, ableism, and homophobia. I end by examining recent coverage of and critical responses to the use of transphobic jokes in Dave Chappelle’s standup special “the closer,” using them as a test case for reframing violence through a lens of cisgenderism and its legacies in the US, rather than one of transgender oppression versus cisgender privilege.