In the fall of 2015, Dr. Julia Ehrhardt, featured in last month’s issue of FORUM, moderated an Honors College reading group which came to be known affectionately by some of its members as “Gay Book Club.” It began with Redefining Realness, a memoir by Janet Mock, who told the story of her growing up, coming of age, coming out, and finding love as a black Hawaiian transgender woman. During that semester, we also read excerpts of other books about queer and trans life, including Transgender History by Susan Stryker.
When we learned that Dr. Stryker, who now teaches at the University of Arizona, was an alumna of the University of Oklahoma, we decided to reach out to her, asking if she would consider stopping by to give a talk the next time she came home for a visit. This spring, our wish was granted. On the 20th of March, Dr. Stryker visited OU to meet with students and faculty and give a number of lectures throughout the day, including one sponsored by the Sociology Department entitled “Breathe: Histories and Futures of Trans Life Now.”
As Dr. Stryker, a historian of gender identity, pointed out, transgender people today are at a critical moment of unprecedented visibility. The recent controversy over “bathroom bills” has made trans bodies objects of public scrutiny whose very humanity, whose very presence, is up for open debate.
“Every breath a trans person takes,” said Dr. Stryker, “is an act of rebellion.” This is a modified version of a quotation originally by Lourdes Ashley Hunter (National Director of the Trans Women of Color Collective and Black Lives Matter activist) here; Hunter’s original words were “Every breath a Black trans woman takes is an act of rebellion.” By pointing out common roots of transphobic and racist oppression, Stryker inspires the marginalized to conspire, to breathe with, and to oppose colonial and patriarchal violence through what she calls “micro-level radical resistance.” Revolution, she points out, exists not only on picket lines and battlefields, but also, and perhaps more importantly, within ourselves and our capacity to transform the world around us.
From all of us at FORUM, thank you to Dr. Stryker for your wisdom and to Dr. Ehrhardt for making this visit possible.