LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association Colleagues:
This Thursday, commentator Michael Knowles will speak at an engagement hosted by Young Americans for Freedom, a recognized student group and chapter of a national organization. Knowles has a history of making homophobic, transphobic, and sexist commentary, but his remarks this weekend escalated. At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, March 4, Knowles said, “For the good of society … transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.”
Simply put, Knowles’s eliminationist rhetoric is disturbing and the reckless implication of eradication is dangerous. The comments incite distress and directly conflict with our institutional mission, vision, and aspirations. The call for removing “transgenderism” from public life is a dog whistle for harm and must be denounced.
A free exchange of thoughts and ideas is the backbone of higher education. All of us, especially in this UB community, learn and grow in our beliefs and values through this exchange. And when our beliefs and values are challenged, we have an opportunity to recommit.
It is in our pursuit of a university-wide culture of equity and inclusion that we, today, have an opportunity to denounce Knowles’s message. The frustration, fear, and concern expressed by our trans students, colleagues, community members, and allies is valid. But silence in this moment is indistinguishable from indifference. Silence, in this opportunity, is a failure. This LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association stands with our integral and vibrant transgender and gender nonconforming community, and we call on all of our UB leaders and colleagues to do the same.
As our community gathers and coordinates in response to hateful speech, the absence of a LGBTQ+ resource center on our flagship campus is pronounced. This LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association is committed to continued advocacy for such a center and we urge UB leaders to reexamine and invest in the February 2020 University at Buffalo LGBTQ+ Support Services Committee Report. Specifically, a center would facilitate the integration of trans and gender-diverse people into curriculum, assist with an improved, central request point for name change, develop essential training for faculty and staff, and institutionalize a commitment between queer people and UB. The opportunity to elevate support and care services for marginalized student populations, specifically queer people of color, to be commensurate with the University’s premiere academic programs cannot be missed.
This week and beyond, please keep students in mind and heart. Share your feelings with them and create space for them. Our FSA remains a safe space for you and a resource as you guide students. Your colleagues here share your feelings and we are here to offer you community and campus support. As always, as opportunities to support, gather, advocate, and learn develop, we will continue to share with you.
With pride and solidarity,