The Black German Heritage Research Association (BGHRA), the Diversity, Decolonization, and German Curriculum collective (DDGC), and the Coalition of Women in German (WiG) leadership express our support of and solidarity with trans peoples within our institutions and fields, our local communities, and beyond. It has been another devastating few months of anti-trans rhetoric and anti-trans legislation, in the US, in Germany, and in other parts of the world. These forms of hostility have been accompanied by physical violence targeting trans people.
We are saddened to see that some putative feminists have been the source of some of this anti-trans rhetoric. As just one example, recent articles in the magazine EMMA and its online publications reframe gender-affirming care as self-hatred or as recourse to gender stereotypes. Such initiatives demean the activism and identities of trans activists and their allies as a “trend” that potentially threatens cisgender women and girls. This damaging and inflammatory rhetoric perpetuates linguistic violence that is echoed by news media and radical right politicians, who appropriate and applaud such rhetoric.
Anti-trans rhetoric has concrete material effects and intersects powerfully with racism and white supremacy: it perpetuates the targeting of trans people for physical violence; contributes to the ways that trans communities become particularly vulnerable communities living in unstable housing, under criminalization or immigration-related surveillance, inside jails or prison; and consequently also impacts how trans people are disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
We condemn such anti-trans violence, which frequently goes hand in hand with other forms of hostility against historically and structurally marginalized peoples. As we oppose the growing anti-trans sentiment in Europe, we must also recognize the place from which many of us live and work in North America. In particular the US has seen a wave of anti-trans laws and policies proposed and enacted in recent months. As is the case in Europe and elsewhere, this structural violence against trans people is not new; rather, it is part of a history of pain that in our time finds expression in new iterations. These numerous legislative attempts, and many successes, actively criminalize trans people and their potential support networks. Most recently, for example, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called for investigations of parents supportive of their trans children, falsely claiming that their support for gender-affirming medical care constitutes child abuse. This directive threatens these childrens’ networks of care, which include parental as well as medical and psychological care. And, while the particular legislation in Texas wasn’t ultimately approved, investigations had already begun and concrete harms already been perpetuated. The violent sentiment behind the proposed requirement that individuals use the bathroom according to sex listed on birth certificate guides new anti-trans legislation. These and other legislative and policy matters actively limit the participation of trans people in various public settings, including students in many school and campus activities. Physical violence, exclusion from public settings, the trauma experienced through anti trans initiatives, and exclusion from accessing health resources (including psychological resources) all provide barriers to self-actualization.
In the field of German studies, there remains much work to be done to support our trans colleagues and students. Trans German studies has traditionally been allocated a space on the margins of the field, if it is mentioned at all. The histories, cultural and social practices, as well as lived experiences of trans people deserve representation in curricula, at conferences, and scholarly publications. Trans scholars deserve material support structures that afford them the resources and working contexts in which they can conduct their work.
We are grateful for the work being done by trans activists, scholars, teachers, and students that combats these histories of exclusion and violence. We will continue to learn from their work and will support it and the people who do it in various ways from the positions which we occupy. Below, we outline a call to action list for our organizations’ members and supporters that variously align with the principles our three organizations represent.
Call to Action
- Follow local transled organizations, as well as national organizations such as: The Transgender Law Center (@translawcenter) or Step Up (@stepup4trans), and the organization for Europe and Central Asia TGEU (@tgeuorg). Follow the intersectional work of LesMigraS (@lesmigras) and GladT (by following the hashtag #GladT), who also do important work for/with/by trans activists.
- Read and learn about the Trans Agenda for Liberation;
- Familiarize yourself with the ongoing news around trans-harmful policy and legislature locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally by reading news coverage, press releases by transled organizations, or scholarly work on trans life. Where possible, foreground the work published by trans people.
- Find out if medical needs for trans students, staff and faculty are covered at your institution. If not, support initiatives demanding medical coverage, and find out about and circulate information about emergency funds.
Scholarship and Teaching
- Critically evaluate your curricular structures: how can you integrate lessons and histories as well as cultural practices as documented in trans studies into your curricula?
- Are you in a position at your institution in which you can advocate for and support trans scholars and trans studies scholarship? This does not always need to take place in your immediate program, department, or division.
- The field of German studies requires more solid infrastructure to support trans scholars and trans German studies. Call for and support trans German studies work and infrastructure.
- Recognize that trans students and scholars may be less likely to have traditional or linear academic biographies. Ensure that people’s academic histories are evaluated flexibly.
Contact your Public Officials
- Reach out to your local, regional, and national public officials and call for the support of trans-affirmative policies and legislatures. This also entails expressing dissent about trans-hostile policies and legislature.
- A US-centered resource on current US legislative battles with info on how to reach your public officials is Step Up.
Share Resources Regularly and Ask Those in Your Networks to Do the Same
- Donate to organizations that have a good track record for fighting for and supporting the trans communities, such as:
- Transgender Law Center: https://translawcenter.org/
- Sylvia Rivera Law Project : https://srlp.org/
- Support trans mutual aid collectives in your communities. Some of these networks might already be in place on your campus, in your neighborhood, city, etc. Amplify the call for support of these initiatives within your personal and professional circles.