Philosophy department is antiqueer

The University of Puget Sound Philosophy Department has a major issues with diversity and inclusion. In my experience as a philosophy major at this University, I have been silenced in class by professors, belittled by my peers and erased in our curricula.

Why do the white, straight, cisgender, propertied, tenured male professors in our philosophy department refuse to include the work of queers, the work of trans philosophers, the work of marginalized people in general? Why is it that there is only one tenured woman in our philosophy department? Why are there no visible, tenured queer professors in our philosophy department?

I believe that this exclusion is made possible because of a philosophical culture of systematic and systematized erasure. The arguments, theories and life-worlds of queer people are considered “irrelevant” to philosophical discourse, too “personal” to have anything to offer a metaphysical exposition.

In a class discussion, I was articulating how trans and queer people have been erased, killed, literally silenced; the professor responded to this by telling me to “stop talking.” I do not know if the irony of such a silencing move was apparent to the professor.

However, it was immediately apparent to me: in the moment I am articulating the history of people like me, who have been burned, killed, raped, targeted for annihilation, made vulnerable to premature death, caught in the intersection of vitality and nothingness, I am told to stop talking. I am told to stop talking so that a white, straight-passing, cisgender student can begin an exposition of the ways that gender is liberatory for trans people. This, after a trans student was silenced.

Such a particular is not an indictment of philosophy itself. However, in this example, I find a crystallization of a tendency at work within philosophy to relegate the life-worlds of queer and trans people to a domain of “non-philosophy,” a revelation of the truth that our lives are meaningless to philosophy, that the love of knowledge does not mean the love of trans and queer knowledge.

I say this now, as a philosophy major: the Department of Philosophy at this University is not a safe space for trans and queer students. It is not a safe space for us because it is not a space that we have any control within, where in debates about the definition of “knowledge,” “time” and “space,” the knowledge we hold of our eradication of space through time is irrelevant to our professors. It is irrelevant because our bodies and our deaths are irrelevant to philosophy. And it is irrelevant to philosophy not only because philosophers have made it irrelevant: it becomes irrelevant to philosophy when philosophy is understood to mean “metaphysics,” “epistemology” and “ethics.” These categorizations of thought have done nothing for trans and queer people through history. Indeed, metaphysics routinely tell us our genders are not real, epistemology tells us we “don’t really” know what we’re talking about when we talk about our genders, and ethics has told us it is “wrong” to be trans and queer.

If trans and queer students want a safe, inclusive space to discuss our bodies, we need to claim that space for ourselves. This philosophy department will not give it to us. It isn’t even interested in trying. I dare anyone to show me a counterexample, of the ways in which our specific philosophy department is inclusive to trans or queer people.

But, dear reader, don’t hold your breath. We all know such an example doesn’t exist.