Besides numerous resources and opportunities to support LGBTQA students, the University of Michigan also has a growing number of support programs to build a sense of community for faculty and staff and to educate allies and advocates.
“There are many avenues to make connections as an undergraduate and graduate student, but there are less readily available ways to find community as a staff or faculty member,” said Will Sherry, director of the Spectrum Center, which offers some support structures for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and/or asexual staff and faculty, in addition to its primary focus on LGBTQA students.
According to the 2016 campuswide campus climate survey, 5.5 percent of U-M staff and faculty are LGBTQA. Twenty-eight percent of LGBTQA faculty and 23 percent of LGBTQA staff reported experiencing at least one discriminatory event related to their identity.
LGBTQA faculty reported a significantly lowered sense of belonging compared to non-LGBTQA faculty, and LGBTQA staff are more than 20 times more likely to report experiencing discrimination compared to staff who are not LGBTQA.
“One important area of work is providing accessible information to LGBTQ+ staff and faculty regarding campus policies and practices that may impact them. It is important that staff and faculty are able to navigate the campus in an informed way with knowledge of their rights and resources,” Sherry said.
The National Center for Institutional Diversity at U-M has published a series titled “Nonbinary Identities and Individuals in Research, Community, and the Academy” to bring awareness about this group, who are often overlooked within the LGBTQA community.
Shanna Katz Kattari, assistant professor of social work and the series’ curator, notes that while research with and about the transgender community grows, it often focuses on binary transgender people, often excluding nonbinary transgender people.
Binary refers to people who are either women or men, and nonbinary refers to people who are not strictly either women or men. These groups exist in tandem with cisgender people — those whose binary gender identities align with the one they were assigned at birth.
“As a cisgender person in the academy, I wanted to intentionally create a space for nonbinary scholars to share their knowledge and/or lived experiences, to help remedy some of the erasure and invisibility experienced by this community and population,” Kattari said.
The series highlights the experiences of nonbinary individuals and the existing challenges, as well as efforts on campuses, to advance policy and practice. It may be used in reading clubs, trainings, or staff and faculty meetings.
Kattari also directs the ADVANCE-funded [Sexuality|Relationships|Gender] Research Collective, which holds a monthly writing circle for LGBTQIA2S+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, two spirit, and other ways in which people choose to identify) faculty and graduate students.
“While most of our writing circles have been attended primarily by those in social work and public health, it would be wonderful to have a bigger budget and bigger footprint for this opportunity to grow,” Kattari said.
Several other opportunities for interpersonal connection exist across campus:
- The Queer Transgender Indigenous People of Color group and the LGBTQ Staff Group at U-M both maintain a listserv and host a few social events each semester.
- The U-M LGBT Faculty Alliance consists of faculty who work on “university policies that affect the LGBT community, students’ academic needs, curriculum development, and new faculty support.”
- Michigan Medicine maintains the UMHS Pride Network, an employee resource group for transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay Michigan Medicine faculty and staff and their allies, who are working to ensure an inclusive, respectful environment for TBLG staff and to promote cultural competency related to the care of this patient population.