Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Swarthmore College Catalogs LGBTQIIA+ Terminology


Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College proudly maintains-- and regularly updates-- a webpage cataloging the LGBTQ+ terminology it fosters and recognizes. “BIQTPOC,” “Masculine of Center,” and “Transmisogynoir” are among the terms and phrases the school sanctions. Really.

According to Swarthmore, “Transmisogynoir” refers to “cultural and interpersonal systems of oppression affecting and against Black, transgender women,” whereas “Masculine of Center” is a “gender identity label for a queer person, typically assigned female at birth but not always, who presents masculinely; most often utilized by queer women of Color.” Alrighty then.

And “BIQTPOC,” which the esteemed institution of higher learning definitively says should be pronounced “bye cutie pock,” is an acronym for "Black and Indigenous Queer and Transgender People of Color.” Which, of course, is simply a modification of “QTPOC," or “cutie pock,” which stands for the shorter and possibly slightly less specific “Queer and Transgender People of Color.”

I don’t want to know what other terms are on Swarthmore’s list.

Oddly enough, the college was founded in 1864 by the Religious Society of Friends, a.k.a. the Quakers, but dropped the affiliation in 1906. Which is probably what eventually led the university to offer a course titled “Is God a white supremacist?” as it has done in recent years. (Somewhere, Ben Franklin is not amused.)

             Swarthmore’s website says the course will primarily focus on “representations of race in religious discourses and social practice,” with “particular attention” being “given to discussion of the interpretive practices that are foundational to the process of 'whiteness-making' and the construction of white identity.” Perhaps I need better “interpretive practices,” but it sounds to me like Swarthmore thinks “white identity” is produced by 3D Printers.

            Required reading materials for the “Is God a white supremacist” course include biblical interpretations of “white supremacist 'Christian identity' churches” and the Yakub theory of racial formation in the Nation of Islam. I have personally attended many a Christian church, but none touting white supremacy. The Nation of Islam, on the other hand, is steeped in the idea of Black supremacy, as evidenced by the
Yakub theory of racial formation.

           Course themes include: “human/anti-human binaries, death and being, and perceptions of the racialized transcendent Other in the social, political, and symbolic order.” Surely there isn’t a human/anti-human binary! There must be a nearly infinite number of homo sapiens/anti-homo sapiens identities on a spectrum, right? The same for death versus being. Some of us are clearly alive, some clearly not, and some-- like President Biden for example—are somewhere in between.

          The alleged existence of the theme “perceptions of the racialized transcendent Other in the social, political, and symbolic order” raises the question, “what the bleep?” Even as it lowers our expectations and opinions of higher education itself.

Is God a white supremacist? We don’t know if God has a color. Maybe He identifies as “all of the above.” Is He filled with “toxic masculinity?” I mean, He allegedly created, like, everything, and rules over it, too. But perhaps He is non-binary…or even two-spirited.

Swarthmore’s motto is “Mind the Light.”

Maybe it should be “Find the Light.”




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