Tag: LGBTQ

Champion of Pride award shines light on advocacy work of Helen Boyd Kramer

Helen Boyd Kramer on hard-fought progress made on LGBTQ+ issues: “Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.” (Photo by Rachel Crowl)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Helen Boyd Kramer jokes that it’s a “lifetime achievement award.”

There might be truth in that if her work was done. It is not.

Kramer, a lecturer in gender studies at Lawrence University since 2008, was named a 2020 Champion of Pride by The Advocate, a leading national voice on LGBTQ+ issues that each June honors 104 activists – two from each state and the District of Columbia.

Kramer joined Dane County’s Baltazar De Anda Santana as this year’s Wisconsin recipients.

A leading activist on transgender issues since publishing her first book, My Husband Betty, in 2003, Kramer was cited for her recent work advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in Appleton, including a successful effort earlier this year to get the Common Council to approve a ban on practicing conversion therapy on minors. That followed efforts in October to help make National Coming Out Day more visible in Appleton, resulting in a rainbow flag flying over City Hall for the first time.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Kramer said of being honored by The Advocate, but she sees it as a sign of progress in her efforts to advocate for diversity, the rights of transgender people in particular.

“When you’ve been in a movement that’s young but you were part of the original people doing it, you tend to get used to the fact that this is what you do, this is what you’ve been doing,” Kramer said. “So, this (award) kind of came out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it. … The trans community was a baby when I started doing this work and when I wrote the book. Now the education about trans is at a whole different level. Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.”

An agent of change

Kramer arrived at Lawrence in 2008, a year after publishing her second book, She’s Not the Man I Married, chronicling her experiences with transgender spouse Rachel Crowl. The move took her from New York City to Appleton, necessitating a change in her activism. Here, she got to know the elected officials she would be pushing for change.

“Being an activist in Appleton was going to be a different thing,” Kramer said. “It was going to be more about personal relationships.”

In the 12 years since, she’s been a frequent voice on LGBTQ+ education, be it in the community before city councils and school boards or on campus in gender studies classrooms, Freshman Studies workshops, or in campus-wide Cultural Competency discussions.

Appleton, Kramer said, has grown in its understanding of and support for the LGBTQ+ community, perhaps fueled by the giant leap forward that came with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down same-sex marriage bans in 2015. The Common Council has gotten noticeably more progressive. The topics Kramer and other LGBTQ+ activists speak to, including the conversion therapy ban, no longer shock.

“Instead of being reactive, we actually have council members now who are bringing legislation forward,” she said. “That’s what happened with conversion therapy.”

Read more: 10 ways Lawrence celebrates Pride Month all year long

She singled out the work of Appleton alderperson Vered Meltzer ’04, a Lawrence alum who in 2014 became the first openly trans person to hold elected office in Wisconsin, according to Fair Wisconsin, a Madison-based advocacy group.

Meltzer returns the praise, calling Kramer tenacious in her efforts to support marginalized people in the Appleton community.

“Helen’s advocacy is effective because she never stops working, whether she’s on campus or off campus,” Meltzer said. “And one of the best things about working with her is that she doesn’t give up or get discouraged, no matter how much work there is to do or how long it takes to see results. Her tireless dedication, and her personal care and support for marginalized individuals in our community, has helped bring activists throughout the community together over the years with a sense of unity and shared goals.”

Kramer sees the progress happening in Appleton as reflective of what’s happening across the country. While there is much work yet to be done, momentum has been building in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from the same-sex marriage ruling five years ago to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protects transgender, gay and lesbian employees from workplace discrimination.

“There has been an education of people in terms of civil rights,” Kramer said. “Poll after poll after poll say people believe that you shouldn’t be able to get fired for being gay or lesbian.”

The celebration of the Supreme Court’s June 15 ruling on workplace discrimination may have been a bit muted because of COVID-19 social restrictions, but there is little doubt it marked a major moment, one that arrived amid heightened awareness of equity issues. The ruling was delivered by a conservative-leaning court midway through Pride Month, 50 years after the Pride movement first emerged en masse.

“The movement has worked,” Kramer said. “The reason gay people started coming out and the reason gay people still feel the necessity to be out is precisely because the more straight people know them or more straight people know that they are related to someone who is LGBTQ+ the more likely it is that they would support same-sex marriage, employment discrimination rules, and such. This has been a long time coming.”

Helen Boyd Kramer on efforts to support LGBTQ+ students: “The tremendous burden of family rejection is still really common.” (Photo by Rachel Crowl)

Education on campus

The enlightenment at Lawrence over the past decade hasn’t been quite as stark because the university has long been a safe haven for LGBTQ+ students, Kramer said. Again, it’s been a work-in-progress, but the work of inclusion has been in play here for a long time.

The dramatic change at Lawrence since she arrived a dozen years ago has come in the trans community. In 2008, it was mostly a curiosity, even on a liberal arts campus.

“It’s kind of hard to explain how much has changed in that time,” Kramer said. “The first class I introduced at Lawrence was Transgender Lives, and at that time I had one student who shyly admitted to doing drag once. I had a bunch of students who took it because trans was an interesting topic. A lot of them were future therapists, a bunch of psychology majors. Now, when I teach Trans Lives, half of the students in the class identify as LGBTQ+ as either trans or non-binary. … There’s been a giant cultural shift.”

All that progress doesn’t mean the fight is over. Far from it. Kramer points to the Trump Administration’s recent ruling that removed federal health care protections for people who identify as transgender. Protections written into the Affordable Care Act addressed sex discrimination, and in 2016, the Obama Administration interpreted that provision to include gender identity. But in early June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement saying it is returning to an earlier interpretation of sex discrimination, thus excluding the trans community.  

“This isn’t just for trans procedures,” Kramer said. “It’s for pneumonia or COVID. These stories are already common in the trans world, where doctors wouldn’t take what they had seriously, cancer in particular. It would just go untreated because doctors wouldn’t work with trans patients. Seeing HHS do this right now when everyone is scared of dying is particularly heartless.”

The COVID dilemma

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a cruel light on the LGBTQ+ world. Besides health care access issues, it has highlighted wealth disparities, which are particularly stark among Black LGBTQ+ people. The same systematic racism issues that have ignited nationwide protests are in play within the LGBTQ+ community, Kramer said.

“When we get to a point when we’re actually doing recovery, eventually, we’re going to have to figure out the wealth problem and the access to employment and training and education,” she said. “These are all systems that are so soaked in the same discrimination we’re talking about. It’s employment, it’s health care, it’s food on the table.”

The pandemic sent students home for spring term, put summer research and internships on pause, and infused uncertainty into almost all near-future plans. That, in turn, has heightened anxieties for LGBTQ+ students who don’t have adequate support at home. Kramer and other advocates on campus have tried to stay in frequent contact, but seeing students having to isolate in a home environment that’s toxic adds new layers of concern.

“The tremendous burden of family rejection is still really common,” Kramer said.

While a growing number of families are accepting and supportive, it’s those students who aren’t feeling that love who are particularly vulnerable right now.

“Some students used to refer to Lawrence as Hogwarts because they could be gay here,” Kramer said. “And they couldn’t always be at home. Now those students are at home during the pandemic. It’s one of the reasons why there was more than one student I helped make sure they could stay on campus this spring because their home situation just isn’t good.

“How do you accept the fact that your family basically doesn’t like you so much? Sometimes they hate you. That’s a wounding you can’t really process. I think Lawrence has been amazing about that, being aware that we do provide acceptance in a way that some students are not always getting elsewhere.”

Lawrence recently introduced the LGBTQ+ Alliance House as a residential space. A Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center opened in Colman Hall late last year. Trans Rights United (TRU) became the University’s first trans student organization. Those additions are all built onto an already well-established support system.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes culturally that get reflected on the campus,” Kramer said. “I think the campus has done an amazing job for the most part in creating these spaces, and creating diversity training for everyone else. There are still pockets of education that’s needed, but I love the fact that we let students lead. They’re telling us what they need. They feel empowered, and we’re getting much better at that.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University: Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Pride all year long: New center latest in efforts to support LGBTQ community

The Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center is located in Colman Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

June is designated as Pride Month, a chance to acknowledge and celebrate the impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals have had on history.

A year ago, we shared a list of ways that Lawrence University flies its Pride flag all year long. We’re sharing that list again this June, with notable updates – led by the arrival of the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center (GSDC), which opened in the fall in Colman Hall. We’ll start there.

1. Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center

The new GSDC space, located in Colman 110, is designed as a welcoming spot for queer Lawrentians of all backgrounds and their allies to gather to socialize, study, or just hang out. Programming in the space is led by a GSDC Council. A soft opening took place near the close of fall term, and a mixer was held in January.

2. Colores 

Colores is a student organization that was originally created to be a space for empowerment for LGBTQ students of color. It has since expanded to incorporate any LGBTQ students on campus and to help educate the wider community on LGBTQ intersectionality. Colores hosts weekly meetings and special events throughout the academic year. Find out how to get involved with Colores here.

3. Pride Prom 

As a way to celebrate our differences and to educate the wider campus on queer history, the student group Colores hosts an annual Pride Prom. Along with the music and food you might find at a traditional high school prom, Pride Prom includes information about queer history and rainbow decor. Organizers feature images, films, articles, and more on queer history throughout the venue. Most importantly, Pride Prom is a chance for members of the LGBTQ community to gather, have fun, celebrate their identities, and feel connected on campus. Pride Prom is open to the entire campus, as well as the Appleton community, and serves as a great opportunity to learn about queer history and to boogie down.

4. LGBTQ Alliance House 

Lawrence University now has a LGBTQ Alliance house. This house, which opened in the fall, acts as a safe space for queer individuals and allies. As a house, they do lots of community outreach, including a clothing exchange, throughout the Lawrence and Appleton communities to spread awareness and acceptance for queer identities.

5. Lavender Ceremony 

To say goodbye and congratulate graduating seniors, Student Life and the Diversity and Intercultural Center co-host an annual Lavender Ceremony. This is a celebration for queer-identifying students as they prepare to graduate from Lawrence. There are speeches on behalf of the seniors and a dinner for the seniors and their guests. The students being honored also are presented with a lavender stole to wear at Commencement.

6. Alumni connections

The Lawrence University Pride Alumni Network is a recently formed alumni group. It kicked off a year ago, serving as an outlet for support, social interactions, and career networking. Also, an LGBTQ group is now part of Viking Connect, providing opportunities for alumni to mentor students as they prepare to launch careers.

7. Pride Resource Group

The Faculty/Staff Pride Resource Group is a network for Lawrence faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQ or have family who identify as such. This group offers a sense of community for the faculty and provides an avenue for updates on available resources. Learn how to get involved with the Pride Resource Group here.

8. Queer Thanksgiving

The Diversity and Intercultural Center hosts an annual potluck, called Queer Thanksgiving, just before the end of fall term. The annual event has been held in the Diversity and Intercultural Center and is open to the Appleton community. It is a way for queer individuals to come together and celebrate over some delicious food.

9. Gender-inclusive bathrooms

Lawrence expanded the number of gender-inclusive restrooms available on campus last year. The expansion increased the number of gender-inclusive facilities available to community members, including those who identify as transgender, transgender non-binary, and non-binary.

10. Trans Rights United (TRU)

Also new this year is the launch of Trans Rights United (TRU), a student organization committed to supporting trans Lawrentians through community building and advocacy, both on campus and in the larger community. The group is an open community for all Lawrentians who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender-nonconforming, as well as those who are questioning their gender identity.

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Lawrence welcomes eight new tenure-track appointments to the faculty

Lawrence University welcomes eight new scholars to tenure-track faculty appointments this fall for the 2018-19 academic year. The first day of classes for Lawrence’s 170th year is Sept. 11.

The new tenure track appointments include: Ann Ellsworth, conservatory of music (horn); Danielle Joyner, art history; Nora Lewis, conservatory of music (oboe); Linnet Ramos, neuroscience; Andrew Sage, statistics; Elizabeth Sattler, mathematics; Katherine Schweighofer, gender studies; and Allison Yakel, Spanish. Each joins the faculty at the rank of assistant professor, except for Lewis, who will start her Lawrence career as an associate professor.

“Over the past year, I had the great pleasure and privilege to work closely with search committees in the college and conservatory to identify and recruit talented candidates to our tenure track faculty rank,” said Catherine Gunther Kodat, provost and dean of the faculty. “These eight new faculty members will enrich the university in myriad ways, introducing new fields of study and fresh perspectives on traditional subjects. I’m thrilled to be able to welcome our newest colleagues to campus.”

Ann Ellsworth
Ann Ellsworth

Ann Ellsworth, conservatory of music (horn)
An international performer and recording artist, Ellsworth also brings nearly 30 years of teaching experience to the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. She joins the faculty from New York City, where she teaches at New York University, the Brooklyn College Conservatory and the City University of New York Graduate Center.

With a focus on new music, overlooked or rarely played pieces and arrangements, Ellsworth has recorded four solo albums, including “Rain Coming,” which was released in 2017. She has performed in music festivals around the world, been a guest artist or principal horn with nearly 20 orchestras or symphonies, including Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and the Oslo Philharmonic, among others. She also has performed for more than a dozen Broadway shows, as well as in concert with touring artists ranging from Shakira and Aretha Franklin to Diana Ross and Johnny Mathis.

A native of Palo Alto, Calif., Ellsworth earned a bachelor of music degree from Eastman School of Music, a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Rochester, took graduate studies at Juilliard School of Music and the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in Russia and earned a master of music degree from the University of Maryland.re

Danielle Joyner
Danielle Joyner

Danielle Joyner, art history
Joyner, whose scholarship interests include ecocriticism, environmental history and conceptions of the natural world, spent eight years in the department of art, art history and design at the University of Notre Dame and since 2015 has taught in the art history department of Southern Methodist University.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Joyner is the author of the 2016 book “Painting the Hortus Deliciarum: Medieval Women, Wisdom and Time,” and has a second book “Before there was Nature: Rethinking Landscapes and Early Medieval Arts” in progress.

She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in art history from the University of Utah, a master’s degree in medieval studies from the University of Toronto, and a master’s and doctorate degree in art history from Harvard University.

Nora Lewis
Nora Lewis ’99

Nora Lewis, conservatory of music (oboe)
It will be a homecoming for Lewis, a 1999 Lawrence graduate who returns to her alma mater, replacing her former oboe professor, Howard Niblock, who retired earlier this year. She has taught oboe the past two years at Western Michigan University. Prior to that, Lewis spent nine years building oboe studios at Austin Peay State University (2007-08) and Kansas State University (2008-13).

During her career, Lewis has engaged extensively in national and global outreach, including artist residencies in Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, India and Panama and has delivered scores of master classes throughout the United States.

Since 2010, she has performed with the PEN Trio, touring with the chamber ensemble across the country. Her first book, “Notes for Oboists: A Guide to the Repertoire,” is in progress with Oxford University Press.

A double degree graduate of Lawrence — she earned a B.A. in philosophy and a B.M. in performance — Lewis also holds a master’s degree from the Yale University School of Music and a doctor of music degree from Northwestern University.

Linnett Ramos
Linnet Ramos

Linnet Ramos, neuroscience
Ramos joins the faculty from Temple University, where she held an appointment as a postdoctoral researcher. She also held an adjunct professorship in the psychology department at Temple. Prior to Temple, Ramos worked as a postdoctoral researcher at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia from 2015-17. She served as a member of the diversity committees at both Temple and Children’s Hospital.

Her scholarship interests focus on identifying novel therapeutics to manage various mental health disorders, including drug addiction. Her research has examined the effects of these therapeutics on the neural circuits underlying social behavior.

A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ramos earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Temple University, a master’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Hartford and a Ph.D. in behavioral pharmacology from the University of Sydney in Australia.

Andrew Sage
Andrew Sage

Andrew Sage, statistics
A former high school math teacher, Sage has taught statistics courses at Iowa State University since 2014. As a graduate teaching assistant at Miami University prior to Iowa State, Sage was recognized with the mathematics department’s “Effective Graduate Teaching Award.

Sage’s research interests include data mining, statistical machine learning and statistics education. While at Iowa State, he was involved in a project using data analytics to help improve student retention among STEM majors.

Originally from Chardon, Ohio, Sage graduated Phi Beta Kappa from The College of Wooster, where as an undergraduate, he wrote a computer program to project complete times for tire tests at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in statistics at Iowa State.

Elizabeth Sattler
Elizabeth Sattler

Elizabeth Sattler, mathematics
Sattler joins the mathematics department with research interests in symbolic dynamics, ergodic theory and fractal geometry.

A native of Dickinson, N.D., Sattler has spent the past two years on the faculty at Carleton College, where she’s taught courses in calculus, real analysis and complex analysis. From 2011-2014, she taught at North Dakota State University, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in mathematics.

While at NDSU, she was the recipient of two graduate student teaching awards. She’s been involved as a faculty advisor and mentor for undergraduate research projects at Carleton and NDSU. As a proponent of fostering an inclusive environment, Sattler co-founded the Society of Women in Math and Statistics (SWiMS) at Carleton for women and non-binary math students.

Katherine Schweighofer
Katherine Schweighofer

Katherine Schweighofer, gender studies
Schweighofer brings teaching and research interests in histories of sex and gender, feminist and queer theory, LGBTQ studies, queer geography and gender and sports cultures to the Lawrence faculty. She is especially focused on the histories of sexual identity, geography and political resistance and how it reframes the impact of the U.S. women’s land movement of the 1970s and ’80s.

Since 2015, Schweighofer has taught at Dickinson College following appointments at Butler University and Indiana University, where she received the Barbara C. Gray Award for Teaching Excellence. At Dickinson, she served on the college’s LGBTQ Advisory Board and was recognized in 2017 with a service award by the office of LGBTQ Student Services.

Schweighofer, who grew up in Rochester, Mich., earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a certificate in women’s studies from Princeton University. She also holds a master of arts from New York University and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in gender studies from Indiana University.

Allison Yakel
Allison Yakel ’06

Allison Yakel, Spanish
Like Lewis, Yakel is returning to alma mater, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and government in 2006. Since 2014, she has taught Spanish courses as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston.

With an interdisciplinary approach, Yakel’s scholarship unites phonetics and phonology, sociolinguistics as it pertains to Spanish and English in contact, and applied linguistics. Her teaching experience includes teaching Spanish as a Heritage Language.

While a student at Lawrence, Yakel spent three years as a Spanish/Italian tutor in the university’s Center for Teaching and Learning. After graduating from Lawrence, she earned a master’s degree in Spanish at Texas State University and a Ph.D. in Hispanic linguistics at the University of Houston.

A Wisconsin native, Yakel grew up in Edgerton.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.