What We Know About the Resistance to University of Pittsburgh’s Anti-Trans Events

Reverse blog post structure.

I am going to dive a little into why I think Pitt’s history makes their position on anti-trans speakers quite plausible. But first, let me simply start with listing the resistance efforts as I learn about them. Send me your events.

Here’s the petition to sign.

Here’s a little paper sign you can print (Double-sided) and pass out. We’ll try to get some to each event. Also if you want signs, pens, stickers, http://bit.ly/ProtectTransKidsSigns or just email me.


Media coverage

‘Anti-trans’ speakers are coming to Pitt. Student safety and speech rights collide. PublicSource

‘We would absolutely be there making noise’: Trans activist lends support to Pitt student petition WTAE

Pitt students petition university to cancel “transphobic” speaker events – Pittsburgh City Paper

I have a degree from Pitt. MSW in community organizing from the School of Social Work, class of 2000. Other than fundraising asks, I never heard from Pitt again. I think they squeezed all the tuition they could out of me and wrote me off to be permanently underpaid alumnus.

I wasn’t actually shocked when I learned that the University is hosting not one, but three anti-trans events this spring. Language courtesy of this petition against the events.

  1. A University of Pittsburgh chapter of Turning Point USA is hosting Riley Gaines as a speaker on March 27th, 2023, at the O’Hara Ballroom. Riley Gaines is a known transphobe who continually denies the existence of trans women and advocates for banning trans women from sports. This event is scheduled to begin on the first day of Pitt Pride week. The event being hosted is entitled “Saving Women’s Sports.” In this event, Gaines is advocating for the removal of trans women from the competition of sports with cisgender women. This type of language pushes the narrative that trans women are not women, invalidates their existence, and threatens their safety.
  2. Additionally, the University of Pittsburgh chapter of Turning Point USA is hosting known transphobe Cabot Phillips on March 24th, 2023, in the Cathedral of Learning.
  3. On top of this, there is a “debate” over transness being hosted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute via Pitt Republicans, which features Michael Knowles and Deirdre McCloskey on April 18th, 2023, at the O’Hara Ballroom. Just last week, Michael Knowles explicitly advocated for the “Eradication of transgenderism” at the Conservative Political Action Conference. This language directly threatens violence against trans individuals.

I’m not shocked because Pitt has a long history of and convoluted history with LGBTQ issues. Of course they don’t see a problem debating human’s right to exist unless those humans are unionized graduate assistants.

As far back as 1996, the University was actively resisting extending domestic partner benefits to employees. They finally succumbed to decency and extended benefits in 2004.

In 2012, Pitt began policing bathrooms, requiring students and faculty and staff to use the gendered bathroom that corresponded to their birth certificate. That began to change in 2015. However, transgender student Seamus Johnston sued the university for discrimination in 2011 and settled in 2016.

One area where the University has not shied away from LGBTQ folks has been accepting research grants. In 1993, the University accepted an epidemiology grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish the Pitt Men’s Study, a groundbreaking and lifesaving effort that I thank God exists. In 2002, they accepted funding to establish the Epidemiologic Study of HEalth Risk ESTHER Project to explore lesbian health disparities. And in 2013, the accepted funding for Project Silk, an HIV prevention demonstration project for young African American MSM and transgender people.

Perhaps most notably Project Silk was spun out from the university to Community Human Services, a community based organization primarily serving homeless persons. I don’t think a lot of funding squeezed from the experiences of BIPOC young men and trans folx followed it. But I could be wrong.

And that’s just skimming the surface. I could write volumes about my own experiences with homophobia at Pitt. The booing and hissing in class when a lesbian presented on human sexuality. The snorts and insults when another teacher talked about sexual orientation in a social history context. The debate about how a therapist who opposed homosexuality could ethically refer someone or what to do if there was no referral option. The time a woman almost beat the crap out of me in front the Dean’s Office for multiple reasons including being a dyke. The Dead gave me safe passage, but just that day. This was 2000. I was 28-29. It was horrible. And Pitt never apologized to me. See above about poor alumnus.

I’m an alumnus who has three national awards for my blogging advocacy, my community organizing, and they don’t think that’s worth celebrating. Mind you, I do not want to be an adjunct faculty member. Ever. But a little credit for how I’m honoring the legacy of Moe Coleman and Jim Cunningham and Dr. Liz Winter via a technology that barely existed during their tenures might be smart.

Now I suspect Pitt is taking the cowardly approach and will wait until public pressure reached the “threat of violence” level so they can cancel the events by blaming the community instead of holding those who incite violence against trans folx accountable. That’s pretty on brand for Pitt. So claim your tickets for the events, sign the petition, show up for the events, write your letters to the editor, tag, tag, tag, and create the pressure. You and I both know the place where the most violence happens are the bathrooms and the keg parties.

And Pitt ain’t gonna touch either one.

PS Allies should not make money or fundraise on the backs of March Madness or any sport at Pitt. This is not negotiable.


We need your help to save the blog.

For 18+ years,  snowflakes, social justice warriors, and the politically correct have built this blog.

Follow us on Twitter @Pghlesbian24 and Instagram @Pghlesbian

We need your ongoing support to maintain this archive and continue the work. Please consider becoming a patron of this blog with a recurring monthly donation or make a one-time donation.       This post and/or others may contain affiliate links. Your purchase through these links support our work. You are under no obligation to make a purchase.