Trans Visibility Activist and Scholar Susan Stryker Joins Mills College

Oakland, CA—September 3, 2020

Dr. Susan Stryker sits in a chair, her hand under her chin, on a stage against a dark backdrop.Susan Stryker, a leading voice in the field of transgender studies and longtime advocate for trans visibility and rights, has joined Mills College as the Barbara Lee Distinguished Chair in Women’s Leadership. Named for Mills alumna, Congresswoman Barbara Lee ’73, this two-year faculty appointment held jointly within the History and Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies departments recognizes scholars who have exhibited thought leadership and courage in their fields. Professor Stryker, whose work focuses on transgender history, culture, and politics, is the latest appointee to this post at Mills, where she will spearhead the Mills College Trans Studies Speaker Series.

“The Chair was created to honor Mills alum, Congresswoman Barbara Lee,” says Professor Margo Okazawa-Rey, a transnational feminist scholar and a founding member of the Combahee River Collective, who first conceptualized the Chair in 2004 when she was director of the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Mills and whom the College appointed most recently to the position.

“Lee played a key leadership role when Mills was struggling with campus racism and creating the Ethnic Studies Program, and she was the lone voice in Congress in 2001 not to authorize unlimited war powers for then-president George W. Bush,” notes Professor Okazawa-Rey. “Thus, the Chair enables the holder to continue the visionary work for which they are being recognized and, equally important, to be of service to the Mills College students, staff, and faculty in ways that advance the College’s mission of social justice and transformation. Both are absolutely necessary in this unique historical moment.”

“Dr. Stryker brings a unique and powerful vision to the Barbara Lee Chair by calling on us to unpack the very concept of binary gender and embodied difference that the concept of women’s leadership is premised on,” says Mills Professor and Provost Chinyere Oparah. “Our students, faculty, and the wider Bay Area community will benefit enormously from her theoretically and politically astute analyses of gender, race, disability and power.”

Professor Stryker, who received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed her postdoctoral research at Stanford, is a pioneer in the field of transgender studies. Before her appointment at Mills, Professor Stryker held appointments at Harvard, Yale, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Simon Fraser University. Most recently, she served as Professor Emerita of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona, where, according to Inside Higher Ed, she was “a driving force” in expanding academic programs and faculty hiring for transgender studies.

Also a longtime award-winning activist, author, and filmmaker, Professor Stryker is co-founder of direct-action activist group, Transgender Nation, and executive director of San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society. She is co-founder of the TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, the first academic journal in the humanities and social sciences devoted to exploring transgender issues through an expressly interdisciplinary lens. Prior to this, Professor Stryker was among the first openly transgender authors to ever publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal.

"At this moment in history, when trans existence has become a frontline issue in the culture wars, it's vital that trans people speak up and speak out about our own experiences—and not just of oppression and discrimination, but of the real joyousness that can be found in manifesting your deepest sense of self to others,” says Professor Stryker. “Allyship is crucial, because the trans community is small, but to borrow a phrase from the disability rights movement, ‘Nothing about us without us.’ We are our own best representative of our interests."

This fall, Professor Stryker will lead the Mills College Trans Studies Speaker Series, which will spotlight a spectrum of transgender perspectives, issues, artists, and thought leaders from a variety of disciplines. (View the full event series here.) The first event, a film screening of Netflix’s 2019 documentary, Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen, directed by Sam Feder and produced by Laverne Cox, will be followed by a discussion with the director and Professor Stryker, who served as a consulting producer.

“Mills College has long been a leader on trans issues; we spearheaded the movement for trans inclusion on women’s college campuses and our faculty and students benefit from cultural and political connections with the Bay Area’s diverse and vibrant trans communities,” says Provost Oparah, referring to the College’s 2014 decision to become the first women’s college to create an admissions policy for transgender and gender-questioning students. “Dr. Stryker’s appointment will deepen those connections and create exciting opportunities for local, national, and international engagements with questions of gender identity in the context of struggles for racial and gender justice.”

About Mills College

Located in Oakland, California, Mills is a nationally renowned independent liberal arts college for women and gender non-binary students, with graduate programs for all genders. Ranked one of the top-tier regional universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills is also recognized as one of the Best 386 Colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review. As one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the country, Mills has a strong record of academic success with first-generation students, students of color, Latinx students, LGBTQ+ students, and other underrepresented students. The Mills experience is distinguished by small, interactive classes, one-on-one attention from exceptional faculty, a culture of creative experimentation, and cutting-edge interdisciplinary learning opportunities which empower students to make a statement in their careers and communities.