UC Santa Cruz grad student targeted for trans activism

A conservative commentator is pressuring the University of California, Santa Cruz to address his complaints about a doctorate. candidate and trans activist there. And he’s urging his more than a million followers to do the same, raising concerns about the targeted harassment of graduate student Eli Erlick.

Specifically, commentator Matt Walsh says he is concerned that Erlick is a “confessed drug dealer” targeting children. This is based on a since-deleted Instagram post by Erlick, in which she offered to pool unopened, doctor-prescribed hormone therapies for trans people who find it difficult to access this type of care.

“Time to Climb”

“There are over 20 states trying to criminalize hormone therapy, especially for trans youth,” Erlick wrote in the post. “So my friends and I had an idea: send our extra prescriptions across the country. If you need hormones, I work with a distribution network to get you there. Everything is free, no questions asked. We have hundreds of testosterone, estradiol and spironolactone doses available right now.

She continued: “Each packet contains information on dosage, obtaining blood tests, etc. I realize this is just a band-aid solution: we need full access to affirmative care from professionals immediately. However, missing even one dose of hormones can be devastating (especially for trans teens and those new to hormones)! »

Erlick, a longtime activist for trans youth and founder of the Trans Student Educational Resources group, is no stranger to the far right. Earlier this year, for example, she accused Walsh’s production team warped in order to recruit trans people to interview for their online documentary, What is a woman? (Erlick wasn’t the only trans or allied person to make this accusation.) Regardless, Walsh and other conservative commentators took notice of Erlick’s post and began calling her a drug dealer. Some have reported her to federal authorities, including the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

Erlick’s hormone delivery proposal certainly raises legal, medical, and ethical questions. (Such issues must of course be weighed against the legal, medical, and ethical implications of political efforts to make treatment for gender dysphoria harder to access, or even illegal.) UCSC, he enlisted his supporters to force a public response and gave the university an ultimatum.

“We gave the leaders there a day to respond and tell us what steps they would take to resolve this issue before I started giving their contact details. Well, they never approached it,” Walsh said in his eponymous show on daily thread streaming service earlier this week. “Now it’s time to step up. The University of California, Santa Cruz is a public university. These officials have no right to ignore this issue. They just don’t have the right to do that.

After sharing contact details for various university leaders, including Chancellor Cynthia Larive, Walsh said on her show, “Then I will find the board of trustees and I will find the donors at the school. After that, I’ll show up there with a crowd of people. I will come there personally.

The university said in a statement that “as a campus continuously working in the pursuit of social justice,” it “strongly supports transgender members of our community. Transgender rights are human rights. Transphobia, homophobia and bullying have no place in our society. At UC Santa Cruz, we are committed to building a society that values ​​and respects all, encouraging and supporting individuals to be themselves, allowing them to thrive.

Regarding Erlick, the statement continues: “The university is aware of social media posts by one of our graduate students regarding gender-affirming medical care prohibited in certain states. The university takes allegations of illegal activity, including harassment, seriously.

The UCSC declined to answer additional questions about the case.

Asked about the status of her proposal, Erlick said via email that “trans people have shared hormone replacement therapy treatments for over 80 years. It’s nothing new or unique. It is important to add that no one provides hormone replacement therapy to children and the accusations I am following are false and absurd.

Targeted harassment

Erlick shared with Inside Higher Education a number of messages she said she received on social media following Walsh’s comments about her. They include anti-LGBTQ slurs (Erlick is a trans woman) and various threats of physical violence.

“Matt Walsh doesn’t care about trans people,” Erlick said. “He is taking advantage of the moral panic over the transit through new subscribers, advertisers and page views. Money, fame and power are his only goals.

Erlick and some of his supporters accused Walsh of stochastic terrorism, an academic term used (in a sense) to describe inciting violence against a target, via mass media and with plausible deniability.

Boston Children’s Hospital, which Walsh has repeatedly accused of “mutilating” children who seek gender-affirming care, also released a statement. statement this week saying its workers are being harassed and facing threats of violence. Contrary to some reports, the hospital also said it “does not perform genital surgeries as part of gender-affirming care on a patient under the age of 18.”

Walsh responded to the claim that he is a terrorist, arguing that sharing contact details of publicly available people is not harassment and that criticizing someone is not terrorism. Yet Walsh’s actions toward Erlick are arguably part of a larger pattern that groups, including the American Association of University Teachers, call targeted harassment. Concerns about this dynamic in academia have grown with the rise of websites such as Teacher Watchlista Turning Point USA project that seeks to expose “the radical behavior of university professors”.

A small AAUP 2020 survey of professors who have been the subject of articles in Campus reforman information site whose objectives are similar to those of Teacher Watchlist, found that 40% of them had subsequently been threatened with harm, including physical violence or death. Another 10% have received hateful or harassing messages, often via email.

Because targeted harassment has the potential to chill free speech, the AAUP views it as a threat to academic freedom. And although Erlick is a graduate student, the AAUP has long maintained that graduate students — not just faculty members — have a right to academic freedom.

Erlick said Inside Higher Education that “Walsh is not just attacking trans people, but free speech itself. He tries to silence those who support trans youth. Claiming that the university has the power to punish me for online activities opens up a milieu of possibilities for suppressing academic discourse. Walsh sends a clear message by trying to pull me out of my PhD. program: Those who support trans people in academia are fair game for offense.

The graduate head of Erlick’s women’s studies department responded to an interview request, but said he needed Erlick’s consent before a recorded conversation. He did not respond to a subsequent request for comment.

Erlick’s research focuses on transgender politics. Asked about it, she said: ‘My dissertation project, ‘Irrespectability Politics’, deals with groups that reject moralistic appeals to power in favor of weakening authority. Many of the groups I study are trans people finding ways to support each other on their own.