On Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) held its annual Sister Mary Ellen Murphy Faculty Scholarship Award Lecture. This year’s recipient, Elijah C. Nealy, Ph.D., assistant professor of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice, shared his presentation entitled, “No Single Issue Lives: Cultivating Resistance, Resilience, and Hope for Our Journey Toward Liberation and Justice.”
Dr. Nealy’s discussion focused on his visible and invisible identities as a white man of transgender experience. Through vignettes from his life, he illustrated the shifting dynamics of privilege and marginalization across gender, gender identity, and race. He explained that, despite his identity as a queer man, he presents as a straight white man, which affords him a certain level of privilege and safety in society.
He later juxtaposed his experience with that of the trans women of color, who face greater danger in society because of the visibility of their transition, coupled with racism and sexism. To recognize and honor the 26 trans women of color who have reportedly been murdered this year alone, Dr. Nealy dedicated a PowerPoint slide to each individual. As he clicked through his presentation, audience members stood, spoke the name of the victim, and shared when they were killed. By the end, 26 individuals in the audience were standing – including USJ President Rhona Free and faculty members – to represent the lives lost this year.
Dr. Nealy concluded his moving and impactful presentation by saying, “We must begin now to create a world in which transgender children, youth, and adults can live and thrive without the threat of violence … We must move beyond single issue lives and struggles to heal the effects of external and internalized trauma and oppression, and dismantle the systems and structures that perpetuate these realities.” He then answered questions from the audience before ending the evening with a book signing in the lobby of Bruyette Athenaeum.
To learn more about USJ’s undergraduate and graduate Social Work programs, click here.