We, the undersigned past and present officers of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Caucus of the Central States Communication Association, stand in solidarity with the National Communication Association Executive Committee and especially the scholar activists who have both instigated and/or defended the organization’s decision to make changes to the selection procedures for the NCA Distinguished Scholars program. The lack of scholars of color, openly queer scholars, and international scholars—not to mention the disproportionate number of men who dominate the membership—more than illustrate that change was needed. We support this move by the National Communication Association and look forward to further actions that will enhance diversity and inclusion within and across the wider discipline.
We would also be remiss if we did not point out the troubling and potentially dangerous nature of the editorial put forth recently by Martin J. Medhurst in response to the changes in the Distinguished Scholar selection process. Specifically, in reviewing his editorial process for the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs he stated,
We recently received a submission from a scholar who identifies as trans. That scholar will receive the same consideration as any other—her scholarship will be judged on its merits, not on the identity category of its author.
We find this statement problematic for a number of reasons.
First, in such a small field we worry that pointing out the gender identity of a submitter is, in effect, essentially outing the person. Related, this action also calls into question whether or not the peer review process can be carried out with the standards of anonymous/confidential peer review that the journal promises.
Second, the phrase “identifies as trans” uses modifying language that implicitly questions whether the scholar is actually trans. In trying to exemplify an affinity for trans people, Medhurst instead demonstrated his lack of awareness regarding trans communication practices.
Finally, and to that point, the example itself tokenizes trans people. The history of the journal, especially its table of contents and editorial board, should make evident a commitment to equity when it comes to gender and sexuality. It fails there, as well as in its (lack of) racial, ethnic, and other forms of diversity.
Tony E. Adams, Bradley University
Ahmet Atay, College of Wooster
Rebecca Johnson, University of Kansas
Nicholas Lorang, South Dakota State University
Jimmie Manning, University of Nevada, Reno
Timothy P. McKenna-Buchanan, Manchester University
Justin Rudnick, Minnesota State University, Mankato
William Sipe, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Stephanie L. Young, University of Southern Indiana