Growing up in the South, Murphy Jones knew that leaving home and coming to college would offer her a chance to be something she longed for: her authentic self.
Today, Jones excels in student leadership at Howard University as HUSA’s first transgender executive vice president and continually emphasizes the importance of LGBTQ representation on Howard’s campus and beyond.
“I think that it’s important for people to know that when they see people like me in this leadership role, they know it’s achievable,” the junior political science major from Greensboro, North Carolina, said. “And that has always been my biggest thing – there is nothing on this earth that can stop you from becoming whoever you want to be.”
In celebration of Howard Pride Month, it is imperative that the Howard community uplift the voices of our LGBTQ peers, and continue the work in creating safe spaces for all people to thrive in their authenticity.
This school year, the HUSA Senate established the inaugural Lavender Committee, to advocate for and identify the needs of Howard’s LGBTQ students.
“There are so many things that we can target that are specific to the needs of LGBTQ+ community on campus,” Jesiah Allen, Lavender Committee chair and junior health sciences major said.
Allen shared that the committee is in the process of establishing monthly Lavender lunches and releasing the Lavender survey to have a better understanding of Howard’s demographic of LGBTQ students.
Most recently, the committee passed legislation to recognize National Coming Out Day on Howard University’s campus. “It’s about creating an environment that cultivates acceptance and letting students know that this is a safe place where they can find that courage to come out,” Allen said. “We want the student body to understand that Howard is a place where they can do that.”
While the atmosphere of acceptance is largely felt throughout campus, a different, deadlier reality is experienced by many in the LGBTQ community outside of Howard’s gates.
On Oct. 14, A’nee Roberson, a Black trans woman, was killed on U Street outside of an LGBTQ sports bar after being severely assaulted and struck by a car. According to MPD, Roberson’s cause of death is ruled to be “multiple blunt force injuries and the manner of death a homicide.”
Upon learning of Roberson’s death, I immediately wondered how many people possibly witnessed the 30-year-old’s assault. I wondered if Roberson’s final moments as a living person were filled with spectatorship.
To Jones, being an ally and being a spectator can not be synonymous.
“When you’re saying that you are now an ally, or you’re saying you’re someone who is a part of this community, and actually want to endorse and support those people, you don’t just sit by and watch as a trans woman is being brutally attacked,” she said. “You just don’t do that.”
While Roberson’s case remains under investigation, violence against trans and gender non-conforming people has risen by more than 30% from 2021-2022, according to crime data from the FBI.
As our collegiate community celebrates Pride at Howard this month, we must dedicate ourselves to ensuring that the efforts we make to see an inclusive and accepting environment for the LGBTQ community do not cease once we leave the university.
I encourage Howard students to continue to advocate and fight for the rights, needs and well-being of the LGBTQ community and to demand justice for the numerous lives lost due to homophobia and transphobia.
As Howard students, we are constantly told that we hold the key to tomorrow; we are equally charged with creating a world where all people in the LGBTQ community, especially Black trans women, have a right to happiness, protection and life.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew