Transgender activist Cece McDonald garnered laughter, snaps and spontaneous applause at the University of Chicago's Law School Auditorium Oct. 15 while delivering the lecture "A Trans Revolution."
In the words of UChicago Ph.D. student Amanda Michelle Jones, who introduced McDonald, she became a "global icon" of the LGBTQ community when she was arrested in Minnesota following an altercation with white male harassers, resulting in the death of one of the men.
Calling herself "a victim treated as an attacker," McDonald spoke vividly about her time in prison, where she said she learned a great deal about the "prison industrial complex." Before then, she said, "I never once thought that it wasn't my fault." Released from prison through a plea deal, after serving nearly two years, she embarked on her mission to "inform and educate."
McDonald entreated her audience to be "selfless" and "risk-takers." "How many of you have dealt with bigotry and stood up for someone?" she asked. Dressed in sweatshirt and jeansan intentional choice, McDonald saidshe criticized the crowd for being more concerned with expensive clothes and Lady Gaga tickets than connecting with a cause. "A lot of people here are pretenders," she said, and asked rhetorically how many people would connect with someone else to fight for a cause after her speech ended.
McDonald also stressed the importance of being honest with oneself about both one's privilege and identity.
"It took me a long time to come to my own truth," she said. "This is how I get vengeanceI tell the truth."
The crowd, which appeared to be mostly university students, did not seem to mind McDonald's questioning their credentials, giving her a standing ovation. A short Q&A and impromptu photos with McDonald followed the speech. The event was part of the UChicago initiative OUTober, and was sponsored by multiple campus organizations, including the law school and the offices of Multicultural Affairs and LGBTQ Student Life.
The program was hosted by the Office of LGBTQ Student Life and sponsored by the Institute of Politics, The Law School, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the Spiritual Life Office, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.