By Sarah Wallace, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Major shifts have occurred in the past three years concerning one of the most widespread movements on Kalamazoo College’s campus concerning the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Now former Executive Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership (ACSJL) Jaime Grant became one of the major contributors to its expansion.
The Arcus Center is devoted to funding and encouraging social justice work, including topics like LGBT rights. Jaime Grant’s research outside of her work as the director deals with equalizing the rights of LGBT people.
The study Grant had been working on in 2010 turned out to be the most comprehensive study of transgender people anywhere in the world. She had no idea of the widespread response of her work. “We really didn’t anticipate that it was going to be this big,” said Grant.
Published in 2011, Grant’s study titled “Injustice at Every Turn” surveyed LGBT people of several different races on their experiences of discrimination. The national study included 70 questions and included approximately 6500 LGBT people in America.
When discussing how her study changed the government’s relations with trans people, Grant said, “There really was no data on transgender people before this study, either the scope of it, or the size of the sample, so when it hit in February 2011, it had a huge response federally. For instance, Housing and Urban Development made it illegal to discriminate against trans people in public housing.”
After Grant’s research caught on worldwide, national foundations furthered their investments in her work with additional grants. Her initial plan had been to remain at K to continue working as the Executive Director of the Center as well as a travel schedule and presenting her findings.
Grant, however, did not expect that others would expect such a time commitment from the entire research team. In mid-July, Grant had to decide whether to turn her project over to someone else or focus on her work at the Arcus Center.
“We all came to the conclusion that [the project] is my work. It’s what brought me here. It’s what I draw on,” said Grant.
Grant compromised with the College; she decided that she will make room around her travel schedule to come back periodically to K and work as the Arcus Center’s Senior Advisor. Though she is no longer the Executive Director, she will still have a presence on campus.
Currently, Grant is in Washington D.C. but over the next few months she will be taking her research to places including China, Cuba, Thailand and South Africa.
The current Academic Director of the Arcus Center Lisa Brock worked previously with Grant in a co-leadership position and had this to say about Grant’s contribution to the ACSJL,
“This year, Jamie will be missed. She did a lot of work on establishing the Center, getting us up and running. She’s the founding Executive Director and a lot of the things she started will continue to be with us.”