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Transgender women found and created community in the 1980s internet

The internet has played an outsized and very visible role in the massive political and social gains of transgender people over the past two decades. But while it’s easy to point to modern-day social media and smartphones as instrumental tools for the trans community, trans people have actually been utilizing the internet to connect, learn, and organize since the 1980s.

Avery Dame-Griff.

Dr. Avery Dame-Griff, PhD, is a lecturer in Women’s and Gender Studies and assistant professor of Digital Technology and Culture at Washington State University. He’s also the founder and primary curator of the Queer Digital History Project, an independent project tracking queer* digital culture from the 1980s to the 2010s. His forthcoming book focuses on the relationship between the “two revolutions” of the transgender political revolution and the computer revolution.

Dr. Dame-Griff’s research and archival work digs extensively into the earliest communities of trans people online: BBS or the “Bulletin Board System.” The BBS was a precursor to the modern world wide web and social media. Launched in the late 1970s by computer hobbyists, BBSs allowed users to dial a number through their modem and access an online, text-only “bulletin board” where users could post messages. By the mid-to-late 1980s, as the technology needed to access BBSs became more affordable and accessible, BBS groups focusing on niche interests — including transgender communities — were popping up across the US and, soon, the world.

These early online trans communities were secretive and ephemeral by necessity, Dr. Dame-Griff tells Avast. Trans women in the 1980s were likely to be presenting publicly as men, oftentimes with wives and families, and exposure could result in them losing everything — their jobs, their families, and even their lives. Some lived as “crossdressers,” allowing themselves to dress in women’s clothing at home (maybe with their spouses) but rarely, if ever, in public.

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Security Boulevard

WSU Fulbright awardees bound for Hungary to teach, research

Washington State University math major Annie Lu and alumna and staff member Amethyst Freibott have received Fulbright awards to research and teach, respectively, in Hungary, the Distinguished Scholarships Program said.

Amethyst Freibott.
Annie Lu.

“Both Annie and Amethyst have detailed plans for their Fulbright experiences that start this fall, and they will be excellent ambassadors in Hungary for both WSU and the U.S.,” said April Seehafer, DSP director.

“I am flooded with gratitude to have Fulbright support me in this opportunity to do something I love so much,” said Freibott, who received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award. She works from Boise as assistant director for the top scholars initiative in the Office of Admissions.

“I’m excited to receive the Fulbright U.S. Student award to study and research abroad,” said Lu. “It’s very rewarding to have years of hard work pay off in this way. I’m lucky to get this opportunity and have a platform to show my work and contribute more.” Lu conducts research into computational mathematical biology with mentor Nikos Voulgarakis.

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WSU Insider

George Nethercutt joins Foley Institute Advisory Board, establishes lecture series at WSU

A one-time political foe of the late Tom Foley is helping enhance efforts to promote their shared commitment to public service and productive discourse.

Former U.S. Congressman George R. Nethercutt Jr., a Spokane Republican who in 1994 famously defeated Foley, a Democrat and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has joined the advisory board of Washington State University’s non-partisan Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service.

“Since 2008, my foundation has promoted civic education among students, so they are prepared to engage with our democratic system—a system that depends on the participation of informed citizens, open dialogue, and compromise to function properly.” said Nethercutt, a Spokane native who graduated with a degree in English from WSU in 1967.

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WSU Insider
The Spokesman-Review

Science journalist Michelle Nijhuis to give V.N. Bhatia Lecture March 30

Award-winning author, science journalist, and reporter Michelle Nijhuis will discuss her 2021 book on conservation of endangered species at a 6 p.m. event Wednesday, March 30, in the Honors Hall Lounge at Washington State University. The free, public event is co-hosted by the WSU Honors College with the support of the Department of English and its Visiting Writers Series (VWS).

“We’re pleased that the author is coming to WSU Pullman to meet students, visit classes, and engage in conversations with the community,” said Peter Chilson, English professor and VWS supporter. “Throughout her career she has blended science with writing, and we look forward to hearing firsthand her insights into building that kind of career.”

The VWS is part of the WSU Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences. For 40 years the series has brought hundreds of noted poets and writers of fiction and nonfiction to campus for creative readings, class visits, workshops, and collaborative exchanges across intellectual and artistic disciplines.

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WSU Insider

March 21: Crimson Reads celebrates past year of WSU authorship

The published works of Washington State University authors will be recognized at the WSU Libraries’ ninth annual Crimson Reads, starting with a 1 p.m. presentation on Monday, March 21, in the Terrell Library atrium. Crimson Reads is part of WSU Showcase, the annual celebration of faculty, staff, and student excellence.

The presentation is titled “Reflections of Home: Contextualizing Meaningful Spaces Through Literature.” Speakers will be Trevor Bond, WSU Libraries’ associate dean of digital initiatives and special collections and author of “Coming Home to Nez Perce Country: The Niimíipuu Campaign to Repatriate Their Exploited Heritage”; Nakia Williamson-Cloud, director of the Nez Perce Tribe’s Cultural Resources Program; and Cameron McGill, WSU assistant professor of English and author of the poetry collection “In the Night Field.”

“In the Night Field” charts the complex relationship between mental health and place, “mapping the emotional coordinates of physical locations as a way of making legible the intimate regions of memory and of better understanding those memories: their startling artistry, varied discontents, and casual fallibilities,” McGill said.

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WSU Insider