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The Ivy League school announced on Monday that the new residency, which is the first in the nation dedicated solely to “championing LGBTQ+ communities and scholarship,” was made possible through an “anonymous” $2 million donation.
“It’s a profound honor to be the Inaugural LGBTQ+ Scholar in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania. In the face of escalating malalignment we see a widening chasm between the reality of LGBTQ+ lives and the misrepresentation of our communities in media and society,” Vaid-Menon said in a statement. “As LGBTQ+ scholars and artists we must continue to debunk anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation while also harnessing the power of LGBTQ+ storytelling to create a more inclusive and magnificent world. I’m looking forward to connecting with Penn students, faculty, and staff to celebrate the living poetry of our existence in these turbulent times.”
Vaid-Menon was identified as a “non-binary transfeminine person” who uses “they/them” pronouns in an interview with The Caravan. A website belonging to the incoming Ivy League scholar identifies Vaid-Menon as an “internationally acclaimed author, poet, comedian, and public speaker” who explores “themes of trauma, belonging, and the human condition.” Vaid-Menon has received awards from prominent LGBTQ organizations such as GLAAD and the Stonewall Foundation.
The new opportunity at the University of Pennsylvania will not be the first time that the artist has been paid handsomely by academia. Campus Reform reported that Vaid-Menon received $5,000 for a two-hour talk at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to discuss the book “Beyond the Binary,” which encourages readers to “see gender not in black and white, but in full color.”
Vaid-Menon drew upon experience “as a gender-nonconforming artist” to demonstrate that “gender is a malleable and creative form of expression.” According to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Pride Center, Vaid-Menon told students that “true freedom isn’t choosing from pre-selected, societally-accepted options, but writing in your own option for who you are.”
The University of Pennsylvania’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center is the second oldest initiative in the nation dedicated to students who claim LGBTQ identity and administers the first fund on any American campus “supporting students making a gender transition.”
The elite postsecondary institution garnered national attention over the past two years as Lia Thomas, a man who claims transgender identity and competed on the school’s swimming team, sparked debate over males in female sports. Thomas won the NCAA Division I national championship in the 500-yard freestyle event and set a meet record in the 200-yard freestyle at the Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships.
A female member of the University of Pennsylvania’s swim team formerly detailed the atmosphere of censorship that surrounded Thomas in an interview with The Daily Wire. “I think that there’s not really room for anyone to react to this situation in any way, other than saying they think it’s really progressive and the right thing,” she said. “If you want to tune into the livestreams and watch these podiums, not just the races, the podiums, and you look at the faces of the girls who are second, third, you see a smile, but they can only hold it up for so long. You can kind of see a little bit of sadness knowing that maybe they would be first.”