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Photo by Clayton Cotterell

Jeri Brand ’19

comparative literature

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

How Reed changed me: Reed taught me that disagreement is valuable in its own right, and that a willingness to be wrong is the best way to genuinely learn and grow as a person. Coming out of a hostile social environment in high school, I was terrified to be interpersonally or intellectually vulnerable. I unlearned that fear at Reed partly by being in conferences where professors cultivated meaningful and respectful debate, and partly by developing a lot of emotionally intimate friendships with very smart, opinionated people. 

Thesis adviser: Prof. Jan Mieszkowski [German]

Thesis: Transgender Bioterrorism: Appropriating Technologies of Identification towards Hormonal Designification

What it’s about: My thesis is about the ways that neoliberalism constrains the field of socially viable sex/gender manifestations by demanding an artificial equivalence between identity, the body, and the speaking subject. I approach this effect from a transgender perspective that sees all sex/gender configurations as technological products, and ultimately call for the replacement of “I am” neoliberal transness with a “yes, and” rhizomatic transness that refuses normalization or ipseity. 

What it’s really about: Me!

In high school: I was depressed and angry almost all the time. The general social environment of my high school was never a great fit for me, and my junior and senior years were defined by my being the only openly trans person to ever attend that school. I had to continually justify my basic personhood to my peers, my teachers, and the administration; I was always on the defensive and had absolutely no leeway to be creative with my gender expression. For me, a major factor in choosing to go to Reed was my need to be in an environment where most students, faculty, and staff share at least a basic understanding of what transness is and how to treat trans people with respect.

Influential professors: Prof. Peter Steinberger’s [political science] Being and Time and Politics class taught me how to think philosophically, such that neither nuance nor precision is sacrificed for the other’s sake. Prof. Kris Cohen’s [art history 2011–] The Art of Capitalism class taught me that you learn far more at the margins than in the center. 

Influential book: The Zohar

Cool stuff: Judicial Board, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Peer Group. I became a barista, learned Russian, ran a student art show.

Challenges I faced: There are only a few recurring courses that prioritize sex/gender scholarship, so I had to design my own plan of study—this is what led me to an interdisciplinary major. Part of Reed’s initial appeal was that the college is small enough to accommodate student-designed programs of study, and I’m glad that I was able to take advantage of that in planning my own curriculum.

What’s next: I plan to enroll in an English PhD program with the goal of becoming a queer and gender studies professor.