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UA to host first international transgender studies conference

Tony+Bishop+holds+up+a+sign+in+solidarity+at+a+vigil+for+the+Orlando+victims+on+Sunday%2C+June+12+in+Tucson.+Bishop+identifies+as+transgender
Sydney Richardson
Tony Bishop holds up a sign in solidarity at a vigil for the Orlando victims on Sunday, June 12 in Tucson. Bishop identifies as transgender

The UA will be holding the first ever international transgender studies conference in the Student Union Memorial Center North Ballroom from Sept. 7 through Sept. 10. Trans*Studies: An International Interdisciplinary Conference on Gender, Embodiment and Sexuality, will be hosted by the UA Institute for LGBT Studies.The UA will be holding the first ever international transgender studies conference in the Student Union Memorial Center North Ballroom from Sept. 7 through Sept. 10.

Trans*Studies: An International Interdisciplinary Conference on Gender, Embodiment and Sexuality, will be hosted by the UA Institute for LGBT Studies.

The idea for the conference came from Susan Stryker, an associate professor of gender and women’s studies and former director of the UA Institute for LGBT Studies.

Stryker, who recently stepped down after five years to continue furthering research and scholarship efforts, said 95 percent of the work has been done by her colleagues.

“The conference is more specialized than just LGBT issues, it focuses specifically on transgender studies,” Stryker said. “What we’re looking at in this conference is diversity issues from the standpoint of gender variability.”

Stryker said that the conference aims to discuss gender as a social system and as something that is fluid and changes over time.

“It’s a way of thinking about the larger social systems that we all use to make sense of our bodies, our desires and our identities,” Stryker said.

According to Stryker, there are approximately 318 scholars preregistered to give presentations at the conference, 210 of which are going to be presenting academic papers.

The remaining presenters will be hosting a variety of different demonstrations. Among these are performance artists and two keynote speakers, Allucquére Rosanne “Sandy” Stone and Mauro Cabral.

“This conference that we’re doing is bringing together people from all over the U.S. and many other countries who look at ways that gender variance works in different locations and time periods,” Stryker said.

Funding for the conference became available from the Institute for LGBT Studies and private donors last year. However, finding and coordinating faculty who teach in this area across different departments at the UA has been a work in progress for about four years now, according to Stryker.

“We’ve been pretty successful in using the university to help consolidate this emerging field of study,” Stryker said. “The university’s been very supportive of those efforts.”

Stryker hopes the conference will be the first of many in an annual series of conferences that will aid the emergence of a new professional organization.

“The field of transgender studies has reached a point of maturity and development that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of scholars working in this field around the world,” Stryker said.

Eric Plemons, assistant professor of anthropology and the chair of the program committee for the conference, specializes in medical anthropology related to transgender topics.

According to Plemons, the Institute for LGBT Studies used social networks and various electronic mailing lists to recruit the papers and scholars that will be featured at the conference, at which there will be over 70 panels of scholars present.

“I think because we have faculty here and the Institute for LGBT Studies and the resources behind it, it’s a great opportunity to showcase both what we’re doing in Arizona and to open a space for this growing field of academic work,” Plemons said.

Abraham Weil, a UA graduate student who teaches in the gender and women’s studies department, worked on the program committee for the conference and will be moderating a round-table discussion at the event.

Weil said he hopes the conference will bring about larger networks to work with in the future.

“I think that there is larger conversation happening on transgender issues that makes it a particularly poignant time to discuss things from an academic perspective,” Weil said.

Students and anyone from the public can choose to attend one or multiple days of the conference at an on-site registration table if they did not complete preregistration. There are also off-campus events such as a poetry reading and a closing night party that are open to anyone. 


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