Queer Coll(i/u)sions was a conference that took place from March 4 to March 6.
The purpose of this three-day conference was to “invite people from a variety of perspectives on queerness to discuss, interrogate, and explore LGBTQ2 and Queer perspectives whether academically, artistically, or through activism. The Queer Coll(i/u)sions Conference feature[d] academic panels, art installations, discussion panels, and performances.”
“We hope[d] to provide space for the collision of different queer discourses and push the boundaries of the traditional conference by allowing for different modalities of expression and examination. Traditional academia often limits the potential modalities for expression of critical queer questions and our hope is to push beyond the traditional modalities, to queer academic practice,” shared organizers Cait P. Jones and Derek Newman-Stille.
The conference kicked off on March 4, with a seminar on “Slashing Popular Fiction, Film, and TV: Using Fan Fiction to add that LGBTQ Flavour.”
LGBTQ themes were predominant during the conference, including other events such as Queering Fan Fiction and Popular Media, autoethnography and story readings featuring Kate Story and Tanya Huff, spoken word performances, a “Writing Queerly” workshop, queer storytelling, and author readings featuring Charlene Challenger and Fiona Patton.
Keynote speaker Dr. Rinaldo Walcott was invited to the conference as an academic and activist who teaches in the Department of Sociology and Equality Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.
He researches “Black Diaspora cultural studies, particularly as it relates to queer sexualities and masculinities.” As a keynote speaker, he elaborated on the “critical space where academia and activism interact.”
Other events were also held, including a burlesque show, a panel on sex positivity, “Gender Euphoria: an Exploration through Art and Movement,” trans identities and gender fluidity, phobias and erasure, disability, the body and aging, black queer intersections, transgender autobiographical comics as self-documentation, self-exploration, self love, and queerness and popular culture.
Many of these events facilitated the exploration of discursive identities than are often marginalized and underrepresented.
In the workshop on gender euphoria, participants were encouraged to recreate a memory, through visual mediums, in which they felt euphoric about their gender identities; a clever play on words nodding to the fact that many transgendered identified individuals experience gender dysphoria, or the negative emotions associated with feeling that one’s physical body does not accurately represent their gender identity.
The facilitator of the event, Marty, commented on why this was important to them.
“I decided to do this workshop and the art piece on gender euphoria because I’ve been feeling frustrated lately with people in my personal life, as well as in the media, who almost exclusively focus on the sad, despairing parts of trans people’s lives. I’ve also been encountering this issue with health practitioners who have power over trans people’s access to healthcare and choose to limit that access according to how well they fit into ‘the trans narrative’ of suffering.
“So I made this online survey and 41 trans people responded with their experiences of gender euphoria, and it was quite beautiful and empowering for me. With the workshop, I wanted to create a space for trans people to feel empowered and happy and beautiful. I also wanted to do an activity that involved some introspection and exploration of one’s gender(s) or lack thereof. It turned out even more amazing than I had expected. It was important because self-care, resilience, and celebration for trans folks is important”.
Further explorations of queer gender identities were also discussed. In “Deadnames: Transgender Memory and Queer Hauntings in Gender Transition,” a forum was created in which old names, pronouns and lives that can sometimes haunt individuals into their ‘new’ identities, and the occasional necessity of meeting these hauntings with violence in transition.
The conference also delved into exploring other intersections, such as queerness and disability in “From Slash Fan Fiction to Crip Fan Fiction: What Role Does Disability have in Fandom?” as well as race, asexualities and class positions.
Discussions of disability ranged from physical to psychological. Panel speaker Robin Alex McDonald spoke to the phenomenology of depression and queerness, in addition to spatial orientations we inhabit in both states, and our ritualistic relationships to objects in normative versus non-normative states.
Dr. Susan Hillock, director of Trent’s Department of Social Work and associate professor spoke about the critical component of “queering” higher education in order for it to be inclusive to all identities instead of just a privileged few.
The theme of allies taking responsibility for educating themselves in becoming more inclusive of marginalized people rang clearly.
According to the organizers, “queerness and queer discourse provides a rich space of collisions between different ideas, perspectives, thoughts, and bodies, but it also provides opportunities for for collusion, collaboration, and cooperation.”
This conference definitely accomplished what it set out to do, and hopefully we will see more of these conferences in the future.