7 May 2008


Guys, I'm sorry about the weird updates! I'm going to update about the conference now, but I'm going to start with the third day, and update on the second day later. And then I have to tell you about beautiful Vancouver, which I am sad to say I'm leaving this afternoon. Oh well, Toronto has awesome people in it, and it'll be fab to see them! So.

On Saturday:

We were all tired and sleeping in after a late night (to be discussed in a forthcoming post, I’m sure!), and none of us got to the conference on time. I missed most of Afsaneh Najmabadi’s presentation on trans and sexuality issues in Iran. I had considered leaving my laptop at the condo for the morning and getting it at lunchtime before my session. Luckily I decided against this, because when I re-checked the program it appeared that my session was actually first up! This was kind of good, as I was able to caffeinate myself into alertness and take my drugs (decongestant) and do my thing straight away, leaving myself free to meander through the rest of the day without having to think too much.

My paper went pretty well, though by this stage I’d realised that in the scheme of things I wasn’t really presenting anything super-interesting. Attendance was pretty small again, but Jules came along (I tried not to hyperventilate), as did Az and a few others. It was a strange panel – Lesley (Lester) Graydon presented a rambly paper called “Reconceptualizing identity and desire in genderqueer/trans BDSM practice”, which was about (as far as I could tell) the lack of ‘genderqueer enough’ pornography and erotica, mainly in a lesbian context. Some of the stuff was interesting and worthwhile, and related quite a lot to fandom and various slash practices, but I found the framework really problematic – that is, talking only about genderqueer and ‘transgender women’ (by which I’m pretty sure Lesley meant transgender men or trans butches) but not trans women (i.e. transsexual women and transgender women). After that was Rita Alfonso, who discussed the formal elements of Bill Basquin’s Range. She had some very worthwhile things to say about the film/s, but made the rather problematic claim that “the film could only have been made by a trans man”. As some of us discussed later, many of the things indicated in the talk as being distinctly ‘trans’ were in fact techniques familiar to a lot of experimental cinema. I think this is one of the things I was hoping to avoid in my paper (this is a trans film! True! And you can have gay films also!) and came from the fact that her background is not in film or cinema studies but in philosophy. But I really would like to see more of Basquin’s work.

Lunch. I was a bit sick of the same old, same old food by this stage, and the lack on tea – for fuckssake, guys, not everyone wants to drink coffee all the time!

In the afternoon, Jules Rosskam was presenting “transgenre: re-presenting trans-masculinity and community”. He showed part of his forthcoming work transgenre and discussed the ideas behind the stylistic, genre, and other formal elements of the film. I really enjoyed his succinct outline of the dominant models of transmasculine self-representation – how they often deploy the ‘true transsexual’ narrative, and show predominantly white, middle-class and medically transitioning men – and questioning of how much the required narratives become something we re-create in self-representations. The idea with this film was to create something that didn’t fall into the beginning-middle-end ‘journey’ of so many trans documentaries. I was very keen on the mixing of genres and the playing with what ‘fiction’ and ‘documentary’ styles are in the film: one genre cannot possibly tell the whole of a story was I think what Jules said. I don’t think a mix of genres can, either, but I think that the use of rehearsal footage and a kind of transparency of process at least works to highlight that the viewer is not getting the whole story, and the fucking with genre forces the viewer to question which bits of the story they are getting. I can’t wait to see the whole thing, and I’m really keen to re-watch transparent, too.

After his talk I skipped sessions because I really wanted to see David Hennessee talking about Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and I got to see most of Lane Mandilis’ paper “The Residual: A Lacanian Analysis of Mutability”. You probably all know how much I hate ‘straight’ psychoanalysis, but I really do enjoy listening to people tackle it in interesting ways. Unfortunately, I was still kind of buzzing from Jules’ presentation, so I couldn’t really get into the discussion afterwards. Even more unfortunately, David Hennessee was not there! So I skipped back out of the session after Lane finished to go to hear the questions in Jules’ session. I got to see most of Malic Amalya’s presentation of a short experimental film (self-made) called Eddie, Pam, Gary, Sue. I felt like the film was gesturing in an interesting manner, but the presentation was more like an explanation that you’d present to your class.

The afternoon panel was “Sex/Change/City: A Translocal Queer Gender History Project”, and I sat in there for about 5 minutes before realising I couldn’t actually concentrate any more. I went back to the apartment and had a nice long bath instead. Oh, bath of joy. My back was really sore from carrying my backpack around with so much shit in it for days on end. I made it back in time to hear most of the last plenary discussion with Susan Stryker, Nikki Sullivan, Joseph Pugliese and Samantha Murray. One thing I noticed during the conference was that it was taking me a little while to get into the papers. At first I though it was either because I was a bit stupider than I’d thought, or maybe because I was in ‘holiday’ headspace rather than ‘academic’ headspace. But later I realised that it was more to do with accents. I wonder if other people found that with discussions like this – or even the one about borders the day before with Vek Lewis and Joseph – with lots of Australians? It’s kind of like looking at a scene, but through a piece of cellophane.

Anyway, after it was all over, Eliza and I headed back to the apartment and met Aren and Emmett Ramstad (who is gorgeous and lovely and one of those people I want to pack in my bag and tae home with me), and went shopping for dinner. We made sure not to over-shop. Ha! We ended up with quite a bit left over, and we didn’t end up eating the icecream, either. I tried to keep it cool in my fridge-less hotel room, but it melted pretty promptly. I ended up using it as milk and sweetener in my coffee the next night – pretty yum, actually. Oh, but Az made the most delicious pasta sauce, with red onion and garlic and broccoli and snow peas and cream and capers (and salmon for the non-vegetarians) . . . NOM nom nom.

We headed off and grabbed a taxi to take us to the Gender Bender Blender Cabaret Night. The taxi dropped us in front of what looked pretty much like a scout hall in the middle of a residential street, and thus proceeded the most amusing and best conference after-party I’ve ever attended: awesome performances from many conference-goers (aerial silk artist, awesome drag acts, rather hilarious clowns, a good mix of spoken word) and then music into the night. Well until 12 or 1 or something, anyway. It was almost exactly like a school social, daggy and fun, but with none of the horrible people from high school – only ones that were interesting and fun. Danced and danced with many people, got to be the filling in a couple of dirty dancing sandwiches (oh my!), chatted, got very hot and sweaty, and then took a taxi home with Lucas, Melisa and Mary (?). I think I have convinced Lucas and Melisa at least to come to Sydney next year, where I will pay for their taxi! Arrived home at the same time as Az and Emmett, chatted for a bit, and then fell asleep.

Wow, this update is so “and then and then and then” but I just want to tell you all the AWESOME STUFF!!!

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