2 May 2008


From the floor to ceiling windows in the Harbour Centre lunch room, you can look out across the water and see North Vancouver gathered around the bottom of the mountains. These mountains rise up, dark green, until the snow meets the clouds – or if it’s clear, into the pale blue sky. This evening, after a day full of amazing papers, meeting old friends and acquaintances of the academic and internet variety, we ate our way through the catering while watching the sunset begin to turn the peaks the palest rose and apricot colours.

Today started earlier than I would have liked (it seems that new beds will always keep me awake, no matter how comfortable), but I was quite refreshed as Az, Eliza and I wandered down to the conference centre, admiring the clean streets, bourgie shops, and jumble of new and interesting architecture. The conference began with an introduction from Susan Stryker, who let us know that the keynote speaker scheduled fro the afternoon, Mauro Cabral, had been denied entry into Canada. It really hits home how fragile is the line trans people walk with regards to border crossing, and you know, it could have been me. That was a disappointment, but instead of that keynote in the afternoon, we were treated to a screening of She’s a Boy I Knew, presented by Gwen Haworth herself. Yay! But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first keynote was by Nikki Sullivan and, after a slow start, she got into some interesting discussions about trans embodiment and other forms of body modification, critiquing the three approaches she outlines: isolationist, analogical and categorical.

In the first set of sessions, I saw Loree Erickson’s paper and video presentation “Desirable entanglements: moments of connection and contradiction in trans/crip experiences/identities/embodiments”, on being queer and being sexual as a disabled person/crip. It was an interesting paper and a great video presentation. Eliza Steinbock’s paper “Groping Theory: Trans-curiosity and Obscenity” was next, and she discussed the film Dandy Dust, which I now definitely want to watch! Unfortunately I had to skip out before the end, but hopefully I can get a copy of the paper from her when she gets in tonight! I had to skip out because I wanted to catch Dean Spade’s “The Non-Profit Industrial Complex and Trans Resistance”, which was, of course, awesome. I just wish everyone on the gender centre working group could have been there. I also caught the end of Chris Hanssmann’s “Talking, gawking, or getting it done: Provider trainings to increase cultural and clinical competence for trns-gender and gender non-conforming patients and clients”. What a mouthful. The tail end sounded really solid, anyway. That’s the problem with these things – you have to choose, and I think every session would be worthwhile.

After lunch I attended the Expanding Trans Embodiment session, and first up was the paper that was the highlight of my day: “Slender Trouble: Trans Fat, Fat Transgender, and Whatever Suits You”, by Lucas Crawford. Lucas introduced his paper saying that he’d planned to take a Big Mac on stage and chomp through it as he presented, but he had to make do with a can of cola instead. The paper was awesome, discussing the way Silence of the Lambs sets up fatness and transness in opposition, and also saying something that I really liked – that trans/gender is not a matter of skin and surfaces, but of fat and bulk. I stayed in that session against my first instinct, and way Cressida Heyes’ “Sex Reassignment and Cosmetic Surgeries: The Politics of Analogy”, which retraced some of Sullivan’s keynote content from a different angle – discussing more the problems of using suffering as a key to legitimising trans surgeries. I skipped out for a breather and came back in halfway through Meredith Jones’ paper “Expanding Trans Bodies”, which seemed to . . . not talk much about transness, but about the connections (sometimes literal) between skin and screen in reality cosmetic surgery TV shows, in Videodrome and Ring. Interesting, but I was tiiiired. I really wish I’d been able to attend papers by Elijah Edelman, William Leap and Audrey Cooper in the Trans Visual Anthropology session.

After another short break, we had the film, then another even shorter break, then the plenary panel “First Nations/Two Spirit”. I learnt a bit more about the history of North America in this session, but was buggered by then, and it ran almost forth minutes longer than scheduled. After that there was drinks and food in the lunch room, and I schmoozed and watched the sunset colours begin to light up the mountain.

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