Trans Temporality Conference @ University of Toronto, by Al Stanton-Hagan


On April 1, scholars, students, community members, clinical practitioners, artists, and activists came together from across Canada and the US at U of T’s University College for the inaugural Trans Temporalities Conference to share work and ideas about “the unique interdependence between narratives and constructions of normative bodies and linear time.” The conference was organized by Celeste Pang, Ido Katri, and Simon Daniel and sponsored by the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. The popularity and success of the  conference (which reached maximum registration capacity weeks ahead of time) is a testament to a strong and widespread desire for spaces to discuss how temporality impacts trans and queer people’s lives, bodies, scholarship, art, and activism.

Collaborator Nick Matte presented a talk based on his thesis entitled “Considering Trans Temporalities Through the Historical Discourses of Liberal American Transnormativities, 1960-1990” in the panel “Times of War, Times of State,” which also included Heike Schotten’s work from her upcoming book on sovereignty and decolonizing desire, and U of T student Lynn Ly’s doctoral work on “Transpacific Chronobiopolitics and the Taming of Queer and Trans Asian Femininities.” Nick discussed the activism and temporal logics of earlier generations of trans people, historicizing the present moment when “transgender rights” seem to be often presented as simultaneously emerging and yet already achieved.

Highlights for me were the two afternoon roundtable plenaries “Then Times, Now Times: Transforming Consciousness” and “Marvellous Grounds and the Belated Archive.” “Then Times, Now Times” was moderated by U of T Professor Dina Georgis and included Toronto activists Ravi Wood, Kiley May, Rasheedah Phillips of the Black Quantum Futurism Collective, and Jasbina Justice (who was unable to attend due to injuries sustained by police violence at Black Lives Matter’s Tent City). Wood discussed their activism and the need to expand understandings of gender and transphobia to include more than narrowly defined “trans” subjects, and May described how her experiences growing up on the Six Nations reservation have led to her “being differently in time.” Those themes resonated with Phillips, who gave a historical view of temporality outside of Western linear time, particularly in Africa, and discussed its relationship to Afrofuturism. This panel also brought out tensions between academic perspectives on and embodied experiences of temporalities. One attendee asked the panel, “does it feel weird to have your experiences interpreted in such an academic way [by Prof. Dina Georgis]?” which prompted thoughtful and open discussion. This question seems to be a central challenge of work on trans temporality, and academic work around queer and trans experiences more generally. While no one came away with any easy answers, the Trans Temporality Conference provided an unusually open, inclusive, and generous space to grapple with the (dis)connections between academic conferences and lived trans experiences.

Members of Marvellous Grounds, a queer of colour history project in Toronto based at York University, were joined by Leeroy Kun Young Kang from New York University. Themes across the six excellent papers included recovering QTBIPOC (queer and trans black, Indigenous, and people of colour) histories that have been “imperfectly erased,” contesting white liberal uses of queer and trans history that prop up gentrification and marginalize QTBIPOC, and insisting on the importance of writing histories and preserving records that contest those dominant narratives and provide affirming representation of people who are often erased from history. I was grateful to hear their sharp and thoughtful critique of institutions like the CLGA and looking forward to seeing what the future of Marvellous Grounds holds.