Last Sunday in Manchester

Dubya as cheerleader

It occurs to me that I haven’t yet blogged about the Sunday of the LGBT History Academic Conference. That’s remiss of me, because it means that only people on Twitter and Facebook will have seen the above photo. It is from Susan Stryker’s presentation about the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, and yes it does show Dubya dressed as a cheerleader.

Interestingly, Susan’s presentation wasn’t really about trans history. It was about something that looks like it might have a trans element, but is in fact far more about upholding existing social structures, with a bit of hazing ritual thrown in. What cross-dressing there is generally has about as much to do with being a woman as blacking up has to do with actually being black. This is an area where you can make this point clearly, as opposed to the minefield of drag which is much more complicated.

One of the most interesting papers on Sunday was one by Gavin Brown about the Gay Rural Aid & Information Network (GRAIN), which provided assistance and networking to gay men in rural communities in the UK during the 1970s. This being the post-Hippy era, there was good deal of what we would now call Hipsterism going on in addition to actual country-based gay people.

I was very disappointed that the Canadian academic who was due to give a paper on trans life in Trinidad didn’t turn up. Maybe I’ll see if he’s in when I’m in Toronto next week.

I did get to hear a paper by Jane Traies from Sussex University based on her forthcoming book about older lesbians. Kudos to Jane for being open to the idea that some of her subjects might have identified as trans men, had they been born a few generations later. Of interest to me was the fact that around 60% of the women interviewed had been married and many said that they had loved their husbands dearly, but they still identified as lesbians.

After the paper I asked Jane about her lack of use of the word “bisexual”. She said that her subjects almost all insisted that they were not bi, often because of a misunderstanding of what it meant. Apparently some of them thought it meant having sex with a man and a woman at the same time. Then again, I have been reading history textbooks whose authors think that “bisexual” and “hermaphrodite” mean the same thing. *sigh*

Finally thanks again to my pal Catherine Baker for her great paper about how history departments, and indeed universities as a whole, continue to marginalize trans students by never mentioning trans issues in classes or, if they do, doing so in a negative way.

There were some things about the weekend that were less good, which basically boiled down to the fact that running events like this is a learning process, especially for cis people. I have had words. As long as people keep trying to learn and do better I am OK with that.