Call for Papers

Call for Papers: Trans Matters

Interdisciplinary Trans Studies Graduate Conference

April 26-27, 2018

The deadline has now passed and the application process is now closed.

Centre for Feminist Research, York University
Keynote Speakers: Professor Jin Haritaworn (York University)

The Transgender Rights Bill (C-16), which amends the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code by adding “gender identity or expression” under “prohibited grounds of discrimination,” will soon become law. As a historic undertaking in Canadian legislation, the passing of Bill C-16 indexes how trans matters are becoming increasingly significant in civil discourse and the public imaginary. Yet queer and trans activists and scholars have noted that legal recognition alone does not always guarantee the protection of queer and trans life, particularly for trans black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC), trans immigrants and refugees, poor and working class trans people, and disabled trans people (Spade 2011; Rodriguez 2014; Haritaworn 2015). For Two-Spirit and Indigenous trans people this is especially true considering the ongoing legacy of the Indian Act, which continues to constrain the rights of Indigenous peoples. Despite the increasing visibility of trans matters – from trans rights to trans celebrity – trans visibility remains only partial, often privileging white trans subjects while further marginalizing the most vulnerable members of the trans population.

The inaugural Interdisciplinary Trans Studies Graduate Student Conference seeks to examine, interrogate, and take stock of the status of trans matters today in Canada – a settler colonial state that continues to displace indigenous peoples and occupy indigenous lands – and elsewhere. From political and social visibility to questions of embodiment, identity, and expression, as well as notions of survivability and disposability, we are interested in exploring trans “matters” from multiple perspectives:

First, we consider the matter of trans lives as significant, as lives that should and do matter. Trans lives continue to be debated in the public arena, often in the absence of trans people. While the passing of Bill C-16 is heralded as a victory, the bill was opposed with a great deal of hostility. Dr. Jordan Peterson (U of T), who became the face of opposition to Bill C-16, declared the bill a threat to “free speech.” As he and others who oppose the bill speak of “gender ideology,” trans people continue to fight for basic survival. Those whose very lives are on the line are too often discounted or discredited, or held up as tokens of social progress, diversity, and inclusion without any meaningful change. Thus, we must ask, which trans lives “matter” and which lives remain unaccounted for, unrecognized, and unprotected? Who counts and who is left behind?

Second, we consider trans matters as political, social, and cultural issues that trans people are grappling with in Canada and abroad. Trans people, particularly trans women of colour, continue to face disproportionately high rates of violence and discrimination, making access to medical care, adequate housing, employment, and schooling pressing issues (Spade 2011). Through framing trans people as productive citizens that are “worthy” of equal rights, access to healthcare, and economic citizenship (Irving 2012, 2013), certain trans people (namely, white, affluent and non-disabled) are now being folded in to the state apparatus. However, we must be wary of appealing to this logic as it works to further the neoliberal project and growing social and economic inequalities that continue to marginalize trans people of colour, disabled trans people, undocumented trans people, and poor and working class trans people. Holding these tensions together, what are the most pertinent issues that trans people face today? How can we address growing disparities within the trans community and trans activism and organizing? How are trans rights intertwined with processes of capitalism, (settler) colonialism, and imperialism?

Third, we consider trans materialities: trans embodiment, corporeality, and objectivity. Recent trans scholarship has continued to productively think about trans with/against/through notions of embodiment across questions of disability, animality, and objectivity, turning away from the human (Hayward 2008; Chen 2012; Hayward and Weinstein 2015). Yet notions of queer and trans inhumanisms (the monstrous, the abject, the nonhuman) also warrant critical questions given the dangers of romancing abjection. For a number of trans people – separate from and/or written out of the academy – monstrosity, abjection, and death may not be a theoretical fantasy. Thus, we consider, what are new ways of understanding trans embodiment and corporeality? How can we theorize monstrosity, inhumanisms, and death without romanticizing conditions of abjection, or what Giorgio Agamben calls “bare life” (1995)?

We welcome a range of topics that connect to contemporary trans matters and decentre whiteness including, but not limited to:

  • race and racialization
  • indigeneity and decolonization
  • (settler) colonialism, imperialism
  • nationalisms, governance, citizenship
  • critical politics
  • rights and the law
  • state violence, police brutality, prison-industrial complex
  • corporeality, animalities, inhumanisms
  • disability, autisticness, Deafness, madness
  • medicalization and healthcare
  • sex work
  • Black Lives Matters, activism, organizing
  • theory and scholarship
  • arts and culture production

We are particularly interested in hearing from: trans people of colour, Two Spirit and Indigenous trans people, disabled trans people, trans sex workers, those along the trans feminine spectrum, nonbinary people, and others who are un(der)represented and marginalized within the trans community.

We invite proposals for 15-20-minute academic paper presentations. We also welcome alternative submission formats, such as visual art, poster presentations, videos, and other modes of cultural production. Please email proposals as Word attachments, including a title, 250-word abstract, a brief bio, and any support/technology requirements to For those interested in proposing a pre-constituted panel or roundtable (3-4 members), please email a panel description and individual abstracts and bios along with any other information in a single document.

ASL interpretation will be provided for the keynote presentations. TTC tokens will be available upon request. Limited travel subsidies will also be available by application (see our website for details:

Proposals are due by Friday, November 24, 2017. Accepted applicants will be notified by January 2018.

We would like to acknowledge that the land on which York University resides is the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Métis, and most recently, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit River. The territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. This territory is also covered by the Upper Canada Treaties. Today, the meeting place of Toronto (from the Haudenosaunee word Tkaronto) is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work in the community, on this territory.

Conference organizers: Evan Vipond (York University) and Bridget Liang, Evelyn Ramiel (York University), Siva Thangeswary Sivarajah, and Maverick Smith (University of Toronto)

[1] Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, 1st sess., 42nd Parliament, 64-65 Elizabeth II, 2015-present.