For four days beginning March 22, the University of Victoria will host the third iteration of Moving Trans History Forward, a biennial conference spearheaded by the chair of the Transgender Archives.
In collaboration with speakers, activists, and artists from all over the world, the event is a unique mix of academia and community-based conversation.
“There really isn’t any other event [like this],” explains Aaron Devor, chair of the Transgender Studies program. “I want to encourage that kind of dialogue. It’s important that academics and community members have that contact with each other.”
From March 22 to 25, members of the global transgender community will converse about the importance of connecting across generations. One of the highlights this year are the youth and elders panels – open to the public – and keeping in step with the theme, “From Generation to Generation.”
“This time we wanted to go not just into the present, but into the future,” Devor says. “[Panelists] will speak about the work they’re doing to bring that future into existence.”
Across Canada, he says, attitudes are changing and people are more receptive to the changes they see happening around gender. “It is uneven and there are people who resist, but I see them at this point in the minority.”
Here in Victoria, Kingsley Strudwick has been slowly chipping away at those changes as the founder of Ambit Gender Diversity Consulting, offering trans inclusion training to businesses, community groups and most recently – members of St. George’s Anglican Church.
“There’s definitely been more and more uptake, it just reflects the community desire to engage in conversations like these,” says Strudwick, thankful to have a space to engage in intergenerational conversations with people he describes as “thoughtful” and “keen to continue the dialogue.”
A lot of the work Ambit does is focused on bridging seemingly different communities, Strudwick says, but the conference is unique in that it provides an opportunity to do that bridging work within communities.
So often people don’t hear about the impact their work has on the ground, Strudwick explains. Because the transgender community is one that often “meets” online, it’s just so important to see people face to face, he says.
“That gives me that fuel and memory as to why I’m doing the work, and propels me forward.”
Kent Monkman, a Canadian Cree two-spirit artist whose work has been shown in museums, galleries and collections across the world, will deliver the keynote address, speaking about his new series of paintings.
“The T is Not Silent: Centering Black Trans-Identities in an Historical Context,” is a talk presented by Andrea Jenkins, the first openly transgender black woman elected to public office in the U.S. The historian, poet, and curator of the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota is also a Black Lives Matter activist.
“It’s so deeply important to honour the work we’ve done to bring us to this cultural moment,” Strudwick says. “[But] part of the conversation has to be about what isn’t in the archives and witnessing whose histories are usually maintained and whose are strategically and subconsciously left out.”
Do you want to attend the #MTHF18 conference but you’re not sure that you can afford it? NO WORRIES! Show up at the door and pay-what-you-can (which includes zero). It’s important to us to be as open and inclusive as possible. #uvic #yyj pic.twitter.com/slted56SrR
— TransChairArchives (@TransArchives) March 19, 2018
Devor’s hope is that at its root, the conference provides a space for people to meet and engage with others they may not typically be exposed to. That includes transgender, non-binary, two-spirit people, but cisgender people – those whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth – as well.
“We’re all here learn to from each other,” he says, asking that everyone remains kind and gentle with each other. “It makes a difference in the experience – we’re all going to make mistakes, but be generous.”