Our idea for setting up a Queer Disability Studies network arose from discussions in the UK about how Disability Studies should respond to transphobia. Conversations about transphobia echoed concerns felt by a wider international community of academics, activists and practitioners, who understood the need for Disability Studies to be explicitly trans-inclusive. For us, the field’s commitment to inclusion, respect, and liberation makes trans-inclusion uncontroversial. Overlapping concerns (e.g. with prejudice, bodily difference and determination, and medical gatekeeping and domination) also suggests that Disability and Trans Studies have a lot to contribute to one another. Antagonistic arguments that portray transgender bodies and communities as ‘dangerous’ can undermine the work that needs to be done across these areas. Ableism and transphobia have converged explicitly when moral panics around trans youth frame neurodivergent young people in particular as ‘vulnerable’ to the ‘brainwashing’ of trans adults.
Our concern is more than academic, however, and our aim for this network is for it to pay more than lip service to queer theory. We want a space for people whose experiences, research, or activism cut across categories of trans, queer, and disability issues to come together and share their ideas. We especially want to create a space for people who work in these areas but whose position in or outside of academia is more precarious, and who may feel less at home in established Disability Studies spaces. We also want a space that brings together people from across the international community.
This network has three aims. It hopes to:
- Provide a space for collaboration and feedback between queer disability studies academics and activists,
- Allow for the generation of trans/queer affirmative ideas that can inform disability studies theory and practice, and
- Support opposition to trans exclusionary ideas, within our institutions and more widely.
We created this network because we felt a need for it. However, we are aware that we, as the current network administrators (Charlotte, Jen, Rhi and Ned) are in no way representative of the different ways in which people’s lives, bodies and work are shaped by queerness and disability. We therefore hope for the network to be a dynamic one, and for others to get involved in running activities, or taking it in new and exciting directions.
To kick off the network’s activities, and to get others involved in helping shape it, including its aims and scope, we have decided to host an online launch event in October: ‘Questions in Queer Disability Studies’. We want to hear from others about the work they are doing, and/or what they think queer disability studies is or should be. Below you will find our call for contributions to the network blog launch. We are looking for blog posts, videos and other creative contributions to help make the network a reality, and to start building a space for queer disabled solidarity (in the UK and beyond).
Questions in Queer Disability Studies
To launch the Queer Disability Studies (QDS) Network, we are very pleased to announce a month-long online event throughout October 2021. We hope this launch month will be a way for us all to collectively shape the work of the network, to learn more about each other and the exciting work already being done in this field globally, and to re-imagine the direction and purpose of QDS as an interdisciplinary field and community.
Those interested in taking part in Questions in Queer Disability Studies may want to consider or respond to the following questions:
- How would you want Queer Disability Studies (QDS) to look as field, and what would you like it to do? What new and creative spaces do we need to build within QDS for dialogue, support, and community, as well as for resistance and critique? How does this fit with the work that you’re doing now?
- Does existing literature across Queer, Trans, and Disability Studies adequately respond to the intersections, interchange, and potential alliances between these areas (and communities), and how might this work be developed in the future?
- Who is acknowledged and listened to, who gets spoken for or over, and whose language is protected and promoted in Queer, Trans and Disability Studies? And how can we work towards correcting or remodelling this?
- What new or transformative ways of re-thinking academic conventions (such as public speaking, conference organisation, and journal publications) are needed to make our ways of working, organising, or thinking more accessible and equitable?
- Does QDS help us to think in different – perhaps more radical or disruptive – ways about accessibility? Has the pandemic had any impact on our approaches to this?
- Why is accessibility important to working within Queer, Trans and Disability Studies, and are there any access needs that we need to be especially attentive to, which address the intersections of the lives of queer, trans and disabled people?
- Does QDS provide us with any tools or strategies to think differently about managing ableism, transphobia, biphobia, homophobia, and other intersecting forms of oppression such as intersexphobia, racism, sexism, fatphobia or class inequality, particularly in academic contexts? How might our work in QDS help us to respond to current – often individualising – approaches taken by academic institutions, such as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives, unconscious bias training and equality protocols?
- Why is it important to make connections between activism, practice, and academia within QDS? How can we do this in ways which are collaborative, non-exploitative, productive, and meaningful?
- Why are citational practices important, and how might we manage the ethics of citing authors and/or journals with views or politics that are diametrically opposed to our own?
- What have we overlooked in the questions that we’ve asked above? We write these questions from our positions as social scientists in the UK – what difference does positionality, geography and/or disciplinary context make to the requirements from such a network? How might the questions and the network be approached or imagined differently?
We welcome contributions in a range of formats, including longer written contributions between 800-1500 words in total, and videos between 3-5 minutes in length, as well as other creative formats such as poetry, short stories, or artistic visions. We’re open to different ideas and experimental formats. Please consider ways of making your final contributions accessible to a wide audience (e.g. captioning videos and images, providing a script of audio, audio-recording written text). If you have questions or concerns about content, format, accessibility or anything else, you are welcome to get in touch for a conversation, prior to submission.
Contributions will be shared on our blog post at intervals throughout the month of October. The event itself and all contributions we share will be asynchronous (i.e. none of us will need to be online at the same time to participate), so you can engage with the work at your own pace and at a time that suits you. However, the blog post comments sections will be open for responses and discussion (after admin approval), and we will be encouraging the use of Twitter and a private platform for contributors only.
We will facilitate anonymous contributions if this is your preference. We will be in touch with information about safety before the event, and we welcome questions or comments about this by email if you have any concerns. Please feel free to contact any of the current network administers using the contact details provided here.
Pitch your idea
To contribute to our launch event, please send an informal proposal of up to 200 words, using our submission form by 24th May 2021. Please also provide a short bio (up to 150 words). We are also asking for some brief information about how you intend to make your contribution accessible. We’ll get back to you with feedback in July before asking you to submit your final contribution.
We have ten £50 QDS Network Awards to give to successful contributors who currently receive a low or no income/stipend, are unemployed, or are in precarious employment. This is to recognise the value of contributions from early-career researchers, PhD students, activists and others on low/no income. If we receive more than ten applications for these awards, original and insightful proposals which best fit the aims of the event will be prioritised.
Proposal deadline – 24th May 2021
Notification emails – 1st July 2021
Final submission of contributions – 1st September 2021
Questions in Queer Disability Studies Month – Throughout October 2021