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Feminism for the Future: Constructive Conversations on Lesbian and Trans Identities and Politics is the eighth annual WGSS Women's History Month Symposium.

In recent years, the conflicts between trans activists and some segments of the lesbian population have become increasingly polarized and tense.  While this has been less pronounced in the US than in Britain, where a version of trans-exclusive radical feminism is quite visible and vocal, tensions can still run high here in the US.  Too often this debate is both historically ill-informed and reduced to ad hominin Twitter attacks and name-calling.  This Symposium seeks to provoke meaningful dialogue on the relationship among feminism, trans scholarship and activism, and lesbian politics. Starting from the position that trans inclusion and liberation is non-negotiable, this symposium aims to unpack and analyze the fears and falsehoods that motivate (some) lesbian attacks on trans activists.  On the flip side, we engage with the (over?) use of the term “TERF” that can often be too sweeping and shuts down important discussions over identity and community.  Critically, we want to initiate a dialogue that is respectful, deeply informed by evidence, historically accurate, and aligned with building a multi-racial, gender-inclusive, intersectional feminism that erases neither “lesbian” or “trans.”


Key questions that will animate our discussion include: 

  • What is the origin of current fears of so-called “lesbian erasure” and is that a red (lavender?) herring
  • What theoretical frameworks undergird transphobic ideologies? 
  • Is gender imagined differently by trans scholars than by lesbian studies? 
  • Is there a difference between academic feminist uptakes of trans studies versus social movements? 
  • Is there a relationship between the decline of a specifically lesbian culture and the rise of trans activism? 
  • How have lesbian and trans identities shifted across history and geography? 
  • What is the complex psychic relationship between identity and desire? 
  • What will it take to create a more productive dialogue? 
  • How can we create feminist communities that are inclusive but open to debate and contestation? 

Event Details

  • Annika Abdella

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