Back, back again.

In my last post I did mention that I tend to be a bit ‘all or nothing’, and I have definitely shimmied gleefully into the ‘nothing’ zone for this blog for a while. But I have been busy while I’ve been away. I’ve written two papers for publication (well, one was for a competition and has already been turned down – but it’s written!). I’m basing my Talking Bodies conference paper on one of the above, so that’s sort of half-done-ish. I’ve been teaching on two modules. I popped to Exeter for a LGBT+ History Month event, that I probably should have blogged about but didn’t. And I quit sugar for the whole of February for Cancer Research (spoiler: it nearly ended me).

So, that final chapter I mentioned? Still not finished. But I feel good about the things I’ve worked on in its stead. I’m giving a lecture this week, and am hoping to wrangle the TB paper into shape, but after that, I’ll go back to this chapter and get it hammered out. The two papers I wrote were based on previous chapters, so that’ll help when it comes to editing the thesis.

I also had an interview for a student services role, that I didn’t get, but was a good experience. They gave me some handy feedback on stuff I can improve for next time – like using the STAR technique to answer questions – which is basically creating a narrative of what you’ve done, when, how, and the effect it had. I did it for a couple of questions, but for others it seemed obvious – apparently it’s good to do it anyway. Lesson learned.

I’ve sent a poem off to an excellent new lit mag – Salomé – that I’m keeping my fingers crossed for. And I’ve tentatively been working on another short story a bit at a time. I’ve also made some time for reading and crafts in my life so I don’t go completely crackers. Getting a little better at that whole work/life balance thing. Now I only work 6 days a week.

I’m starting to get the post-PhD panic – when will I finish? Will I have any publications? Will I be able to get a job?

I’ve been looking online at the jobs coming out and the list of things they require seems to grow every week – but I suppose all we can do it work hard and try to diversify our skill sets as much as possible. I’m lucky in that my field (trans theory and literature) is starting to become fairly popular, I’m able to teach on literature and creative writing courses, and I’ve got a solid amount of teaching experience behind me at this point. I am worried, though. I think most people in academia are these days. But I really bloody love it, I love my students, I love my classes, and I love my research. Fingers tightly crossed.

 

SO! I’m writing this paper, getting back on top of my thesis and pushing through the last month of teaching (and then all of the marking in the world). That’s the plan.

 

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All or Nothing

It’s a well-known issue in diet advice that the ‘all or nothing’ approach won’t work – it’s a short-term fix that will eventually backfire. People tackle this in different ways, some build a ‘treat’ into every day, some people save up calories for a cheat day, some people (like the Rock), save themselves for a mega blow-out every few months. It’s all about whatever makes it practical and sustainable for each individual.

I absolutely fail at this. I am 100% all or nothing. This trait has permeated throughout my entire life – I’ve justified it regarding my thesis, I have a really terrible memory so if I step away from it for more than a day, I have to re-read everything in order to get back into the swing; it takes me a while to warm up into writing, so if I only gave myself an hour or so, I’d get nothing done – etc. However, I’ve noticed that it’s taken over other areas of my life – I won’t read a book unless I can finish it in one or two sittings, I won’t watch a programme unless I can binge watch it; I can’t watch random episodes, even if it’s a show I’ve seen before, I have to start at the beginning and see the whole thing through. It’s an issue.

The PhD takes over your life – I’ve joked that if in my viva they ask me to prove it’s all my own work, I’ll just point them at the three years of social media flailings about my thesis. (Personal update – it turns out that if you go outside, eat well and do occasional exercise, the world doesn’t feel as though it’s ending). So, in accepting that the thesis is bound to take over your life, the next step is probably to understand how thesis-related behaviours do the same.  I used to be able to watch TV and do homework, I used to be able to listen to music and read a book, I used to watch random bits of telly rather than streaming specific programmes, I used to read a couple of chapters a night. The focused dedication of the PhD seems to have rewired my brain into a new set of habits. Ones that I’m not certain are entirely healthy.

I’ve isolated the issue, so what’s the next step? Forcing myself to watch regular telly? Making myself read novels even if it’ll take me a week or two to finish them? Trying to fit work into random spare hours? I don’t really know yet – if anyone has any suggestions let me know.

In other news, my abstract for Talking Bodies 2017 was accepted – yay! That happens in April. I’m almost halfway through my final chapter – hoping to have it mostly done by Friday. Then it’s just the intro, conclusion and editing. It was my birthday last week, my best mates came up north for four days, we saw Fantastic Beasts, hobbited our way round some excellent ruins, and engaged in an all or nothing approach to cake (emphasis on the ‘all’).  After they left I had to crack on with some teaching bits and bobs, and now I’m back to the chapter.

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Online Presence

I was discussing online presence with my supervisor this weekend – she’s trying to up hers. It’s something that she’s actively thinking about, concerned about. I think it’s certainly something that you need to keep on top of. There are so many platforms available, twitter, linkedin, wordpress, piirus, academic.edu, researchgate, etc. Should you blanket them all or just pick a couple to concentrate on?

I personally spend a lot of time on twitter. Once I’d discovered hashtags like #phdchat #phdlife and #acwri, I felt like I’d found a proper community online. It was something that really helped me get through the isolated nature of the PhD. Conferences regularly use hashtags too –  you can keep up with all of the panels, and find the other people that you’re meeting there to talk to later. Building connections and a sense of community is so important when you’re in academia, I think, being the isolated office dwellers that we are, that it’s easy to get completely separated from the world.

I started this blog to help me keep track of what I was doing during my PhD – it’s easy to forget that you’ve made any progress when you’re stuck in a mire of deadlines and failed lines of thought. At the beginning, writing things down, keeping track of my weekly word count and holding myself accountable to the blog gave me the motivation I was lacking at the time. As I’ve gotten more in the swing of things, I’ve written on the blog less, but I find what I do write now is more useful. More about tracking achievements than berating myself for falling short.

People talk a lot about Linkedin, but to be honest, I’ve struggled to get to grips with it. I’ve had a profile on there for years and I update it semi-regularly; I add new people I meet. It hasn’t really seemed to do anything. Then someone told me that there are groups on there. Lo and behold, there are – groups about different areas of academia, about different theoretical interests. I’m beginning to see how it might actually be used for networking rather than just a static online mini-CV.

Things like academia.edu and researchgate are great for keeping track of what’s going on in your field, and for putting little bits of your research for other people to see what you’re up to. I probably don’t use them as much as I should, but I’ve also been concentrating on blasting my thesis, rather than writing papers.

Honestly though, twitter and facebook have been my main links to the outside world – I think they’re such important resources, both personally and professionally. I encourage everyone to find their online community.

Other useful online stuff:

This post on being an online academic – I took part in the online chat last year and it was pretty interesting.

My previous blog post on surviving the PhD – just in case you need a reminder that you’re not going crazy.

Stumbling Towards an Early Finish

So I mentioned in my previous post that I was aiming to have the thesis drafted by Christmas. In light of the amount of teaching I might be doing this term, that might not happen, but I’m going to get as close to done as I can. Finishing by Christmas means I will have drafted the thesis in just over two years. Which sounds pretty good, huh? It also means that I can ignore it for a bit and try to get some academic publications out before going back for editing. I’m hoping to submit it around April, which gives me 6 months to complete corrections and finish within my three years. Fingers crossed.

I’m feeling really positive about teaching. I’ve got creative writing students this year, which I’m really excited about. I’m going to try some different techniques. I look forward to discovering how my new students learn best, probably as they do the same. I’m going to be teaching on what is essentially a year-long study skills module that helps their transition into HE and gives them the skills they need to become fledgeling academics. My aim is to make it as interesting as possible and get them to appreciate how important these skills are for the rest of their university/academic careers.

Regarding my own creative writing, I’ve been on a bit of a roll recently. I’ve just had my fourth piece accepted for publication and I’ve had a couple of really lovely rejections where they’ve encouraged me to submit something to them in the future. Writing is something I let drop a bit when I started the PhD – I felt pretty overwhelmed by the whole thing and felt like I needed to put my whole focus on research and analysis. Actually, creative writing is massively helpful to academic writing – it gets you to really think about each word, what information you’re distilling, if you’re writing it in the best way to get your point across.

Academic writing wise – I finished a rough draft of my third chapter a couple of weeks ago, I’ve written a draft of the paper for the narratology journal that accepted my abstract, and I’m typing up quotes for chapter four. My third chapter is by far the weakest I’ve written, I’m not at all happy with it, but I’m going to let it sit while I write ch4, and then go back for editing. I’m meeting my supervisors in the beginning of October to discuss ch2, so after that I’ll titivate ch3 and send it off for advice.

Things seem to be speeding along at the moment. Not sure if I’m just having a bit of a manic stage or if the productive panic I’ve been awaiting for the last two years has finally kicked in. We’ll see how it goes when teaching starts and chunks of my time are focussed there.

 

 

A photo posted by Emma (@emma_spud) on Sep 17, 2016 at 6:23am PDT

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Paddle-boards and Drafting Chapters

It’s been over a month since my last post. Whoops. In that time I have written about half of my third chapter, visited family and friends, fixed my car, been on my first plane, been on my first hot holiday, relearnt how to swim, gone snorkelling, gone paddle-boarding in Mallorca, popped back up north, driven south to visit more friends, had my car fixed again, been paddle-boarding in Exeter, learnt about low G.I. foods, oh, and did I mention, written half of my third chapter.

This time last year I was gearing up for my transfer viva that allowed me to continue my PhD. I had written a rubbish draft of an intro that no longer reflects my thesis and I was throwing a paddy about having to do a gantt chart. As it happens, the hoop-jumping annoyance of the RF2 was well worth it. I’ve stubbornly stuck with the chapter plans that I made for it, something that gave me the direction I needed. I still disagree with comments made by some of the examiners, but that did give me the stubborn push to further defend my argument, even if it really shook my confidence at the time. I’m so grateful for my lovely friends, they really got me through that when I thought about quitting. Not that I actually would have, I never quit anything, but I fully thought about it.

Anyway, this chapter. It’s about society and violence – the way in which identity violence (where a person’s identity is denied or mocked) and physical violence are enforced and perpetuated by an essentialist and transphobic society. I struggled with the theory section – I have far fewer notes on this theme than I did for the previous two. I was a bit worried that it would be too similar to the previous chapter about essentialism where I spoke somewhat about society. This chapter also seemed to be the most obvious – society is shit and therefore: violence; but actually, as I’ve taken some time to scuttle about between ideas I’ve managed to come up with some points to work on. I’ve managed to hit my word count for that section, although it definitely needs some heavy editing.

The other issue I had for this chapter was that I wasn’t entirely certain which books I’d be analysing. Initially I thought that Sassafrass Lowrey’s Roving Pack would be included, but as I went back through it I realised it would work better in the next chapter about trans community and visibility. I’m currently writing about Imogen Binnie’s Nevada, which was one of my favourites, and I think it’s going ok. I’ve ordered another book which might be useful, but if not I’ll have to have another peruse through my shelves.

I’m still down south at the moment, and stretching out my trip for another couple of weeks – I’ve got my PhD stuff with me, so I’ve been working. I just happen to have also been to the pub and out paddle-boarding considerably more. Also there’s a new baby in the family that I need to go an celebrate and certainly never hold.

Oh, I also had an abstract accepted for a special edition of a narratology journal. I’m looking forward to working on that. If my book doesn’t arrive in time I’ll probably switch to that paper and finish this chapter at a later date. And I need to read the papers submitted to the book I’m editing.

My plan at the moment is to have my thesis drafted by Christmas – finished in two and a half years, eeep. That means I’ll have six months to edit it and read over any new publications. Starting to get a bit worried about the job situation too, so I might look into some further qualifications/experience.

 

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Cafes, Drafts, Escapes.

I have finished the second chapter! Well, for a given value of finished. I haven’t written the conclusion. I’m contemplating leaving all of the chapter conclusions until the very end – give myself some space from each chapter before I try and summarise the main points. Is this a good idea?

I spent most of last week in various cafes with my laptop. I’ve definitely found that working outside helps me concentrate, I tend to get very distracted at home. Although I also found that in doing that I left myself very little personal time. By the time I got home each night I didn’t have the time or energy to make a proper dinner and I definitely didn’t have time to go to the gym. I’m pretty sure that’s just weakness from not having been in full-time employment for the last year and a half.

I do feel pretty accomplished right now. I’ve written this chapter in two months, give or take, and I feel like I can finally see myself progressing. So much of what I did in first year felt like treading water. I never felt like I was really achieving anything and I felt so buried by it all. It’s all coming together now though. Those months of research, tears and spider diagrams are adding up to something that (I think) makes sense.

Having said that, though, I reread some bits of my first chapter yesterday – I’m borrowing from it for a paper I’m writing – and it’s a bit embarrassing how bad it is. Three months ago I was proud of it. Shows what a bit of time and space can do for the writing process, I suppose. I’m not going to edit it again, though. I want to try and bash out all of my chapters ASAP and then go back to them all. Editing is easier to dip in and out of when I’m teaching, so the more I can get done during the holidays, the better.

This week I’m hopnig to get this paper drafted and I’ve got a meeting with my supervisors before heading away for the whole of June – trekking down south via various people’s houses and ending up in Exeter before I head abroad for a week. I’m taking my work with me, of course, and plan on seeking out some hidey-holes to start drafting my next chapter in. Work/Life balance? I think it’s going well.

 

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Voices And Timelines

The chapter is taking shape. I had a meeting with my supervisors just after my last post, they seemed happy but wanted to spend some more time with it before giving further feedback. The chapter is very theory-heavy, and I sent it rather late in the day. They agreed that the layout I discussed in the last post was absolutely the one to run with. It always seems the way that after spending weeks or months hammering away at something, the solution happens in a sudden flash at the last possible moment.

We also discussed the PhD in general, how I’ve found teaching and what I might teach in the next academic year. I’ve loved teaching, in spite of the hours of lesson planning, the actual time with the students is great. I’m planning on creating some of my own module plans at some point, possibly next summer, just so I have the experience and also so I have something concrete to offer when I start job hunting. We also spoke about my doing some lectures, which is a bit scary, but also really exciting. I’ve enjoyed all of my teaching experiences so far, and I always enjoy presenting papers at conferences, so I feel like lecturing would be a cool combination of the two.

We met again the week after to discuss the chapter in more detail. There are a few niggles here and there that I can bash into shape – it is very much a first draft at the moment. I also sent an additional bit of writing I’d done in the week – some literary criticism of one of the chapter texts. I bloody love lit crit, it’s very much my natural habitat. We did discuss some issues, though – because my chapters are very theory based, sometimes the real-world applications, which is something my theory and I focus on, mean that the analysis can seem similar to what I was discussing in the previous chapter. It was good to have that highlighted this early on as it allows me to better streamline and explain my work.

I’ve been continuing with the chapter since then. I’ve done some more analysis of the first text and started some for the second, just to mix things up a bit. I try to bob back and forth between texts as I write as it helps me make connections and discoveries – something obvious in one text might reveal something more hidden in another.

The speed with which this chapter is progressing has surprised me. My first chapter took me almost a year and it’s still not really finished. This one is moving much faster – partly due to closer deadlines, but also, I think, because I’ve found my voice. It’s something people are always talking about with the PhD – finding your voice, locating in an appropriately academic position, but still having yourself in there. I like things to make sense, I like my writing to be accessible. Judith Butler, for example, is crazy smart, and her work is oftentimes amazing, but bloody hell, if I never have to plough my way through one of her books again it’ll be too soon. Surely the point is people can understand what you’re saying? Anyway, that seems to have sped things up. One of the comments my supervisors made was that sometimes I can hammer a point home a little too heavily – which is fair. It’s usually a point I don’t really care about and therefore don’t spend much time trying to pick apart – which is something I need to work on.

A question I’m working through at the moment is whether or not to try and complete in three years. I’m only funded for three years, and I think I could probably just about manage it if I really pull my socks up over summer. On the other hand, the cost of the write-up year is about a third of the cost of council tax for a year – so, if I don’t immediately get a job, which I probably won’t, I’d be more financially stable if I dragged the PhD out for four years. How much does completion time really matter? Does anyone know?

 

A photo posted by Emma (@emma_spud) on May 16, 2016 at 4:14am PDT

 

Also, I did some mandatory health and safety training for the workplace and was alerted to the existence of these little riser things – happy spines make for happy academics,

 

Chapters and Ruins

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy, dealing with stuff and forgetting that weeks happen every seven days.

Teaching has finished. I have to say I’m a bit relieved. Whilst lesson planning and teaching only take two days out of my week, it tends to interrupt my flow just as I’m getting into whatever I’m writing PhD-wise, which then takes another day to get back into. I will miss my students and our discussions, though. It’s been really great to watch them improve, especially in their comprehension of theoretical papers, something they really struggled with at the beginning of term. They’ve got an exam in may that I’ll be marking, but after that I’m fully done until September. I’m hoping to finish my current chapter and hopefully get most of the next one done before teaching starts up again.

I’m working on my second chapter at the moment. It’s the one that’ll probably be the hardest to do. It’s very theory heavy, which is fine, but it’s all very tricky. I’ve split the overall theory into four sections, all of which contradict one another and relate differently to each other section. So, that’s fun. I think (think) I know what I’m trying to say, but saying it in a way that other people will understand is a struggle. Did I mention that I’m on my third draft attempt? I completely changed the entire thing today. I couldn’t decide on the best way of structuring it – I’ve gone through a plethora of various subheadings. I think the one I have now is the one, though. So hopefully things will speed up. However, I have a meeting on Tuesday with my supervisors and I really wanted to have more done by now. Also, I probably should have sent it to them by now. Literally the worst.

So, why was I gone for so long? I could say some nonsense about being busy, reading, typing up 10,000 words of notes and quotes and teaching, which would be true. But it was mostly just life happening at me. One lovely thing was my Mum and her husband took me away on a mini-break to practice being outside. We went to Harrogate and York for a couple of days, and various National Trust places in between. It was all very middle class, so I took them to a student bar for 2-for-1 cocktails and made them day-drink. I don’t drink, so I got all of the amusement of watching my mum in actual bits over some very not-funny jokes, bless her.

We also visited a place called Fountains Abbey, wich is basically Khazad-Dûm meets Hogwarts in ruin-form. Legitimately one of the best places I’ve ever seen. It was hammering it down with rain, so we were the only ones there and I got to prance about with no one to judge me.

A photo posted by Emma (@emma_spud) on Apr 16, 2016 at 10:20am PDT

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The plan for the next week or so is to try and bash this chapter into shape. Then I’m going to a wedding – two people that I introduced are getting married. MARRIED. What even is life? But yeah, they’re doing that. After that I’ll be back to this chapter and will hopefully regain the ability to be smart at some point.

A photo posted by Emma (@emma_spud) on Apr 16, 2016 at 7:01am PDT

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A photo posted by Emma (@emma_spud) on Apr 17, 2016 at 12:16pm PDT

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SexGen Conference

Last week I attended a SexGen seminar ‘Trans Studies: Reflections and Advances’ organised by Dr Sally Hines at the University of Leeds. It was an amazing afternoon with six speakers who are prominent in the field. I fangirled. A lot.

I took the train to Leeds in the morning, giving myself a couple of hours to walk to campus and inevitably get lost. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but the reality of Leeds was not it. It’s big. Not necessarily directionally, but height-wise. The buildings are tall and closely packed. There’s lots of impressive architecture, statues and sculptures. It was lovely, but imposing. I definitely want to go back and properly explore.

I made it to campus in about twenty minutes. That was the easy bit. The campus itself is insane. It’s possibly bigger than the town I grew up in. I followed the concept of ‘when in doubt, keep walking straight’. After twenty minutes of muttering to myself, storming about, staring at maps and the information that had been emailed to us, I eventually came across the right building. It was fancy.

Usually in gender studies type conferences, we get shunted to the back of a slightly dingy tower block or squeezed into a large-ish seminar room. For this seminar, we were in the Great Woodhouse Room. There was plush carpeting and a cabinet of trophies. The tea and coffee were fair trade. I’d stepped up in the world for a brief moment. Having arrived early, I engaged in awkward small talk with the other people who had managed to find the right room in the right building in the insane campus. I met some really lovely people who study properly interesting things.

The afternoon was opened by Dr Hines and our first speaker was Prof. Surya Monro. Her paper was called ‘Beyond gender Binaries: Issues of liminality, categories, and equalities’. She noted that her concept of ‘beyond the binary’ was rooted in the works of Sandy Stone and Kate Bornstein. She spoke about the expansion of gender categories, the elasticity of gender binaries, and concepts of gender pluralism and a gender spectrum in community groups. Her work is on citizen frameworks and she’s currently working on a book called Transgender Citizenship, which sounds interesting. In the questions there was a discussion of the potential differences between gender pluralism and a gender spectrum. It was noted that pluralism allows a way to link essentialist and anti-essentialist identities within a community group, whereas a spectrum may be problematic in that it is inherently fluid and some people embody fixed identities. Another comment was that, as language shifts, people continue to negotiate their own identities – an identity once negotiated is by no means fixed. This led to a discussion of differentiated models of citizenship and position theory, both of which I need to look into.

The next speaker was Dr Katharine Johnson, who I saw at the Trans Studies Now conference in Brighton last year. Her paper, ‘Trans matters: Exploring the now and then of trans studies’ look at how the field has evolved in the last twenty-odd years. She noted that trans theory emerged from two camps, clinical and socio-cultural. She referenced Susan Stryker’s work on trans subjectivity and Sedgewick’s critique of the clinical and socio-cultural – we can ask new questions and find new places to begin. She asked: how arechildren able to understand themselves as gender uncertain and how can we support young people in ethical ways? In the questions it was aked how Judith Butler became the main voice regarding concepts of gender performativity, rather than Kessler and McKenner, or Zimmerman, who were working at the same time. It was noted how we, as gender theorists and trans theorists are always trying to define ourselves in relation to Butler – something I had to struggle with in the opening to my thesis and again in this new chapter.

Unfortunately Sally Hines was unable to present her paper on the day, but luckily Dr Francis Ray White was able to jump in with their fab paper ‘Teaching Gender, being Non-Binary’. They reflected upon their experience of teaching gender and being non-binary, discussing how and when it is possible to be non-binary. Francis changed their name and pronouns, ‘coming out’ as non-binary, however, for two years, little changed; students still used female pronouns. They had to repeatedly come out, it didn’t seem to stick – there was a persistent non-recognition of non-binary identity. They noted that in coming out as non-binary trans there was no physical reveal to mark the change – there was no ‘after’ to demarcate anything. They tried to shed as many markers of femaleness as possible, but this never seemed to be read as ‘not female’. As such, their gender presentation was read less as ‘not-female’ and more as lesbian feminist, as ‘the typical female academic who teaches gender studies’ – that cliche produces a specific way of being viewed as female. Gender studies is almost always taught by women, which further places Francis as female in the students’ minds. Assumptions and cliches have worked against their legibility as non-binary, and undermines the autheticity of their trans identity. As such they have worked towards teaching students about non-binary pronoun use and finding ways to identify self as non-binary, even in non-gender studies classes – they acknowledged that this was largely possible due to their job safety as a department head. During questions, Jay Prosser discussed how the autobiographical narrative has changed – there is no ‘becoming’, there is just a coming out – it shows how ther personal narrative has changed – as in Juliette Jaques’ book (who was also in attendance). It was also discussed how the term non-binary is problematic in that it is still in relation to the binary, the term ‘genderqueer’ was highlighted as it used to be the more popular term.

After a tea break we had a paper from Dr Meg John Barker, ‘Non-Binary Gender So Far…’. they described their work as ‘anti-self-help’ – locating problems in the world, not in the self (which I love). They noted that Western psychology is predicated upon the binary gender system and considered it self-evident. As such, in mainstream psychology binary gender is taken for granted and added to all research questions, whether or not it bears any relevance to the study at hand. They noted that studies have shown that M&F in one culture show more similarites than M&M/F&F from separate cultures – showing that gender isn’t all that important for single location studies. They discussed Sandra Bem’s work on androgyny, noting their shift from the eradication of gender in the 70s to the proliferation of gender in the 90s – which would ahve the effect of undoing the supposed ‘naturalness’ of the categories of ‘man’ and ‘woman’. They also discussed the movement between lexis – genderqueer, non-binary, enby. They noted that both sex and gender are non-binary at all levels (chromosomes, etc), adn that gender is psychosocial.They also discussed the diversity issues of the majority of non-binary images, if you google non-binary, you’ll see a lot of young, white, thin, able-bodies fashion conscious people.

Prof. Stephen Whittle gave a paper called ‘The End of Gender: Invalidating the Trans-identity and the need to be someone’. He describedhimself as primarily an activist and lawyer, non an academic (despite his massive output). When discussing non-binary and the law, he stated “well, it’s fucked”. He noted that many people who identify as non-binary often transition in a binary way due to availablibity and that every trans person, when you look at what they’ve gone through is due to the construction of gender being natural. We don’t know what gender babies are, we just make a guess. As a child, his daughter didn’t want to “do” female gender because it was too restrictive and as such refused to be gendered. He noted how in the 90s the main focus of trans theory was discussing the construction of gender, how to challenge binaries and to get rights rcognised. He stated that we can all do gender in lots of ways in certain spaces, but we cant in other spaces because it’s unsafe – why do we ‘get away with it’ [pass]? – parimarily for safety reasons. He discussed the impact that access to information has on the understanding of personal and global identities, citing how India had no open trans men before the internet – many hijras, but not the other way round – since the internet has proliferated, there are now 20 support groups for trans men in India. He discussed how we don’t yet have a framework for the legal protection of non-binary people – he said that we’ve deconstructed gender, but haven’t reconstructed it for legislation at all – so we’re just ‘fudging it’. He finished by stating that the non-binary movement must be inclusive of those they assume to be stably gendered, because not everyone is, even if they present as though they are.

Dr Jay Prosser was the final discussant, he opened by asking, to what extent is non-binary new and to what extent is it continuous? He noted that there are diverse ways of being non-binary, but also ways to go back to old trans theory and show continuity. He had previously experienced non-binary as an interrogation of trans and asks why is it a term that’s emerging now? What is it about this moment? He highlighted the close proximty between theory and praxis, not just about academia, but within social contexts too – in the 90s there was not the closeness between academia and praxis, so why now?

This series of questions led to a discussion between Prosser, Whittle and the audience. Whittle noted that the increase in non-binary identities may have evolved from policy making in the 1990s that he was involved with that dismissed the term ‘trans children’ and replaced it with ‘gender variant’ – this was because if you start staing ‘trans youth’ you make them think that to be legitimated they must transition; by using ‘gender variant’ it allows them space to work it out. He noted that transition had always been about putting people in boxes – goal driven.

A few other notes from this discussion that aren’t long enough for their own paragraph:

  • It was noted that there has been a snowballing of the existance of trans communities, whereas previously it had been hard to get diverse voices, now, online and face-to-face communities are more prevalent.
  • Trans theory has proliferated through online spaces.
  • There is more than one history that has led to this point.
  • The asexual movement was before the non-binary one and created a space, particularly online.
  • Gender is just like race – it’s a power structure to control people.
  • The internet can also be negatve in that it can be reactionist/regressive – e.g. the bathroom acts in America – those people would not have had a voice if not for the internet.
  • There are bot good and bad sides of the internet, therefore we must use it cleverly.
  • We think of non-binary as being plural and trans man and trans woman as being fixed and singular – this ignores the various ways that those identities can be expressed.
  • Who can access non-binary identities is due to cultural capital.

This was a fascinating and invigorating afternoon. It got me thinking in new ways and revisiting old ideas from new angles. It has also made me worry a bit though. Whilst both of my supervisors are brilliant, neither of them work specifically within trans theory. I’m a bit concerned that if I do something ridiculously stupid, or miss something really obvious, it might not be caught until the viva. On the other hand, having them read my work means that I know that my ideas are accessible to those outside of the field. Still might need to bribe a trans theorist to skim my work at some point if possible though.

 

This week I really need to crack on with this chapter, finish reading a linguistic-y pronoun-y book and probably start marking my first years’ essays. AGH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A photo posted by Emma (@emma_spud) on Mar 24, 2016 at 4:37am PDT

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Indoor Waterfall

I’ve started my second chapter. And by that I mean that I’ve been typing up quotes and copy and pasting from various other bits of work I’ve done during my PhD that seems to be relevant to this chapter. No original thought has happened. But it will. Soon.

I was supposed to meet the linguistics professor last week but the night before, my house flooded so I had to cancel for plumber related purposes. The header tank in our loft flooded and the overflow pipe had come disconnected, so litres and litres of water came pouring through the attic room’s ceiling and down into the first floor. Nightmare. I managed to get all of the water turned off and located an emergency plumber. Still waiting for them to come back and fit some new parts, though.

Other than that I feel like I’ve barely done anything. This has been my first weekend at home in a month, so I achieved a fair bit, previously I’ve been down and up the country visiting various people for various things. I’m away again next weekend, and possibly for the week for Easter. Planning on getting some writing done at my Mum’s house as it’s in the countryside with no distractions.

Lesson planning takes so much of my time and brain-power. I’ve had to limit myself to a day for it, otherwise I waste half the week, but even then I spend a good ten to twelve hours on it for just a one hour lesson. I wonder if anyone else does the same? Teaching is fun though, I like seeing the students grasping something, or at least getting enough of the gist that they know which questions to ask. It helps that I’ve got a fairly cheery group. they’re all bricking it over their essay at the moment though, so I’m getting a lot of panicked emails.

Hopefully next week I’ll have something more impressive to report.

A photo posted by Emma (@emma_spud) on Mar 13, 2016 at 7:45am PDT

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