CFP: 2022 NeMLA Conference Panel: "Trans Visibility In A Time of Public Transphobia" March 10-13

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)

Laverne Cox’s debut role in Orange Is The New Black seemed to usher in a new era for trans representation. In 2014, TIME decreed that the “Trans Tipping Point” had arrived and heralded a path to trans acceptance through visibility on the screen. Yet this increase in visibility has not formed an antidote to rampant transphobia. In 2021, thirty-three states have introduced 117 bills to limit and curtail the rights of trans people across the United States. Public incidents of transphobia are on the rise. In this panel, we consider the effects of hypervisibility in a time of public transphobia across media, and critically consider what the task of representation entails.

To propose a paper, please submit a title and a 300-word abstract through this link https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/19479, no later than September 30, 2021. Note: you will need to create a user account via this link in order to submit your abstract.

As Tourmaline, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton explain in Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility, “the promise of positive representation ultimately gives little support or protection to many, if not most, trans and gender nonconforming people, particularly those who are low-income and/or of color—the very people whose lives and labor constitute the ground for the figuration of this moment of visibility” (1).

When the documentary film Disclosure aired in 2020, it brought new attention to the demeaning and dehumanizing history of trans representation in the visual medium of film. As historian Susan Stryker says, “We can’t think, just because we see trans representation, that the revolution is over…having positive representation can only succeed in changing the condition of life for trans people when it is part of a broader movement for social change.”

In organizing this panel, we take a step back to consider what happens when we no longer view visibility and representation as an antidote, when we consider the double-edged sword which may provide new visibility for trans narratives while catapulting vulnerable groups into the public, transphobic eye. We hope to take a critical stance to the oft-touted solution of individual representation as a means of remedying transphobia on a systemic level.

We welcome abstracts across disciplines (including literature, film and television studies, comics studies, visual studies, art, digital humanities, philosophy, history, etc) that engage with the following questions/subjects:

Hypervisibility, spectacle, and objectification all mark transgender people as uniquely vulnerable to assault and attack. What is the relationship between trans visibility and violence?

What responsibility does representation hold in creating access to livable lives for gender minorities?

If we take representation as a “means to an end,” what is the responsibility of writers to their trans subjects? Filmmakers to their trans actors? Artists to their trans models?

How can trans narratives which diverge from traditional understandings of what it means to be or look trans be represented? (e.g. The Matrix)

How does race complicate transgender representation especially for trans people of color?

How might trans “ways of seeing” challenge the current power dynamics of trans representation, especially considering questions of trans invisibility/opacity/stealth?

General questions of transgender representation (in film, in literature, in comics, and across media) are also welcome.

To propose a paper, please submit a title and a 300-word abstract through this link https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/19479, no later than September 30, 2021. Note: you will need to create a user account via this link in order to submit your abstract.

Please direct any questions to bunting.g@northeastern.edu or schlotterback.e@northeastern.edu.