One full day of building culture

Symposium crosses mediums and genres to feature trans self-representation

Last May, the first ever Writing Trans Genres: Emergent Literatures and Criticism conference was held in Winnipeg. On Feb. 28, the organizers of the conference are continuing the work that started over that spring weekend with a one-day symposium.

Decolonizing and Decriminalizing Trans Genres will be held at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) from 1 - 9 p.m. on a Saturday, and includes panels, readings and a community meal. Trish Salah, one of the organizers and a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at U of W, explains how the symposium builds on last May’s conference.

“The function of this symposium is really to create space for dialogue by and about indigenous and black transcultural producers,” Salah says. “We’ve widened our scope from the literary, which was the primary focus of Writing Trans Genres, to encompass a whole range of cultural work, activist work, literary and other forms of artistic production by indigenous and black artists, two-spirit and trans.”

Ceyenne Doroshow grew up in Brooklyn, and is the author of Cooking in Heels: A Memoir Cookbook which was published through the Red Umbrella Project. “It’s a memoir cookbook that thinks about family and food and race and sex work and prison, and I’m very delighted she’ll be joining us as well,” Salah says.

Performer, writer and activist Imani Henry will also be joining the symposium and reading from the script of his one-man show, B4T which, according to Salah, is not that well known in Canada yet.

“This piece focused on his experiences of transitioning and moving from the context of being read as a woman of colour to being a black trans man in the USA and all that entails in various ways,” Salah says. “So I’m pretty excited that (Henry) will be reading from that as well as speaking about Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter.”

Other participants include Saylesh Wesley, Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán, Andrea Jenkins, Yasmeen Persad, Dr. C Riley Snorton, and Syrus Marcus Ware. Salah explains that all the presenters are based on Turtle Island, and are a mix of Canadian and American folks.

While Salah sees the symposium as building on Writing Trans Genres, she also explains how this event is part of a larger cultural movement towards trans self-representation. She sees this contributing not only to Winnipeg’s community, and the communities of the presenters, but also to a larger dialogue that spans genres and mediums. 

“I think that self-representation by trans people across media, across artistic forms, across political and social forms is essential,” Salah says.

“I think it’s an ongoing project that’s about building our culture, and producing context wherein we can tell complex stories about our lives and actually engage in work that doesn’t have anything to do with our lives but even if it inevitably arises from our experience of the world in various ways.”

Salah hopes that folks on campus and across the city will join in for the one-day symposium. 

“I think this is an exciting opportunity, it’s a rare opportunity,” Salah says. “And if you can’t come for the whole day, come for part of it. It’s free.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 21 of The Uniter (February 18, 2015)

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