AAG 2014: presenting trans geographies

images of paper title on screen, panel session schedule, and my name tag

A few weeks ago, I presented my paper at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (which is a misnomer as all geographers are British… and they work in Canada… so it seems.) My paper was titled Becoming transgressive: Transgender marginalization, agency, and action at and beyond the margins. Seriously, that trans- pun never gets old. As part of a panel series on assemblage thinking and urban marginality, I wanted to, first, draw several discrete categories of trans-antagonistic marginalization, which was fairly Trans 101 stuff repackaged and reconceptualized as particular assemblages (in the Deleuzian sense). Secondly, since I did not want to be a all-doom-and-gloom geographer, I wanted to identify and speculate upon several positive moves from those margins that trans people (specifically trans women) can and do make.

This was my first presentation at AAG, which is becoming my de facto “home conference” and professional organization. I’m increasingly identifying myself, professionally & academically, as a geographer–a humanistic, critical, political, philosophical, social sciencey, whatever geographer. I have my quibbles with geography; however, when I need to fly a flag of academic convenience, I use geography currently because it best addresses my varied interdisciplinary interests as coupled with my spatial interests. I’m also claiming the very specific trans-feminist geographer mantle because, well, somebody needs to do so. There are so few transfeminine perspectives in geography as well as most other humanities & social science disciplines. Moreover, the academy prepends an invisible cis to gender… as well as appending an invisible, though highly obvious, masculine to trans. This latter point was brought into stark relief at the Trans* Geographies panel, despite my overall happiness that there finally was a trans geographies panel.1 I will post more thoughts on this separately, something that will speak more to the content of my paper.

For now, however, I wanted to make a meta reflection on my presentation. Another first was that this was the first time I had actually read a paper at a conference or presentation anywhere. Since I’m a theatrical Energizer Bunny, I usually scribble down some keyword notes and stand up, walk around, and talk semi-extemporaneously. I also throw some images into a folder, rename them so they come up in presentation order, and use them to guide and underline my talk. I don’t really do Powerpoint, either. Overall, my presentations are usually free-wheeling and theatrical, though I do prepare fairly extensively.

So, this time I figured I might as well try something completely new to me at the annual meeting of the biggest organization in the discipline. I have sat through far too many incredibly dry and boring readings of papers at numerous conferences, so much so that I was starting to develop a profound distaste for the style. Thus, I wanted to see how well I could deliver carefully developed lines of written thought, in the form of reading, while still maintaining my usual lively gesticulations and engaging presentation style. Yes, guilty, I knew I could do far better at this format than others and I wanted to prove that for myself. I also wanted the practice so as to confidently add this to my arsenal2 of conference styles.

As to dry mechanics, I had no idea what preparations others take to read their papers and I didn’t really bother asking. So I printed up my final reading draft in larger point size; I wanted to make sure I could easily return to the page after looking up and/or making an off-the-cuff comment. The biggest challenge was to figure out my reading speed by timing it and subsequently editing the reading draft to the allotted time, while still retaining solid reasoning. In that sense it’s not much different from editing to a written length limit.

I also figured, since I was doing new things, to create a minimal Powerpoint. I generally dislike Powerpoint because it is done so ineffectually so often: word-heavy, distracting slides that offer contextless (afterwards) keywords enumerated as bullet points. These don’t help in the presentation and, afterwards when people send around their ppt around, I look at the slides and they look like a meaningless jumbles of words. (Note to self: I’ve never seen guidelines for trying to make presentations better for those with hearing impairments. I should look into this.)

presentation slide, labelled "Third Assemblage: Intraqueer Marginality GLb(t)" presentation slide, labelled "Third Assemblage: Internal Transmisogynistic Marginality" presentation slide, labelled "Mobilizing Online Counterpublics"

Anyway, adhering to my guideline of having less than about 6 words on a slide, I made a slide for each of my main section headers. I would display that slide while reading that section–nothing more. The only exceptions were a few sections that had an explanatory graphic. Another section had some keywords–what troublemaking trans person wouldn’t relish the chance to project #fuckcispeople and #cognitivecissonance at a conference?? Also what pretentious sot wouldn’t relish to project an Intermezzo slide while transitioning through the paper’s two major movements?? Finally, I obviously noted where to advance slides in my paper, just so that I wouldn’t forget.

One final, timed read-through and I was off to the Trans* Geographies panel, which I had just discovered that morning, occurring right before my panel. One would think that I would have researched the schedule ahead of time to see whether or not I was the only trans-related presentation.

In the end, my paper came off without a hitch. Although I timed my run-through within time, I did skip the conclusion as my moderator indicated time out; as a proper conclusion, though, it succinctly reiterated the important points of the paper. As a result, I did not feel that the presentation lost anything with its omission. And I ended on a highly poignant piece of information. Also I did my part to actually keep the panel on time.

It could just be that I’m gaining more and more confidence in general; however I had actually never felt calmer before a presentation than this one. Maybe it was the knowledge everything I wanted to say, within time limit, was on paper in front of me. But there was another level of control. I had my iPhone and was running my own timer as well, so I had a rough idea of how ahead or behind I was at a glance. Knowing this, I had marked out a few passages as “optional”. These were added examples or an extra point to make, had I the time, or things I could easily omit we’re I behind.

It was nice that the set-up involved standing at a podium rather than reading seated from the panelist’s table. Standing allowed me to move slightly around the podium area, to gesticulate, and to make unfettered eye contact to all parts of the room. Enlarging the type was a good idea, though I did briefly lose my place once I did not feel any strain in moving focus between text and the room. My notes on slide advancement were handy… on a subconscious level, I think. I knew how my paper was organized by section, so I had an innate sense of when to advance slides. Not bad for throwing it together that morning. But I’m glad the notes were there.

All in all, I am pleased with the outcome. I am pleased to know that I got this. I am pleased to know that I can read a paper and still be lively and engaging; that it feels almost as good to deliver as a more ad-libbed presentation. One point to improve upon would probably be to look up, step back from the podium slightly, and speak a little more extemporaneously about something: perhaps next time, I will do that with some of my examples, rather than reading them. I did feel I was a little less lively in my delivery than I am in other modes but not unacceptably so for me. The trade-off of having absolute confidence in my exact words was worth it when making a careful, sustained argument.

Most of all, I am pleased that I can speak comfortably about trans issues–the subject of my eventual dissertation research, after all–to an academic, professional, and cisgender audience. It feels righteous to be a trans woman speaking in public and professionally. When needed to label myself, I am confidently a transfeminine, trans-feminist geographer.


1. I was not part of this panel. I am contemplating organizing a Transfeminine Geographies panel for next year. It’s in Chicago!! …which means I will be inviting trans advocates, activists, and generally rad trans women as guests.

2. As a woman, I’m neither supposed to admit nor pursue this confident style. Secondly, and relatedly, I’m certainly not supposed to project this as a trans woman. On the one hand, I will be accused of exercising some nonsensical residual male privilege or socialization, since, when women are allowed such latitude, only cisgender women are allowed to be brash, bad-ass, and punk rock, whereas trans women doing so are just being men. On the other hand, were I to be demure and deferential and timid, I would be accused of reinforcing harmful feminine stereotypes. Thus unable to win either way, I choose my arsenal (cue taunts of male socialization!!) of intellectual Molotov cocktails, Strawman, intellectual Molotov cocktails.

One does not have to be like the boys and be arrogantly confident, and kind of an agro-alpha-masculine jerk about it (we’ve all seen it, intellectual white men, we’ve all smelled it) in presentation. At the same time, I am really tired of seeing knowledgeable women being super apologetic and overly self-deprecating about something or another while presenting (we’ve all seen this too; it makes me squirm. Please stop it.). There definitely is a middle ground of confidence, owning your expert knowledge and still being a decent person about it that women–and more men with respect to that last point–need to embody at conferences.

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Cultural Fascism and Google Street View; BE Colloquium, 2014.02.20

"September 04, 1998: Entanglement and experimentation: or, Cultural fascism and Google Street View." by Cheryl Gilge. Colloquium in the Built Environment; February 20th, 2014

“September 04, 1998: Entanglement and experimentation: or, Cultural fascism and Google Street View.” by Cheryl Gilge. Colloquium in the Built Environment; February 20th, 2014


1. How can a company develop so much resources to develop this free tool? “How is it.”
2. Why do so many people use it for so many different purposes? “Why is it?”

Some things Cheryl looked at:

A) Knowledge production
– street audits
– Place Pulse (MIT)
– CMU identifies cities’ distinctive details (via image data mining and analysis)
– OpenPlan: Planning Press, Beautiful Streets

Used as a visual objective index. Photo assumed to by authoritative.

B) Creative production
– artists mine visual archives
– painters use it. Bill Guffey, monthly Virtual Paint Out (blog)
– performance artists insert themselves into the view as the camera car drives by
– Music: Arcade Fire, A Wilderness Downtown
– Video: The Theory, Address is Approximate

– phenomenology: thick description
– hermeneutics: horizon of meaning, historical conditions change over time
– critical theory
– DG
– assemblage (bloc of space-time)
– de/reterritorialization
– molar/molecular, line of flight. ((loose space))
(useful for seeing how people use it at different scales and how the company developed the tool)

– photo as empirical evidence
– neoliberal failure of govts abdicating their mapping duties; company rises up to fill the void
– tension: top down neoliberal nonsense // bottom up nature of open source movement
– “citizen cartographer” nonsense

– acquiescence of personal agency to another
– giving in, even craving discipline, for sake of convenience
– somewhat like bargaining with the devil because it’s easier

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Transcending disciplinary power; BE Colloquium, 2014.02.13

2014.02.13 — Transcending disciplinary power: seeking cross-cutting terms of agreement on Duwamish Valley wellbeing

Jonathan Childers MURP
Bill Daniels MD, MPH

Health Impact Assessment

RAO – Remedial Action Objectives

Cancer risks for Duwamish fish consumers, esp Tribal, still reaches 1/10000
Tribal children have 8 times non-cancer risk from fish consumption. (“Hazard Quotient”)

4 main groups identified:
Tribes (3 tribes have historic claims to river)
Subsistence fishers
Local resident (Gtown, South Park)
Workers in local industry

Local residents concerned that improvements could accelerate gentrification, despite revitalizing communities.

Workers generally uninformed about hazards, but industry has concerns.

Subst fishers and Tribal groups face disproportionally largest potential harms.

“When I look at this report, I feel like we’re on this rational path to failing these communities.” 
–City Councilmember O’Brien

“Green-Blue” connections. Green industry as well as concerns toward improving workers conditions.


Mental health impact? If not, are there any avenues for such studies? Or is there desire to do so?

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“Trans rights: Poland’s last iron curtain”; Wiktor Dynarski

Wiktor Dynarski writes, as part of a series about Poland’s Left, on the context of trans rights in Poland. This is a timely piece, considering Poland has an out and public trans woman, Anna Grodzka, seated in its parliament. Even before MP Grodzka’s election, I had been interested in the situation(s) in Poland for the lewica (Left) not only on an institutional level but also, and far more importantly, the situation for queer, trans, and other marginalized subcultures on social and cultural levels.

Poland has a history for the last 200+ years of being subjugated, so the last several generations of Poles have always resisted something in some form no matter what their ideology. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, though, the country was taken by a new hegemony, this time with the oppressed coming to power. The resultant conservative state became dominated by neoliberal economics and Catholic theocratic morality–with formerly oppressed individuals now the institutional oppressors.

It is this broad milieu, ranging from the street-level personal to the state-level, that Dynarski addresses in his article. Perhaps the most compelling section is entitled “Not a minority“, which I quote in its entirety because it’s that incisive (emphasis my own):

Vulnerable groups (a phrasing which, unlike the word minority, concentrates on issues faced by a number of people sharing a similar feature rather than their numbers) are very often misunderstood by a society prone to judge them using simplified ideas and attitudes. When one defines themselves outside of a vulnerable group and lacks a need to engage in a dialogue with the group’s representatives, a line is drawn between the group and what can be identified as “society in general”. A line separating the two, often blocking any type of information exchange, including communication surrounding the needs of those seen as vulnerable (or even the recognition of such needs). This is where the idea of the Iron Curtain serves its metaphorical, rather than historical, purpose. Much as there was (officially) little talk about and need for democracy behind the actual Iron Curtain, today, even less is being said about trans* rights and the needs of trans* people.

What’s striking in this passage is Dynarski’s unequivocal and emphatic indictment of privilege. Privilege is often rightfully defined as something akin to invisible rights and advantages afforded a member of some dominant in-group simply due to their hereditary fortune of being born into the given in-group. While correct, this paints the privileged individuals too passively: as merely ignorant users, participants, and upholders of an oppressive system.

On the other hand, in my emphasized portion, Dynarski indicts the privileged as active participants in the oppression of minority, vulnerable people. In this case, the dominant individual is no longer just an unwitting participant in systemic domination and oppression. Rather, they actively define themselves as not-minority, actively reject the need for engagement and dialog with Others, and actively repel the needs of the vulnerable. Dynarski brings these aspects of privilege into the arena of conscious actions, where they are all exposed as deliberate moral failings of the privileged. Here we also see how personal decisions collectively build and reproduce the larger, oppressive system.

This is the sharp theoretical-practical lens that Dynarski brings with his piece. But, truthfully, it is not just Dynarski saying this. The social justice spheres on Twitter routinely employ this sharp lens via hash tags like #solidarityisforwhitewomen and #cognitivecissonance. This is a good lens to keep in one’s bag of intellectual tools. Its value lies in illuminating individual power and privilege not only in order to expose the concrete operation of oppression but also as a way of providing opportunities for the privileged to actively remedy and ameliorate their exploitive advantages. In these respects, this lens is both an ethical ontology as well as a practical methodology with perhaps an eye toward reparative justice. Mia McKenzie at Black Girl Dangerous writes more practically about how to apply this by “4 Ways to Push Back Against Your Privilege.”

Circumscribing it in the historically-powerful and geographically-appropriate Iron Curtain metaphor is just delicious poetic-justice icing on the very Polish dark humor cake. Yet, widening this metaphor out to “cracks in the wall” is equally powerful and hopeful. As Dynarski illustrates, it can be incredibly disheartening to read of the situation of queer and trans rights in Poland, for there is a wall undoubtedly. However, this wall has serious cracks. Evidence can be seen in the electoral gains of Ruch Palikota (Palikot’s Movement), the voices of leftist media, the organizational operations of Trans-Fuzja, the election of gay MP Robert Biedroń, and of course the election of trans woman MP Anna Grodzka.

A wall with cracks is weak. We find the cracks, we lodge ourselves in them, and we widen them. We also make more cracks. Eventually, people can walk through the cracks. Eventually, we can knock the wall down.

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Book cart:: Gramsci: Space, Nature, Politics; Ekers, Hart et al.


I’m interested in Gramsci, certainly with respect to cultural hegemony. But this sounds promising as it applies Gramsi to space. But, really, what I need to do is read Gramsci himself before delving into these secondary sources, which is always a dicey proposition if one is not familiar enough with the primary sources.

From the Wiley-Blackwell site:

Author(s): Ekers Michael, Hart Gillian, Kipfer Stefan, Loftus Alex

Published Online: 16 OCT 2012

Print ISBN: 9781444339710

Online ISBN: 9781118295588

DOI: 10.1002/9781118295588

This unique collection is the first to bring attention to Antonio Gramsci’s work within geographical debates. Presenting a substantially different reading to Gramsci scholarship, the collection forges a new approach within human geography, environmental studies and development theory.

  • Offers the first sustained attempt to foreground Antonio Gramsci’s work within geographical debates
  • Demonstrates how Gramsci articulates a rich spatial sensibility whilst developing a distinctive approach to geographical questions
  • Presents a substantially different reading of Gramsci from dominant post-Marxist perspectives, as well as more recent anarchist and post-anarchist critiques
  • Builds on the emergence of Gramsci scholarship in recent years, taking this forward through studies across multiple continents, and asking how his writings might engage with and animate political movements today
  • Forges a new approach within human geography, environmental studies and development theory, building on Gramsci’s innovative philosophy of praxis

Authors’ bios (source):

Michael Ekers is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough. In addition to his interests in Gramsci, his research focuses on urban unemployment and rural relief projects in Depression-Era British Columbia, and questions of masculinity, race, and the social contribution of the unemployed. Gillian Hart is Professor at the University of California Berkeley and Honorary Professor at University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. She is currently working on a companion volume to Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2002). Stefan Kipfer is Associate Professor at York University, Toronto. His research deals with comparative urban politics and the role of the urban in social and political theory, particularly in Marxist and counter-colonial traditions. He is the co-editor (with Kanishka Goonewardena, Richard Milgrom, Christian Schmid) of Space, Difference, Everyday Life: Reading Henri Lefebvre (2008). Alex Loftus is a Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London. His research focuses on the political ecology of water and the political possibilities within urban ecologies. He is the author of Everyday Environmentalism: Creating an Urban Political Ecology (2012).

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this is what male feminist transmisogyny looks like


Transmisogyny is the subset of transphobia that marginalizes, debases, and invalidates trans women.

Transmisogyny is the most common, most caustic, and disproportionally largest form of transphobia.

Transmisogyny specifically focuses transphobia against trans women with deadly accuracy.

This is deadly serious: Casually transmisogynistic utterances such as Whedon’s normalize transmisogynistic behavior which runs from ridicule–which is linguistic, social, and psychological violence–through harassment to actual physical violence against all trans women. Moreover, intersected with racism, transmisogyny kills trans women of color disproportionally.

This is why it is important to fight transmisogyny at all levels, even at those like Whedon’s lowly tweet, toward the goal of ending transmisogynistic violence. If I’m being harsh on Joss Whedon, it is because he has been feted time and time again for being an amazing feminist, writing strong female characters, etc. So much so, in fact, that I gaslighted myself and puzzled over whether this tweet was from the real Joss Whedon. Women are not defined by their genitals. Trans women are women, regardless of their genitals.

Some other examples of what transmisogyny looks like.

Update 2014-01-27 18:53: Irae Nicole at io9 asks the same thing I did: Really Joss Whedon? Really

Update 2014-01-27 20:08: Aoife writes a more thoughtful piece on her blog.

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Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project; BE Colloquium, 2014.01.16

Valerie Segrest

Nutritionist for mickle shoot tribe
Getting ppl out connected to land environment and each other

Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project
12 week class on iding and harvesting foods
Community food assessment, i.e. food maps from community members
Class for cooks
Orchard plantings

Tribal food sovereignty is a bit different bc sov in the tribal context is tied to other ideas of sov wrt to treaties and similar politics.
Also forest to table rather than farm to table
Diet is connected to identity

(treaty of Pt. Elliott 1855)
Access to food, game, etc
Identity is what we eat and what we eat is the link to the land.

Challenge bc current tribal elders came out of the boarding school era.
The knowledge that you carry is Wealth

Cooks are legitimate health practitioners in communities.

–traditional pit ovens
–boiling water in a cedar bent wood box

Muckleshoot Weyerhaeuser purchase of 90k acres for possible

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