2. trans matters
Trans Matters - Transgender Studies and Lives in the North
Convenors: Luca Tainio, University of Helsinki / Karlstad University, Utu-Tuuli Jussila & Otso Harju, University of Helsinki
Contact: luca.tainio (at) helsinki.fi
Seminar room: Frost Club (Parallel sessions 1 & 3)
The workshop welcomes papers addressing the conference themes through the interdisciplinary and intersectional lens of Trans Studies.
In the workshop we are asking what theoretical, conceptual and methodological contributions and interventions Trans Studies can offer to the wider fields of gender and feminist research? How does Trans Studies participate in ongoing conversations on social and environmental justice, human rights and livability? Furthermore, we wish to consider issues relating to the material, emotional and embodied consequences of living as a trans* person through current, interconnected turmoils of political and environmental shifts.
In other words, why and how does Trans Studies – as a discipline and as a lived realities – matter in the present? What can trans* futures look like? What, specifically, does this mean in the Finnish, the Nordic, or in other far northern contexts?
Following the overall themes of the conference, possible topics or questions to address can include, but are not limited to, the following:
Translating and applying concepts, theories and knowledge coming from the Anglo-American context as a Finnish and/or Nordic or Northern scholar
Trans* in dangerous times
Whiteness of Trans Studies
Decolonizing Trans Studies and trans* bodies
Transing academic knowledge production
Accountability and solidarity as a Trans* scholar
The workshop welcomes contributions coming from not only academic, but also activist or artist engagements with trans* bodies, practices and experiences. We consider acknowledging different forms of knowledge production also a practice for decolonizing Trans Studies.
The workshop will take place either face-to-face, or online. We would ask you to indicate which format you would prefer when submitting your abstract proposal for the workshop.
The organizers of the workshop are part of the Finnish Trans Studies Network.
Decolonizing Names and Naming: Exploring the Politics of Categorization Through the
Indigenous Trans* Landscape in Last Words from Montmarte and Coconut Milk
Roshan Roymon, Ashoka University, India
Translating the transitions that trans* theory asks us to make, this presentation interrogates categorization—i.e., names and naming—transnationally. A transnational approach to understand the politics of categorization allows researchers to move away from the notion that trans*—queer or feminist—movements are an outcome of Western liberalism; to focus on the indigenous trans* narratives that exist in several shapes around the world. For this reason, this presentation begins with the trans* landscape of Taiwan through Qiu Miaojin’s prose, Last Words from Montmartre (henceforth Last Words), and then transitions to the Pacific Island ecosystem through Dan McMullin’s fa ‘afafine poems in Coconut Milk.
Transitions between characters and places will be guided by imperative questions during this presentation: i.e., how do Last Words and Coconut Milk inform our thinking about gender? What effects do these gendered subjectivities have on the genres of Last Words and Coconut Milk? And how can this knowledge be transported to study gender variability in other spheres? But most importantly, why are these texts important for trans* theory? Last Words and Coconut Milk are imperative for gender and sexuality studies as they are trans* texts. They contain characters or personas with complex gender identities which cannot be contained in a singular name as they escape the act of naming or categorization by spilling into other names and categories. And as the complex gendered characters travel through each letter—with respect to Last Words—and each poem—with respect to Coconut Milk—we also encounter critical changes in genre and form. Therefore, unnameable characters and personas also transform the structures of the world they inhabit.
By putting Jack Halberstam’s seminal work Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability in conversation with the excerpts from Last Words and Coconut Milk—this presentation focuses on the above questions to argue that: to not have a name; or to not align with a name, or to not have a definite name is trans*. Because, like the term trans* itself, to be nameless or unnamable “is to refuse certainty in the act of naming” (Halberstam, 3). Hence a nameless, unnamable, or constantly changing entity, in these narratives and otherwise, refuses a stable ground to breed categorization. However, this presentation does not aim to suggest that we can or cannot function without names or categories. Instead, it argues that whatever names and titles we possess do not necessarily have to be static or absolute, i.e., to say that names or categories will always mix, permeate, and permute.
This presentation concludes by expanding the central thesis; suggesting that trans* is not a new category born out of a struggle of unnameability, with a template of fundamental characteristics, which can be exported to study different kinds of bodies in different cultural contexts. Rather, it is trans*’s unnameability—that can be discerned from exploring indigenous narratives—that pressurizes and allows readers of various kinds of bodies to interrogate the effects namelessness or unnameability has on the (normative) desire of readers to categorize physical and literary bodies.
Gender is needed to fight gender ideology
Unni Leino Tampere University, Finland
Finnish has no distinction between sex and gender: both fall within the meaning of sukupuoli (although that word does not cover sexuality in the way sex does in English). In public debate related to trans issues, implications inherent in this lack of distinction have at times been used to claim on the one hand that trans people would benefit from having a consistent sukupuoli whose different aspects are aligned, and on the other hand that trans people are deluded to not accept the physically visible evidence.
Much of the debate can be explained by polysemy: while people talk of sukupuoli, and to an extent also sex and gender, they may refer to the same phenomenon but frame it in different ways. The difference here is not in the concept itself but rather in the surrounding mental space and the nearby concepts in it. One who looks at the sex/gender complex as something fundamentally related to anatomy is likely to arrive at different views than someone who relates it primarily to concepts within the sphere of human society – and in a debate on trans issues, both can resonably think they are right.
A lot of our modern conceptualisation of trans issues is essentially borrowed from the Anglosphere. In a present-day Finnish setting, this raises questions like how one should translate transsexual and transgender, but it also touches issues related to the way the agrarian Finnish view on gender was replaced by the 'traditional' one that originated in Victorian bourgeoisie. At the moment we seem to be in a phase when anti-trans movements spread globally, and this seems to finally be the route by which the sex/gender distinction is being borrowed to Finnish, even if in some distorted form. After all, one cannot be gender critical or oppose gender ideology if there is no gender.
Transing the Finnish knowledge production of Social and Health Care
Samuel Salovaara, University of Lapland, Finland
Since 2003, due to the reform of the legislation (No. 563/2002), the precondition for receiving gender-affirming care from public health care in Finland has been to apply for the Gender Identity Clinic and go through the examination process “successfully”, resulting in a diagnosis that allows referrals to gender-affirming treatment. This, however, may not be enough either, as those providing gender-affirming services may still refuse to provide services to the client if they say the client does not meet the required criteria (Loponen 2021). For many, access to gender-affirming treatments is vital and life without them may seem impossible (Grant et al. 2011). Failures in access to gender-affirming care may deprive the client of the opportunity to participate in society as their authentic self and cause significant difficulties in social relationships, education, and working life, sometimes even preventing them altogether (Sevelius 2013; Mattila et al. 2015).
Gender-affirming treatments and their availability are therefore, to the greatest extent possible, a matter of holistic human health and well-being (Meier ym 2011). However, there is very little research on the subject in Finland, from the perspectives of medicine, nursing and social work. At the University of Lapland, we are embarking on a research project (led by professor Leena-Maija Rossi) focusing on service processes for Gender Identity Clinic and genderaffirming care in social and health care. The research is carried out in a multi-method manner by utilizing survey and interview data on the experiences of clients and professionals familiar with the mentioned services (see Salovaara 2022). In the research project, our goal is to examine how power (Foucault 1979) functions in these service processes and what kind of subjects, relationships, practices, aspirations, and consequences it produces. We also ask what impact power relations have on the quality of service processes.
Although clients in need of gender-affirming care are only one minority in the social and health care clientele, it is still possible that studying at this group can provide information on service processes in general and possibly also in relation to other (minority) client groups. Also, it is both socially and humanly necessary to do research on the implementation of Gender Identity Clinic and gender-affirming treatments, since the lack of knowledge in this area can undermine the access of a vulnerable group to high-quality and adequate social and health services. In the worst case, this could lead to fatal consequences (see Grant ym. 2011).
In addition, it is advisable that the research be carried out in collaboration with transresearchers and trans-communities, drawing on the experiential knowledge generated by experiential expertise.
Foucault, M. 1979. The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction. London: Penguin
Grant, J., Mottet, L., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. & Keisling M. 2011. Injustice at
Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington:
National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Loponen, I. 2021. Navigointia terveydenhuollossa. Sukupuolivähemmistöjen kokemuksia
yleisestä terveydenhuollosta ja sukupuolen korjausprosessista. Master's thesis. University of
Mattila, A., Tinkanen, H. 2015. Transsukupuolisuuden hoito Suomessa. Duodecim 131, 363–
Meier, S.C., Fitzgerald, K., Pardo, S., Babcock, J. 2011. The effects of hormonal gender
affirmation treatment on mental health in female-to-male transsexuals. Journal of Gay &
Lesbian Mental Health 15(3), 281–299.
Salovaara, S. 2022. Sukupuolen korjaushoitojen saatavuus Suomessa: Sukupuolen
korjaushoitoja toivoneiden ja saaneiden kokemuksia hoitojen saatavuudesta ja hoitoon pääsyn
esteistä vuosina 2003-2021. Seta ry. https://seta.fi/2022/03/22/sukupuolen-korjaushoidonsaamisessa-paljon-esteita-ja-hidasteita/
Sevelius, J. M. 2013. Gender affirmation: A framework for conceptualizing risk behavior
among transgender women of color. Sex Roles 68(11-12), 675-689.
No. 563/2002 Act on legal recognition of the gender of transsexuals
Trans temporalities and Camille Auer’s “Monument for the Excluded”
Kaarna Tuomenvirta University of Helsinki, Finland
In this paper, I analyse Camille Auer’s art piece “Monument for the Excluded” from the point of view of trans time. Auer has created a multimedia art piece that focuses on her experiences at the Tampere gender identity clinic. This piece has inspired me to think with/through it and wonder especially about trans time of healing, at this point mostly healing from experiences at gender identity clinics. I start with an understanding of the nonlinearity of queer time as written by Halberstam (2005), and I move on to discuss with Kafer (2013) and her concept of time of undiagnosis, and Pearce (2018) and her concept of anticipation time. I touch upon the ideas of unfolding (Ahmed 2007) and collapsing in regard to trans futurities, with the help of a minicast (mini-podcast) episode by the nickname vihaanliitulakui. I will end with the questions of what is trans time of healing and what kind of possible futures does it offer to transgender people.
Tracing the genealogies of feminist natures: Donna Haraway, ecofeminism, and transinclusive conceptualisations of nature Kuura Irni University of Helsinki, Finland email@example.com In this paper I trace the genealogies of ecological and animal feminisms and feminist conceptualisations of nature, in particular Carol Adams’ ecofeminism and Donna Haraway’s thought on naturecultures, from a trans studies perspective. Tracing these genealogies to the turn of 1990s, I argue that one key in Haraway’s disagreement with, and alternative to, ecofeminist conceptualisations of nature concerns whether the theoretical approach to nature will be trans-inclusive. I suggest that the turn of 1990s was important for feminist theory production concerning the concept of nature, because it entailed differentiation between what was to become queer and trans feminist, sex positive research tradition and trans-exclusive and the so-called sex negative research tradition. Adamsian strand of ecofeminism is more or less neglected within Western mainstream feminism; as I suggest, as a result of both disregard of nonhuman animal exploitation in mainstream feminism and as a result of radical feminist influence in ecofeminist conceptualisation of nature, as this radical feminist perspective appears at worst as essentialist, trans-exclusive, and ethnocentric. Ecofeminists have recently attempted to respond to the critiques of essentialism by turning to the notion of intersectionality in their argumentation. However, I suggest that even though a turn to the notion of intersectionality has provided some answers to these critiques, it has not solved the problem of trans-exclusive theorisation. I suggest that Haraway’s conceptualisation of nature offered an alternative that has had great influence on present-day trans-ecological thinking. I also point to the implications of Haraway’s conceptualisation of nature to the ways in which ecological approaches have emerged within trans studies.
Tracing the genealogies of feminist natures: Donna Haraway, ecofeminism, and transinclusive conceptualisations of nature
Kuura Irni University of Helsinki, Finland
In this paper I trace the genealogies of ecological and animal feminisms and feminist conceptualisations of nature, in particular Carol Adams’ ecofeminism and Donna Haraway’s thought on naturecultures, from a trans studies perspective. Tracing these genealogies to the turn of 1990s, I argue that one key in Haraway’s disagreement with, and alternative to, ecofeminist conceptualisations of nature concerns whether the theoretical approach to nature will be trans-inclusive. I suggest that the turn of 1990s was important for feminist theory production concerning the concept of nature, because it entailed differentiation between what was to become queer and trans feminist, sex positive research tradition and trans-exclusive and the so-called sex negative research tradition. Adamsian strand of ecofeminism is more or less neglected within Western mainstream feminism; as I suggest, as a result of both disregard of nonhuman animal exploitation in mainstream feminism and as a result of radical feminist influence in ecofeminist conceptualisation of nature, as this radical feminist perspective appears at worst as essentialist, trans-exclusive, and ethnocentric. Ecofeminists have recently attempted to respond to the critiques of essentialism by turning to the notion of intersectionality in their argumentation. However, I suggest that even though a turn to the notion of intersectionality has provided some answers to these critiques, it has not solved the problem of trans-exclusive theorisation. I suggest that Haraway’s conceptualisation of nature offered an alternative that has had great influence on present-day trans-ecological thinking. I also point to the implications of Haraway’s conceptualisation of nature to the ways in which ecological approaches have emerged within trans studies.