There’s loads of cool writing around time. Writers like Lee Edelman and Jack Halberstam have theorised queer time as defying the heteronormative expectations of family and reproduction. We might also start to think about trans time in relation to the ever-increasing amounts of time that trans people spend on waiting lists in order to access health care. People within Disability Studies, such as Alison Kafer, Eliza Chandler, Rod Michalko and Emma Sheppard (to name just a few), have also written around time – those exploring crip time think about the different ways that time and space function for disabled people. Sheppard, for example, asks whether crip time ‘can include liminal spaces of becoming chronically pained, including medicalised spaces/times of testing and diagnosis’. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the amount of extra time things are taking at work due to the anti-trans climate that we’re currently in the midst of.
Hours rolling into days (and nights) spent trying to work out whether events are safe to speak at, and discussing with event organisers how to make them as safe as possible.
Time spent emailing journals, asking how they ensure that their review processes are trans inclusive and how they would deal with subsequent complaints. Time spent reading, thinking about, and responding to the answers – wondering whether this is a safe and supportive place to publish.
Time spent advising institutions on how they could have done better when things have gone wrong (time spent wondering whether they’ll respond).
Time spent messaging my mates and colleagues, posting in trans community groups and spaces, about how the impacts of things fucking up, asking advice and looking for solidarity.
Time frames imposed on me to respond when others complain about my work, then much longer time periods spent waiting and worrying to hear a response about how the complaint will be handled.
Months wondering whether I should be kicking up a fuss when I notice yet another transphobe has some form of institutional power, knowing from experience how much time challenging this will take.
Days spent emailing my university informing them of attacks on social media; sleepless nights worrying about if something is going to trigger it again.
Hours spent trying to get my university to understand, acknowledge and resource the context that I’m working in.
….I could go on…
It is not only trans people whose time is being wasted and energy sapped in HE right now though. Disabled academics’ time is often spent finding out about and negotiating access to conferences, event spaces (including those online), their offices and classrooms. Like trans people, academics of colour are targeted by the government through, for example, the Academic Freedom Bill – which is rooted in racism as well as transphobia – and face attacks to their work and existance through complaints and publication. Again, the list could go on…
What’s a good use of time?
I’m quite lucky really – being trans in UK academia right now undoubtedly takes it toll – but I’m in a secure job, so I get paid for a lot (although by no means all) of the time that I spend sorting out and thinking about the above. As Ruth Pearce notes, the precarity of neoliberal higher education makes dealing with experiences of marginalisation within the academy much more difficult. I’ve also developed networks of support and solidarity, which have helped me to develop processes to deal with some of the above. Yet, there is often a need due to safety for spaces and networks of trans solidarity to be secret and hidden, finding your way in as a Early Career Researcher can be difficult.
Reflecting on the above, I’ve been trying to re-orientate my time. I couldn’t begin to add up the amount of time I’ve spent over the last few years reacting to instances of transphobia. I don’t regret this as such – it has felt necessary. But it doesn’t feel sustainable. So, rather than constantly responding to the shit that gets thrown at us, I’ve been thinking about the spaces in which I have some power to try and make some change (and hopefully create networks so responding to shit can be a collective endeavour). I’ve written a bit in my previous blog post about the Queer Disability Studies network which I hope will be result in building much-needed trans inclusive spaces within Disability Studies (NB: there is currently a call for submission to the networks launch event – follow the link for more info!).
The other place that I’ve been trying to put my time is into my union, and my local union branch in particular. As well as becoming a rep, I’ve recently taken a trans solidarity motion to my local union branch. Taking this motion felt like a risk – it meant coming out to colleagues who I’d not spoken to about being trans before, and it left open the possibility of finding out about my colleagues that I’d rather stayed unearthed (feelings echoed by Kit Heyam). Those feelings haven’t completely disappeared but, to my relief, the motion passed with only a handful of abstentions.
The motion is, in part, an attempt to claw back some time from the university – for them to acknowledge and resource both time spent dealing with transphobia, and time that they ask of trans staff in helping them develop trans-inclusive policies and practice (which doesn’t always feel like a good use of time!). It also asks for the time of those already offering solidarity and support to be resourced through a mentoring scheme, and for some of the pressure put on trans staff to educate the university to be removed, by paying an external trans-led organisation to do that work. Although it’s passed, I’m not sure what tangible change that union motion will result in within my university, but it’s been nice to connect with other trans staff through union stuff – such as this UCU webinar on LGBT+ liberation that I’ve been invited to speak at next week (12th May) (I think they’ll be a recording, which I’ll add a link to after the event).
I’ve been wondering though, whether the motion was quite right. Whilst there is a specific context of transphobia, the demands are ones that could (and should) support those marginalised by more than just transphobia. I’d like to spend some time over the next year working on broader equalities stuff within my union branch, and would be really up for talking this through with other marginalised UCU members.
I’ve also been thinking about the ways in which we might be able to save time through sharing resources. I Tweeted yesterday that, because I’m a part-time member of staff and there’s a bank holiday, this is a two day working week for me. In that two days, I’ll have had three conversations with event organisers asking about, and advising on their protocols for keeping trans speakers and participants safe during online events.
In my Tweet, I asked that event organisers put this kind of information in any invitations that they send inviting trans speakers and/or people to speak on trans related topics (in the same way that event organisers should make access information for disabled people prominent).
I was thinking about how many trans people – academics, activists etc. – must be having these kinds of conversations, and whether there was a resource of best practice already out there. I’ve started a google doc outlining some of the things that I’d like them to think about in terms of safety for trans speakers and participants, which I’m going to use to send to event organisers if I’m invited to speak. Feedback and thoughts are welcome on this before I move it over to this blog – feel free to use it if it’s helpful to you.
What other resources would be useful that could collectively save us time in the long run? Please point me to places where things like this exist!