Bodies of Knowledge

This event has been postponed out of an abundance of caution in response to concerns about COVID-19. This event will be RESCHEDULED.

Thank you for your patience and support as we navigate this unique situation. For questions, please contact the Office of Special Events at (864) 503-5984.

Re-envisioning Transgender 

April 9 & 10, 2020

Location: CLC Ballroom  (unless otherwise noted) 

Faculty/Student registration is free.
General registration is $40.

To submit a paper for this conference,
see the "Call for Papers"

Bodies of Knowledge is an LGBTQ-themed event founded in 2008 in memory of Sean Kennedy, a young man who was killed in Greenville in 2007. There are several goals of this biennial event: to create a safer, more understanding community for everyone by offering high-quality presentations about LGBTQ experience in the Upstate and beyond; to change the conversation around LGBTQ lives in the Upstate; to improve the climate of the Upstate for its LGBTQ youth, and promote civil and well-informed discussion around sexuality and nonconforming gender identities in the region.

The 2020 event will focus on the politics, culture, and health issues surrounding the transgender community. According to a 2016 Williams Institute report, there are an estimated 21,000 transgender adults living in the state of South Carolina.

Transgender people face significantly more challenges than do other members of the LGBTQ+ community. In a 2018 report entitled “Understanding LGBTQ Needs in Spartanburg County,” transgender and genderqueer respondents commented that the Upstate region “needs improved education on transgender identities and improved access to transgender-specific health care needs.” The 2020 Bodies of Knowledge promises to help bridge the current gap in understanding trans experiences and improve the local climate for transgender people in the Upstate through creative presentations from scholar and artists.

*excerpts from article on, Heather Marie Schiefer

  • April 9

    9:25 a.m - 10:40 a.m.

    Dr. Austin H. Johnson
    Assistant Professor of Sociology at Kenyon College

    Out Here Now: Trans Life in the U.S. Southeast

    What is transgender experience like in the 21stcentury U.S. Southeast? While social, legal, and economic barriers continue to create difficulties in the lives of trans and nonbinary people in this region, community organizers are changing what is possible for transgender people in rural southern settings. From the Knights & Orchids Society in Selma, Alabama to My Sistah’s House in Memphis, TN to Gender Benders in Greenville, SC, transformative leaders, organizations, and initiatives across the region are supporting this population in finding ways to flourish through a range of direct services and educational workshops. These direct services include pop-up clinics for legal name and gender marker change, emergency housing services, food pantries, HIV-testing and prevention, and regional gatherings for trans community building. This talk introduces audience members to a new story of resilience and social change embodied by this groundswell of grassroots activism. Learning outcomes include replacing negative stereotypes about trans and non-binary experiences in the U.S. southeast with more accurate information about positive changes underway, exposing audiences to the richness of trans and non-binary life in the U.S. southeast, recognizing successful efforts from within the trans and non-binary community to make a positive life for this population possible in this place, and becoming familiar with specific trans and non-binary leaders, organizations, and initiatives across the region.

    Austin H. Johnson teaches courses on the sociology of health and illness, the sociology of sexualities, queer theory, research methods, and an introductory sociology course, Institutions & Inequalities. He earned his PhD from Kent State University's Department of Sociology in 2017. He is also an alumnus of USC Upstate, class of 2008, and currently serves on the board of Gender Benders, a thriving community organization for transgender people and allies in the Upstate region. Johnson offers workshops on trans-inclusive medical and educational environments and co-organizes the annual Gender Bender Summer and Winter camps.

    10:50 a.m. - 12:05 p.m. 

    Dr. Marquis Bey
    Assistant Professor of African American Studies and English at Northwestern

    Doing Black Trans Feminism

    This talk will establish for participants what Black trans feminism is and looks like. After defining each of the terms—Black, trans, and feminism—the talk will proceed by way of providing a holistic understanding of Black trans feminism as a political endeavor, demonstrating what role non-Black/trans/women advocates have in engaging Black trans feminism, and offering the insistence on life and action presented by Black trans nonbinary scholar-activists Dr. Kai M. Green and Dr. Treva Ellison.

    Black trans feminism is not simply “bringing in” Black people to questions concerning transgender people and feminism, nor is it bringing in transgender people to Black feminism. It is how one engages the world when all three converge as a political stance, not simply an identity. To bring about such transformation, it is necessary that those not identified as Black or transgender or women become not “allies” but something more rigorous: accomplices. In order to continue doing the necessary work, we cannot succumb to hopelessness or pessimism. We must remain hopeful. We do not necessarily need to be what is often touted as “real” social justice advocates—protesting in the streets, canvassing, agitating political figures, etc. We need only remember the words of the late Toni Morrison: Do what you can where you’re at.

    12:15 p.m.  - 1:30 p.m.

    Dr. Tey Meadow
    Assistant Professor of Sociology at Columbia University

    Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century

    Trans Kids is a trenchant ethnographic and interview-based study of the first generation of families affirming and facilitating gender nonconformity in children. Whereas previous generations of parents sent such children for psychiatric treatment aimed at a cure, these parents agree to call their children new names, allow them to wear whatever clothing they choose, and approach the state to alter the gender designation on their passports and birth certificates. Sociologist Tey Meadow argues that these parents are negotiating gender in new and significant ways, with everyone and everything, from intimates to institutions.

    Drawing from sociology, philosophy, psychology and sexuality studies, Meadow depicts the intricate social processes that shape gender acquisition. Where once atypical gender expression was considered a failure of gender, now it is a form of gender. Engaging and rigorously argued, Trans Kids underscores both the centrality of ever more particular configurations of gender in both our physical and psychological life, and the increasing embeddedness of personal identities in social institutions.  

    Dr. Tey Meadow is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. After receiving her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and PhD from New York University, she joined the Princeton Society of Fellows as the Fund for Reunion-Cotten Fellow in LGBT Studies. Prior to joining Columbia's faculty, she was Assistant Professor of Sociology and Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University.

    1:40 p.m. - 2:55 p.m.

    Dr. Heath Fogg Davis
    Associate Professor of Political Science at Temple University

    Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter? 

    Beyond Trans pushes the conversation on gender identity to its limits: questioning the need for gender categories in the first place. Whether on birth certificates or college admissions applications or on bathroom doors, why do we need to mark people and places with sex categories? Do they serve a real purpose or are these places and forms just mechanisms of exclusion? Heath Fogg Davis offers an impassioned call to rethink the usefulness of dividing the world into not just Male and Female categories but even additional categories of Transgender and gender fluid. Davis, himself a transgender man, explores the underlying gender-enforcing policies and customs in American life that have led to transgender bathroom bills, college admissions controversies, and more, arguing that it is necessary for our society to take real steps to challenge the assumption that gender matters. 

    He examines four areas where we need to re-think our sex-classification systems: sex-marked identity documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports; sex-segregated public restrooms; single-sex colleges; and sex-segregated sports. Speaking from his own experience and drawing upon major cases of sex discrimination in the news and in the courts, Davis presents a persuasive case for challenging how individuals are classified according to sex and offers concrete recommendations for alleviating sex identity discrimination and sex-based disadvantage. For anyone in search of pragmatic ways to make our world more inclusive, Davis’ recommendations provide much-needed practical guidance about how to work through this complex issue. A provocative call to action, Beyond Trans pushes us to think how we can work to make America truly inclusive of all people.

    3:05 p.m. - 4:20 p.m.

    Conference Panels

    Critical Trans Politics, Rhetorics, Affects, and Identities

    Gendered as (Un)usual: Critical Trans Politics and Routine Police Violence, Arin Yost (Agnes Scott College)

    Nonbinary Gender in California Law: Recognition as Surveillance?, Keaton Gaughan (University of Texas at Austin)

    Pronoun(c)ed Feelings: Transgender Rhetorics and Linguistic Affect, Anson Koch-Rein (UNC School of the Arts)

    Becoming Trans: Trans Men in the South, Baker A. Rogers (Georgia Southern)

    6:00 p.m.

    Trans Stories: An Evening of Performance (with opening reception)

    Keagan Wheat, FTM Poetry: Refusing to Disidentify?

    Hauk, Living with Cross-Dressing, Setting the Example

    Location: Converse College 

    April 10

    9:30 a.m. - 10:20 p.m. 

    Transgender Experiences in Higher Ed

    Transgender U: Three Stories of Nonbinary Experiences in Higher Ed, Casey Anne Brimmer, Ashley Meyers, and Naloti Palma-Kaluma

    Where Are We At? Where Are We Going?: Surveying the Trans Landscape in Higher Education and Student Affairs, T. J. Jourian, Alden Jones, and Chase Catalano

    College in Transition: Beyond Transgender Inclusion Policies as Best Practices in Higher Education, Maggie Nanney (Virginia Tech)

    Location: University Readiness Center Great Room

    10:30 a.m. - 11:20 p.m. 

    Latinx Trans Experience

    At the Limits of Desire: A Black Transfeminine Perspective of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, Joshua Reason (U of Texas at Austin)

    Transgender Experience in Coastal Ecuador, Alessandra Adorisio (Florida Atlantic)

    Tengo Sueño: A Cross-* Historical Latina Dream of Borders, Religion, and Trans Identity, Sam Sanchinel (University of Toronto)

    Location: University Readiness Center Great Room

    11:30 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.

    Trans Intersectionality

    Re-envisioning Gendered Disorders: The Intersection of Transness, Fatness, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Kelly Durgan (Georgia State)

    The Sister that Never Was: Pauli Murray and the Pronominal Problem, Naomi Simmons-Thorne (USC)

    Trans Environmental Ethics in the Anthropocene: Toward A “Regenerative Eco Politics,” Lauran Whitmore (Agnes Scott College)

    Location: University Readiness Center Great Room

    12:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. 

    Media Representations Panel / Luncheon

    Re-envisioning (and not) Transgender Characters in Film and Television, 1996-2019, Scott Henderson (Furman University)

    Transnormativity on Television: A Critical Analysis of the Amazon Original Series Transparent, Caroline Jackson (Georgia State)

    Location: University Readiness Center Great Room

    1:00 a.m. - 1:20 p.m. 

    Closing Remarks

    Spirituality: Transforming God, Ash Penn

    Location: University Readiness Center Great Room

    Bodies of Knowledge Cosponsors:

    • Spartanburg County Foundation LGBT Fund
    • USC Upstate Office of Institutional Equity, Inclusion, and Engagement
    • USC Upstate Center for Women's and Gender Studies
    • USC Upstate Child Protection Training Center
    • USC Columbia Women's and Gender Studies Program
    • Southeastern Women's Studies Association
    • Converse College
  • Bodies of Knowledge 7

    The theme of the seventh biennial Bodies of Knowledge Symposium was One Queer Mother, with the concept of motherhood broadly construed. In addition to a literal focus on queer motherhood and alternative kinship, the symposium theme also represents an enthusiastic declaration of the will-to-queerness (i.e., this is gonna be one queer mother). 

    Bodies of Knowledge 6

    Bodies of Knowledge 6 focused on the various way of being LGBTQ including the broad  topic of LGBTQ cultural mores. Thomas McBee kicked off the symposium with a talk on being “Trans, but Not Like You Think.” Lectures included Dr. David Halperin (author of "How to Be Gay" and co-founder of "GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies") and Dr. Bernadette Barton (author of "Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays").

    Bodies of Knowledge 5

    Bodies of Knowledge 5 focused on embodied knowledge at the intersection of sexual orientation and dis/ability. Terry Galloway was the featured performer. She performed a solo of "Out All Night and Lost My Shoes." The performance was an energetic mix of poetry, storytelling and stand-up comedy. Terry Galloway engaged the crowd while asking tough questions during the performance, which has been described as one of the fundamental texts in the history of disability performance.

    Bodies of Knowledge 4 

    Bodies of Knowledge 4 took place on Thursday, October 28, 2010.  The featured speaker was renowned lesbian activist and playwright, Sarah Schulman, based on her book, Ties that Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences (The New Press, 2009), described by feminist activist Susan Brownmiller as “a cri de coeur woven into a utopian vision.”  

    Bodies of Knowledge 3

    Bodies of Knowledge 3 featured several fantastic speakers and performers noted for their clear and jargon-free public speaking (an absolute must in the criteria for speaker selection). 

    Dr. Laura Alexandra Harris publishes on African-American femme lesbian sexual orientation and gender identity, intervening in stereotypical equations of black lesbians with “butches” and challenging the association of “femmes” with passive women.   

    Dr. Robert McRuer is the author of Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (NYU, 2006) and The Queer Renaissance: Contemporary American Literature and the Reinvention of Lesbian and Gay Identities (NYU, 1997). He is co-editor, with Abby L. Wilkerson, of Desiring Disability: Queer Theory Meets Disability Studies, which appeared as a special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (2003). 

    S. Bear Bergman is  a writer, a theater artist, an instigator, a gender-jammer, and a good example of what happens when you overeducate a contrarian. Bergman is also the author of Butch is a Noun (Suspect Thoughts Press, 2006) and three award-winning solo performances, as well as a frequent contributor to anthologies on all manner of topics.  

    Katastrophe (aka Rocco Kayiatos) is a San Francisco-based rapper and producer, not to mention a seasoned vet on the mic who got his start competing in poetry slams in 1997. He uses his poetic grasp of language to weave dense tales of lives lived outside the mainstreams of education, gender, sexuality and culture. 

    Bodies of Knowledge 2

    Bodies of Knowledge 2 featured several dynamic speakers.

    Kirk Read lives and works in San Francisco’s Mission district, touring the United States as an author and solo performer.  Read is the author of How I Learned to Snap, a memoir about being openly gay in a small Virginia high school.  

    Julia Serano is an Oakland, California-based writer, spoken word performer, trans activist, and biologist with a doctorate in biology and molecular physics from Columbia University. She released one of the most groundbreaking works of gender theory in recent years with her 2007 essay collection, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity.  

    Keynote Speaker Jennifer Baumgardner is a major figure in the contemporary women’s movement, having essentially jumpstarted the third wave of feminism with her book Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (co-authored with Amy Richards) after leaving hometown Fargo, North Dakota for a job in Manhattan at Ms. Magazine.  Her most recent book took a more personal turn and explored her own experiences as a bisexual woman after having a serious relationship with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls.

    Bodies of Knowledge 1

    The first Bodies of Knowledge symposium included the following renowned speakers. 

    Dr. Kelly James comes highly recommended as a public speaker on facilitating productive dialogue and community among LGBTQ students and their heterosexual classmates, campus neighbors, and surrounding Spartanburg community members. 

    Dr. Bernadette Barton, a feminist sociologist on the faculty at Morehead University, is currently working on a new project called The Toxic Closet: Being Gay in the Bible Belt. Her qualitative interviews address coming out, homophobia, and the impact of religious fundamentalism on LGBTQ southerners.  

    Helen Boyd is the author of My Husband Betty, a memoir and treatise on transgender issues that was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and is now in its sixth printing. Her second book, She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband, has been called “the (im)perfect modern love story” and “a postmodern reflection on transness.” Her blog (en)gender can be found online at  

    Dr. Marilee Lindemann is the Director of the LGBT Studies program at University of Maryland and is a Professor of English with a special focus on the novels of Willa Cather, a major figure of nineteenth-century American literature. Dr. Lindemann will present a lecture on queer theory and the American literary canon, using her scholarship on Willa Cather both by addressing the closeted homosexuality of the author and the subtext of gay and lesbian themes in Cather’s literary texts. 

    Unapologetically Black, Jasmyne Cannick is known for addressing the issues that others can't or simply won't. At 30, Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class and politics as played out in the African-American community. An award-winning journalist and blogger, Jasmyne was selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine's 25 Women Shaping the World.