A few years ago I worked on an elearning project with a great team of colleagues across all campuses (with lots of remote working via Zoom before everyone was doing it!) but a few things happened during it and other elearning projects going on at the time that left me feeling burnt out and filled with fear and anxiety related to elearning work ever since, which held me back a bit. Not really being able to debrief (and being told that this was because it would be too negative) was one of the hardest things as it meant there wasn’t really a chance to move on and learn from it.
Then the pandemic hit and I was forced into it again along with almost everyone else.
It finally felt okay to experiment and make mistakes, to get things out there before they were ‘perfect’, and learn from what worked and didn’t work, which is definitely how I best learn to use technology. Everyone was getting used to new ways of teaching, learning, and working, and generally very understanding and forgiving.
We also had an excellent new elearning advisor join us in the Library at the start of the year and their short and sweet sessions around different educational technologies during the pandemic gave me energy and hope as well as ideas for experimenting with online teaching and learning activities. More recently they’ve been running great sessions on accessibility too.
I even started to kind of love making videos and have a bit of fun putting my own character/style into it (Although I do shudder a bit thinking about some videos I made in the first week of lockdown in March!). Inspired by a few lecturers, I’ve also started to love using Sway – and don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to PowerPoint.
The theme also makes me of the brilliant Sandy O’Sullivan’s recent talk The colonial project of gender: Thinking through museums, creative representation and research imperatives:
Everyone must watch the whole talk several times, but some of Sandy’s comments from the talk that particularly struck me in relation to this theme were “universities share a great deal with the Creation Museum (Kentucky). They’re constantly defining groups according to the gender binary” and “I’m determined, and I’m not unspecified” – reflecting on having to select ‘indeterminate’ or ‘unspecified’ as a trans and non-binary academic.
Further reading/watching/listening from Sandy O’Sullivan:
This theme also made me think of Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans and their note to the reader at the start of the book on gender euphoria and why they have written this excellent book:
“I want people to know about gender euphoria. I want them to learn about it before gender dysphoria. I want the young trans kids that will read this book to be proud of who they are, and imagine wonderful, magic lives for themselves.”
Elliot Page’s very recent post coming out as trans also beautifully and powerfully illustratesthis gender euphoria as well as the dangers -the joy, dreams, and courage, and the risks, fears, and violence:
“I love that I am trans. And I love that I am queer. And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive. To all trans people who deal with harassment, self-loathing, abuse and the threat of violence every day: I see you, I love you and I will do everything I can to change this world for the better.”
I’m still reflecting on how good it felt to be Reid Marginalia at work and it’s been a little hard to go back to Clare.
I intended this to be a micro essay as part of this GLAM blog club challenge, but once I started writing on the theme of Lessen for GLAM blog club, I couldn’t stop… I guess words were one thing I couldn’t lessen, which is a bit of a common theme in my writing, and even though this isn’t exactly micro, I think it might be a bit shorter than my usual posts.
Lessen makes me think of a certain questionable framework deal our university and union executives came up with in an attempt to protect jobs that means we’re all currently doing more while getting paid less and being forced to reduce leave too.
While I am very happy for those who’ve escaped, lessen also reminds me that voluntary redundancies are still redundancies and they have already started to have pretty devastating impacts on morale, culture, technical systems, and workload for those who remain. It sounds like there have been forced redundancies in areas that started restructuring before the framework period began and several more seem highly likely after it ends. Additionally, so many casualised workers have lost work and even more have experienced wage theft and I expect things will get even worse for our casualised comrades so we must stand and work in solidarity with them and try to lessen the impacts.
Workloads have certainly not lessened and I don’t know how anyone could think that they would during a pandemic. The “wellness days” off we’ve been given are like “cram five days of work into four days” (or work on the weekend) – an individualistic and token ‘solution’ to systemic problems.
However, lessen also makes me think of slow librarianship and slow scholarship movements to resist neoliberal time and the cult of productivity and focus on process before product, cooperation before competition, facilitating connection and deep listening, critically evaluating assumptions and power structures, “wasting” time, reflective practice, and building learning cultures, and ways colleagues and I have been trying to do this.
It reminds me of reading How to do nothing: resisting the attention economy by Jenny Odell at the start of this year and learning from diverse disciplines (from ecology and philosophy to IT and creative arts and beyond) that this was not about doing nothing at all but rather about doing ‘nothing’ or ‘unproductive’ work according to capitalism. If only more people in power in universities and government had read this when planning ‘reset’ after the pandemic – then perhaps they wouldn’t have proposed such short sighted and damaging cuts to arts and education, particularly at regional campuses, in an effort to please our very short sighted and harmful government.
This in turn makes me think of union slowdowns or go slows – an arguably less risky form of industrial action than strikes – which could be quite a powerful way to resist workload increases, demonstrate the impact of job losses, and build worker solidarity and our collective power. It seems similar to ‘work to rule’ actions but appeals to me more as feels like there is more room for creativity, collective reflective practice, and even some joy.
Some reading and resources on and ideas related slow librarianship and scholarship:
Intersubjectivity and ghostly library labour by Leo Settoducato: “Libraries are haunted houses, constructed sites of possibility inhabited by ghosts. As our patrons move through scenes and illusions that took years of labor to build and maintain, we workers are hidden, erasing ourselves in the hopes of providing a seamless user experience, in the hopes that these patrons will help defend libraries when the time comes. But I ask that we think deeply about what it means for libraries to be under attack, and why the attachment to that narrative persists…. Library workers at all levels, but especially those who have institutional power, must care for one another and prioritize community wellbeing. Individual actions will not solve structural problems, but they can improve people’s immediate material conditions: that’s something to start with. Haunting is a complex and rich lens through which we can explore what it might be like to be fearless, or to harness fear in a way that is creatively powerful. If we think like ghosts, we can experience time creatively and less urgently, better positioning ourselves to resist the demands of neoliberalism; to imagine and enact positive futurities. When a ghost speaks, those around it are compelled to listen.”
I spent a good two hours or so there listening to, reading and sitting with as many of the powerful and moving diverse stories reflecting on growing up as possible.
The stories were great and I loved the use of mirrors to help people literally see themselves in the museum and the way the mirrors were often partially obscured in an attempt to illustrate the messy/incompleteness. However, the experience felt a little clinical and passive, especially given the theme of experiences of growing up and coming of age lends itself so well to something messy, experimental and playful, and I’m sure the curators had exciting pre-pandemic plans, but, of course, that’s so hard to do while being covid safe. There’s been so much work in the GLAM sector in recent times to make experiences less passive, and I know my own teaching was just starting to become less passive and more student centred and interactive when the pandemic hit. It feels like the pandemic has undone much of this work given its no longer really safe to encourage people to interact with displays or other people in the physical space.
I feel like there is potential to bring some of the messiness and playfulness online and connect the online and physical space, perhaps particularly with social media (although not limited to social media). It looks like they are doing some interesting work with school students around this Becoming you exhibition.
The following recent online queer and trans history iniatives that have come out of the pandemic may provide playful inspiration:
Adventures in Time and Gender I particularly love the way they’ve used ‘wormholes’ to facilitate meandering through the past and help encourage people to dig deeper and learn more in a playful and ethical way. Perhaps the physical Immigration Museum exhibition could use QR codes to link to online wormholes as well as for covid safe tracking. (Is this finally the moment for QR codes in GLAM?!) The suitcase is also an important object (character even) in Adventures in Time and Gender and this could be such a powerful device in the Immigration Museum too.
I’m not sure I’ll manage 11 posts in 11 days and I may not always stick to the themes, but my mind has been running a little wild with critical GLAMorous thoughts on a few things I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, and doing lately and I’m keen to get them out of my head and discuss them, and this could be a springboard to such discussions.
These posts may take the form of micro reviews or recommendations as well as essays.
“It seems I’ve now naturally fallen into a role that many queer and gender-diverse people fall into: that of informal researcher. We silently horde content – URLs, zines, ads, pamphlets, stickers, mp3s, books, posters – to build a personalised buffer, a kind of archive armour, between the self and the cis-hetero world.”
Transsexual Liberation in Lesbianon
Foreman, Ben & Lewis, Susan, ‘Transsexual Liberation‘, Lesbianon, no. 5, Lesbian Anon [This scan courtesy of the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Melbourne], Perth, 1975, p. 3.
“In response to our oppression, and the need to organise against it, a number of us, all transsexuals, have come together under the name of The Transsexual Action Organisation… We extend our full support to the gay and women’s movements because we are all fighting the same oppressor – a society which decrees that a person born male should behave one way and that a person born female in another. We also see ourselves in solidarity with the struggles of mental patients, blacks, prisoners and all other oppressed groups – for the liberation of one can only be achieved by the liberation of all.”
“… Eight F2M boys have come to my attention within the last two months. Though seemingly a small number, compared to knowing only a handful previously and having met no-one before my gender change, this is quite incredible and only goes to show that there are more of us out there than we may well have imagined. Naturally, this is only the tip of a very isolated iceberg. Many of us are still feeling alienated or unsure of our decisions. Most of us lack sufficient information, especially medical, to better aid our decisions. All of us need support. For those of you on this mailing list please consider writing something of yourself and your experiences for others to read. Only first names will be used and naturally no addresses or phone numbers unless specifically given ·for publication will be printed. It’s important that we share our thoughts, insecurities, excitement fears and knowledge. This group can only work if each individual is prepared to participate, even just a little. Don’t leave this newsletter up to a dedicated few. This support group can have a far reaching impact on the quality of our lives and the education of the community at large. You don’t have to already have changed yourself physically yet, or ever intend to, to be involved. Your awareness of your male gender is all that is relevant…”
“Dear Jasper, Thanks very much for the newsletter-It’s great to know there are others going through similar experiences that I am and I find it all very encouraging….”
“Well, I’ve noticed in recent overseas newsletters and in some local literature also, that we transsexuals are now referring to ourselves as”transgenderists”. The change in terminology certainly makes sense, as logically, we are not changing our sexuality but our physical gender. I don’ know who coined the new label but it certainly feels better than the previous one, although it takes a little getting used to. I’d be interested to see if the new term will be used within medical circles.“
“With a little trepidation, much thought and a lot of self analysing, I took a deep breath, then a giant step forwards. Forwards into the world of tranny boys and adopted the new persona of being a man. Now, here I am, a new kid in town. But is this what I really want for my now, my future? Emphatically, from the rooftops of my mind, body, heart and soul I yell. YES! This is what I want. YES! This is where I want to go. YES! YES! A thousand times YES! … Hear I would like to say a very big THANKS JASPER, for making your arduous trek as public as you have. Your doing so has paved the way ahead and made It easier for myself and the others that follow.”
“As a lover of a transsexual (F/M) I feel that there may be others in my position out there who may benefit from my contribution. To start with, Jamie and I have been together for nearly two years. We have celebrated a spiritual union in the presence of our friends and are therefore “married” by our community… To all the transsexuals out there, as a lover of a transsexual, I think I can say there is someone out there for you. I know I am happy with Jamie most of the time and to Jamie the transition to masculinity is the step which will give him peace in this world. To see my lover attain this peace will make me happy for him.”
“How many years have we fought alongside the gay community for their rights and dignity? Where’s the thanks? Trannies are victims of violence too and certainly have even fewer rights than gays. It was quite ironic that the entertainment for the day included three ‘drag’ shows and was hosted by two men in frocks! I am pleased to say that local drag superstar, Cindy Pastel, took to the stage with a placard declaring “Trannies and Bisexuals are Queer too!”. Good on her. Jasper.”
“Dear Jasper, The contact and the newsletters have given me the hope to keep going after hitting another very low spot after being told that I would not be supported in my belief that I am a Transsexual after 2 years in therapy struggling with depression trying to stay sane and looking desperately for a million “other” reasons why I feel the way I am; a male in a female body which came to light in previous few years of therapy by feeling safe and allowing myself to ‘feel”, stop denying and to think about “me” for the first time in my life…”
I found some hope in Lesbians on the loose from the 1990s, including the following in a letter from 1990, but also quite a lot of hate, so I’ve stopped reading for now:
“It’s a time to look at our differences and similarities not a time for them to put a halt to the possibility of our space. So often I see internal politics destroy a movement, an idea, a vision far more effectively than the perceived enemy ever can.”
“Julie Elizabeth Peters [pictured] is believed to be the first endorsed lesbian transsexual candidate for a major political party…. A director of photography at ABC TV, Peters, 44, concedes her chances of beating Labor candidate, ACTU president Martin Ferguson, are slim. But she says her candidature for the Australian Democrats is an important step for tranys.”
“Trans people from their teens to their 70s were asked to identify objects of personal importance and to share the objects’ stories. What emerged was a quirky collection that is a testament to the diversity of trans experiences, and which disrupts established (and cis-written) narratives about trans lives.”
This project was inspired by the Museum of Transology in the UK whose founder, E-J Scott, grew up in Australia, which you can find out more about in the following pieces:
“The Museum of Transology shows that the social agency of museums can be used to foster social cohesion. This show needs to go on the road because its everyday objects help people accept the everydayness of being trans. If it were to tour, community collecting and archiving workshops could run as an engagement programme alongside the exhibition.This would skill trans communities everywhere to build their own museums of transology collections, leaving an imprint on collections throughout the UK and halting the erasure of transcestry. The process would also encourage trans people to enter the museum sector. This is vital, because without them becoming heritage workers, trans narratives will continue to remain unrecognised and unspoken.”
I am so happy I managed to visit and find home in 2019:
In the beforetimes earlier this year, I had a chat with E-J Scott and some museum and academic comrades about bringing the Museum of Transology on tour around Australia. It’s pretty hard to imagine doing anything like that in the near future, but perhaps we’ll be able to do something online like the Te Papa Museum project while we wait.
I also found a bit of hope that things could be different in Pat’s story in Daylesford Stories from 2016 which is quite aligned to my increasingly frequent thoughts of running away to the country and starting or joining an art library.
Student newspapers might also be a good source of trans solidarity and liberation and quite a few seem to be getting digitised and made available online lately, so I think they’ll be my next archival step. Find out more about Australian academic library student newspaper holdings in this paper.
Another thing I did in the beforetimes earlier this year, was visit the University of Newcastle and learn about their GLAMx Lab and work with the Hunter Rainbow History Group and other community history groups. Their work gave me so much hope which has been so necessary in these times, and has led to me embarking on a small project with special collections at MPOW this week (and dreams about special collections cataloguing all weekend!).
“I have been doing even more thinking about this topic than usual in the last month in with much related reflection on inclusion, self care and emotional labour in a risk adverse industry. For a variety of reasons, mostly related to a certain voluntary, non-binding postal survey on Australian marriage law in some way, I have been feeling less safe and a lot more exhausted than usual… so I am going to play it a bit safe this month and share some archival adventures that have helped me find safety and solidarity at a time when I have needed it more than ever.”
You may like to listen to some more library and archival adventures in this podcast interview I did with Anne Rowlands at the beginning of lockdown 1 and check out our pretty extensive reading and other media recommendations list too. See also: Anne’s Transgender-related materials Trove lists.
“Inspired by the caterpillar’s process, cocooning describes a time in your life in which you are strongly encouraged, or more likely forced, to wait — to sit, get comfortable, pour yourself a cup of tea, and prepare for the transformation that is taking place in you. Many of us are being forced to deal with career cocoons right now: cocoons of job loss or career anxiety or general helplessness as we navigate working from home or virtual job searches for the first time.”
It reminded me that COVID-19 had brought similar feelings of grief, loss, uncertainty and anxiety to ones I had following the death of anamazing supervisor and mentor around the time of a large restructure that led to much reflection and soul searching and creativity.
I was reminded of this time in my life again even more recently when another amazing supervisor and mentor I had who helped me through it, Leesa Wheelahan, co-wrote this article on the future and history of higher education and work with Tamson Pietsch. This particular extract from the article reminded me of conversations I had with Leesa that helped inform my decision to become a librarian:
“People need to live in safe, inclusive communities and they need to be able to have a say in the kind of society we share. People, after all, are more than job seekers. People study and go to work so they can sustain themselves and their families and because they find these activities meaningful. They do not study and go to work because it contributes to the creation of markets. This may be the outcome of their activity, but for most people it is not the purpose of their lives. An education system focused on skills misses this bigger picture, in which the whole person is developed for an occupation, which is part of a broader network of occupations in society. Occupations are composed of many specific jobs. They are underpinned by both theoretical and practical knowledge. Occupations have histories, face ethical dilemmas and are part of a complex web of other occupations that work with each other.”
It connects to my queer career experiences and responses (slightly edited) and I thought I would share them here in case it helps anyone in the sector or in another sector navigate COVID-19 induced job (and life) uncertainty and anxiety.
I think they also relate to this month’s GLAM blog club theme of risk and the wonderful Jenny Scott’s thoughts on the topic and offering of inspiration to our sector:
“It is a risk if we don’t promote diverse stories, if we don’t address the less-than-savoury pasts of our institutions, if we don’t produce exhibitions and texts that actively engage with the manifold, nuanced, and often dark histories of this country.“
You can listen to some related thoughts (and reading/listening/viewing recommendations) from me and Anne Rowlands in this Transgender Warriors interview.
I feel like librarianship, particularly the people I’ve met, studied and worked with since becoming a librarian, helped me emerge from a cocoon, find my (genderqueer butterfly) self and community, and given me resources, confidence and connections to take risks, think creatively, share diverse stories, and challenge the status quo and fight for a more fair, just and inclusive society. There’s much more work to be done! ALGA has been like a beautiful queer cocoon that I retreat to when the mainstream GLAM sector (and world) becomes too much, recharge, and then re-emerge to join the fight again with renewed hope.
How has your queer identity influenced your career path?
Growing up with a gay dad and later realising my own queerness helped me discover the power of stories, information and online communities and I’ve found a career where I spend my time helping connect people with stories, information, and communities, and advocating for social justice and inclusion. I first studied psychology and sociology as I knew I wanted to help people and understand, question and change systems in some way, but wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to do that for a long time after I finished studying. I thought about going down a social work or teaching path, but after some grief-induced soul searching in which I connected with librarians and others at work, I realised that librarian jobs sounded like a good combination of those two paths, my interests and experiences. So I started studying a Masters of Information Management where I found a wonderful community of information management students and future librarians and archivists.
It feels like starting my librarian career was very intertwined with realising my nonbinary gender identity as once I’d largely stopped questioning what I was going to do with my life, I started questioning everything else, particularly gender. Studying to be and working as a librarian has not only helped me find my community, but also helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have before.
I am also delighted that I get to work with so many of my trans and queer academic heroes (or queeroes) by day and some of this work has led to my volunteer work with ALGA by night where I’ve met and worked with even more queeroes (and found some in the archives).
Have there been any challenges in your career related to having a queer identity? If yes, how have you approached these challenges?
The biggest challenges relate to the many systems we use in libraries and the large bureaucracies we work in and with that make any change in them very slow. In particular, many libraries use a number of classification systems that were developed many years ago in the US and attempt or claim to be universal and neutral but they have extremely problematic legacies of heterosexism, cissexism, sexism, racism, and more discrimination. I’ve also come across many people in the profession who argue that librarians are and have to be neutral and therefore shouldn’t challenge discrimination or fight for social justice but all that this myth of neutrality does is perpetuate the unequal and discriminatory status quo.
However, there are also many queer and trans people and allies in the sector who have been challenging that myth and advocating to change the systems we use (and improvements have been made). Connecting with these people in archives/from history, on Twitter, and in real life has helped keep me going. It’s also been very empowering working with ALGA as our collection is of our communities, by our communities and for our communities and items are described in our own words. Our collection is more diverse than our name suggests and we’re working on changing the name.
One of the things I am most proud of doing at work is how I’ve helped make time and space for critical, creative and collective reflection with colleagues on our practices and sector. I also enjoy creating book displays in the library and sharing shelfies on social media to amplify LGBTIQ+ voices that sometimes get lost in the stacks due to inadequate and sadly sometimes harmful classification.
Do you have any advice to other queer people interested in starting a career in your industry?
Librarians can be found working in local communities, schools, universities, government departments, law firms, hospitals and state libraries or using their skills outside of libraries in a diverse range of roles from children’s and youth services to research data management. The thing that tends to unite us is not that we love books and reading, but more that we help people in whatever communities we are part of connect with information, stories and each other in different ways. So any experiences you have related to customer service, events management, teaching or tutoring, media and communications, creative work, academic skills support, research assistance, student advocacy, and activism will be extremely helpful for work in libraries.
I also highly recommend connecting with ALGA – I am a bit biased but think it would be an excellent gaytway to the field and a good opportunity for you to see if you like doing this kind of work at the same time as connecting with queer people working in the field.
Finally, I’ve also always been a union member, but only relatively recently started to get actively involved in union organising and it’s been great and empowering, so I highly recommend it. Building solidarity and caring and fighting for workers’ rights is more important than ever in these times.
The theme for GLAM blog club this month is ‘Forever’ and, while the prompts were mostly related to preservation and there’s a lot I could write about that, I’ve taken inspiration from the song Solidarity Forever instead and thought I’d write about unionism and solidarity during this time of physical distancing and hopefully offer a little hope in the dark.
Recommended listening while you read:
This pandemic has exposed some of the worst things about the higher education sector – particularly increasing casualisation and marketisation (not to mention the extremely high Vice Chancellor salaries)- but it’s also helped me see and consolidate some of the best things about it. There’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety at the moment but one thing I’m certain about is that we need to listen to our most precarious colleagues and collectively reshape the sector. I work with academics, many of them on casual and fixed term contracts, and students across disciplines and I’ve seen the different ways academics from legal studies, criminology, history, gender, sexuality and diversity studies, creative arts, literary studies and beyond have been responding to COVID-19 and helping their students contend with the current and future implications of this crisis on their studies, lives, and careers.
I know how essential casualised workers are to the higher education sector, how hard they work, and I’ve heard from students who have said they would probably not still be enrolled if not for the support received from these workers. I have been listening to and working with many of these casualised workers and they have been saying that the Job Protection Framework deal between universities and the NTEU National executive, which is now no longer national, will not help them or many (if any) of us and kind of sells us out.
If you work in the sector, I recommend listening to this conversation about university workers, precarity and unionising, lessons from history on past deals between employers and union leadership that have excluded their most marginalised workers, and utopian ideas for the future of the sector: Uprise Radio – Episode 18 – Universities, Unions and Utopia.
For more lessons from history, The false promise of a national universities deal by Elizabeth Humphrys and Amy Thomas explores past deals between employers and union leadership (including very recent past) that haven’t worked out so well for workers and illustrates the power of organising in the workplace.
I’m normally more of an idealist, but this Realism for optimists: debating the university Jobs Protection Framework piece (and longer pamphlet) by Mike Beggs and Beck Pearse eloquently illustrates many of the conclusions I have come to about the framework and the power of workplace organising. I’m not completely opposed to the idea of some kind of framework and process to help keep employers accountable to their workers, but there’s sadly very little evidence that the NTEU have listened to their rank and file members, particularly their most precarious and marginalised ones, when coming up with this particular one, and in fact there’s evidence that they’re ignoring and silencing us. There appears to be a slight chance that the framework in its current form might help protect jobs and the the status quo in the short term, and therefore protect those in the sector who are most privileged and have benefited from the status quo. I’m not convinced that it will even help them very much, particularly in the long term, and want to help change the system.
During this crisis, I have had more discussions with colleagues about solidarity and collective care and wellbeing being more important than productivity and efficiency, and I’ve probably been part of more critical and collective reflective practice and acion than ever before in the sector, which gives me much hope. I have always strived to facilitate collective and critical reflective practice and support wellbeing in the workplace in various ways, partly inspired by excellent bosses and mentors in higher education sector like Jack Keating and Leesa Wheelahan who have done so too, and I’m pleased that more of these conversations and practices are happening now even while when we can’t meet and connect in the same physical space. I’ve also been looking at feminist, queer, decolonial, and slow theories and practices to explore how we can work towards creating more collective, cooperative, caring, thoughtful and reflective universities rather than the increasingly competitive and corporate ones that have led to the situation we’re in now.
I believe that library workers and our spaces have the potential to play a huge role in connecting academics and students with each other and knowledge across disciplinary and methodological divides and helping them collectively reflect and create and share new knowledges with communities, but we have many of our own silos, hierarchies, and biases to work through to ensure we do so without perpetuating discrimination and inequalities – some of them illustrated by Alissa in this excellent post on the martyr complex in our sector:
“Honestly, when all this is over, I don’t want to go back to normal. Normal was boring. Normal was unjust. Normal was killing me softly. Now is our big chance—our free space—to design a new normal, both within and beyond librarianship. Now is the perfect opportunity to deeply consider why we do things (not just the what and the how). Now is the time to imagine what kind of world we want to live in. The first step towards great change is believing that such change is possible.”
Shortly before the pandemic hit and we started working from home, I attended NTEU delegates training and started working with some excellent fellow delegates in the library and across the university to help improve conditions for workers. Since the pandemic, many of us along with a large number of other members (including many library colleagues, have become very angry at NTEU leadership, but we’re building something great together as illustrated in this powerful and moving speech by a library unionist comrade:
“Long, intense story short, this all came to a head when an entire branch meeting was actively suppressed on Zoom like a Black Mirror techno-dystopian episode and it was transformed into yet another one-way lecture to hard sell the Framework to us. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and triggered the entire branch into an explosive state of fury which decisively turned the tide for us. This upheaval opened the door to us organising an unprecedented mass rank-and-file meeting, which we chaired thoroughly democratically in a way that we were previously denied and built the basis for our victory today.
The achievements of our La Trobe NTEU Fightback group shows that from little things, big things grow. From humble beginnings with two or three of us, we became five, ten, then twenty determined and active campaigners.
Now our group is expanding every day and we’ve effectively formed a new rank and file caucus in our branch. It has taught me that even in desperate, defensive situations you can start building something new and breaking with the past, however difficult that past may be …
This kind of organised collective action and mutual trust is literally what unionism is. We ARE the union. The only question is how organised and active we are.”
I think becoming a delegate and working with these colleagues might be one of the most empowering things I’ve done in my work life so far and we have fun working together too with a messenger chat dedicated to sharing pictures of companion animals, puns about animals and unionism, and friendly reminders to rest and take care of ourselves (and I look forward to having a beer with them when we can safely do so):
Cheers to the Dazzling Unionists Caring for Knowledge workers (DUCKs) against cuts, Casuals and Allies Together in Strength (CATS) caucus, and Librarians Leading Activists in Marvelous Anti-Capitalism (LLAMAs).
“They have taken untold millions That they never toiled to earn But without our brain and muscle Not a single wheel can turn We can break their haughty power Gain our freedom when we learn That the union makes us strong
Solidarity forever Solidarity forever Solidarity forever For the union makes us strong”
From the song “Solidarity Forever” written by Ralph Chaplin (1915)
I read and thought quite a lot about librarianship, particularly the teaching aspects, as a performance last year, and started the year by going to circus 101 performance workshops which included drag, and participating in feral queer camp at Midsumma. As semester 1 approaches, I am thinking about lessons I’ve learned from performance to apply to teaching, and taking them outside the academy (or going feral). I am writing this while sick and watching Mardi Gras and was delighted to hear someone being interviewed say they were a “teacher librarian by day”!
The article on performance and librarianship that has resonated the most is Unpacking and overcoming “edutainment” in library instruction by by Sarah Polkinghorne as I am similarly quite critical of edutainment in the context of the marketisation of education, and some of the alternative lessons from performance resonated with the lessons from the performance workshop and feral queer camp. Polkinghorne illustrates that many of us feel like we are performing when we are teaching, and reflects on aspects of performance that can help librarians create more engaging learning experiences while resisting edutainment. One of those aspects was physicality and this was the main focus of the performance skills workshop I did to help us become aware of and comfortable with our own bodies and voices and I really think it is going to help with my performance/teaching in the library classroom and move beyond “solely cognitivist instructional strategies” and do less over-preparing like Polkinghorne suggests it can.
Physicality is a broad term encompassing the ways in which we communicate with our bodies, through our postures and movements, expressions and gestures… Our presence in the classroom is embodied. Even webinars are embodied, because we use our voices to deliver them. Comfort with our embodied presence is as fundamental to effective face-to-face teaching as it is to any performance.”
Improv was another aspect Polkinghorne suggests we can learn from, particularly for responding to questions in classes, and as I’ve become more confident and experienced this has started to become one of my favourite aspects of teaching. Polkinghorne’s advice is Don’t block, say yes. Make a choice, don’t wimp. Listen.
Possibly the idea that resonated the most with me has been using scores rather than scripts. We use scripts a lot to assist with teaching across campuses and I struggle to follow scripts I haven’t written as it does tend to increase my anxiety, and when I do write a script and bring it with me for comfort and security, I’ve found I increasingly rarely look at it. I am keen to work on developing scores for colleagues to use across campuses as well as scripts to help them tailor the scripts to local student needs and to their teaching style.
“Have you ever enjoyed seeing different actors play the same role? If performances were interchangeable because they use the same script, why would we bother making new ones? We could just watch Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet and call it a day. The answer is that a script is a fraction of a performance. Actors, within the context of a production, contribute the rest.
Non-acting performers are in the same situation: even where there is a script, it could never be the totality of the performance, or enforce “consistency” across performances. Engagement problems arise when the script is prioritized and the performer is overlooked…
In creating a teaching score, you can predetermine your goals and intentions, while also identifying how students will contribute important choices. For example, they might choose areas of emphasis and the order of the discussion. In this way, students are acknowledged as co-creators of each instruction session. This can help to create an environment where more engagement becomes possible.”
Polkinghorne’s final lesson was inspired by Goffman (one of my favourite theorists from my undergrad days) is in ‘defining the situation’ and I’ve started to introduce who I am more (my positionality) and admired other teachers who do this as well as talking about why we’re here, and what the library is and can do for students:
“Unlike teachers and professors, who have ongoing interactions with students within institutional settings and power relationships that are familiar to all involved, librarians are often asked to just show up to class. We often have no pre-existing relationship with the group of students whom we’ve been tasked to teach. It’s our responsibility to define that situation. Doing so can help to acknowledge and to address the fact that students, teaching faculty, and librarians often have diverse ideas about libraries and about what we teach. Here are some things that I regularly choose whether or not and how to define for students in my instruction sessions:
what the purpose of my presence is,
who I am,
what I do for students,
what the library is, and
what the library can do for students,
If we’re reflecting honestly on how to convey this information and bring everyone in the classroom into shared common understanding, we will encounter the tension that exists between honesty and idealisation. This is what Goffman, generally put, called “back stage” and “front stage” personae.
A lecturer I’ve been working with over the first month recently mentioned that they are aware that much library work is invisible and that they were very keen to really clearly acknowledge my labour this semester and make it visible to students and we’ve been discussing ideas for guest performances – bringing the back stage to the front stage.
Some of my favourite parts of feral queer camp perhaps not surprisingly involved the ACT UP teach in and ACT UP in conversation events at Hares and Hyenas where we learnt about and discussed the powerful ways ACT UP used street performance as a protest to raise awareness about the treatment of people with HIV/AIDS and discrimination against queer communities. Performance is emotive and can help make experiences, knowledges, theories and information accessible to broader communities, outside academic institutions and help people understand experiences different from one’s own lived experiences.
Speaking of which, I have also come up with a new drag name: Reid Marginalia as Marginalia sounds more GLAM (and glam) than Moore & I love marginalia as a way to connect with a text and its community of readers. I feel this is more on brand for me than simply getting people to read more (although I’m quite good at that). I am slightly regretting not having given my talk on queerying classification earlier this month at Melbourne Free Uni as Reid Marginalia, but there may be more opportunities for that! It felt like my talk at Melbourne Free Uni was my first attempt at going feral” post feral queer camp and I am keen to do more like it.
Inspired by all of the above, although with a little less time to prepare than I would have liked, I am organising a cardiParty on queerying the GLAM sector next month (on Friday the 13th) and queerying the cardiParty format a little bit using ‘teach in’ techniques (registration will open very soon).
I am inviting everyone to contribute resources, questions and ideas for action to this Google Doc before, during and after the event, so please do so.
I’ve been struggling to write a response to the KINQ manifesto since it launched and think I’m going to try to queery that too and perform a response as Reid Marginalia (similar to the way Foxxy ‘99’ Peel (Craig) and Maxwell ‘the Saint’ Steed-Powers (Nikki) launched KINQ as agents of KINQ) so watch this space!
I saw this post by Alex Bayley and realised this whole blog has become a little like an Annotated Bibliography of the Inside of My Head. I thought I would share some books I love and have mentioned one or several times on here before, but also include a few I haven’t yet mentioned. So many of these books are ones I literally carried with me for quite a while after I had finished them so that I could bring it out in conversations, so I guess I am kind of a walking bibliography. There is also some overlap with this Transgender Warriors trans masc summer reading list.
This text was my gaytway to Australian queer history. I was reading a lot of memoirs around the time I first read it and loved the way Dicinoski weaved memoir, local and family histories, and queer histories together. I am pretty sure they were read as lesbians by the author, but I found trans possibilities in Bill Edwards (“The Boy Barmaid“) and Edward De Lacy Evans in this book. It was also one of the first times I read something that got me hooked on history as I had been pretty disengaged from history education thanks to school… and perhaps even the first time I experienced a kind of Archive Fever…. I did start studying Information Management to become a librarian or archivist shortly after reading it.
I’ve already written about where Confessions of the Fox has taken me this year but had to include it again as I really haven’t been able to get it out of my head all year. It helped me discover my new favourite genre: historical metafiction. I love the idea of drawing on queer, trans, anti-racist, anti-imperialist and more theories to imagine different possibilities and create fiction. There’s a resources list at the end so you can continue the conversation the book started.
cn lester weaves together their lived experiences with legal, theoretical, media, and pop culture analyses in this collection of essays. It’s a really good, accessible book to share with friends, colleagues, and/or family members who want to better understand trans and gender diverse peoples’ experiences. Some particular highlights for me include the essay “Are Trans People Real?” which vividly and eloquently captures how this question and ideas that trans women are fake women and trans men are fake men have shaped legal, medical and community attitudes towards, understandings of, and experiences of trans and gender diverse people, and the essay “Trans Feminisms” in which lester reads Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist alongside TERF Sheila Jeffreys’ Gender Hurts. I also recommend listening to this interview with cn lester on the podcast NB.
Although the main character, Paul, is a bit of a jerk and as such the book isn’t always easy to read, there were many moments of this book that have stuck with me- particularly when he found someone who was able to change genders like him, and also the lists of moments when he realised he was gay and trans. I loved being immersed in 90s queer theory and culture, making zines, listening to punk and post-punk music, and walking around cities alongside Paul. You can listen to this playlist prepared by the author (who is non-binary) as you read.
Finding Nevo is an autobiography by Nevo Zisin who is a young transmasculine, non-binary and queer activist and writer. It was so excellent and important: beautifully written, heartbreaking, empowering and insightful. It has made me think a lot and has stayed with me since finished it a few years ago, and I’ve since seen Zisin talk in real life quite a bit, including at MPOW. I am so grateful to them for sharing their journey: their pain, anxiety, dysphoria, communities, support, love and joy. I recommend this book to anyone who is struggling to find their place and a sense of community in society without conforming to the boxes it tries to put us in. I feel like I’ve only quite recently begun to do this and feel comfortable in my own non-conforming skin and, honestly, I am in awe of Zisin. I loved that they dedicated this book to LGBTIQA+ community elders to acknowledge past struggles, victories and leaders, and that they provided a list of queer and feminists writers, activists and performers who have inspired them for readers to follow up on and continue the journey. They’ve presented at lots of local libraries too.
It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but this book is very moving and powerful and definitely stayed with me and I think I’ll revisit it soon, particularly after reading Confessions of the Fox as I feel both had similar political influences using very different time periods and settings. Feinberg was a self-described “revolutionary communist” – a political activist, specifically a Marxist, union organizer, and member of the Workers World Party, and this definitely shaped the book. It is very dark with lots of homophobia, transphobia, classism and anti-Semitism faced by the protagonist, but it vividly illustrates the power of political activism, love, and gender exploration and transformation.
There are many more books I haven’t listed, including everything by Ivan Coyote, and about three books I have on the go at the moment that I think will stay with me, once I manage to finish them, so I’m sure this won’t be the last annotated bibliography of the inside of my head.