BCRW @ 50

Queer and Trans Politics

BCRW’s engagement with queer and trans politics follows the long, winding history of gender and sexual politics in the activist and academic mainstreams, while also breaking ground by taking the lead on certain topics and issues. The topics of conversation themselves shifted through the years, as a gender and sexual politics grew to encompass and center  conversations on queer and trans politics. 

In its earlier years, talks at BCRW (then called the Women’s Center) echoed the political questions of 1970s feminism, namely, analyzing and understanding women’s sexual oppression, including its origins and the way female oppression manifests in society. By the 1980s, the focus shifted to understanding womens’ experiences with sex, such as at the now-famous and pivotal 1982 Conference on Sexuality. It wasn’t until the 1990s and early 2000’s that the Women’s Center, then renamed to the Center for Research on Women, or CROW, began to focus not only the issues of gender, sex, and sexuality as they pertained to (cis)women, but looked at the intersections of feminism with other issues, like the environment and the prison, and public policy, as well as talks on health and families. In the 2010s and in recent years, BCRW’s programming has focused on social transformation through intersectional feminist analyses, with a commitment towards trans liberation. Today, BCRW focuses on issues like housing justice and ending the prison industrial complex, which both disproportionately affect women and queer people with multiple marginalized social positionings. 

The 1970s feminist movement began to raise consciousness about women’s role in society. They questioned what had traditionally been considered essential and inherent to women’s character, and determined the role they were expected to play was largely a social construct. In asking and answering these questions, feminists were met with the task of investigating who women were, and what made a woman? A major controversy taken up by the second wave was the concept of sex differences between men and women, as sex differences were historically weaponized to prove and cement women’s inferiority. Many feminists began to reconsider sex differences, not as evidence of inferiority, but the site of women’s exploitation and subordination by men. These debates were featured in many BCRW events and conferences, such as the second Scholar and Feminist Conference, "Toward a New Criteria of Relevance," in 1975. They continue to hold space in contemporary feminist discussion, even as we move toward a queer- and trans-centered feminist politic in our current struggle for liberation.

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