Aug. 26, 2022

History of Trans Panic is focus of annual Calgary Institute for the Humanities Pride Week event

LGBTQ2S+ Lecture set for Sept. 2 at Calgary Central Public Library
Jules Gill-Peterson
Courtesy Jules Gill-Peterson

Transgender panic and the epidemic of violence against trans people is the troubling and timely topic on the table for the fourth annual Calgary Institute for the Humanities (CIH) LGBTQ2S+ Lecture, to be held Sept. 2 at the Calgary Central Library as part of Calgary Pride Week.

  • Photo above: Dr. Jules Gill-Peterson, an associate professor of history at John Hopkins University and a scholar of transgender history, will be the guest lecturer for this year’s Calgary Institute for the Humanities LGBTQ2S+ Lecture.

This year’s guest speaker, Dr. Jules Gill-Peterson, a renowned scholar of transgender history, will address these hot-button issues in her lecture, entitled Trans Panic: A Global History. As author of the book Histories of the Transgender Child — which challenges the notion that transgender children are a new phenomenon in the 21st century — Gill-Peterson is certainly not one to shy away from controversy.

Her lecture will trace the history of global trans panic against trans women dating back as far as the 19th century. Gill-Peterson asserts that the violent targeting of trans femininity can be linked to colonialism around the world for the past 150 years.

The topic couldn’t be more relevant, says CIH director Jim Ellis, citing a recently published UCLA study which shows that transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to be victims of violent crime.

“But it’s not just physical violence,” Ellis points out. “We’ve also seen a vicious rhetoric that has been mobilized against things like the imaginary threat trans people pose in using gender-specific public washrooms, for example.

"It’s clear that the very idea of trans people is deeply disturbing to some, and right-wing media is always there to fan the flames. And we can see that the threat perceived is extremely hyperbolic and completely unrelated to anything that is actually happening.”

The annual LGBTQ2S+ Lecture has become an important staple of UCalgary’s Pride Week engagement and, as such, the CIH is seeking to build an endowment which will fund the event each year in perpetuity.

“I think these lectures are important to the LGBTQ2S+ community as a way of telling its stories in a very public way,” says Ellis. “That passing down of history to its own community and to the community at large is essential because this is a way of countering the hysterical accounts that you get elsewhere. It’s a way of pushing back on all the lies and misinformation that are circulating.”

Ellis adds: “Knowledge breeds understanding and acceptance, and if there’s one thing our society is desperately in need of at this moment it’s an understanding of diversity, diverse lives, and the richness that diversity can bring to a community. That’s something truly important that the CIH LGBTQ2S+ Lecture can offer.”

The CIH LGBTQ2S+ Lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required for in-person attendees. The lecture can also be attended via Zoom; register to attend via Zoom.  

You can make a donation to the LGBTQ2S+ Lecture Series endowment fund.