For the last twenty years, Swarthmore College has hosted an annual conference (formerly the Sager Symposium) on a current topic for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.  In the past few years, symposia have explored sexual politics in the bedroom, boardroom, and classroom, queer media, coalition building across queer differences, queer people of color, the intersections of race, religion, and gender, queer activism, same-sex marriage and queer families, and transgender movements.

The Swarthmore Queer and Trans Conference is coming… and we want YOU—you trans folk and genderqueers, overworked queens, queers of color, fabulous femme elders and kink-loving activists with disabilities, all you multilingual community organizers and you youthful homebodies with nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon––to come to the 2012 Swarthmore Queer and Trans Conference!

Sometimes we have sex. Sometimes we talk about sex. But when and how do we have and talk about what kinds of sex? Sex with whom? Whose sexual ethics and practices are encouraged or disciplined, articulated or marginalized? How do we practice, construct and assert multidimensional, non-normative sexual acts and identities, and how do we respond when certain acts and identities are unwantedly imposed or forced on us? Much of LGBTQ political work and media coverage centers around issues of loss and pain (AIDS, gay bashing, teen suicides) and “gay rights” (gay marriage, don’t ask don’t tell). At this year’s Queer and Trans Conference we start our conversation about queer and trans life instead from a consideration of bodies, desire, and pleasure. Throughout the weekend, activists, scholars, and performers will explore, re-envision, and fantasize with conference attenders about how we are practicing and representing sex.

However in our effort to create sexy ways of thinking and being, we do not want to neglect the violences, grief, and isolation that many of us experience, although in different ways and to different degrees. Sex and desire, as embodied experiences rooted in class, race, ability, and gender cannot be separated from bodily trauma inflicted by systems of oppression, domination, and exploitation. At this conference we want to recognize sex as a source of both pleasure and pain as well as a site to disrupt and blur the boundary between the two. Placing discussions of sex positivity in the context of a world which often celebrates sexual violence, we seek to join and contribute to the work of our communities in creating sexual cultures that center trauma and resiliency through practices of healing, accountability, and transformation, as well as pursuing and enjoying pleasure in our many forms of "sexy" sex.

Activists, scholars, and performers at the conference will consider sex across issues of cultural productions (porn); the construction, imposition, and enforcement of restraints/constraints (normativity, sextopias, sex negativity); interpenetrations of race, disability, class, identity; and theories of pleasure. We will explore how differences in identity, desire, embodiment, and practices foster a proliferation of sexual possibilities. How do interventions in popular discourses around sex help us to envision a different strand of queer and trans politics? What are the limitations of this approach...? We come to these questions and host this conference with humility and hope that they will be a jumping off point for creative conversations and collaborations around sex, desire, violence, pleasure, and power in queer and trans communities.

So bring your partner(s), your five cats, your dominatrix, your entire Co-op, your kids (child care provided!), your neighbors, your mosque/temple/church, that person you met at the club last night, the one you want to take out tonight and that cutie from the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. The 2012 Queer and Trans Conference runs March 22-25, 2012 at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania.

Past Conferences