Sager Symposium Expands Meaning of Queer Activism

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

“Intersections of Queer: Coalition Building Across Our Communities” kicks off tonight with a screening of “Jihad for Love,” which organizer Maria Kelly ’10 describes as “the world’s first feature documentary about Islam and homosexuality.”

Kelly described the symposium’s theme as “about exploring the ways different movements can build off of each other and strengthen each other from learned experiences and learned strategies… finding common ground and building coalitions is something that’s important for activism and for the world.”

Sasha Raskin ’09 explains that the idea for the symposium’s theme came about “back in September and October… when the election was approaching, there were all sorts of single-issue things going on, and the people who were working on gay issues were working on marriage. We felt like what was missing was a real coalition, and so we wanted to explore those themes that don’t usually get talked about as queer but that could be, things like ableism, ageism, economic justice and anti-racism.”

Raskin continued, “we also wanted it to be less academically focused and more focused on activism, on the question of who’s doing this work on the ground… these are people who do all sorts of activist work that impacts a wide range of communities, including queer people… it’s relevant to a wider audience than the mainstream LGBT movement usually is.”

The full schedule of events is available at the link above, and in the Reserved Students Digest, but Raskin told the Gazette a little bit about some of the different people coming. Sassafras Lowrey is coming on Friday to give a workshop “centered around queer people telling their stories as a way of building community… later that evening, zie will do a performance about queer homelessness and hir own story and transformations.”

Raskin described the “Activism at the Intersections” panel scheduled for Saturday afternoon as the “capstone” of the weekend. “We haven’t had a panel in a long time… it will be moderated by Rory Sykes ’08 and focus on activists who work with intersectional identities.”

Saturday morning sees a “workshop on anti-racism, queer identities, and ableism… we have not had a community-wide discussion on ableism while I’ve been here, and it’s exciting to be able to talk about a very wide range of disabilities that do impact this campus.”

Another topic “that rarely gets talked about here” is ageism, and it will be addressed by Amber Hollibaugh at 2:15 on Saturday. Raskin explained, “her lecture is going to be about creating a queer movement we can afford to grow old in… how do we recognize our queer elders, who have a lot to teach us, in a culture that’s very youth-centered?”

Kelly said, “I’m really excited about amber, because issues around age and intergentational movement building are really interesting and exciting for a college group to have… we’re all in a limited age range and so it’s something we don’t think much about.”

Saturday night will play host to a Sager social, said Raskin, but “it’s not the Genderfuck party… it’s closed to symposium attendees, since in order to build coalitions we will want to have time face to face.” In order to keep the event closed, tickets to the social will be passed out at events. Although it will “probably become a dancing space by the end of the night,” Raskin says that the social will be “sort of an extension of the banquet… it will start as a space to sit and talk about what we’ve learned.”

Asked to comment on the split from the Genderfuck party, Raskin described the split as “the end of a natural progression. The people planning the symposium have not been the same people planning the party, and it’s been a long time since the two have been connected in any significant way… this year we really wanted to focus on the symposium, and to have our own sort of closing space.”

Kelly agreed, explaining that “the Genderfuck party was originally the after-party for the symposium, but that changed fairly early on… the group involved in planning the symposium does not have the time to try and fix the Genderfuck party. It’s not within our power to make that happen right now, so we didn’t feel like it was right to stand by this party that we didn’t feel comfortable with and didn’t feel was a safe space. That’s a decision we made as a symposium committee on behalf of the symposium.”

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