Power, Pleasure, and Violence at Queer and Trans Conference 2012

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.

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 violence, grief, and isolation that many of us experience 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 22nd to the 25th at Swarthmore College.

For a full schedule and event details, check out our website.


  1. Hi there. I really like the emphasis on helping others deal with negative feelings and emotions. I imagine this conference will be one of compassion and understanding. And, I was wondering if we could add something to it on behalf of children. Possibly could there be an open conversation about effects of the child porn industry and the devastating effects this has on the child being abused. Not only are these children being abused sexually but then it’s humiliatingly recorded by camera and often put on the internet for viewers.

    It makes me wonder why it’s permitted at all? Is it allowed to take place because we don’t choose to see children as actual real people, with feelings, heartbreaks, hopes, dreams? It’s like in those moments they are more of an inanimate object?

    What would happen if we saw that child in those photos as a person, like ourselves. A person who aches when they get left out, cries when they’re hurt, a person with a little brother or sister, and a favorite pet, a person who will now forever be marked and tormented by the events that took place so others could be momentarily gratified. What if more of us stood up and said child porn is not okay, and refused to look or view it?

    I felt like you would be able to understand this as you wrote about compassion and feeling understood, in this article. I guess I was hoping to see more representation and advocacy for the innocent when talking about sexual pleasure.

    The odd thing about pleasure is that it’s an appetite and left to it’s own devices it will grow and grow, needing something more and more risk-ay to get the same effect and I believe that’s how good people can find themselves doing bad things.

    I think as sexual beings we all have to curb that appetite and place parameters on it or other’s get hurt and I believe we’re the kind of people that can take a stand against this. “Evil only exists because good men let it”, right? Thanks for listening.

    • Stephanie, I must admit that I’m bewildered by your comment, to say the least. I’m going to try and sort out what’s going on though before I jump to any conclusions… Why are you commenting about the child porn industry on an article that’s about the Queer and Trans Conference? While you are absolutely correct to condemn the existence of child porn as an unbelievably terrible thing, this article does not mention it or even make implications to the subject even once.
      Now, about the content of your message: Please don’t take offense, but I’m worried (trying to hold back here) that your comment is based on associations made independent of this article. Also, please read what I have to say carefully before replying. I’m doing my best to keep this from exploding into a classic Gazette flame war (I know you all know what I’m talking about).
      My knee-jerk, gut-instinct reaction is to think that you’re connecting queer, trans, and/or so-called “alternate” sexualities or ways of being with the existence and perpetuation of the child porn industry. This would be a completely incorrect and frankly offense conclusion to come to. I admit that I was myself angered and offended by your comment (and I totally disagree with your view of sexuality and it’s “appetite”), but I’m willing to put that anger on hold and give you the benefit of the doubt on this, and give you a chance to explain whether or not you think child porn is in some way tied to this topic.
      For anyone who is breezing through this in the middle of the night, buzzed from pubnite or paces, or just running on no sleep, let me be absolutely crystal-clear when I say that I do NOT think this article or LGBTQ issues are in ANY way associated with the sexual abuse of children. The last thing our community needs right now is a Gazette flame-a-thon (even if it would pale in comparison to all the hate/vandalism that’s been happening on campus lately).

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