Announcements and Statements

SMFS Advocacy Statement in Support of LGBTQ+ Rights

The Advisory Board of the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship joins the Medieval Academy of America (MAA) in condemning the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation currently sweeping the United States.

At the time of writing, a record-breaking number of 469 anti-LGBT+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, with 210 of these bills specifically targeting transgender and nonbinary people, more anti-LGBTQ+ bills than in each of the previous five years. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, members of Parliament are deliberating whether to halt the Gender Recognition Act Reform Bill legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in December 2022, which permits adults to change their gender designation on their identity documents by self-declaration, removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. In response to the Gender Recognition Act Reform Bill and Gender Recognition Act reform and plans to legislate for a ban on conversion therapy in England and Wales, The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also released statements in January 2022 that, as outlined by Stonewall and Dr. Christopher Owen on behalf of Manchester Pride, effectively exclude trans people from improved rights and protections. As an intersectional feminist organisation committed to global gender justice, we are appalled by this rise in anti-LGBTQ+ policies, which will gut academic freedom and fundamental human rights. These anti-LGBTQ+ policies will harm our colleagues, friends, and loved ones.

In her groundbreaking Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern (1999), the medievalist Carolyn Dinshaw concludes: “as queer historical projects aim to promote a queer future, the possibility of queerness in the past – of lived lives or fictional texts – becomes crucial” (140). Dinshaw reminds us of the urgency of queer perspectives on medieval studies, and medievalist perspectives on the queer past, present, and future. As medievalists, we are beholden not only to broaden our discipline to include voices that have always already been there, but also to support “queer subject and community formation now” (Dinshaw 206). We express our solidarity with our LGBTQ+ colleagues, and especially our trans colleagues, broadly defined, who are disproportionately targeted by this legislation.

As the advisory board, we co-sign the statement issued by the MAA condemning this disturbing trend in legislation. Following the recommendations made by the MAA and, building upon the work of Dr. Gabrielle M.W. Bychowski and Professor Dorothy Kim in their article ‘Visions of Medieval Trans Feminism’, published in Medieval Feminist Forum, we reiterate their calls:

  • For organisers of conferences and lecture series to centre trans scholars and topics. 
  • For editors to encourage and welcome trans scholars and scholarship around trans themes.
  • For administrators and faculty to advocate at their home institutions both for hiring lines for trans colleagues, and for protected research time for trans colleagues already working within higher education.
  • For administrators, faculty, publishers, and institutions to support the development of curricular and pedagogical tools and models that support student engagement with diverse and intersectional histories of gender and sexuality.
  • For holding space for nationally recognized events that support our trans colleagues and loved ones, such as Trans Day of Remembrance (20 November) and Trans Day of Visibility (31 March).

We further call:

  • For institutional student and employee healthcare to cover gender-affirming care, and to provide resources for LGBTQ+ mental and physical well-being. 
  • For streamlining the process of changing name and gender markers within higher education institutions and to develop procedures to help support students and staff transitioning within the university.

To support queer community formation within medieval studies, The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship commits to:

  • Growing financial resources available to LGBTQ+ scholars in our field and bolstering our support of trans and non-binary scholars through the existing Trans Travel Fund.
  • Proposing panels that centre trans scholars and topics for the International Medieval Congress (Leeds) and the International Congress of Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo).
  • Encouraging trans scholars to publish their work in Medieval Feminist Forum and prioritising the publication of work centred on trans topics.
  • Using our website resources to link to reliable information about best practices for institutional resources for LGBTQ+ health care, removing bureaucratic barriers to changing name and gender markers, and inclusive pedagogy and curricula.