UCR Conference on Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion


UCR Conference on Queer and Trans Studies in Religion

February 19-21, 2021


This conference is free and open to the public. To register, please go to:



Questions can be addressed to Melissa M. Wilcox at melissa.wilcox@ucr.edu.


Conference Schedule

 All times in Pacific Standard Time (UTC -08:00)

 Friday, February 19

9:00 am – 10:15 am    Welcome and online opening reception

An introduction to the conference and an opportunity for casual conversation. We might even play a trivia game!

10:30 am – 11:45 am  Panel: Teaching Queer and Trans Studies in Religion


Whitney Cox

Brandy Daniels

Seth Palmer

Elizabeth Pérez

This panel will consider different approaches to teaching queer and
transgender studies in religion, particularly to undergraduates. We
will share syllabi and discuss the pedagogical decisions to be made
choosing readings, running a classroom, and managing interpersonal
dynamics with our students.

12:00 pm – 1:15 pm    Workshop: Storytelling, Epoché, and Ethnographic Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion

Workshop leader: Taylor Riley

To participate in the workshop, you do not have to present, but you should be interested in participating in discussions.

If you wish to present, please send an email to TaylorRiley@live.co.uk by 2/12 and come with:

  1. An informal presentation that elaborates on one or more of the areas below; OR
  2. An ethnographic story (theatrics encouraged); OR
  3. A combination of both

This workshop welcomes informal presentations which:

  • Consider the practice of epoché/suspension in studying religion ethnographically
  • Consider how such suspension relates to empathetic research praxis and trust-building between researcher and interlocutor(s)
  • Consider the ethical issues of storytelling when it comes to Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion
  • Consider how secrecy functions in religious texts/their queer interpretations
  • Consider how ‘telling’ subtle and secret knowledge through story can be practiced
  • Consider how ‘telling’ subtle and secret knowledge through story is queer praxis

Each presenter will have 10* minutes (whether doing option 1, 2, or 3)

This will be followed by a practical discussion on storytelling/ knowledge-making/interpretation and practicing epoché/suspension

1:30 pm – 2:00 pm      A Gathering of Trans and Intersex Seminarians and Scholars in Religion

Convener: Chris Paige

An informal conversation to discuss needs for support and community among the growing number of gender transcendent, transgender, intersex, and OtherWise seminarians and scholars in religion. Our emphasis will be on what kinds of on-going community care and collaboration might be useful, practical, and relevant – perhaps even starting some kind of network for the 2021-2022 academic year. While we especially invite prospective, current, and recent MDiv students to contribute to this conversation, students, faculty, staff, and independent scholars are welcome to join this conversation if you identify somewhere in the spectrum of gender-transcendent, transgender, intersex, or OtherWise. Note: We are aware that there is a “Trans Seminarians Cohort,” sponsored by LGBT organizations, that serves 5 people each year. This gathering is not affiliated with that program or those organizations.


Saturday, February 20

9:00 am – 10:15 am    Conversation: Fostering Relationships Between Academia and Religious Communities

Convener: Michael Shepherd

A structured brainstorming session and discussion about ways to engage in public scholarship and develop partnerships with community entities that share an investment in the inclusive study and practice of religion.

10:30 am – 11:45 am  Conversation: Thinking Sex Abuse

Conveners: Kent Brintnall & Sara Moslener

One of the most challenging elements in Gayle Rubin’s influential essay “Thinking Sex” is her use of intergenerational sex, man-boy love, and possession of child pornography as examples to illustrate how poorly we think about, evaluate, regulate, and punish sexuality. Given how we have come to assess and articulate sexual harms—especially sexual harms to children and young people—Rubin’s characterizations are quite jarring. Rubin has acknowledged that her treatment of these examples is far too quick, simplistic, and cursory; she has also noted that she was completely unprepared for the vociferousness with which the sexual threat to children would be targeted and with which children’s “innocence” would be defended.

Rubin’s essay—even its most challenging dimensions—reminds us that queer thinking about sexuality must also include an adequate account of sexual harm. Such an account must, of course, take seriously the fact that sexual harm occurs and that its effects can be devastating. At the same time, and as importantly, such an account must recall the ways in which sexual harm has been wielded as a weapon against those whose sexualities are considered abnormal or immoral as well as the ways in which campaigns against sexual harm have been appropriated by various institutional actors for a range of purposes. How do we participate in efforts to prevent and ameliorate sexual harm without abandoning a well-earned skepticism and critical eye toward the ways in which discourses about sexual harm produce (sexual) harm? This task is especially important for queer scholars of religion as sexual harm within religious spaces and institutions perpetuated by religious actors has become an increasingly significant area of scholarly and activist interest and because religious institutions and actors have used narratives of sexual harm to further their regulatory ends regarding normative sexuality.

This conversation will be organized around two questions. (1) What are the key resources for pursuing the kind of inquiry gestured toward above? Which authors and texts are most able to help us think carefully about navigating the craggy shoals of this very rocky stream? (2) What are the most significant historical moments or case studies from which we can learn about how to think about sexual harm well (by positive or negative example)? If we want to develop an account of how we’ve conceived of sexual harm helpfully or poorly, where do we turn our analytical gaze?

12:00 pm – 1:15 pm    2020-2021 Holstein Fellows Panel

Convener: Duygu Yeni Cenebasi

William Boyce, “Masking It: Queer Intimacies and Quarantine Ethics”

Joe Coyle, “Queer Pentecostalism in an Uncertain Brazil”

Benjamin Hollenbach, “What Does It Mean to Welcome? Ritual, Liturgy, and Queer Inclusion in U.S. Mainline Protestantism”

Tuğçe Kayaal, “Martyrdom, Youth, and The Representations of Masculinities in the Late Ottoman Empire (1914-18)”

Sunday, February 21

9:00 am – 10:15 am    Mentoring Session

Confirmed mentors:

C. Libby

Erin Runions

Melissa M. Wilcox

Thelathia Nikki Young

An informal gathering for sharing collective wisdom about anything from scholarship to careers to navigating transphobia and homophobia in professional spaces, and beyond! Although we have confirmed mentors, additional volunteer mentors are more than welcome. We also recognize that many of us both mentor and remain in need of mentoring, and we hope to create a space where both are possible simultaneously.

10:30 am – 11:45 am  Conversation: Academia, Activism, and Queerness

Convener: Brandy Daniels

What does queer activism look like in the academy? How might academic spaces better engage and enact queer praxis? How might queer studies scholars draw on and do queer praxis and activism in the various academic communities that we are a part of? This informal conversation will consider these and related questions!

12:00 pm – 1:15 pm    Closing Town Hall: Planning for 2022!

Convener: Melissa M. Wilcox