I’m back from the second Queer History South conference in Dallas Texas, and I am energized and renewed! Honestly, this was my favorite conference that I’ve ever been to, even if traveling to and from it was actual hell (Hurricane Ian struck, and then the airline lost my luggage on a nonstop flight!). While there, I got to experience a little bit of Dallas, a place I haven’t visited since I was a little girl almost 30 years ago, and I met fascinating and amazing queer folks from around the country. I even made three new friends! If you followed my Twitter, I tweeted frequently about the conference using the #qhs22 hashtag.
I got there a full day early due to escaping before Hurricane Ian hit, so I had all of Thursday to hang out in downtown Dallas. I didn’t do too much except get a pedicure (preconference ritual now) and visit a site that was listed on the map as “The Giant Eye”. It turns out, it was in fact, a giant eyeball! It doesn’t seem to have any purpose except for some millionaire’s large art installation, but it was fun nevertheless. Then I met up with friends of my platonic partner who happened to be attending the conference as well and hung around the hotel lobby getting to know them. We immediately hit it off!
Friday was a full day of conference for me, with several panel sessions and a keynote speech by Moe Vela which was really inspiring. Lunch was delicious local BBQ, and then in the evening they invited us out to the inaugural Texas Trans Pride, which was fun but a little overwhelming as it was held in a club in the gayborhood. However, while there we met our third new friend, another conference attendee and grad student. We all headed back to the hotel for drinks and a long discussion about Queer History and community and organizing and what we had learned at the conference.
I really want to call out one particular panel that resonated deeply with me. It was called Mapping Trans Joy, and displayed a project in Louisiana similar to the Queering the Map initiative, but focused on locating trans joy in Louisiana, wherever that could be found. There was discussion of safety and logistics of the project which were highly valuable. But there was also discussion of joy, and how often it’s overshadowed by narratives of trauma. The panelists asked us to think of a time and place where we had felt loved and cared for and happy for who we were, and it was a bit of a conundrum. I wasn’t sure I could think of a specific instance like that myself, possibly due to poor memory. But I realized that I felt like that at this conference, which was a bit of a revelation. I really loved this project, and I hope it expands to Florida some day. I would work on it myself if I had the bandwidth at all! Anyway, if you’ve ever lived in Louisiana and are trans or trans-adjacent, check out the project and consider leaving a story of joy on the map!
Saturday was a bit rough due to overdoing it on Friday (gosh health problems are fun!) so I got started at lunch time, which was local tacos and equally delicious. We had another series of speakers talking about local Texas archiving projects which made me jealous for the dedicated LGBTQ archive space at the local universities. Then it was a really nice feature where we broke up into groups by interest and had discussions about issues and ideas in queer archiving. I stayed in the Librarian/Archivist group and we had a very thoughtful discussion, particularly calling out issues in metadata, lack of admin support, and celebrating some wins at various institutions. The day ended with a visit to the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum where they let us in to see their archives and library. They had pulled a few items of particular interest which were a real treat to see. I ended up not having time to visit the whole museum, but we did experience one of their highlights, a virtual interactive experience with survivors. They had recorded extensive interviews with local survivors and turned the person into a holograph that then audience members were able to interact with by asking a question and seeing the relevant part of the interview. My group was a little discontented with the interactive aspect of it, though the holograph recording was a fun and unique way to experience a person’s story. However, we had some ethical qualms about the use of AI to create this false interaction with the ghost of a real person. It made for a lively discussion after the event anyhow.
Overall, I am sad the conference was so short, and I am already looking forward to the next one! I hope if you have any professional interest in Queer History that you’ll consider going to the next one as well. If you do, hit me up and we’ll get a drink together!