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  Windy City Times

Susan Stryker takes Ariz. post
Extended for the online version of Windy City Times
by Joyce Bolinger
2011-06-08

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Susan Stryker, a leading scholar of transgender theory and history, has been named director of the University of Arizona's ( UA ) Institute of LGBT Studies in Tucson.

Stryker replaces the current director, Dr. Eithne Luibheid, who returns to the faculty of the university's department of gender and women's dtudies. Luibheid is nationally known for her research about LGBTQ immigration.

Under Luibheid's leadership, the Institute for LGBT Studies was formally established Oct. 11, 2007. ( There was previously a committee on LGBT studies. ) It is one of only a handful of such institutes in the country.

Stryker is an author, filmmaker, archivist and activist whose documentary, Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria ( 2005 ) told the story of the first known instance of collective militant queer resistance to police harassment in U.S. history. Led by transsexuals and drag queens, the San Francisco incident in 1966 preceded the better-known New York Stonewall riots by three years. The film was co-produced and co—directed with Victor Silverman for the Public Broadcasting System.

In her new position, Stryker sees the opportunity to build on existing strengths of the Institute and take them further. One of those assets is the Institute's emphasis on border cultures. "I want to keep that focus and to think of all the ways border studies metaphorically reflect queer identities and crossings, and also how border issues impact the LGBT community in reality," she said. She joins the university this summer.

Her goals include increasing funding for programming such as conferences that produce publications and festivals that build excitement and interest about LGBT history and issues.

"My background is in history, so I like the idea of developing an archive," she said. "Also, I have a specialization in transgender studies, which is a rapidly evolving field, and I want to help put the University of Arizona right at the forefront. "That may take the form of publishing a journal for academically oriented transgender work."

Stryker, who is leaving her job as associate professor of gender studies at Indiana University-Bloomington to join the faculty at University of Arizona, worked for many years as an independent scholar and filmmaker specializing in transgender history, theory, cultural production and political activism. She earned a Ph.D. in United States History at the University of California-Berkeley in 1992, and later held a Ford Foundation/Social Science Research Council post-doctoral research fellowship in sexuality studies at Stanford University. She has held visiting faculty positions at Harvard University, the University of California-Santa Cruz, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and Macquarie University in Sydney.

She was the executive director of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco from 1999-2003.

Her most recent book is Transgender History ( 2008 ) . With Stephen Whittle, she edited the Lambda Literary Award winning anthology The Transgender Studies Reader ( 2006 ) .

She brings to Tucson a reputation for collegiality and inclusiveness.

"As a transsexual and a lesbian, I have a personal stake in keeping our LGBT community together," she said. "I want to work to create a society that respects and supports diversity. I don't put energy into divisiveness."

In 1992, Stryker was a co-founder of Transgender Nation, an anti-transphobia organization which integrated transgender concerns with the political agendas of lesbian, gay and bisexual activists to forge an inclusive LGBT community. Transgender Nation organized a protest at the 1993 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association to call attention to the pathologization of transgender phenomena.

Stryker is the author of Queer Pulp: Perverse Passion in the Golden Age of Paperback ( 2001 ) and Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area ( 1996; co-authored with Jim Van Bukirk ) .

She edited the 1998 transgender studies special issue of GLQ: The Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, and also co-edited ( with Paisley Currah and Lisa-Jean Moore ) the 2008 transgender studies issue of Women's Studies Quarterly. She has published scholarly studies in many journals.

Current projects include a book, Sex Change City: Theorizing Urban Trans/Formation in San Francisco, and an experimental film about the 1950s transsexual celebrity Christine Jorgensen, Christine in the Cutting Room. She wrote the introduction to the reprint of Christine Jorgensen's Autobiography ( Cleis Press; 2000 ) .

Growing up in Lawton, Okla., Stryker often visited relatives in Arizona. "I feel at home in the desert southwest," she said. She welcomes the possibilities of working with Wingspan, Tucson's LGBT Community Center, especially its program the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance ( SAGA ) .

The UA Institute promotes LGBTQ/sexuality research collaborations, public programs, and curricular initiatives on campus and in the community, on issues such as youth, health, education, immigration, and community history.

"Susan is an internationally known scholar, activist, and pioneer in the area of transgender studies. She brings extraordinary knowledge, extensive skills, and great warmth and humor. I am confident the Institute, and Tucson, will flourish with Susan's presence and leadership," said Luibheid.

Last year, Arizona natives James J. Leos and Clint McCall generously provided the Institute with its first major gift. The Institute launched the Miranda Joseph Endowed Lecture Series that brings outstanding LGBTQ scholars to UA to offer public lectures.

In March 2011, Professor Afesaneh Najmabadi of Harvard University launched the lecture series, speaking on "Verdicts of Science, Rulings of Faith: Transsexuals in Iran."

Under Luibheid's direction, the Institute funded 14 research clusters and supported the creation of five new LGBTQ Studies courses at the UA. It also participated in numerous community initiatives including: surveying the information needs of LGBTQ organizations in Arizona; building a website that provides information about LGBTQ communities in Arizona; funding training for the transgender community to digitally record their stories; organizing a public forum with Derechos Humanos on the needs of LGBTQ immigrants and refugees; assisting the Tucson GLBT Commission to archive key records and much more.

For additional information on the Institute, see lgbcom.web.arizona.edu .


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