Transgender Theories of Voice: Navigating Contemporary LGBTQ Politics(Panel)
Christopher Culp (SUNY University at Buffalo)
When Free Pride Glasgow proposed excluding cisgender drag queens from their event, it became an international talking point that incited many to critique, misunderstand, and judge transgender identities and politics. This event is one among growing tensions occurring within the LGBTQ communities, exacerbated by the increasing stratification of privilege through assimilationist strategies. This tension can be analyzed by how the voice is understood as a locus of identity, particularly in how neoliberalism orients the political voice with respect to the subject. Drag performance focuses on lip-sync, a method of mimicking, mocking, and poking fun at the gender roles associated with vocal expression. This can seem highly inflammatory to transgender individuals when voice, as well as the concept of gender in general, is excruciatingly reified through society’s oppressive frameworks. The latter can, and has, taken offense to the former, leading to a growing divide between a performative politics of gender and a strategic essentialist definition of identity.This panel seeks to discuss the issue of transgender vocality and how it acts as a locus point in growing critiques of neoliberalism and biopolitics. As the political voice is emphasized as necessary for participation in government, the ability to be heard becomes an increasingly powerful tool of change. Rather than reach for the megaphone, however, an examination of the voice’s ideological relationship to a post-Enlightenment understanding of subjectivity may yield queer answers that dismantle hegemonic constraints on identity. Papers about drag performers such as RuPaul’s Drag Race, transgender vocalists such as Conchita Wurst or Dana International (Eurovision), transgender voice training exercises and therapies, decolonizing the voice, and more are welcome. The panel seeks to keep the materiality of sound as the foundation of analysis, regardless of methodological or disciplinary approach.