A Queer Perspective on SEAC by Sarah Bess

A little over a month has passed since SEAC 2015. This was my first SEAC, my first time meeting many of the southeastern archaeologists whose work I’d been engaging with as a graduate student, and my first “out” conference as a trans woman. I wrote about the experience at Binary Opposition, not expecting more than a dozen people to read it. I wrote as a means of catharsis, as a way of processing personal victories and traumas. I wrote mostly for myself, as I generally do. Then I published it on my blog, because why not?

My heart leapt into my throat when I checked my browser about an hour later to see that the post had reached over 100 views. By the next morning the count was over 300. I wished I’d taken more time to proofread and edit. If I had been out before, now I was really out. Over the next few weeks, I heard from colleagues who had taken the time to consider my essay. We talked about the future of the SEAC Sexual Harassment Survey; about the possibility of a formal ethics statement; about panels, committees, and initiatives to increase the diversity and inclusivity of southeastern archaeology; about making the field, the lab, and the classroom safe for trans* experiences, trans* perspectives, and trans* bodies. It was encouraging to meet with such openness and such willingness to engage with the issues that I had wrestled with, but been unable to bring up directly, over the last few years.
As Shayle Matsuda’s recent piece in Wired pointed out, trans* people face unique barriers in field science. In order to make room in southeastern archaeology for more trans* scholars, we need to be willing to recognize and address those barriers in the classroom, lab, and field. In order to open our discourse to trans* perspectives, we need to be willing to listen to trans* voices. That many SEAC members have expressed a desire to do these things leaves me humbled, overwhelmed, and proud to be a part of this particular corner of archaeology. As a graduate student and a relatively new member of SEAC, I’m incredibly excited for the future.

I hope to turn my humble blog at Binary Opposition into a place not only to share my own perspective but to amplify queer voices from across the anthropological discipline. Maybe that’s not so humble, but we’ll see where it goes. I welcome submissions from queer anthropologists within the SEAC community and beyond regarding personal experiences, practical concerns, and theoretical discussions. It’s sort of open-ended. Things may be slow for a while, but I hope you’ll all keep listening.



A big thank you to Sarah for writing SEAC Underground’s first guest post!  We look forward to reading more at Binary Opposition and hope more trans voices are heard across the scientific community.  

We (the SEAC Underground staff writers) think it is important to continue the discussion of how southeastern archaeology can be a more inclusive place for all.  Let’s keep the conversation going!  



6 comments on “A Queer Perspective on SEAC by Sarah Bess

  1. Ken Sassaman says:

    Sarah, you came to a community where you will be judged only by your sincerity of purpose, professional integrity, and quality of product. From what I’ve seen from you so far, great futures are assured. You are so very welcome in southeastern archaeology and SEAC. By the way, I rejoined this week. I love it too much to stay away any longer.

  2. Alice Wright says:

    Thanks for this post Sarah; I’m so excited to read more at Binary Opposition, and to keep the conversation going re: the SEAC Sexual Harassment Survey in particular (in fact, this post is a friendly nudge back toward that project!). Best luck in the coming semester!

  3. Meg says:

    Just as a note for those of you who are not SAA members:

    The January 2016 issue of the SAA Archaeological Record is now available online at http://www.saa.org. This issue contains a special section, “Towards an Inclusive Queer Archaeology,” that delves into gender in a changing world. Read the following articles, along with other columns from the Society:

    Towards an Inclusive Queer Archaeology: An Overview and Introduction

    Brave New World: Interpreting Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in the Past

    Queering Fieldwork: Difference and Identity in Archaeological Practice

    Teaching Gender in Archaeology: A Conversation

    Listening More and Talking Less: On Being a Good Ally

    Making a Place in the Field: A Report from the First Queer Archaeology Interest Group Forum

    Building Common Ground on Collections: An Initial Glossary of Collections-Related Terminology

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