Author: Sarah Bailey

Reflecting on Sexing the Past ’17

Many thanks to everyone who helped to make SEXing the Past such a stimulating conference. The formal feedback from participants confirms the impression of a relaxed, friendly and highly productive weekend of stimulating presentations and networking.

This success has helped to secure the unique location of SEXing the Past at the intersection between: cutting edge academic research from a number of disciplines related to sex and gender studies, political & human rights activism and other voluntary and professional practice outside the academy.

Plans are already afoot for next year and we will again be hosted by the city of Liverpool. The dates are to be announced shortly, but the aim is to fix a weekend closer to Easter, giving organisers time to recover from OUTing the Past (February ’18) before delivering SEXing the Past!

Keep watching this space. Again many congratulations and thanks to all those that made this possible.

The SEXing the Past Conference Delivery Team

A word from our sponsors at Gale

It is a pleasure for us to participate in the Sexing the Past Conference as we look to uncover ‘forgotten’ LGBTQ+ lives and experiences through our digitisation efforts in order to benefit present and future generations of researchers.

Gale is an education and technology company built for learners. We serve libraries by providing quality research content, powerful search technologies, and intuitive delivery platforms. Our innovative information content and technologies increase the productivity and outcomes of students, scholars, faculty, and the libraries that serve them.

One of the main drivers for Gale as an education and technology company is to partner with libraries and empower their learners with new knowledge about emerging areas of study such as LGBTQ+ history and culture.

With this in mind, we have devised a new programme of digitised archives relating to gender and sexuality, the first of which covers LGBTQ+ history and culture since 1940.

We look forward to engaging with the conference in March 2017.

Reflections from Kit Heyam

If you’re researching history, then the people you’re researching unquestionably will have had some relation to or experience of sex and gender. It’s vital that we learn and discuss how to historicise this aspect of human life effectively.

From an academic perspective, I’m fascinated by the existence of conceptualisations of sex and gender that differ so wholeheartedly from our own. From a political perspective, I think the leap of empathy required to understand and study those different mindsets has never been more important than it is today. From a personal perspective, queer existence can be isolating and a sense of connection to a community across time has been absolutely crucial throughout my life.

My background is in English studies, and so my perspective is a historicist one which stresses the importance of close reading. I believe it is crucial to work towards understanding past conceptualisations of sex and gender on their own terms, and to recognise their essential difference from our own. I also believe that we must pay close attention to the language used to describe sex and gender, the changing meanings of key terms, and the strategies writers use to encourage or obstruct particular interpretations.

My PhD research investigates the changing reputation of Edward II in England during the period 1305-1700. This reputation was formed by a mixture of chronicles, poems, plays and political pamphlets, all of which I find equally valuable: just because a source is fictional doesn’t mean it didn’t help to shape people’s attitudes.

In terms of Sexing the Past, I’m looking forward to being in a space dedicated to people researching the history of sex and gender: history conferences are often organised by period rather than theme, and it’s so important to have an alternative to that.

Kit is a PhD student in the School of English at the University of Leeds.

Building on 2016

The 2016 conference focused on a range of topics and their relationship to the study of past attitudes towards sex and gender diversity.  It included:
  • Archival research and the uncovering of source materials in LGBTQI History
  • The influence of other disciplines on LGBTQI historical study
  • Experiences of conducting LGBTQI research within the academy
  • Reclaiming forgotten LGBTQI histories
  • Writing and researching under/unexplored regions in LGBTQI history
  • The relationship between historical study and LGBTI political activism
  • Considering the impact of our work as LGBTQI historians
  • The problems of ‘LGBTQI’ nomenclature when seeking accurate readings of the past
We want to continue to build on debate as we work towards the conference in 2017. If you would like to share your current reflections on this blog please get in touch on