With an anti-oppressive approach centering 'trans as method,' Addye explores how some trans people and communities—particularly trans people of color and non-binary folks—understand and pursue joy and flourishing in the face of violence and erasure. Working with trans community groups in Philadelphia, Addye hopes to draw from their experience of resistance and strength for transformative community politics to engender radical, just futures with other movements, like the environmental justice movement.
My PSI project considers the potential power of a politics of trans joy for transformative social justice. While news media and policy tend to cast trans people as passive victims, many trans folks and allies embody a politics of resistance and introduce new ways of being in world through the disruption of cis-normative binary gender. Meanwhile, trans communities are often sites of care, resistance, and joy. Through an intersectional, anti-oppressive approach centering trans as method, I explore how some trans people and communities—particularly trans people of color and non-binary folks—understand and pursue joy and flourishing in the face of violence and erasure. What obstacles do they face in those efforts, and what do they need to overcome them? Finally, how can this strengths-based lens help us to reimagine more radical trans political futures rooted in transformative justice? I look to trans community groups in Philadelphia as a experts and exemplars through which to examine these questions. This project is part of my dissertation research, which asks (a) what environmental justice movements can learn from a politics of trans joy and (b) how intersections of scale (individuals, communities, and system) and identify inform how we distribute responsibility for creating such radical, just futures.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
For me, being a public scholar involves three things. First, being a public scholar entails generating and transmitting knowledge in ways that are accessible to public audiences in order to support broader dialogue. Second, it calls for collaborative co-creation of knowledge with populations impacted by or involved in areas of study. This means listening to and taking guidance from those with lived experience as experts while engaging with broader theoretical frameworks. Finally, particularly to be a public scholar focusing on justice and resistance entails actively supporting social movements on the ground, both through and beyond my research.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
The Public Scholars Initiative first challenges the idea that Ph.D. research is necessarily isolating or limited to traditional academic settings. The PSI instead re-imagines Ph.D. research as an opportunity to engage with and learn from broader communities. This can in turn promote more expansive and creative ways of approaching research questions and issues. Additionally, the Public Scholars Initiative re-imagines the output of Ph.D. research. Traditional manuscript-style dissertations center on only one mode of knowledge creation, catering to a specific set of skills and a relatively narrow potential audience. Moreover, for many research questions, that audience does not include the people for, about, or with whom that research is created. Including more diverse and creative modes of knowledge creation and communication confronts this limitation in ways that serve both researchers and the public.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
Through my research and in whatever career follows, I envision my Ph.D. work preparing me for long-term engagement in public-oriented theory research, finding ways to bring political theory and transformative social justice movements together. Whatever form that takes, I want to stay engaged with trans activism and environmental justice, and I want to find ways to bring those areas together. Additionally, I want to continue to co-create and share this work with the general public. The communication skills and methodological training involved in Ph.D. work serve those aims. Beyond my research, the self-advocacy and equity work I’m engaging in as a Ph.D. student entails developing valuable tools for any career I enter.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
My research engages trans community partners by centring their voices, in their own words, in an area of research in which trans people have long been cast as objects rather than subjects. Much of existing trans political research and praxis speaks about and for trans people rather than with us. I aim to challenge this trend by centring and celebrating trans folks and their lived experiences as expert knowledge, on the one hand, and, on the other, by focusing potential applications of my work on the needs they identify. More directly, my research engages community partners by developing and carrying out interview methodologies collaboratively and by volunteering with partner organizations throughout the research process.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I’ve always really enjoyed research, and I’m deeply interested in and passionate about social justice and politics. Pursuing a graduate degree in political theory allows me to delve into all of those. Beyond that, I decided to pursue my degree because I want to make my subfield more accessible and inclusive. As a queer, trans person, I’ve felt—and often feel—like the odd one out in class and workshops. Meanwhile, theory texts can be difficult to follow and, as with much of academia, theory classes tend to feature a limited set of perspectives at the expense of marginalized voices. I decided to pursue a graduate degree in part to help other students who don’t find themselves reflected in dominant political theory texts and institutions see that this field is for them; they belong here. Whether that means finding ways to communicate in more accessible language, diversifying syllabi, bringing an explicitly intersectional lens to class discussions, or just being a publicly trans person in this field, I want to support wider inclusion in political theory.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
I largely decided to study at UBC because of the Department of Political Science’s strength in critical political theory and environmental politics. I was also drawn to the Social Justice Institute and various opportunities UBC offers for interdisciplinary research. Less tangibly, I liked the vibe I felt while visiting UBC, meeting with folks in my department, and exploring the city before accepting my offer. A Ph.D. is a long commitment, and it was important to me to choose a university where I felt comfortable as a full person, not just as a student.