Working with names and naming, Bri seeks to address and help redress the harms done to the Two-Spirit, transgender, non-binary, gender diverse and/or gender nonconforming individuals and communities. Working towards the equitable cataloging and classification of individual and community preferred terminologies, Bri plans on producing resources, policies, and procedures for use by publishers and Galleries, Archives, Libraries, Museums, and Special Collections. 

Faculty of Arts
Julia Bullard
United States of America
UBC Public Scholars Award
Research Description

Two-Spirit, transgender, non-binary, gender diverse and/or gender nonconforming (henceforth "trans") individuals and communities in the past and the present have not received legal or cultural protections against discrimination and harm. Compared to cisgender people, they face much higher risks of harassment and violence; many experience a particular form of trauma connected to their identities; and all face unique challenges and risks related to names and terminology. Historically, this has resulted in misgendering, mislabeling, or outright erasure from archives and the historical record. In the present day, another source of “epistemic labor, risk, and trauma for trans authors, is the continued circulation of their previous name.(1) Policies that tie work to names also affect married authors with changed surnames, mistranslated non-Western names, and Indigenous authors with names that are not meant to be a part of the public record. (2) Names and personal identity terms are not neutral—they describe our innermost desires and outermost goals. Accumulating research on minority stress demonstrates that improper description has a measurable health impact: encountering feedback from society that is incompatible with one’s self-identity increases the likelihood that individuals will experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal ideation. Names form an integral part of my doctoral work at UBC's iSchool, where I focus on equitable cataloging and classification in Galleries, Archives, Libraries, Museums, and Special Collections (GLAMS) and how they can utilize and support the development of individual- and community-preferred and supported terminology. Currently, catalogs are Janus-faced, caught between the past and the present: they try to describe historical things and peoples while also seeking to speak and connect to those in the present. Any holistic solution must address the double-edged harm of these hegemonic naming systems. This application seeks the support of the PSI for the continuation of a two-pronged alleviative approach that will provide critical data and experience for my dissertation research. Support from the PSI will support For NCPWG: - A comprehensive guide to the citation of trans names. - Example policies and procedures for use by publishers. - An activism kit for use by publishers or authors. For Homosaurus/TMDC - A guide for GLAMS to use when creating trans metadata. - The additional development of Homosaurus’ Two Spirit terminology, as well as contributions to several of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

I believe very strongly that the work of the so-called ivory tower must also be the work of the ivied public libraries. Through all the years of my university education I have consistently and readily sought out public engagement and connection, whether that takes the form of hundreds of hours of oral history and podcast episodes, a book aimed at the general population, or the public-facing historical and informational work I do in my current program. Because of my inability to belong to any one world because of my disabilities, queerness, or other minoritizations, I have always had the drive to bridge different worlds and ways of being. As a result, being a Public Scholar feels like a high honor and a recognition of the unpaid and unrecognized work that I have been doing—work that does not fit into the traditional disciplinary boundaries.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

As someone who went through the trauma of seeing their field collapse around them during the 2008 recession I recognize the importance of alternative roles for PhD students and graduates in the years to come. I had always wanted to be a teacher and every year of school I would announce that *this* was going to be the grade I was going to teach—that is, until I went to a small public university in the state that I grew up in. Knowing that being a humanities' professor would be difficult but still possible, I went to graduate school for history and deliberately choosing fields that would remain relevant into the future and make me a flexible candidate. However, over the course of a few years I watched the near-collapse of the humanities job market, and realized that it was not possible for me to achieve the things I wanted to there. The next few years was spent in search of a role: writing a book, doing a podcast, recording oral histories, adjuncting, and other oddities until I ended up finding a niche in the archiving world and carrying on through my current PhD.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

Due to my experiences my PhD and activism work is squarely aimed at broader career possibilities. Specifically, my research aims to use a new technology called “linked data” to supplant these outdated terms, allowing people and communities to use accurate and relevant terminology derived from their own lives. Through my MLIS and into my PhD. I have focused on understanding the theoretical issues in implementing this technology, and have spent the past summer gaining hands-on experience with the coding and use of this technology. In this way, even if an academic career does not work out for me, my skills would also provide me the ability to forgo an academic career and to begin professional work if I so chose. I no longer felt like the right kind of historical work would make real and material changes in everyday lives. This is one way that my work in information sciences and GLAMS is markedly different—my work (such as that on the Homosaurus or the NCPWG) has already had impact on the lives of everyday practitioners.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

In line with the PSI’s goals of enhanced career opportunities and social engagement, the PSI will allow me to undertake collaborations with stakeholders in the academic, professional, publishing, and cultural heritage fields with the aim of co-developing resources, documents, and practices specifically aimed at having lasting impact. PSI support allows me the time and space to build deeper relationships with those who will support my future career and allow me to gain experience in work that I will continue following graduation. Specifically, I am using the funds for continued work on the Name Change Policy Working Group, which I founded with academics from a wide variety of fields and which has already brought about significant change: a partial tally of publishers that have introduced new or revised policies following our guidance employ more than 50,000 people, are responsible for 12,000+ journals, and report revenues of more than CAD $13.5B annually. Secondly, PSI’s support allows me to address historical harms, via the Homosaurus, an alternative cataloging vocabulary for GLAMS, and a related initiative, the Trans Metadata Collective, which I co-founded in order to develop ethical recommendations, best practices, and policies for the cataloging, classification, and description of marginalized and minoritized gender identities based on the experience and work of over a hundred cultural heritage workers. Support provided by the PSI will allow me to continue developing relationships and building upon the public-facing interdisciplinary work that I have undertaken over the past year towards these goals.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

My work on the Homosaurus and the NCPWG has already contributed towards the public good and had an impact on the lives of everyday practitioners. As noted above, the work I have done with the NCPWG has already had major impacts on the academic and professional world. For example, a partial tally of publishers that have introduced new or revised policies following the NCPWG's guidance employ more than 50,000 people, are responsible for 12,000+ journals, and report revenues of more than CAD $13.5 billion annually. In considering the goals of the PSI, it is worth pointing out that in addition to trans authors, revised policies also support married authors who change their surname, Indigenous people with names that are not meant to be a part of the public record, and non-Western individuals with misspelt or mistranslated names and/or improper identity terms. While NCPWG’s work has granted some minoritized authors a degree of control over the publication of their name and the ability to change it, these policies are only available in periodical literature and do not include academic book publishers or university presses. Given the rising wave of reactionary anti-transgender legislation in the United States and United Kingdom, it is especially urgent and important to continue this push for fundamental change in how the academy and professional world approaches names and identities. PSI support allows me to continue outreach efforts in each of these areas, contributing to the public good and positive public perception of the value of doctoral work. Finally, and most significantly, support from the PSI will contribute to the further development of the Homosaurus, as well as contributing to several of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. The Homosaurus Linked Data Vocabulary supports improved access to LGBTQ+ resources within GLAMS around the world, and the Board has already received incredible feedback from institutions about the impacts it has already had. However, much work remains to be done. Specifically, there is no vocabulary available for cultural heritage institutions to use when cataloging materials related to Two-Spirit individuals or communities. As the Homosaurus can be used in any library or archival system, it is an ideal fit, but it would be improper for the current board—which is made up of settlers—to develop one. Instead, a significant portion of the funds requested in my PSI budget will support the hiring of an indigenous student in a related UBC program. If no eligible candidate applies, I will consult with colleagues at UBC's X̱wi7x̱wa Library, First Nations House of Learning, or elsewhere to assemble and compensate Indigenous knowledge workers for this labor. The results from this work would be added to the Homosaurus for use in GLAMS across the world, could contribute toward the X̱wi7x̱wa Library’s ongoing catalog revision, and, furthermore this outreach might contribute to ongoing efforts to diversify the Homosaurus’ board.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

When I returned to graduate school in search of an alternative career, my coursework in knowledge organization, cataloging, classification, and metadata allowed me to finally begin connecting my lived experiences and intersections with the way that the world around me operated. These classes also taught me that each of my own (and others') terms and identities are charged with historical import and personal meaning—they make up our innermost desires and outward goals. My historical training made me understand the ways that information systems developed, are structured, and change was deliberate: the racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and colonialism of information systems are not accidents—they are manifestations of a system doing what it was designed to do. I concluded that it was not enough to simply make systems more humane in small ways, to try to revise the more hateful aspects of knowledge organization systems—we are also required to uproot them and build alternatives. These lessons, along with the realization that this work could have larger and more systemic impact were what spurred me to apply for a PhD program at the UBC’s iSchool. The things I have accomplished over the course of my first year as a doctoral student have substantiated this belief, as discussed with TMDC and NCPWG above.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

One of the major benefits of this research project is the number of interlocking and complimentary community-based projects that I am able draw upon and contribute to. UBC’s campus is home to Out On The Shelves (OOTS), volunteer-run, non-profit, LGBT2QIA+ community library, which would also be a recipient of the work undertaken by this research proposal. As I sit on OOTS’ board, I will be undertaking a revision of their current catalog to update it to the Homosaurus vocabulary with the support of the other coordinators and volunteers. Thus, the proposed consultations will allow for feedback on Homosaurus terms from the communities that it describes and allow for further contributions to queer knowledge organization, and OOTS will provide a real-world testing ground for outcomes of renaming, and potential future publications. Another benefit to UBC, OOTS and my advisor, Dr. Julia Bullard have collaborated on publications in the past and are recipients of a related SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant that provides additional support for this work. This is not the only way that previous SSHRC grants would be augmented through the support of the PSI: Dr. Bullard also received a SSHRC Insight Development Grant for work involving the cataloging and classification of Indigenous literature, known as Subjects from the Margin (STFM). I have served as a research assistant on this project over the course of the previous year, and seen it result in an award-winning paper and exciting insights. Additionally, UBC is a world-class leader in Indigenous information work, as it is home to X̱wi7x̱wa Library, the First Nations House of Learning, the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, and the iSchool’s First Nations Curriculum Concentration, Colleagues and friends at each of these institutions have provided valuable time, education, and feedback to this application and would be continually consulted. Another significant support to this project is the work of Dr. Tricia Logan, an Assistant Professor at the iSchool and one of my letter writers. Her work on genocide studies, residential school records as well a semester-long course (Information Practice and Protocol in Support of Indigenous Initiatives) significantly influenced me and this proposal. Finally, UBC’s iSchool also has two brilliant faculty members whom I would be able to consult on archives and museum-specific contexts: Dr. Jennifer Douglas and Dr. Hannah Turner respectively.