Biennial Bodies of Knowledge Symposium Returning to USC Upstate in 2020

Bodies of Knowledge is an LGBTQ-themed symposium founded in 2008 in memory of Sean Kennedy, a young man who was killed in Greenville in 2007. The goal of this biennial event is to create a safer, more understanding community for everyone by offering high-quality presentations about LGBTQ experience in the Upstate and beyond.

Dr. Lisa Johnson was moved to create this event in 2008 after the fatal gaybashing at the end of her first year working at USC Upstate.

“It made a big impact on me because I saw my LGBTQ students grieving their friend and I saw them feeling both angry and afraid for their own safety afterwards. I wanted to do something to help make their world better, and as an educator, my go-to answer was to find a way to channel new and better ideas–bodies of knowledge–about LGBTQ lives into our region.”

In the past the symposium has received funding from the Freeman Foundation as well as being sponsored by the Spartanburg County Foundation and the College for the Arts and Sciences and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. The goal of the event is to change the conversation around LGBTQ lives in the Upstate. This event has made it a point of including a mixture of scholarly and creative presentations and film pieces.

Bodies of Knowledge event seeks to legitimize LGBTQ identities as valuable parts of the human experience.

The goals of Bodies of Knowledge are to improve the climate of the Upstate for its LGBTQ population, provide leadership opportunities for LGBTQ youth, and promote civil and well-informed discussion about sexuality and nonconforming gender identities in this region. By featuring artists, creative writers, and academic specialists in LGBTQ Studies who translate scholarly discourse into accessible language, the symposium serves to legitimize sexual diversity and gay and lesbian identities as valuable parts of the normal range of human experience, and as productive sites of academic inquiry. Students and community members who see their lives reflected back to them in the mirrors of these engaging, personable, intelligent, and self-confident LGBTQ speakers will ideally feel valued in a way that their upbringing in this region may not have made possible. In light of recent U.S. administrative announcements diminishing the civil rights of LGBTQ citizens, this sort of affirmative education is now more important than ever.

Focusing on Transgender Politics, Culture and Health

The next Bodies of Knowledge Symposium is planned to take place on April 9th, 2020 with a possible second day on April 10th. The 2020 event will focus on the politics, culture, and health issues surrounding the transgender community.

According to a 2016 Williams Institute report, there are an estimated 21,000 transgender adults living in the state of South Carolina. Transgender people face significantly more challenges than do other members of the LGBTQ+ community. In a 2018 report, entitled “Understanding LGBTQ Needs in Spartanburg County” transgender and genderqueer respondents commented that the Upstate region “needs improved education on transgender identities and improved access to transgender-specific health care needs”.

The 2020 Bodies of Knowledge Symposium promises to help bridge the current gap in understanding trans experiences and improve the local climate for transgender people in the Upstate through creative presentations from scholars and artists.