Special Issue of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine:
“Queer and Trans Health Justice: Interventions, Perspectives, and Questions”
In Trans Care, Hil Malatino (2020) writes on how queer and trans networks of care are vital when medicine fails at best and harms at worst: “From the community support group to the trans newsletters detailing supportive medical professionals and gender hacks to the Yahoo newsgroups and listservs of the early internet to current forms of transition-related crowdfunding, we have a long history of building solidarity as a direct response to the vagaries of the medical-industrial complex” (pp. 7–8). Indeed, queer and trans bodies are often rendered il/legible through biomedical lenses, and such communities often craft transgressive communication praxes to undermine these infrastructures (e.g., Edenfield et al., 2019a; Jolly, 2019; Bennett, 2014). These moves open spaces for scholars in RHM to extend our critical and practical praxis toward envisioning and building equitable health futures.
With this special issue of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine titled “Queer and Trans Health Justice: Interventions, Perspectives, and Questions,” we seek to increase further the focus on queer and trans healthcare needs as a means of enacting better healthcare experiences for such communities . This special issue therefore asks a central question: How can Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (RHM) scholars work to build healthy, just futures for and with queer and trans people, and especially our BIPOC relatives? We seek works that reveal how our field can, should, or does work toward concrete practices and perspectives that not only critique oppressive health conditions or discourse practices, but also enable just rhetorical practices and healthcare infrastructures for queer/trans/BIPOC communities.
As queer scholars whose work emerges from community-based activism with queer health practitioners, we—Wilfredo, McKinley, and Fernando—leverage our commitments to our communities as a catalyst for this special issue, continuing the critical work of our forebearers and “shifting out of neutral” (Shelton, 2020; Walton et al., 2019). In addition to these commitments to queer health activists and community-based practitioners, the work of this special issues seeks to build from extant scholarship on queer health justice. In fact, many of our queer elders in the fields of rhetoric and technical communication have produced texts foundational to the overall scholarly trends in RHM, including Scott’s (2003) Risky Rhetorics and Bennett’s (2014) Banning Queer Blood, as well as more recent publications (e.g., Molloy et al, 2018; Nicotra, 2019; Yergeau, 2017). Additionally, we have seen other scholars outside of rhetorical studies resolving similar tensions, and their work offers a model for the inquisitive veins that could be further interrogated in this special issue. We are particularly guided by String’s (2019) work at the intersections of fatphobia and Black studies, Bailey’s (2016; 2019) use of black queer theory in relation to HIV-positive communities, Jolly’s (2019) work with Jamaican women living with HIV, Cedillo’s (2021) work on the decolonial power of crip time and disability, and Edenfield et al.’s (2019a; 2019b) research on trans technical communication (to name a few), which, for us, point to vibrant opportunities to center queer/trans/BIPOC perspectives in RHM scholarship.
This special issue recognizes that queer theory has often functioned as a proxy for whiteness and largely stemmed white, Western epistemological traditions. We echo Dwight McBride (2005) and E. Patrick Johson (2001) in saying that, when we use queer and trans, we mean to pronounce it as “quare” and are always already talking about sexuality, gender, disability, class, and race in tandem. We encourage proposals that draw on extant veins of scholarship similarly deploying such intersectional approaches. We see, for instance, how histories of HIV public health campaigns were shaped by homophobia, transphobia, and white supremacy (e.g., Bailey et al., 2019; Lloyd, 2017; Spieldenner & Castro, 2010; van Doorn, 2012); how insidious agents in state legislatures have schemed to enact transphobic policies (Ermyas & Wakeam, 2021; Brassil, 2021); and the community-centered work that Black women, queer and otherwise, have had to do to have their embodied experiences accounted for in public health and biomedicine (Bailey & Peoples, 2017). This special issues mobilizes queer theory, then, to center on contingent identity categories that work concomitantly with gender and sexuality to create particular subjectivities, particularly within health and medical contexts.
This special issue focuses on three themes: interventions, perspectives, and questions. With interventions, we seek action-oriented, original research projects grounded in collative advocacy, social justice, and the on-the-grounds communicative work of keeping queer and trans BIPOC healthy and safe despite the oppressive practices of medicine (Bailey & Peoples, 2017, Greene et al., 2013, Hoberman, 2012). With perspectives, we seek critical, theoretical work that delimits the confluences of power that suppress queer and trans BIPOC thrivance, the socio-material problems of systemic racism (i.e., anti-Blackness and Indigenous extermination), cisheteropatriarchy, and late capitalism that converge to lessen the quality of life. With questions, we seek work that contours the issues, methods, theories, and histories that RHM has overlooked—pieces that ask, “What else could be said and/or done here?” We also encourage submissions that bridge relational touchstones between the “sister disciplines” of technical communication and RHM, given that the practical, definitional expansiveness of technical communication offers much when energized by the critical kinesis of RHM (J.-J. Alexander & Edenfield, 2021; Edenfield, Colton, & Holmes., 2019; Frost et al., 2021; Holmes, et al., 2019; Green, 2020; Mitchell, 2019, 2021; Ramler, 2020; Scott, 2016).
We encourage submissions that grapple with the areas of inquiry listed below. These questions are not necessarily comprehensive, but rather represent the types of interventions that submissions might engage with.
- How has RHM research built and enacted community partnerships that work toward actionable health improvements for queer/trans/BIPOC people?
- How can RHM research lead to further actional possibilities, interventions, or material change for queer and trans communities in healthcare settings?
- How might intersections between RHM and Queer of Color Theory/Critique energize or reimagine our research practices in more participatory and inclusive ways? That is, how can our theoretical frameworks serve as the underlying energy that drives our research projects to spark collective action with communities and coalitions.
- What are the onto-epistemic limits of critical theories that have thus far been popularized in RHM?
- What are the limits of current methodologies for conducting health and medical rhetorical scholarship with or as queer/trans/BIPOC communities? What alternative methodological approaches might enable more just health landscapes?
- How can/should our field meaningfully center overlooked or marginalized histories of health activism?
- What might we learn from community organizers doing this work, and how can RHM scholars ethically learn from and propel it forward?
- What are some of the critical issues to which RHM might direct more energy?
- What sorts of disciplinary transformations are required to do the work of centering, honoring, and protecting queer/trans/BIPOC people?
- What other worlds might we imagine when whiteness is dissolved against the backdrop of queer/trans/BIPOC thrivance and futurity?
- How are colonial histories impacting us and how do the practices that were established through colonial infrastructures made manifest in today’s health landscape?
- How are biospheric transformations—including the worsening crises of climate change—lending to a lesser quality of life for queer/trans/BIPOC?
In addition to original research articles, we are also eager to hear your ideas for the journal’s other genres—persuasion briefs, dialogues, commentaries, and review essays. These submissions could include (but certainly are not limited to) roundtables with health activists and/or practitioners, brief narratives focused on applications of queer and trans theories in healthcare settings, methodological briefs for conducting research with and as queer/trans/BIPOC communities, commentaries on health activism movements, and reviews of multimedia projects or books focused on queer health.
This special issue will be co-edited by McKinley Green, Wilfredo Flores, and Fernando Sánchez. Special issue proposals will be reviewed and ranked by this team and members of the journal’s editorial board, and manuscripts will undergo the same rigorous peer review process as regular submissions.
If you have questions, McKinley, Wilfredo, and Fernando are happy to answer email queries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For submissions, please email 500 – 1,000 word proposals (excluding citations) to email@example.com by November 1st, 2021.
Completed manuscripts for accepted proposals will be due March 15th, 2022; this special issue is slated for Spring/Summer 2023.
- Proposals: Nov. 1, 2021
- Decisions: Nov. 15, 2021
- Drafts: March 15, 2022
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