Shahan D. Bellamy, Dissertation Diversity Scholar candidate at Ithaca College, highlighted the intersections of blackness and gender identity during his presentation at the college Feb. 27.
The lecture was part of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program’s efforts to determine a fellow for the 2018–19 Dissertation Diversity Scholar Program. The program supports graduate students who are participating in innovative scholarship and are committed to diversity in higher education. Selected fellows receive a scholarship and teach on campus for one academic year.
Shahan is currently a doctoral candidate in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Arizona State University. During his talk, he highlighted ideas from projects he completed as part of his dissertation, including “‘Tumblr Saved my Life’: An interdisciplinary investigation of how Black trans-masculinity operates through Tumblr” and “Abject Legibility: Black transmen and (Hyper)(In)Visibility.”
As someone who identifies as a black trans-masculine individual, Shahan said these projects closely reflect his own personal experiences. Specifically, he said he chose to focus his dissertation on the operation of trans-masculinity through Tumblr because of its use as a safe space for trans individuals to connect, as well as its role in his own transition.
“Physical isolation encourages many individuals of color to turn to online spaces such as Tumblr for community engagement,” he said. “This is particularly true for black trans men like myself. I activated my page at a time when I was desperately seeking a queer community that was missing from my life.”
Shahan’s presentation also focused on the concept of “hyper(in)visibility.” He said this term is a way of recognizing the social implications of complex trans identities.
“Black trans men experience being assigned the social vocations of both black femininity, which is warped as something to be ignored and invisible in society, and black masculinity, which is marked as a threat,” he said. “Hypervisibility is an acknowledgment that these experiences are what makes up their personhood, and that their oppressions are always in conversation with each other.”
Freshman Elliott Weil said Bellamy’s presentation encouraged him to see the intersections of trans identities in a different way.
“Mr. Bellamy presented new information that, even as a trans man, I had not even considered,” Weil said. “Especially as a white trans man.”
During the presentation, Bellamy also emphasized the lack of trans representation in the media. He said while representation is slowly increasing, positive representation of black trans men is scarce.
“Representations of trans individuals in media are numerically few, often negative and often center on white, middle–aged characters,” he said.
Carla Golden, coordinator of women’s and gender studies, said part of the Dissertation Diversity Scholar Program application asks the candidate to propose courses they would teach while a fellow in the program.
“One of the things that very much impressed the Women and Gender Studies Selection Committee was the courses Shahan proposed,” she said. “The committee was absolutely unanimous, no question about it, that Shahan Bellamy was our top, No. 1 candidate.”
If Shahan is selected, he will teach two classes in the women’s and gender studies program during the 2018–19 school year. Shahan would teach a 300-level course on the intersectionality of gender, race and class in the fall and a course on structures of masculinity in the spring.