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Wolfenden Seminar – University of Reading

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Wolfenden Seminar

Navigating identity institutionally: Research findings and biographical notes on trans experiences in prisons, schools, and universities.

In the last year, in the wake of the Government's proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act, trans lives have become the object of a public debate in both the traditional and social media. The debate has revealed a very palpable hostility towards trans people and their experiences -- one that endures across different sectors of British society. Against this background, this year's Wolfenden Seminar aims to give voice to trans people and their allies. Contributors will discuss the ways in which trans children and adults experience, cope with and challenge transphobia and cis-normativity in institutional settings: the school, the university, and the prison.

Speakers include Amy Austin (University of Reading), Clara Barker (University of Oxford), Mia Harris (Prison Reform Trust), and Rebecca Harris (University of Reading).

The event will be followed by a drinks reception for attendees.

Admission free, booking essential.


Amy is a doctoral candidate and member of the Gender History Cluster at the University of Reading. Amy carries out research on trans identities in Britain between 1870 and the 1940s. Through an analysis of medical literature, legal documentation, press coverage and autobiographical material, Amy aims to discover to what degree there was a cultural and medical awareness of trans identities and how these were expressed and treated. At the Wolfenden seminar, Amy will discuss the case of Augustine Hull, about whom the British sexologist Havelock Ellis wrote at the turn of the century. Hull was arrested and imprisoned for living as a woman and attempting to marry a man.


Clara Barker is an engineer and material scientist at the University of Oxford. She is a prominent advocate for LGBT+ diversity and women's inclusion in STEM. Her talk will focus on how to create and sustain diversity and inclusion in institutions. She will address trans rights and intersectionality, and will touch on issues of free speech – especially as it is free speech that seems to be so contentious around trans rights at the moment.


Mia Harris has recently submitted their PhD in Criminology at the University of Oxford. Their research explores the experiences of LGBT prisoners in the UK. Mia conducted interviews with prisoners and staff, and corresponded via letter with LGBT inmates. Mia is now a researcher at the Prison Reform. In their presentation, Mia will draw on rich, qualitative data to provide a glimpse of life in British prisons for transgender people. Mia will discuss how transgender prisoners are identified, and their decisions regarding whether or not to 'come out'. The presentation will then explore experiences of bullying and discrimination, and how transgender prisoners avoid, cope with, and resist abuse by inmates and staff. It will also consider provisions, in terms of housing, healthcare, gender-affirming resources, and peer and institutional support. Finally, Mia will touch on positionality, reflecting on their experiences as an LGBT person researching LGBT experiences.


Rebecca Harris is an Associate Professor of History Education and Director of Teaching and Learning in the Institute of Education at Reading University. Rebecca taught history in secondary schools for 16 years and has been involved in teacher training for nearly 18 years. Her research has largely been connected to history education, for example examining the place of diversity in the curriculum and teachers’ decision-making about what to teach. Rebecca came out as transgendered around 10 years. Rebecca will talk about the experiences of LGBT+ youngsters in schools, drawing on research from Stonewall and her own initial work in a local secondary school, as well as her plans for an upcoming project. She will also draw upon her own experiences as someone who identifies as transgendered to highlight the issues that LGBT+ youngsters encounter.

Event information


16 May 2019




G10, Henley Business School, Whiteknights Campus


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