Gender History in a Non-Binary World: A Workshop for Doctoral Students

Friday 17 May 2019 | 1000-1700

Room GOR 124, Birkbeck, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

As academic research increasingly turns its attention to experiences of gender beyond binary notions of male and female, this poses questions about how we understand and describe instances of gender nonconformity in the past. Many historians would argue against the existence of fixed or stable identities throughout history and argue in favour of using anachronistic terminology strategically to better convey the diversity of gender identities and gender expressions experienced by people in past societies.  For students trying to navigate these questions and their implications in their research, this can be challenging terrain.

This workshop offers training for students in ways of researching, teaching and engaging the public in histories of gender nonconformity, non-binary and transgender experiences. The workshop will be relevant to historians of all periods and students working on gender and/or sexuality in literature and art history.

Working with leading historians, archivists and museum professionals, participants will address issues such as:

  • Working with documentary and oral sources to research gender nonconformity in the past

  • Developing techniques to recognise diverse and marginalised histories and work with sources sensitively 

  • The importance of developing diverse historical narratives around gender and communicating them to the public

  • Advantages and challenges of co-production with marginalised communities

  • Complexity of teaching non-binary and transgender histories to students who identify as cis, trans and non-binary

  • Navigating historical research into trans and non-binary lives in the context of a divisive and fraught contemporary political terrain

In preparation for the workshop participants will be expected to read documentary sources and oral history transcripts which will be emailed in advance, plus any extracts from secondary sources selected by the session leaders. 

Provisional Timetable




Coffee and registration


Session One: Researching gender nonconformity in the past: documentary sources. Led by expert researcher: Dr Lucy Allen


Session Two: Researching gender nonconformity in the past: oral history. Led by expert researcher: Dr Amy Tooth Murphy (Royal Holloway)

Sessions One and Two are source-led practical research sessions. They will take the form of a 15 minute introductory talk by the researcher; 30 minutes for participants to work in groups on pre-circulated documents with guidance, 10 minutes plenary feedback.


Lunch and informal networking

13:30- 15:00

Session Three: Public Engagement: Archives and Heritage

Presentations from archivists and museum professionals on how they approach histories of gender nonconformity, how they co-produce histories with marginalised communities, and present these histories to the public. Presentations followed by Q&A.

Confirmed speakers: Steven Dryden (British Library), Dr Kit Heyam (V&A Museum/ University of Plymouth), Dr Catherine Armstrong (Loughborough University/ Trans Lives: East Mids)

15:00- 15:30

Afternoon break

15:30- 17:00

Session Four: Teaching Beyond the Binary

Round table discussion and Q&A on the complexities of teaching non-binary and transgender histories to cis, trans and non-binary students. Discussion points include reasons for diversifying the curriculum, tips and challenges.

Confirmed participants: Dr Justin Bengry (Goldsmiths, University of London) , Dr Tracey Loughran (University of Essex), and Dr Rebecca Jennings (UCL)

Applications will be considered on a first come, first served basis, and must be received by 6.00pm on Thursday 2 May 2019.

Confirmation of a place and further information, including readings, will be circulated shortly afterwards.

The workshop is co-ordinated by Dr Daisy Payling (University of Essex), and Dr Justin Bengry (Goldsmiths, University of London).

Travel bursaries may be available for non-funded students. Please contact Dr Daisy Payling at for more details.

The workshop image of gender recognition pins from the XOXO Art and Technology Festival is used under Creative Commons Licensing.

Terms and conditions

*By registering below you are requesting a place on this training programme or selected sessions that form part of the programme. A member of the CHASE team or the workshop leader will contact you in due course to confirm that a place has been allocated to you. If you no longer require a place, please email as soon as possible so your name can be removed from the registration list.  

If you are allocated a place but can no longer attend, please email so that your place can be reallocated. CHASE training is free to attend and events are often oversubscribed with a waiting list. Failure to notify us of non-attendance in good time (ideally 5 days prior to the workshop/programme) means your place cannot be reallocated and may result in your access to future CHASE training being restricted.

Registrations have now closed