Beyond the Safe Space: Theorizing Spaces of Trans and Queer Refuge

Maria Silk
Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies
UC Berkeley

This project imagines what trans and queer spaces of refuge might look like outside the paradigm of safety. Queer and trans studies, across disciplines, have recently questioned the viability of “safe space” for queer and trans subjects. But if the safe space is only a fantasy, that fantasy nonetheless remains a motivating force, an aspiration that queer and trans scholars, artists, and organizers continue to strive for in the (often temporary) spaces of hospitality and refuge that their work represents. Gathering together graduate students who are artists, activists, curators, poets, nightlife producers, publishers, and organizers alongside their work in the academy, this working group explores existing ways of thinking safe space while engineering a new vision for trans and queer spaces of refuge. We propose not so much a refusal of the notion of safe space as a step to the side of it. Our collaboration culminates in a widely accessible publication articulating our findings and their implications for academic, artistic, and organizing projects. In the process, we deepen our understanding of the relationship between safety and refuge in queer and trans cultural production today.