QueerCon: LGBTQIA+ Conference at Maastricht University

QueerCon – the 1st edition

QueerCon Maastricht brings together an interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and international group of scholars on 1 and 2 July in order to advance LGBTQIA+ knowledge. It is also an artistic, musical and social celebration of Limburg’s queer community and culture. Christin Höne on a first in UM’s history and why events like this are still very necessary.

The idea for QueerCon came about when Assistant Professor in Literary Studies at FASoS Christin Höne’s research focus moved from music in postcolonial literature to music in contemporary queer literature. “I started researching and wanted to go to conferences to test ideas and get feedback,” she explains, “but then I couldn’t find any queer academic conferences in the Netherlands. I consulted my former colleague Louis van den Hengel, a veteran of queer studies who knows the academic landscape in the Netherlands very well – and they confirmed to me that, indeed, there were none.” At that moment, Höne and Hengel decided that they themselves should organise such a conference.

A UM first

QueerCon is the first conference of its kind in UM’s history; it aims to be interdisciplinary, international, and intergenerational. “We are really pleased with the turnout, especially on those last two points, but I would still like to see more colleagues from the ‘hard sciences’. We have no guiding topic precisely because we are trying to explore a wide variety of research and issues around this topic; different disciplines, different angles.” She clarifies that the conference is both about research into queerness as well as queerness in research. 

Höne says she knows of colleagues who have decided not to attend QueerCon because they are not out at work. “Many people still fear that it might hamper their careers – which is really sad. The idea that everyone can be out and proud at work is still a myth.” While the notion of ‘out and proud at work’ might be easy to dismiss, Höne points out that most people spend a majority of their waking hours at work. “It makes my life and work much easier. I don’t have to constantly worry or self-censor. When I talk about the weekend over a coffee I don’t have to do grammatical contortions around pronouns… we bring ourselves to work and we are better when we don’t have to hide.”

A conference, a fesitval, a celebration

Naturally, attending QueerCon is not equivalent to outing oneself – plenty of those attending won’t self-identify as queer but just have an academic or cultural interest. Beyond the lectures and workshops, QueerCon is a festival that aims to celebrate and advance LGBTQIA+ inclusion and equity. The artistic contributions and performances will range from music to film and drag performances.

The academic part of the conference consists of 7-minute research presentations aimed at a general audience without prior knowledge as well as workshop sessions in the form of chaired discussion sessions on many LGBTQIA+ related questions, such as bringing queer theory to bear on seemingly unrelated research questions or LGBTQIA+ inclusion in research.

Joy, pride and community

Höne and the team of organisers received a UM D&I Grant for the conference as well as financial support from UM’s Centre for Gender and Diversity (CGD). “We also have a collaboration with COC Limburg and Lumière [an art house cinema and event location] because we’ve always wanted this to be a cultural event to reach beyond the walls of the university and connect with Limburg’s queer community.” QueerCon does indeed welcome everyone who would like to attend, independent of whether they are affiliated with the university.

While QueerCon is primarily academic and cultural, Höne admits that the political is hard to avoid, since the importunate backdrop is recent election results fretting uneasily against a general complacency with how liberal the world has become. “There are still people not out at work, or people who are no longer in contact with their families. Just last week, I was heckled in the street for holding hands with my partner. It is not a given that UM or the Netherlands are entirely safe spaces for queer people. We want to create visibility – but also a space for queer joy, pride and community.”

Text: Florian Raith

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