Transgender professor named women’s literary organization’s Critic-in-Residence

Lucas Crawford holds the position of Ruth Wynn Woodward Lecturer at SFU, serving from September 2013 to August 2015.

SFU Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) professor Lucas Crawford has just been named the Canadian Women in the Literary Arts’ Critic-in-Residence for 2015.

The honour of being selected as the Critic-in-Residence has been awarded to one researcher each year since 2013.

In the past, Crawford has focused much of his research and presentations on fields such as fat studies, queer politics, and transgender architecture. During this virtual residency, Crawford’ goal is to “[bring] implicit gender biases in the literary industry out of the closet and to help rectify these biases by publishing reviews of literature written by women.”

The Canadian Women in the Literary Arts is a unique literary organization, in that it not only welcomes but actively encourages both queer women and transgender people to apply for the position. This is still a fairly uncommon practice, and something that Crawford feels is incredibly important in the Canadian literary landscape.

As a transgender man himself, Crawford hopes that people will gain a larger awareness of the categories of “woman” and “transgender” through his work.

According to the organization’s website, the residency aims to “foster criticism that promotes public awareness of women’s literary and critical presence in Canadian and Quebecois letters.”

Crawford’s goal is to “[bring] implicit gender biases in the literary industry out of the closet.”

For Crawford, one of the major aspects of being a Critic-in-Residence is the fact that people in the literary community who identify as “genderqueer/non-binary transgender often experience many barriers”  — both in positions of writing and critiquing.

Lucas explained that in 2013, the number of men who reviewed literary pieces by other men was skewed to a disproportionate ratio of about three to one compared to the reviews of women’s literary work. By including female and transgender researchers in these residencies each year, CWILA aims to shift these skewed statistics within the Canadian literary scene.

During his time as the Critic-in-Residence, Crawford plans to focus on reviewing works that are either written by or feature transgender people and styles. Crawford hopes that, from his critiques of others’ pieces in the field, people will grow to question why “we tend to regard non-transgender [cisgender] modes of life as universal or ‘relatable’ in literature, when they are not.”

Ultimately, Crawford hopes his residency gives him a chance to “intervene in the national conversation about where our literature is headed” in what he sees as a vital time in our history — a time when a better representation of all genders is starting to emerge in literary and societal circles.