Studying the MA Gender, Sexuality and Culture programme at The University of Manchester
Written by Kristina Neil, an MA Gender, Sexuality and Culture student.
So much of our lives are wrapped up in finding ourselves and our place. Stay with me; I’m going somewhere with this. We ponder how we move through the world, the spaces we exist in, how we are perceived and, perhaps even, the kind of world we want to leave behind. That soul searching can sometimes lead us to recognise the competing, conflicting and interconnected ideas about humanity that we were born into. And if you’re anything like me, there’s a deep curiosity about what made these parts possible and how these institutions came into being. That’s how I ended up in the MA Gender, Sexuality and Culture programme at the University of Manchester.
Gender discourse has grown immensely over the past couple of years, increasing the relevance of its origins, how it organizes our lives and who and what this organizing affects. I wanted to deepen my knowledge and having had a professional background in gender advocacy, I came into the programme assuming I had my bases covered- knowing exactly what gender was. I’m happy to report that I was incredibly wrong.
Here’s the truth about this course. It’s an intense and rigorous field of study regarding how much you read (please, I’m not being hyperbolic about this) and how much it forces you to confront everything you thought you knew. My first semester at UoM has seen me negotiating between what I assumed to be the ultimate truth and the very, many theoretical knowledge that scholars over decades have developed. And, as intimidating as that was, as frightening as it all felt in the moment, it is perhaps the best part of studying one of the most interdisciplinary and diverse postgraduate courses. Within this single course, I’ve had to engage history, the sciences (a literal education in endocrinology), law, literature, anthropology and a host of other fields of study. Our world, the very nature of our lives, are connected by these entangled identities and my MA programme reflects that convolution. Take, for example, my favourite module last semester, which happens to be new to the programme: Trans Theory. Far beyond trying to answer questions like “What is transgender?”, we dug ourselves into questions of the desire to be gendered; we scrutinized the processes and histories that made “trans” possible and weighed the utility of trans activism.
So back to the “finding ourselves” part. In just a couple of months, my MA programme has given me language, histories and methods to think about my position in this world as a black woman from the Caribbean. Admittedly, it’s conjured far more questions with not many answers forthcoming but, my questions feel sharper, more deliberate. Within those questions, I’m slowly chipping away and making my path towards something great.