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With the interdisciplinary course 'Queer Planet', lecturer and coordinator Michiel Baas moves away from a specific western focus and instead discusses cases from around the world. How do trans identities find expression in countries as diverse as Brazil, India and Tonga? What does it mean to be gay in South-Africa? How do women negotiate being lesbian in different regional contexts?

Michiel Baas explains his motivation for developing the course Queer Planet: "Considering how prominent questions of sexual identity are to society, it is surprising that there is still a lack of courses that focus on LGBTQIA+ related topics. This course investigates how societies and cultures across the globe have engaged with categories of gender and sexuality that appear to deviate from the norm."

In addition, the potential of queer theory to understand diversity and inequality elsewhere in society is examined. What can we learn about societies in general by studying gender and sexual diversity? What alliances are possible between queer activists and other marginalised communities? 

Interdisciplinary conversations

In addition to the lectures, students from a wider range of disciplinary backgrounds come together weekly to read and discuss texts from the social sciences and cultural studies on LGBTQIA+ related topics. This allows students to contemplate their own backgrounds and how questions of gender and sexuality are discussed in their main coursework.

Michiel reflects on the participants of last-years edition: "Students of psychology have remarked that they find that they could do more with the topic within their degree programme, and students of medicine mentioned that they want to be prepared to deal with patients of diverse backgrounds, both culturally as well as in terms of gender or sexuality. Those with a background in natural sciences often do so because they have a personal interest in the topic. The classroom is seen as a safe space where students can freely express themselves."

The most valuable takeaway, according to Michiel? "Gender, sexuality or sexual identity knows a myriad of different social and cultural expressions the world over.

There isn't one particular way to be gay, lesbian, trans, queer or nonbinary. However, there is not one society or place where such difference does not exist. It's a queer planet after all. Michiel Baas

More information

The Honours module 'Queer Planet', developed by the IIS in 2020, steps away from pressing judicial and political concerns and, instead, treats the world as inherently queer.