Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

Lavender Languages | Background & Focus

Lavendar Languages 2012; photo by Matthew Thoman

Photo by Matthew Thoman


The first Lavender Languages conference was held in 1993, in conjunction with the National March on Washington, DC. Through support from American University's Department of Anthropology, Women's/Gender Studies Program and other academic and service programs, from the College of Arts and Sciences and from the University Provost, the conference has become an annual event, regularly attracting participants from England, Wales, Ireland, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, China, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, as well as across the USA and Canada. Undergraduates and graduate students have always had an active presence in all conference activities—including presenting papers and coordinating panels and workshops, and so have activists, other members of lgbtq communities and other friends. Conference participants work hard to maintain Lav Lgs as a no-attitude event, whose activities are open to anyone interested in lgbtq languages and language research. Please see also: Previous Conferences.

Conference Focus

Stated broadly, the Lavender Languages and Linguistics Conference examines language use in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer life. Linguistic inquiry is broadly defined here, to include studies of: pronunciation, vocabulary and meaning, conversational structures and styles, life stories and other narratives, fiction, and poetry, the “language” of scientific and historic documents and print media, meanings encoded in spatial practices, sign language, non-verbal communication, and communication through photography, cinema and other visual arts. While presentations usually focus on local linguistic practices, they do not neglect the global spread of North Atlantic "gayspeak" and the growing tensions between (homo)sexuality and citizenship worldwide, and they acknowledge the need to position site-specific practices within broader contexts of social, cultural and linguistic theory. The language of conference presentation is English, but the languages explored in presentations have been as varied as Navajo and Japanese, Ukrainian and Hindi, Nicaraguan vernacular Spanish or Kechuan. Presentations from established scholars and from those just beginning to explore lavender language issues are welcomed.