Interview with Iris Busschers

Iris Busschers is a PhD from the University of Groningen. We had a chat with her and talked about her course LGBTQ+ Minorities: Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Hi Iris! Who are you?

Iris Busschers

My name is Iris Busschers. I studied history and religious studies at the University of Groningen. Right now, I am wrapping up my PhD thesis at the same university. For a few years now, I have been actively involved in the Centre for Gender Studies at the university. Together with colleagues, I organise lectures, events, and an annual symposium for students. It was my experience in gender studies which enabled me to design and teach a course on LGBTIQA+ Minorities in the Minorities and Multilingualism bachelor.

You’re teaching the course LGBTQ+ Minorities: Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Groningen, which starts in the spring of 2019. That sounds quite complicated, what is it about?

The course introduces students to different ways of thinking about gender and sexuality. For example, are the categories ‘women’ and ‘men’ biologically given or are they (also) informed by societal expectations? How does that tie in with how we envision sexuality? We commonly define our sexual desire in terms of attraction to the ‘same’ or ‘opposite’ sex, why? Specifically, the course discusses how different theories of gender and sexuality have impacted thinking about and the position of LGBTIQA+ minorities historically and globally.

Why should we learn more about this topic?

Ideas about gender and sexuality are everywhere. During the past few years it has once more become clear that you can hardly avoid it as a political and societal topic of debate. Think about the US presidential election in 2016, the #metoo movement, or about the ongoing fight for trans* rights. Often, when these topics are discussed this is done with certain presuppositions about what gender or sexuality is. The course helps students to recognise the logic inherent to some of these debates, and the consequences of taking up a particular stance. As such, it allows them to reflect on what it means to make certain claims. It does not teach them that a particular position is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Rather, I aim to make students become versed in recognising the gendered and sexual understandings that underlie arguments and positions in these debates and to think about the ways in which it might include or exclude particular groups of people.

What was your biggest eye-opener in studying the fields of gender and sexuality?

One of the eye-opening moments in the course is often when we discuss the manner in which sexual and gender rights have become tied to certain forms of nationalism or thinking about the nation. For example, I grew up with the idea that the Netherlands is comparatively tolerant of homosexuality. This understanding has become very politicised in recent years. In the past decade, this idea has increasingly been used to state that what is labelled ‘the Islam’ is not compatible with ‘the Dutch identity’. In class, we discuss what it means to relate a national identity ‘the Dutch’ to LGBTQ+ rights and how this intersects with narratives of exclusion of certain religious groups. We do this by asking critical questions: why is religiosity tied to an idea of ‘non-Dutch’ and ‘non-tolerance’ for Dutch Muslims, while orthodox Christianity is not equated with an ‘non-Dutch’ identity? How do religion, nationality, sexuality and ethnicity relate to each other in this example?

Do you have a message for people who want to know more about gender and sexuality?

If you are interested in the course I would very much like to encourage you to enrol: the course is open to students from all faculties and majors, as long as you have obtained your propaedeutic exam. More information about the course can be found in the online course catalogue Ocasys, and you can always email me if you have any questions.

Click to view the poster for the LGBTQ+ Minorities course: