Throughout 2020, I had the privilege of working on the PhD research that I started in 2019. I study at the University of Birmingham, and am sponsored by the Council for World Mission. By the beginning of 2020, I had obtained ethics approval for my research, drafted a chapter about the methods which I would use and had recruited many wonderful participants to interview. I have interviewed two of those amazing people face to face before lockdown started. With the help of my supervisor and the ethics panel, I altered my methods a bit, and was able to complete interviews via zoom, eventually interviewing ten trans and non-binary people with a remarkable diversity of identities and understandings. I absolutely loved talking with, and listening to, my participants, and have learned so much.
I had some exciting academic opportunities in 2020, two of which I would like to mention here. Both of these opportunities were aided by the possibility of presenting and workshopping via Zoom, which I have found immensely beneficial. In September, I was able to teach a class on trans and non-binary readings of scripture for the Cambridge Theological Federation as part of their Bible in Context course. It was a real joy to be able to offer something back to a place that was so foundational in my own personal and vocational development. In November, I was asked to present a seminar for the Council for World Mission, as part of the Academic Accompaniment scheme, which supports my studies. It was wonderful to be able to workshop ideas with theologians, ministers and activists with a wide range of identities and specialisms.
In 2021, I will be completing a literature review and starting to draft the main chapters of my thesis. This is an exciting stage in the research process, which should lead to a full draft being ready by April 2022, at which point I will move into ‘thesis awaiting’. Whilst that might seem like a long way away right now, it feels like things are moving very quickly indeed! It seems like just yesterday that I was wondering whether I had any chance whatsoever of even starting a PhD, and now I can see the work beginning to take shape. It’s hard to put into words how exciting that is! I am also looking forward to several conference, teaching and writing opportunities this year.
Another big change in 2021, will be to the team that I am working with. I have been so lucky to have Dr. Deryn Guest, whose work on queer theology has been a real inspiration for some time, as my supervisor for the first half of my studies. When I visited Birmingham, to meet Deryn and to decide whether or not we would work well together, I was so nervous! The genuine warmth, kindness and interest with which Deryn welcomed me transformed that visit into a moment that I now see as a vital landmark on a journey to increased self-confidence and capability. I am so thankful for Deryn’s expertise, support, encouragement and kindness over the past 20 months.
Deryn is moving on from the university and, as such, I have two new supervisors! There is an increasing move towards team supervision, and so I will be supervised 60% by Dr. Ben Pink Dandelion and 40% by Dr. Elliot Evans. They both bring diverse and valuable areas of expertise to the team, and I am very excited about working with them. Whilst transitions are always tricky, I continue to be full of gratitude for all of those who are supporting this work and for all of the opportunities that I continue to have.