Transgender Media Lab Handbook
A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols
Version 1.0. Last Updated May 13 2022
Written by Evie Ruddy & the Transgender Media Lab
Acknowledgements: Edited by Kate Higginson. Layout by Kit Chokly. Thank you to Laura Horak, Kate Higginson, Cara Tierney, and Connie Crompton for contributing ideas, and participating in conversations about this handbook.
This living document was created in 2021 and last updated on 13 May 2022.
This handbook is inspired by and draws on the structure of the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) Lab Book.
How to cite this document: Evie Ruddy and the Transgender Media Lab, “Transgender Media Lab Handbook: A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols” (Ottawa, ON: Transgender Media Lab, Carleton University, 2022).
The first iteration of this handbook was written on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin Nation and on Treaty 4 lands — the territories of the Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation. We acknowledge that the Transgender Media Lab’s home institution, Carleton University, has benefitted and continues to benefit from generations of theft of land and resources, and we undertake to understand the obligations that this multi-generational transfer creates for us.
The Transgender Media Lab (TML) was founded by Dr. Laura Horak in 2020 to create an institutional home for students recruited to Carleton to research trans media-making and build the Transgender Media Portal (TMP), a website and database of trans filmmakers and their works. The TMP’s goals are to: promote the careers of today’s trans filmmakers, call attention to older works so they can be programmed and preserved, jumpstart research on these films, and provide artists and others with access to an innovative tradition of work.
The TML handbook is inspired by the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) Lab Book. Following CLEAR’s lead, TML team members will participate in a collaborative process in fall 2021 to establish our values. These values will inform how we engage in the lab’s work, including how we make decisions about the TMP, run meetings, interact with one another, and resolve conflict.
This handbook is a living document, which means that it is continually evolving as we welcome new members, learn about better, more equitable ways of doing the lab’s work, and engage in critical self-reflection. We are committed to creating a lab that is fair, transparent, effective, fun, and in line with trans, antiracist, anti-colonial, feminist, queer, and crip values.
The TML’s core values are: [TBA Fall 2022].
In Winter 2022, TML members participated in a values-defining workshop to determine the core values of the lab. We are currently in the process of collectively deciding what these values will be and will add them to the handbook in fall 2022.
To date, the TML has only one rule, which is the same as CLEAR Lab’s number 1 rule:
If you are sick, heartbroken, or exhausted, go home [or log off]. This job is not more important than your well being.
Our team meetings are how we build community in the lab. At TML meetings, we check in with one another and make important decisions about the lab’s work. These decisions, and the processes that we undertake at meetings, are informed by the values that we collectively establish. At our team meetings, we put our values into practice as we discuss the day-to-day operations of the lab, potential collaborations and partnerships, suggested revisions to our protocols and guidelines, and various lab-related projects.
Although lab members are expected to attend all TML meetings, we understand that sometimes you may need to miss a meeting. In these instances, we ask that you send an email to Laura and the person running that week’s meeting to let them know in advance that you can’t make it.
As a Lab Research Assistant (RA), you are expected to remain “in good standing” in order for your contract to be renewed. To remain in good standing, you must:
In order to support RAs to remain in good standing, and for RAs to provide Laura and Connie with feedback, two-way reviews with the RA’s primary supervisor (Laura or Connie Crompton) will be scheduled three months after the RA position begins (typically in December) and at the end of the second semester (typically in April). The purpose of these reviews is to find out how the RAship is going, discuss any issues that need to be addressed, evaluate how the tasks are fitting with the RA’s professional goals, and for the RAs to provide feedback to their supervisor, etc.
Yearly RA contracts that begin in the fall semester are typically up for renewal in April. RAs will be notified about their standing and whether or not their contract will be renewed within two weeks after the second review in April. If an RA fails to remain in good standing, their contract can be ended with 2 week’s notice.
Once you join the team as an RA, we will create a Planio account for you to keep track of your assigned tasks and log your hours. Keep your Planio task tickets up to date with the amount of time you have worked on each task (rounded to the nearest quarter hour).
During the period of your contract with the TML, you will be paid every two weeks on the Carleton pay dates, with the exception of your first payment, which is typically issued approximately one month after your start date. There is no need to submit your hours for approval. Project manager Kate Higginson will have access to your logged hours on Planio and will regularly review them to make sure that your hours are being recorded. Please ensure that your Planio tickets are always up to date.
Martina Angela Caretta of the Hydro-Feminist lab at West Virginia University and Caroline V. Faria of the Feminist Geography Collective at University of Texas at Austin advocate for slow scholarship and an ethics of care within an increasingly neoliberal academy. For Caretta and Faria, taking time and care in the lab and in their fieldwork involves: engaging in slow, transformative mentorship within an anti-racist, social justice, feminist framework; challenging institutional hierarchies by fostering space for peers to support one another and build meaningful friendships; engaging in regular check-ins on everyday ups and downs; creating space that prioritizes openness, informality, and shared responsibility; and cultivating a collaborative environment as opposed to one that fosters competition.
We strive to create a similar environment. When new members join the lab, we welcome, support, and mentor them. If you notice a lab member is struggling, please check in with them and offer support if you’re able to. We collaborate, help each other out, provide feedback on one another’s work, make space for lab members to express their ideas, establish shared values, recognize one another’s accomplishments, and carve out time for social activities.
It is also important to care for yourself: communicate your needs, set boundaries, take breaks when needed, and have fun. CLEAR reminds us that part of “supportive openness” is “keeping humour, fun, and personality alive and part of the lab work.”
As CLEAR suggests, one of the ways in which we care for ourselves and one another is through conflict resolution. It is important that if you have an issue with a lab rule, protocol, guideline, process, lab member, or something someone said that you communicate the issue so that it can be addressed early on. CLEAR suggests that members voice their concerns as such: “I notice that X. Its effect on me is Y. How can we work on that?”
The goal is to deal with the conflict head on while striving “to move forward together.” For more detailed guidelines on how to resolve conflict, see the protocol for “conflict resolution” below.
When you give presentations on behalf of the TML or write TML- or TMP-related papers, please always include a territory acknowledgement. The TML typically uses the following land acknowledgement:
The Transgender Media Lab is located on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin Nation. We acknowledge that the TML’s home institution, Carleton University, has benefitted and continues to benefit from generations of theft of land and resources, and we undertake to understand the obligations that this multi-generational transfer creates for us.
We encourage you to personalize this land acknowledgement and tailor it to the circumstances in which you are presenting.
When you give presentations on behalf of the TML or write TML- or TMP-related papers, please always include a slide or section acknowledging the TML, project funders, and people who contributed to the project.
We understand that sometimes life can become overwhelming and you may need to leave the lab unexpectedly, either for a short time or permanently. That’s okay. We will respect your decision and support you. Please be sure to let Laura know that you will be leaving so that we can assign your work to other lab members and follow the protocols for when a member exits the lab (e.g. scheduling an exit interview, returning keys, etc.)
We acknowledge the ways that colonialism, anti-Blackness, ableism, cis-centrism, transmisogyny, and homophobia structure the distribution of power, capital, and opportunities in so-called Canada and at Carleton University. We are committed to hiring QTBIPOC (queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, people of colour) and disabled students and staff to work at the Transgender Media Lab.
We also commit to paying good wages that are in line with union standards. Because Carleton University does not have a union-negotiated RA wage for students and staff hired through research grants, we generally set our wage scale based on the TA wages of Carleton’s CUPE 4600 Unit 1 and the University of Ottawa’s CUPE 2626 Unit.
To enact this commitment, we take the following steps when hiring for TML and TMP positions:
Our team is committed to making the lab and the work of the TML accessible to artists, activists, festival programmers, researchers, instructors, community members, and the general public. We are also committed to disability justice. In spring 2022, we formed a working group on disability justice and have begun working through “Disability Justice: An Audit Tool” written by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. The following protocols will be amended as we continue to do an internal audit of the TML.
In the lab, we will:
For TML events, we will:
For lab outputs, we will:
Existing team members will explain and help new TML Research Assistants with the following onboarding steps:
This survey will be distributed to every team member each August/September
Affiliated lab members help create a community of thinkers at the intersections of cinema and media studies and trans studies. They agree to participate in lab events (e.g. incubators, screenings, trans reading group, etc.) and provide informal mentorship to other members of the lab. Many events are online so affiliated members don’t need to be in Ottawa.
We are interested in affiliates who are doing work centered in transgender studies, that is, work that centers the expertise and expressed needs of trans people, with trans people in leadership positions. We are most interested in affiliates whose research overlaps with the current research interests of core lab members. We will prioritize QTBIPOC and disabled scholars who apply for affiliation.
To become an affiliated lab member:
Once you’ve been accepted:
The TML commits to paying researchers, including student researchers. Therefore, we do not want to rely too heavily on volunteer labour and will never ask someone to volunteer with us. However, we want to be open to people who approach us and enthusiastically volunteer to contribute to the TMP. We will repeatedly evaluate our reliance on volunteer labour to ensure that we are not contributing to exploitation.
To become a volunteer:
The TMP partners with film festivals, community organizations, researchers, instructors, and schools. These partnerships typically involve the following:
Protocols for partnerships/collaborations:
We recognize that university funding structures present barriers for scholars collaborating with marginalized communities and often harm collaborators who rely on timely payments to cover basic living expenses. We are committed to paying TMP research participants and collaborators in a timely manner, and in cash when possible. For our usability tests and screenings, our project manager has worked with Carleton’s Research Accounting department to pay testers and guest speakers in cash on the day of the events. This involves getting Research Accounting to advance the funds to Laura and accept signed statements of receipt from the payees as sufficient proof of fund use.
When people work together, conflict and tension are bound to happen. As Maya Livio and Lori Emerson note, conflict within feminist labs is welcomed and necessary. Livio and Emerson suggest that the way in which disagreements are dealt with “is significant for establishing affirming feminist spaces.” As such, we encourage you to hold space for respectful disagreement and to communicate any concerns you may have so they can be dealt with as soon as possible.
We follow CLEAR’s protocol for calling one another in, rather than out. As CLEAR notes, calling in allows us “to address relationships with accountability, respect, and love.”
Protocol for calling someone in:
We follow CLEAR’s protocols for how to apologize “in ways that are feminist and anticolonial, rather than the ways many of us have learned that tend to foreground logic, self-preservation, judgment, or demands for other people’s apologies rather than focusing on our own accountability.”
CLEAR’s protocol for apologizing entails two steps:
CLEAR draws on the work of disability justice organizer Mia Mingus, who suggests there are five components of an apology:
If you’ve been called in, CLEAR suggests that you “take a moment to centre yourself. You are not being attacked. This is not about who you are, but something you’re doing that is impacting others.”
Protocol for if you’ve been called in:
This section will be collaboratively written by lab members in Fall 2022.
In the meantime, we have been offering the following land acknowledgement at TML presentations:
Carleton University and the Transgender Media Lab offices are located on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin nation.
Universities, academic research, and laboratories have long contributed to colonial processes of stealing Indigenous land and resources, treating colonized and enslaved people as things, pathologizing trans and Two Spirit lives and bodies, and maintaining the cisheteropatriarchal order.
We want to begin today by asking how we can each work to understand the obligations this creates for us here and now on Algonquin territory, and what anti-colonial actions we can take individually or collectively to honour these obligations and move forward in a good way.
We follow CLEAR’s equitable meeting practices in order to challenge power dynamics that are often at play in meeting spaces and to ensure that space is created for everyone who wishes to provide input into the decisions of the lab. At TML meetings:
The TML office space is located in room 406 on the 4th floor of the St. Patrick’s Building at Carleton. It is a shared space that we want to be welcoming and accessible.
Follow these protocols when entering data into the TMP:
If a team member wishes to amend this handbook, they should present a written proposal at a team meeting where the proposal will be reviewed, discussed, and decided upon. Once the handbook has been amended, the date for when the document was last updated will be amended and the citation statement for how to cite this document will be revised to include the current version, e.g. V.02. The amended document will then be saved to the shared Google drive. If the document is posted to a public website, the new version will replace the outdated one. The lab will officially review and revise the handbook at least once every two years.
Caretta, Martina Angela, and Caroline V. Faria. “Time and Care in the ‘Lab’ and the ‘Field’: Slow Mentoring and Feminist Research in Geography.” Geographical Review 110, no. 1-2 (2020): 172–182.
Chokly, Kit, Jay Cooper, Oliver Debney, and Laura Horak. “Usability Test Report 2020.” Ottawa: Transgender Media Portal, Carleton University, 22 June 2020. https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:30641/
CLEAR. “CLEAR Lab Book: A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols.” St. John’s, NL: Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, Memorial University, 2017. https://civiclaboratory.nl/clear-lab-book/.
CLEAR. “CLEAR Lab Book: A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols.” V.03. St. John’s, NL: Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, Memorial University, 2021. https://civiclaboratory.nl/clear-lab-book/.
Cole, Danielle, Izetta Autumn Mobley, Jacqueline Wernimont, Moya Bailey, T.L. Cowan, and Veronica Paredes. “Accounting and Accountability: Feminist Grant Administration and Coalitional Fair Finance.” Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and Digital Humanities. Eds. Jacqueline Wernimont and Elizabeth Losh. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2018. https://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/projects/bodies-of-information.
Horak, Laura. “Tracing the History of Trans and Gender Variant Filmmakers.” Spectator: The University of Southern California Journal of Film & Television 37, no. 2 (2017): 9–20. https://cinema.usc.edu/spectator/37.2/2_Horak.pdf
Livio, Maya, and Lori Emerson. “Towards Feminist Labs: Provocations for Collective Knowledge-Making.” Critical Makers Reader: (Un)Learning Technology. Eds. Loes Bogers and Letizia Chiappini, 286–97. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2019.
Mingus, Mia. “How to Give a Genuine Apology, Part 2: The Apology – the What and the How,” 18 Dec. 2009, https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2019/12/18/how-to-give-a-good-apology-part-2-the-apology-the-what-and-the-how
Piepzna-Samarasinha, Leah Lakshmi. “Disability Justice: An Audit Tool,” Northwest Health Foundation, 2020, https://www.northwesthealth.org/djaudittool
Ruddy, Evie, and Laura Horak. “Orienting Toward Social Justice: Trans, Anti-Racist, Anti-Colonial, Feminist, Queer, and Crip Approaches to Ethical Practices in the Digital Humanities.” Paper presented at the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities Conference, online, 2 June 2021.
Seed the Way. “Interrupting Bias: Calling Out Versus Calling In.” Accessed 13 May 2022. http://www.seedtheway.com/uploads/8/8/0/0/8800499/calling_in_calling_out__3_.pdf
Sins Invalid. “Access Suggestions for Public Events.” Accessed 22 August 2021. https://www.sinsinvalid.org/news-1/2020/6/8/access-suggestions-for-public-events
Trans Pulse Canada. “Research Team Memorandum of Understanding: Accessibility and Equity,” 8 December 2020, https://transpulsecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/MOU-Accessibility-Equity-2020-12-08_FINAL_FINAL-ua-4.pdf
 CLEAR, “CLEAR Lab Book: A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols, V.03” (St. John’s, NL: Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, Memorial University, 2021), https://civiclaboratory.nl/clear-lab-book/.
 CLEAR, 15.
 Martina Angela Caretta and Caroline V. Faria, “Time and Care in the ‘Lab’ and the ‘Field’: Slow Mentoring and Feminist Research in Geography,” Geographical Review 110, no. 1–2 (2020): 172–82. https://doi.org/10.1111/gere.12369.
 CLEAR, “CLEAR Lab Book: A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols” (St. John’s, NL: Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, Memorial University, 2017), 11, https://civiclaboratory.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/clear-lab-book.pdf.
 CLEAR, 20
 CLEAR, “CLEAR Lab Book: A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols, V.03.” (St. John’s, NL: Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, Memorial University, 2021), 26, https://civiclaboratory.nl/clear-lab-book.
 CLEAR, “CLEAR Lab Book: A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols” (St. John’s, NL: Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, Memorial University, 2017), https://civiclaboratory.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/clear-lab-book.pdf/.
 Trans Pulse Canada, “Research Team Memorandum of Understanding: Accessibility and Equity,” Dec. 8, 2020, https://transpulsecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/MOU-Accessibility-Equity-2020-12-08_FINAL_FINAL-ua-4.pdf
 CLEAR, 10.
 Maya Livio and Lori Emerson, “Towards Feminist Labs: Provocations for Collective Knowledge-Making,” in Critical Makers Reader: (Un)Learning Technology, ed. Loes Bogers and Letizia Chiappini (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2019), 286–97.
 CLEAR, 24.
 These questions are directly from CLEAR, 24-25.
 Danielle Cole et al., “Accounting and Accountability: Feminist Grant Administration and Coalitional Fair Finance,” in Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and Digital Humanities, ed. Jacqueline Wernimont and Elizabeth Losh, Debates in the Digital Humanities (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2018), https://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/projects/bodies-of-information.
 Livio and Emerson, “Towards Feminist Labs: Provocations for Collective Knowledge-Making.”
 Livio and Emerson, 293.
 CLEAR, “CLEAR Lab Book: A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols, V.03.” (St. John’s, NL: Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, Memorial University, 2021), 54, https://civiclaboratory.nl/clear-lab-book.
 CLEAR, 55.
 CLEAR, 55.
 CLEAR, 57.
 CLEAR, 57.
 CLEAR, 57; Mia Mingus, “How to Give a Genuine Apology, Part 2: The Apology – the What and the How,” Dec 18, 2009, https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2019/12/18/how-to-give-a-good-apology-part-2-the-apology-the-what-and-the-how
 CLEAR, 55.
 CLEAR, “CLEAR Lab Book: A Living Manual of Our Values, Guidelines, and Protocols” (St. John’s, NL: Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, Memorial University, 2017), 5, https://civiclaboratory.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/clear-lab-book.pdf/.
 CLEAR, 5.