Cullen Goldblatt, who joins Iranti as a researcher and writer, came out as trans in the United States in the 90s, as a teenager.
“Because of my age, that makes me part of a first-generation where there was a cohort of [trans] people raising awareness and organising. I started to join, first on campus, raising awareness with other students – and then with administrators and other members of the campus community.”
In terms of a professional trajectory, Goldblatt first focused on early childhood development after university.
“I worked in early childhood education, I worked as a preschool teacher, I did admin in non-profits, I got an MFA in poetry, I worked in public health research and then I went into a PhD programme to focus on studying African literature.”
While Goldblatt says he hasn’t had the typical queer NGO career trajectory, he did come into some opportunities during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
“In the middle of 2020, I started doing some work with an organisation called Think Again. We develop social justice educational materials and give training and workshops primarily for groups that solicit our services – this was my re-entry into the queer social justice space – and It’s been fun!”
Goldblatt says queer and community activism has always been a part of his life but was never part of his career, until recently.
He joined Iranti in October as a writer and researcher in the Knowledge Management and Advocacy spaces. In his new role, Goldblatt says he hopes to contribute to community building and awareness-raising.
“I think if I could be a part of really raising general awareness around trans and intersex peoples’ lives and experiences, I think educating people and bringing them together around legislative aims results in community building and awareness-raising.”
Goldblatt is also a published author! In September 2020, his debut book Beyond Collective Memory was published. (He’s also translated two books of poetry by African authors into English: Patrice Nganagn’s elobi and Tahar Ben Jelloun’s Rising of the Ashes.)
Beyond Collective Memory came out of his PhD thesis; from the beginning of the research to publication took almost 10 years.
“The book is about how we think about and tell stories about historical violence – specifically the violence of apartheid and colonial rule in Africa. It’s really about how we understand the past and how we understand the present in light of the past,” Goldblatt says.