An engine is a device that converts energy into movement. And while the term “difference engine” playfully repurposes the name given to the hand-cranked mechanical calculating machines of the early industrial revolution that are the forerunners of modern electronic computers, it’s also our metaphor for the Institute for LGBT Studies: we see ourselves as motor of change that both runs on difference and makes a difference.
Queer—a compact word and complex concept meant to encompass the vast range of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex lives and experiences—is fundamentally about differing from norms. Queer difference can culminate in violence, oppression, discrimination, and marginalization of that which lies outside the norm, while at the same time opening a space for critical reflection, deeper knowledge, sharper insights, and new visions of society that based on diverse non-normativities.
Queer difference itself is a source of power that can be harnessed to many different ends. Turning the power of queer difference into movement towards a better world is what it means to be a difference engine.