Spaces of Queer Disruption: LGBTQ2S+ Intimacies, Consent, and Violence

Wednesday May 18 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
Virtual Platform

Session Code: GAS6
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Gender and Sexuality
Session Categories: Regular Session

Sexual violence, consent, and abuse within relationships is a serious issue concerning the wellbeing of people. While research on consent among heterosexual couples is well documented, a small but growing body of research studies and acknowledges the existence of partner violence in LGBTQ2S+ communities, but research on queer interpersonal violence remains limited. Interpersonal violence within LGBTQ2S+ relationships and communities is positioned within cisheteropatriarchal, white supremacist, colonial, and ableist structures, and can be untangled through understanding histories of institutionalized violence as well as micro-level interactive processes. This session brings together papers that examine how non-heterosexual, trans, and gender nonconforming people negotiate consent, navigate intimate sexual violence, and conceptualize and reframe cultures of intimacy. Tags: Communities, Gender, Sexuality, Violence

Organizers: Elliot Fonarev, University of Toronto, Andy Holmes, University of Toronto; Chairs: Elliot Fonarev, University of Toronto, Andy Holmes, University of Toronto


V Bragagnolo, York University; Lauren McLean, Guelph University; Ashley Shalmoni, York University

Queering Sexual and Gender Based Violence: An Intersectional Approach to Mainstream Media Coverage

On September 17, 2021, the chant “Stop this violence, no more silence” could be heard across the Western University campus (Zaforsky and Newcombe 2021). Hundreds of students and faculty at the university staged a walkout to demand action as they marched to protest multiple incidents of sexual violence on their campus. Far from an isolated occurrence, the events at Western brought to the forefront questions of who gets represented in the media. Mainstream media maintains a “master narrative” of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) that excludes and isolates queer experiences (Harris and Linder, 2017, p. xiii). Drawing from Harris and Linder (2017) and Crenshaw (1989), this paper deconstructs the “identity-neutral, power evasive perspective” (2017, p. xiv) centered in popularized mediums and offers a queer approach to SGBV with an intersectional lens. By reframing the conversation of  SGBV as a combination of macro and micro cishet and racist structures, socially and culturally-based interventions along with reform can be produced to best aid those whose stories have historically gone unpublished. SGBV continues to be a prominent issue within and outside of university campuses; yet, it lacks the acknowledgement and intersectional understanding it so desperately needs for institutions to create safe and informed spaces. This paper aims to curate this conversation by asking the following questions: How can an intersectional framework be incorporated into policies and procedures to move away from a privileged white, hetero, cis female narrative of SGBV? What social and cultural stereotypes must change when talking about survivors? Why do we only focus on and believe specific voices in discussions about SGBV?

Carlo Handy Charles, McMaster University

How socioeconomic inequality, space, and homophobia intersect to shape the construction of Haitian gay migrants as immoral

Since the beginning of their migration to the Americas and Europe in the 1950s, Haitian migrants have ensured the socio-economic survival of non-migrants in Haiti. They have mainly done so by sending annually over three billion US dollars to their families and friends back home. While Haitian migrants are often perceived as having a positive economic impact on the country, some are criticized for engaging in sexual behaviours, such as homosexuality, which seemingly infringes on ‘traditional’ Haitian family values in a largely conservative ‘Christian’ society. This revives old debates about migrants’ role in using their money to normalize homosexual romantic/intimate relationships and pervert sexual morality and acceptable gender norms among non-migrants in Haiti. According to these debates, the physical and socio-cultural distance that separates gay Haitian migrants home and host countries would be the reason why they engage in homosexual acts with non-migrants in Haiti. As such, homosexual identity and behaviours are seen as being physically and socio-culturally distant from the imagined community and national identity to which Haitians supposedly belong. And, it is only by being located outside of the physical and socio-cultural border of Haiti that Haitian migrants may have developed a gay identity, which emboldens them to pervert sexual morality in their Caribbean homeland. Situated at the intersection of transnational migration and space, this paper examines how the inequality of resources between migrants and non-migrants intersects with homosexuality and space to construct Haitian gay migrants as immoral while also recognizing their vital economic support to Haiti. Drawing on secondary data and field research in Northern Haiti, this paper shows that the construction of gay Haitian migrants as perverts is part of contemporary political and religious homophobic projects in Haiti, which locate homosexuality outside the real and imagined borders of the country. As well, this paper analyzes the significant implications that such a view has had for how homosexuality and homosexuals are perceived and treated in the Haitian context of migrant remittance dependence. 

Jessica Wright, McGill University

Undoing Violent Relations: Using a Feminist Queer Crip Lens to Develop Trauma-informed, Anti-oppressive Consent Education

This paper brings together feminist sociological scholarship from Critical Disability Studies and queer and trans studies to consider modes of de-centering the cis-heteronormative, colonial logics underscoring contemporary consent education. Drawing from two sets of data, I examine how queer and trans epistemologies can be used to reframe and improve GBV prevention education in trauma-informed, anti-oppressive ways. The first study attended to youth trauma survivors (most of whom were queer, trans, BIPOC, first-generation Canadian, disabled and/or Mad) and their experiences and understandings of consent and consent education. I found that survivors’ challenges with navigating consent, such as dissociating during sex, were accommodated by queer and trans (QT) partners in ways that they were not by cis-heterosexual male partners. The lack of accommodation within a cis-heterosexual dynamic reflected liberal and colonial constructions of intimacy: sex is conceptualized as a transaction and consent as a contract unaffected by political inequities. Though I do not subscribe to an idea of QT relations as utopic, my study found that QT youth are imagining new forms of sexual relations that decenter the (colonial) violence often inherent in cis-heteronormative arrangements and, instead, prioritize interdependence and care. Further, the study’s findings point to a need to honour and learn from QT survivors’ ‘crip skills’ for meeting their ‘sexual access needs’, the needs they have in order to access mutual, non-harmful, pleasurable sex. I build on these findings with data from a second study that uses narrative collection to explore QT youth survivors’ affective experiences of full or meaningful consent. The paper contributes to scholarly conversations about the liberatory potential of queer sexual joy for disrupting the systems that maintain rape culture, such as colonialism and cis-heteronormativity. Incorporating a feminist queer crip lens in consent education is one such way to begin both honouring QT survivors’ lived knowledges and mobilizing queer sexual joy to build healthier, less violent sexual cultures.  

Tif Semach, University of Lethbridge; Harry Culley, University of Lethbridge; Athena Elafros, University of Lethbridge

"It's just been a place of belonging": Oral Histories of GSAs/QSAs in Alberta

Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs)/ Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) are youth-led groups aimed at providing welcoming, inclusive opportunities for two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and all other sexual and gender minority (2SLGBTQ+) students and their allies to gather. The first GSAs in Alberta were created in the early 2000s in public high schools. This paper is based upon an ongoing oral history project that aims to document the experiences of GSA/QSA members and facilitators from Alberta, Canada who have been involved in a GSA/QSA over the last twenty years. We have currently interviewed a total of 10 facilitators and participants of GSAs in Alberta about their experiences. We inductively coded these interviews using NVivo software. In this presentation we will: 1) outline some of the history of GSA legislation in Alberta, with particular focus on the politically divisive climate arising in recent years; 2) highlight some of the emergent key themes from our interviews, which have relayed both the challenges and triumphs of creating and fostering these groups in sometimes tentative school communities; and 3) discuss some of the challenges and opportunities of this type of community-based oral history research project, with attention to the developing challenge of conducting interviews during the COVID-19 pandemic.