Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
RN23_04a: Spaces of sexuality
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Jacqui Gabb, The Open University
Location: BS.3.24
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

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‘We’re Not Asking For A Palace, Just A Safe Space’: The Intersections Of Sexuality, Space And ‘Refugeeness’ In The Lives Of LGBTQI* Refugees

Nina Held

University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Whilst Europe is proud of its record on LGBTQI* rights and presents itself as a haven for LGBTQI* people, the situation of individuals who seek international protection on grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity looks rather bleak. Not only has the ‘welcome culture’ (in Germany, for instance) been replaced with right-wing rhetoric and the closure of European borders, but LGBTQI* refugees also face additional issues such as the impossibility of proving their ‘gayness’ and social isolation, especially when their claim is refused. Whilst the subjectivities of LGBTQI* refugees are constituted by ‘space’ in particular ways, sexual geographies research has not drawn much attention to that relationship. Drawing on the European project SOGICA – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Claims of Asylum (, this paper explores how space and sexuality constitute each other in the lives of LGBTQI* refugees. It challenges the concept of ‘safe space’ and argues that it is the intersections of being ‘marked’ as a refugee and being LGBTQI* that fundamentally shape the intersectional spatial experience of LGBTQI* refugees.

LGBTQ+ Social Housing Residents – extending the locations of sexual citizenship

Andrew Douglas King

University of Surrey, United Kingdom

This presentation draws on studies conducted over the past two years regarding the experiences and concerns of LGBTQ+ people living in social housing; that is, housing provided by a local government authority or housing association. Themes emanating from this research indicate that LGBTQ+ social housing residents lack sexual citizenship in relation to their housing. The presentation illustrates why this is through the discussion of number of key themes from the research, including: concerns about belonging, erasure of identities and a lack of equality and inclusivity. The presentation outlines what can be done to rectify this situation, including a brief overview of the UK’s first LGBTQ+ social housing resident ‘pledge scheme’. The presentation also considers what this means for the concept of sexual citizenship itself.

Social Spaces of Gay Men in Switzerland

Nadine Kaeser, Carlo Fabian, Riccarda Neff

Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, Switzerland

Research in the area of social network support shows that social spaces and social networks are important areas to promote quality of life. However, there is hardly any empirical evidence in considering positive aspects of social spaces including social networks and social support for homosexual men in Switzerland.

With our research project, the lack of evidence-based knowledge concerning the situation of gay men in Switzerland shall be reduced. The aim of the research project is to discover, describe and understand the subjective functions and meaning of social spaces for quality of life of gay men in Switzerland.

The project examines its topic with an exploratory mixed method design. The first step consisted of a qualitative exploration of the research field, based on semi-structured interviews including egocentric network analysis. Building on these findings, the second step consists of the quantitative exploration, by means of a broadly supported online survey. The insights gained are intended to better understand the resources with-in social spaces and networks of gay men in a largely heteronormative society and thus to enrich and broaden the debate as well in practice, politics and science.

The conference presentation will provide an overview of the first outcomes of the qualitative exploration. The contribution is intended to demonstrate our interest in the practice and dynamics of positioning as a minority in a heteronormative society. The first results show that the active positioning of gay men brings with it different uses of social spaces and corresponding geographical spaces. This is also reflected in the importance and significance of safe spaces for gay men in Switzerland.

“I’m Not Who They Expect”: Hearing Trans People Navigate The Obstacles And Challenges Of Homelessness

Edith Amy England

Cardiff University, United Kingdom

Homelessness is particularly prevalent among trans people. In the UK, homelessness assistance is mediated by local government officials. These “street level bureaucrats” allocate resources based upon systems and practices reliant upon beliefs about deservedness/need, rooted in a heteronormative understanding of home and homelessness (Cramer, 2005), leading to concern over the ability of the service to meet the needs of homeless LGBTQ applicants. Two key gaps exist: first, little work so far has included trans people as a distinct group. Second, the majority of prior scholarship locates LGBTQ homeless people as disempowered and marginalised, and so does not consider how this group may deploy agency and power.

Drawing upon interviews with 25 homeless/ ex-homeless trans people, this paper finds that mundane practices by street level bureaucrats, and overarching organisational oversight, position homeless trans people as unanticipated, passive “strangers” (Ahmed, 2000), whose specific needs are unaccommodated and frequently problematised. Consequently trans people often perceived homelessness service bureaucracies as hostile, dismissive and indifferent to their needs. Yet homeless trans people are also highly creative, working co-operatively to create safe, if often physically and temporally precarious, “homes”. Such practices operate dialectically with a deconstruction of heteronormative understandings of home and family. The paper thus makes two key contributions. First, it advances understanding of ways in which bureaucratic/institutional practices contribute to “overlooking” of non-heternormative applicants. Second, it highlights applicants as resistive, ingenious and reflexive, with a complex and nuanced understanding of their homelessness as a transformative life event.

Supporting Young LGBT+ People’s Sense Of Belonging And Wellbeing: Contrasting Experiences From England And Sweden

Eleanor Formby1, Jo Woodiwiss2

1Sheffield Hallam Unversity, United Kingdom; 2University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom

This paper draws on findings from British Academy/Leverhulme funded research in England and Sweden to examine the notion of ‘supporting’ LGBT+ young people’s wellbeing, including in relation to friendships and peer relationships that might facilitate a sense of belonging. Increasing numbers of young people in the UK are being diagnosed with mental health issues, but access to formal support or information about sex(uality) and relationships is limited, particularly in relation to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT+) identities. This contrasts with what are often perceived to be more liberal attitudes towards sex(uality) in Sweden.

Our research, using interviews, discussion groups and vignettes with practitioners and young people, indicates that in England LGBT+ identities are perceived by ‘others’ as problematic, vulnerable and/or conflated with mental ill-health. However, this was resisted by many LGBT+ young people who called instead for more inclusive approaches to schooling and/or youth work that do not necessarily see them as having mental health issues, but which recognise that they might sometimes require additional support within their everyday lives. In Sweden, the level of support available to young people was impressive, but young LGBT+ people did still face challenges. In a context where ‘punishment’ was frowned upon, a less authoritative approach to schooling led to some problematic language/practices going ‘unchecked’.

Here we discuss some lessons from both English and Swedish practices, particularly regarding understandings of ‘safeguarding’/child protection and ‘youth support’, which could benefit all young people growing up in a ‘sexual world’.

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