Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN23_02a: Negotiating sexual identities
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Francesca Stella, University of Glasgow
Location: BS.3.24
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

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Iranian Gayness and Its Origins: A Survey on The Process of Gayness Production in The Iranian Context

Mohammad Naeimi

Verona University, Italy

By reworking Foucault’s concept of the sexuality apparatus, Massad coined the term ‘Gay International’ in order to assert that the identification of homosexuality and gayness are modern and Western products which have been exported to the Middle East by Western Human Rights organizations since the 1980s. In Massad’s writings, therefore; non-heterosexuals’ agency in the relationship between Middle East and modernity has been denied. In my paper, on the contrary, I will argue that homosexuality in the Iranian context is constituted during two different historical periods: during the modernization process and in post-revolutionary Iran. I will discuss how the process of modernization in the Iranian socio-political atmosphere at the end of the Nineteenth and during the Twentieth century has contributed to the heteronormalization of society and the erasure of traditional same-sex practices. I will also claim that the Islamic Revolution, as a form of fundamentalism, is a by-product of modernization that brought the pathologization and criminalization of homosexuality. And I will also assert that the achievement of new freedom of expression in the 1990s has contributed to the process of gayness production. Based on Rao’s thesis, and in contrast to Massad’s writings, I will argue that Iranian gays actively took part in the process of gayness production and were not simply the passive receivers of a Western form of life. Ultimately, I will conclude that gayness in the Iranian context is mutually constituted in accordance, and in contrast to modernization and westernization and propose that gayness can escape its Western origins.

Male and Female Ways to Understand and Articulate One’s Own Sexuality (on Biographical Stories of Russian Non-heterosexual People)

Polina Kislitsyna

European University at St.Petersburg, Russian Federation

The paper focuses on ways to narrativize homosexual experience and gender differences in biographical stories of non-heterosexual people in Russia. Based on biographical interviews and written autobiographies collected from people with homosexual experiences, I consider strategies for telling about one’s own sexuality, causal relationships and ideas about the nature of one’s own sexuality.

I single out a general scheme of narratives about the formation of one’s own sexuality which would be relevant for both men and women: the first erotic and aesthetic impressions, the first affections, the first love and sexual relations. However, there are quite a few gender differences in the ways narrators describe this process.

There are themes and plots that are more typical for women; others appear only in male stories. For example, only women told about falling in love with a teacher, whereas experiences of collective masturbation are featured exclusively in male biographies. Women tend to talk more about the emotional aspect of sexual and romantic relationships. Men are more free to articulate the bodily aspect of sexuality, especially when it comes to written narratives. These differences in the ways of narrativizing sexuality demonstrate the difference in cultural notions about what male and female sexuality should be in general and how each of them can be told.

Strategic usage of sexual identity labels in mainland China and Hong Kong

Yiu-tung Suen

Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong S.A.R. (China)

International organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Lesbian and Gay Association increasingly speak about sexual orientation based rights in global terms. Speaking about gay people in such global terms seems to suggest that being gay in different parts of the world share much similarity and commonality with their counterparts in North America and Europe, at least to the extent that they can be referred to using the same sexual identity labels. Some scholars would argue that it is in line of the proliferation that being gay is an increasingly global phenomenon. However, anthropologists and sociologists have challenged the discourse on a homogeneous global ‘gayness’ and criticized such a notion for being universalizing and ahistorical. Building on ongoing works to challenge and examine the applicability of sexual identity labels in the Chinese cultural context, this research funded by the General Research Fund assesses how same-sex sexual identity labels such as ‘men who have sex with men’, homosexual’, ‘tongzhi’, ‘tongxinglian’, ‘tongxingai’, ‘gay’ and ‘queer’, and more local terms such as ‘memba’, ‘pure’ and ‘no label’ are applicable or not in contemporary mainland China and Hong Kong in an era of global gay politics. It draws on: an online survey of self-reported usage of different sexual identity labels among same-sex attracted non-activists in mainland China and Hong Kong; interviews and focus groups with same-sex attracted activists and non-activists in mainland China and Hong Kong; ethnographic participation of organizations that work with same-sex attracted individuals in mainland China. This paper contributes to understanding of the local development and adaptation of sexual identity labels at a historical juncture of growing interconnected global gay politics.

Non-Cis* Citizens and Border Crossings: The Effects of the Heteronormative Gender Regimes on Practices of Border Controls and Border Crossing by Non-Cis Individuals

Verena Molitor

Bielefeld University, Germany

Non-cis individuals, non-binary as well as trans* bodies challenge gender regimes and border security control regulations, the police practice and policing as such in the sense of hierarchical control. The expectation of gender binary within the policing practices applies to the citizens, who are expected to have documents with registered (mostly binary) gender, so body checks are clearly regulated, as well as having genitalia, corresponding to the documents. The police officers, trapped in the binary-normativity of gender regimes and gender registrations face specific challenges while controlling non-cis individuals. Being binary and cis-gender is also expected from police officers, having e.g. sex-specific uniforms, clear rules of e.g. performing body check on same-sex citizens, and, until at least 2019 in German case, even having certain types of genitalia. Complex ambiguities, faced by trans* police officers are rather silenced within the executive power and barely researched. Hence, bodies, not complying in their visual appearance or genitalia to the id-documents challenge police practices and police as institution. This paper demonstrates, using data from biographical interviews with trans* police officers in Germany and materials for diversity trainings concerning trans* and non-binary bodies within German police, how the normality expectations, articulated in heteronormative gender regimes are being articulated, internalised, negotiated and complied to by the trans* police officers in their professional life. The paper shows the embodiment of non-complying non-cis bodies and their clashing with heteronormative gender regimes, gender identity registrations as well as self-positioning of the trans* police officers within the executive power.