«by Matthew D. Chin A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Social Work and ...»
Among mainstream lesbian and gay organizations around the world, Toronto is also considered to be a beacon of tolerance for gender and sexual minorities. In 2003, the city was the location of the first legal same sex marriage in North America between Michael Stark and Michael Leshner (Senger, 2013). A decade later, Toronto was selected to be the first city in North America to host World Pride and the event was also organized to include an international human rights conference around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights (DeMara, 2014). Yet, in spite of Toronto’s embrace of sexual and gender diversity, it is important to take note of how certain facets of this diversity are not as tolerated as others. When the Palestinian rights group “Queers against Israeli apartheid” attempted to march in Toronto’s Pride parade in 2010, they were met with the charge of discrimination and anti-Semitism (Paperny, 2010). This incident led politicians to argue that public funds should not be used to support “political” causes and resulted in the City of Toronto changing the conditions under which it provided financial support to Pride Toronto (Grant, 2012). This incident highlights the observation made by social movement scholars that protections for vulnerable groups have come about more as the result of the tireless efforts of activists pushing for social change as opposed the benevolence of those in power (Tom Warner, 2002; Tremblay, 2015).
Miriam Smith (2005) attempts to document such efforts in her survey of the field of LGBT organizing in Toronto and provides a general outline of the workings of sexual and gender minority groups in the city. While earlier organizing in the 1960s and 1970s was dominated by white gays and lesbians, the demographic changes in the city since then have meant that LGBT organizing in Toronto has become increasingly diverse in terms of race and ethnicity. Though Smith identified 175 different groups, the majority had fewer than 20 active participants and budgets of less than $10,000. She states, “the overall picture…is one in which there is a dispersed network of relatively small groups that mix social, recreation and cultural activities. Groups engage in both philanthropy and self-help; participating in a group is a way of helping oneself as well as a means of contributing to the community” (2005, p. 467). She goes on to argue that this “diffuse, informally organized set of interlocking community networks…form the backbone of LGBT life in the city” (2005, p. 471). As will be seen later in this chapter and in the chapters to come, Smith’s description of LGBT groups in Toronto very much resonates with the kind of organizations that I worked with over the course of this project.
Aside from its reputation for incorporating racialized, gendered and sexual difference, Toronto is also known around the world as a “Creative City”. This status is not altogether unearned. Urban planning guru, Richard Florida ( named Toronto as a prime example of how urban centers can mobilize the arts to foster economic development. Indeed, the City justifies the expenditure of public funds on the arts by pointing to the economic benefits generated from art production and consumption (City of Toronto, 2011): arts and culture are said to contribute $11.3 billion per year to Toronto’s GDP (City of Toronto, 2012a). This push for public investment in the arts comes not only from the halls of municipal government and academia but also from various grassroots actors. As early as 2001, a group of artists, community organizers and activists (that would later morph into the collaborative “BeautifulCity”) had been pushing for the City of Toronto to use its powers to tax billboards in order to increase public arts funding (Beautifulcity.ca, n.d.-b). They argued that this new source of revenue would enable the City to meet its target of spending $25/capita on arts and culture as outlined in its 2003 Culture Plan (City of Toronto, 2003). While highlighting the economic gains to be made from this policy initiative, those involved in advocating for greater arts funding also pointed out how the arts serve to counteract mechanisms of social exclusion that disproportionately affect the City’s vulnerable groups such as youth, visible minorities and low income populations (Leslie & Hunt, 2013). In 2013, Toronto City Council voted to increase public funding to the arts by $17 million over the next 4 years (Knelman, 2013) and although the timeline for this increase has been delayed (Spurr, 2013), additional public resources continue to be devoted to the arts in the city. It is these resources that have financially supported the QTPOC community1 arts organizations that are the centerpiece of this study.
THINKING RACE GENDER AND SEXUALITY THROUGH CANADAIn this section I draw attention to the field of scholarship committed to thinking through the interrelated nature of racialized, gendered and sexual difference and show how a focus on Canada can contribute to and extend this body of knowledge. Often explicitly making connections with earlier women of color feminist work, this line of inquiry has been instrumental in offering a nuanced analysis of the workings of political power by showing for instance how Anthropologists such as Amit (2002) and Herzfeld (2005) have criticized the largely
concept of community popularized through Anderson’s (1983) Imagined Communities. In this text, I follow the lead of anthropologists like Irvine and Gal (2000) who maintain that “community” cannot be understood outside of the specific practices and coordinative processes that constitute it. For a more thorough discussion of how I mobilize the term “QTPOC community”, please see Appendix 1.
exclusionary immigration policies not only enact racist modes of violence but also more deeply entrench existing inequalities on the basis of gender and sexuality (Reddy, 2005). Yet while this kind of approach is able to provide important insights into the inter-connected nature of mechanisms of exclusion that operate in seemingly distinct ways, it has predominately focused on social differences situated in the United States. Canada is a particularly important site to extend this body of literature because its multicultural approach to race and ethnicity counters the tendency of this scholarship to focus on a singularly constituted ethno-racial group. In this study, I focus on Canadian multiculturalism to facilitate a broader understanding of how state power and processes of racialization relate to the workings of sexualized and gendered difference.
Scholars from as diverse fields as critical ethnic studies, women & gender studies, queer studies, history and English have recognized the increasing importance of analyzing the interrelated nature of race, gender and sexuality as dimensions of social difference. For instance, David Eng (2007) questions the extent to which the 2003 Supreme Court decision Lawrence vs Texas, which struck down the Texas statue banning same sex sodomy, should be lauded as a victory of queer politics. In this case, he argues that the inscription of queer subjects into the domain of American citizenship exacerbates continuing relations of racial domination. In a close reading of the circumstances that lead to this court case Eng states, [I]t was not the report of “consensual sodomy” that provided the basis for the Harris County Sheriff Department’s intrusion into Lawrence’s Houston apartment. It was, in fact, the report of a weapons disturbance…Robert Eubanks…called the Harris County police dispatcher with the following words: “There’s a nigger going crazy with a gun”…It is this enduring and far from resolved history of whiteness, private property and black racial trespass that provides the material and ideological background through which the queer liberalism of Lawrence emerges (2007, p. 47).
For scholars such as Eng, it is by investigating dimensions of race, gender and sexuality within the same frame of reference that enables a more thoroughgoing analysis of supposedly liberating social forms.
In distilling this mode of analysis into a theoretical paradigm, Roderick Ferguson advances what he refers to as “queer of color critique”, which insists on the importance of interrogating “social formations as the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class, with particular interest in how those formations correspond with and diverge from nationalist ideals and practices.” (2003, p. 149). While queer of color critique is constructive in thinking through processes of capitalist formation in novel ways, its formulation through African American gender and sexual non-normativity nevertheless is characteristic of the scholarship that examines those who are produced as racial, sexual and gendered deviants in two ways. Firstly, with few exceptions, many of the studies to date that have placed this intersectional non-normativity at the center of their analyses have been firmly situated in the American context.
But processes of racialization are not everywhere the same. Taking seriously Etienne Balibar’s 2 (Balibar & Wallerstein, 1991) insights on the relationship between race and processes of national formation means that by moving away from a decidedly American model of race relations, scholars have the potential to broaden their understanding of the interrelated mechanisms of racialized, gendered and sexual deviance. I argue that by focusing on Canada as a decisive point of contrast, scholars working with queer and trans people of color not only counter In analyzing the relationship between race and the nation state, Etienne Balibar proposes the concept of “fictive ethnicity” to describe the way in which states attempt to fabricate a national community. He argues that as social formations become nationalized, their populations are ethnicized such that they are represented as though they formed a natural community. This process of ethnicization unfolds along the axis of race and language, both of which express the notion that the national character is immanent in individual people. However, Balibar grants race a privileged role in the creation of fictive ethnicities because while linguistic constructions of identity are structurally open, the production of racialized difference is a more fixed undertaking.
the American hegemony that characterizes much of the literature on the connections between race, gender and sexuality, but they also have the opportunity to move away from the tendency of this literature to focus on a singularly constituted ethno-racial group.
But why does Canada function as a particularly useful site to examine multi ethno-racial social relations as opposed to the United States? Scholars of race relations in North America have been keen to point out that Canada and the US differ significantly in terms of how they approach the issue of race (Mackey, 2002). The United States adheres to an assimilationist model whereby non-white groups are expected to adapt to the existing socio-cultural and political economic fabric of American society. The success of assimilation is premised on the extent to which racial minority groups become socio-economically indistinguishable from the racial majority (Peach, 2005). Sociologists and geographers have typically measured the level of assimilation by examining the degree of racial residential segregation within a given spatial unit such that higher levels of racial segregation are taken to mean lower levels of assimilation and vice versa (Johnston, Poulsen, & Forrest, 2007).
In contrast to America’s assimilative approach, Canada addresses ethno-racial diversity through multiculturalism. Established in 1971, Canada’s Multiculturalism Act maintains that Canada does not have an official culture and that no ethnic group takes precedence over any other. With the passage of Bill C-93 in 1988, the Canadian government recognized multiculturalism as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian heritage and identity. In contrast to America’s injunction for racial minority groups to “fit in”, Canada’s multiculturalism allows and in fact encourages ethno-racial groups to maintain their ways of life. Thus, while assimilationist approaches discourage the residential segregation of ethno-racial minorities, within multicultural societies, this kind of separation is not necessarily perceived negatively (Taylor, 1994).
Although this study makes the case that Canada provides a constructive point of contrast to the literature on simultaneously racialized, sexualized and gendered difference, which has tended to focus on singular ethno-racial groups in the United States because its serves as an opportunity to examine multi-racial modes of social organization, it is important to note that the basis of this claim is not empirical. I am therefore not asserting that Canadian multiculturalism policy has the effect of producing multiracial social relations and that American assimilationist programs construct segregated ethno-racial specific communities. While members of the organizations, groups and collectives present in this study do in fact span different ethno-racial affiliations, this is not necessarily the consequence of Canadian multiculturalism policy per se.
Indeed the literature comparing the US and Canada have shown not only that the levels of ethnoracial segregation are roughly similar, but that the small differences that do exist cannot be traced to the national differences in approaches to ethno-racial diversity (Reitz & Breton, 1994).