Queer Legalities: Identity and Change in Queer Spaces

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UCL Faculty of Laws (Gideon Schreier LT)

Bentham House

4-8 Endsleigh Gardens

London

WC1H 0EG

United Kingdom

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The LGBT+ Staff-Student Network in the Faculty of Laws and qUCL, UCL's cross university queer research group, invite you to join them for an end of year research forum titled 'Queer Legalities: Identity and Change in Queer Spaces'. This runs from 6pm to 9pm on Monday 13 May, with two papers (by Professor Chris Ashford and Cameron Giles of Northumbria University) followed by drinks, nibbles and networking.

Professor Ashford will speak to a paper titled 'Queer Spaces as Sites of Legal Resistance: Encounters in the ‘Ghetto’' and Cameron Giles to a paper titled, 'The Ambiguity and Fluidity of Queer Identities in the Worlds of Mobile Dating Apps'. Further information is below.


The Papers

1. Queer Spaces as Sites of Legal Resistance: Encounters in the ‘Ghetto’

Chris Ashford, Professor of Law and Society, Northumbria University

Recent decades have seen the Global North come to a new legal settlement with queers. Law – typically in the form of same-sex marriage or employment and entitlement reform – has been seen as an achievement in itself. The passing of a statute or the decision of a judge is arguably seen as a moment of queer victory. Words have become enough. This has inevitably led to LGBT and queer scholars and activists debating questions of ‘what next?’, yet this discourse that focuses on law as a goal, fails to acknowledge laws continuing function as a tool.

Queer spaces – in the form of law, economics, technology and identity politics are poured into a crucible in which community level settlements are forged. Historically, notably in New York and San Francisco, law has been used to curb the presence of bathhouses and other commercial public sex spaces. Globally, non-commercial cruising and other public sex environments have been criminalised and policed. In all, technology adds a virtual layer our conceptions of queer public space.

The previously libationary space of San Francisco’s Castro has seen nude groups criminalised if they don’t adhere to new regulations. In the UK, commercial pressures have seen the decline in the number of saunas available, notably in London, but night time economy initiatives have also seen law deployed to protect spaces – as in the RVT Future campaign to ‘preserve’ the historic gay bar and performance space known as the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. This paper will focus on San Francisco but forms part of a broader project also embracing London. This paper will explore these developments from a queer legal theory perspective and consider what the shifting legal status of queer spaces means for queer praxis.

2. The Ambiguity and Fluidity of Queer Identities in the Worlds of Mobile Dating Apps

Cameron Giles, PhD Candidate and Associate Lecturer, Northumbria University

Mobile dating applications, which remain popular among queer people in the UK – particularly among men who have sex with men, afford users the ability to create and recreate their visible identities through a myriad of different categorisation, labelling and descriptive options. This, combined with the real-time location-based nature of dating apps, contributes to a lasting, perhaps irresolvable, instability in the identities expressed by users in profiles on these apps. These applications blur the boundaries between visibility and invisibility, online and off, to create a multitude of geographically and technologically linked but separated publics.

The precarious nature of these spaces contributes to ongoing conflict around the conceptions of the “real” and “authentic” as they have come to be framed and re-framed by app users and observers. Particular challenges arise surrounding the labels and categories deployed by applications in the profiles and how these terms are subsequently utilised, evaluated and recontextualised by app users.

This paper focuses on how these challenges might arise in a legal context, particularly where lawyers seek to introduce application usage and user profiles as evidence. The project it is taken from focuses on these issues in the context of specific criminal proceedings, but these challenges are likely to arise in multiple areas where questions arise over how the information placed in app profiles is subsequently interpreted by others using the app and beyond.


About The Speakers

Professor Ashford joined Northumbria Law School in May 2013 as Professor of Law and Society. Chris is currently the Director of Research and Innovation for the Law School and is also leading the Law REF 2021 submission. He has published widely on the area of law and sexuality and legal education, engaging with a range of criminal justice issues. A queer theorist; Chris' research explores the intersection of law, sexuality and technology and has focused upon the phenomena of public sex, male for male sex work and more recently, barebacking.

Cameron Giles is is a PhD Candidate in the School of Law at Northumbria University. Previously, Cameron completed the MLaw (BPTC Exempting) Degree at Northumbria and was Called to the Bar by Inner Temple in 2016. He then went on to complete an LLM in Legal and Political Theory at the University of York. Cameron’s research looks at the role of dating applications as evidence


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Location

UCL Faculty of Laws (Gideon Schreier LT)

Bentham House

4-8 Endsleigh Gardens

London

WC1H 0EG

United Kingdom

View Map

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