5. Queer Politics

“For many of us, the label ‘queer’ symbolizes an acknowledgement that through our existence and everyday survival we embody sustained and multisided resistance to systems (based on dominant constructions of race and gender) that seek to normalize our sexuality, exploit our labor, and constrain our visibility. At the intersection of oppression and resistance lies the radical potential of queerness to challenge and bring together all those deemed marginal and all those committed to liberatory politics.”

Cathy J. Cohen, “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?”

Decorative image of a masculine person looking out into the sunset.


Why do queer and trans groups want to stop police from marching in pride parades? If gay marriage is legal, do queer and trans people have equality? Why did Justin Trudeau apologize to the LGBTQ community? Understanding the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) social movements in Canada helps us understand the present context.  In this module, we will review significant moments in struggles for LGBT rights, and consider how LGBT rights movements are distinct from queer politics. 

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Define key terms including: sexuality, heteronormativity, queer politics, homonormativity, queer intersectionality, trans, genderqueer, nonbinary, and TERF
  • Explain the significance of “The Purge”
  • Explain the significance of the Stonewall Riots for the Canadian lesbian and gay rights movement and for the emergence of queer politics
  • Explain why the 1969 Criminal Code reforms perpetuated homophobia and heteronormativity
  • Critique the mythology of the ’69 reforms
  • Explain queer critiques of same-sex marriage and reflect upon whether same-sex marriage produces social justice

Moving Forward

Before you move forward, a note on terminology. The acronym LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans.  The longer, more inclusive, acronym LBTQ2SIA stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, two-spirit, intersex, and asexual.  When this module does not include an explicit discussion of queer or two-spirit identity, I opt for the shorter acronym (LGBT). Module Four: Indigenous Feminisms & 2S Identity includes an in-depth discussion of 2S Identity.

Update: more recently, language use has shifted to 2SLGBTQIA+ to recognize Indigenous Two-Spirit as the first oppressed gender and sexual folks targeted specifically by colonialism.




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