I wanted to make a distinct geographical contribution through investigating a sexuality and everyday space in Australia. This work underlined LGBT spatial justice as an important but under-explored field. In Australia, there had been few studies or publications on this topic.
I’m fascinated in how diverse people make ‘home’ at various scales from the house, neighbourhood and city in different ways. It’s not just nuclear families, but same-sex families, singles and home-sharers.
Some conventional domestic ideals persist about the home, such as a space of privacy and family. But it is also increasingly seen as an economic and a public site. The Australian penchant for so-called ‘indoor-outdoor’ living feeds into domestic publicity.
Since 1996, the five-yearly Australian Census has allowed same-sex couple families to self-identify. I’ve analysed the distribution of same-sex families for 2006 and 2011. While they reside in every statistical division, patterns of concentration are differentiated by gender. Male couples show strong concentration in inner cities while female couples are more diffused, more likely to reside in suburban and regional areas. Inner cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra have the highest concentrations, but there are strong concentrations in regional towns like Daylesford and Alice Springs which have above-average LGBT populations and host annual LGBT festivals.
Disasters, and human responses to them, impact social groups differently. My colleagues and I are investigating LGBT vulnerability and resilience. We began with the Queensland floods because the Queensland AIDS Council wanted to know if LGBT people faced specific issues in disasters.
Over 50 per cent of flood-affected respondents were reluctant to access emergency shelters and community relief centres because they feared homophobic or transphobic responses. Some also faced homophobic rhetoric about the disaster as divine retribution for ‘immorality’. Simultaneously, LGBT people helped each other by providing safe places to stay, replacement goods and financial support.
There are two Australian ‘snow’ regions, both threatened by climate change: the Australian Alps (NSW/Victoria) and Tasmania. The cultural connections to snow, and thus culture-based climate concerns, differ.
The Alps are part of national mythologies and are our main winter tourism site. People there were troubled by the potential loss of environmental diversity: continental diversity was seen as part of the national character, and losing an ecosystem diminished Australia’s ‘identity’.
Spaces are not inherently masculine, but male behaviour creates gender dynamics that render certain modes of masculinity dominant in some spaces. These behaviours include relations between men and women and among men.
I’m interested in where these dynamics are becoming less unequal, hence my focus on hetero-masculinities at home and in communities, in relation to women and gay men. Some heterosexual men are engaging in more equal, less patriarchal relations, such as domestic labour or friendship with gay men.
Some Australian places demonstrate ‘stickiness’ to traditional gender roles, particularly commercial and public institutions like professional workplaces, parliamentary politics and sport.
I hope societal changes will soften patriarchal relations and create diverse spaces. Men’s policing of other men’s behaviour is important in enabling this. For social and spatial transformation, hetero-masculinity, as a dominant social category, must jettison certain discourses about gender, sexuality and difference and accommodate diverse genders and sexualities.
My work on straight-gay male friendships demonstrated this is possible. The heterosexual men stated that having close gay friends challenged and changed their attitudes to gender. These ‘new’ attitudes were then performed in their everyday activities.
For my next project I’m working with Catherine J Nash on transformations in LGBT landscapes in Sydney and Toronto, thinking about the so-called decline of gay villages on LGBT urban spaces.
2006 Completed PhD in Human Geography at Macquarie University on critical geographies of sexuality and home in Australia
2009 Won Australian Research Council grant to investigate changing relationships between masculinity and the Australian home
2011 Published Material Geographies of Household Sustainability with Ruth Lane
2013 Won Australian Research Council grant to investigate LGBT experiences of disasters in Australia
2014 Published Masculinities and Place with Peter Hopkins
2015 Urban Systems: Assemblage and Affect exhibition at Scratch Art Space, Sydney