Queering Safe Spaces explains how safe spaces are determined by those with privilege and power, those who choose to invite us in or leave us out. Whether we encounter boundaries at national borders, bathrooms or birth certificates, our personal safety, and well-being are at stake. Gender-diverse and queer non-binary people have bodies, brains, and hearts that challenge traditional ways of being male, female, gay, straight, Black, white, good, and bad. These practitioners—at the interfaces of policy, architecture, art curation, group work, sex work, and tattooing—explore cancel culture and free speech, considering what it takes to be brave. In these times of global conflict and binary oppositions, there is urgent need for accessible and inclusive spaces everywhere. To listen and speak across the ideological voids that divide us, we must understand the differences that underpin our feelings of safety and discomfort.
Son Vivienne is chief executive officer at Transgender Victoria, a community-led organization advocating for gender-diverse well-being.
List of Figures
Part One: Safe Spaces
Chapter 1: A Framework for Interpretation
Chapter 2: Histories of Safe Spaces
Chapter 3: The Safety Trap
Chapter 4: Bodies at Borders: Breaching the Binary
Part Two: Safe Enough in Practice
Chapter 5: Devising ‘Safe Enough’
Chapter 6: Intimate Encounters
Chapter 7: Mediated Storytelling
Part Three: Safety, Security and Risk
Chapter 8: Beneath the Surface—Embodiment and Passing
Chapter 9: Queering the Binaries
Chapter 10: How to be Brave (or Triggers to Watch Out For)
About the Authors
This is a complex and beautifully researched book, grounded in community, cultural, activist, and creative work. In the weaving of interviews, anecdotes, histories, and autoethnographic reflections, Vivienne investigates how ideas of ‘safe space’ play out in, with and through marginalized communities, often to negative effect. This vital and timely work asks what we might do, individually and collectively, to create ‘brave spaces.’ It argues that binary modes of thinking inhibit nuanced understandings of difference and offers a ‘how-to’ section that addresses the practicalities of sustaining a trauma-informed model of working with groups. Vivienne’s nonbinary and neurodiverse approaches to reading and writing the politics of ‘safety’ and cancel culture presents a model for moving from the utopic naivety of ‘space spaces’ to brave, trauma-informed and resilient spaces where we can turn our attention to what matters: action, activism, connection, and community. This book is a love letter, a dreamscape, and a call to each other’s arms.
This book is a lifeline to those who are bearing the brunt of progress in identity politics. It challenges all of us to unpack and accept the answers to the politically charged question: what is a safe space?