Ways of life and spatial practices of gender and sexual minorities beyond the big city

Published on 14 December 2021 par Héloïse Humbert


For a long time, sexual and gender minorities have been confined to large cities, the only places where they are supposed to find a fulfilling environment, as in the case of gay neighborhoods, which began to develop in the 1970s. On the other hand, peripheral areas (medium-sized or small cities, suburbs, rural villages, etc.) are often depicted as more intolerant to these populations, due to a less dense network of LGBTQ+ businesses and associations, as well as to a presumed stronger sexual and gender conservatism in these areas.

However, since the end of the 1990s, researchs in the social sciences, including geography, have revealed more nuanced life paths for people from the LGBTQ+ community living away from major urban centers (Gray, Johnson, Gilley, 2016; Phillips, Shuttleton, Watt, 2000). Nevertheless, valuing these experiences often requires breaking away from the urban prism that surrounds LGBTQ+ culture akin to the metronormative vision introduced by Judith (Jack) Halberstam (Halberstam, 2005), and recontextualizing them, not in relation to the urban lifestyles that are overrepresented in LGBTQ+ studies, but in relation to the territories in which they are situated, and their own socio-spatial norms and practices.

This session aims to present work highlighting the experiences and life courses of sexual (gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc.) and gender (transgender, non-binary, etc.) minority populations outside of large cities. It is especially interested in the lifestyles and spatial practices of these populations in areas that are still relatively unexplored in the social sciences, notably peri-urban areas, medium-sized and small towns, and rural villages. In particular, approaches that take into consideration the relationships between local cultures (gender, sexual, and family norms, modes of socialization, etc.) and gendered and sexual expressions or practices will be favored.

For example, and in a non-exhaustive manner, the work presented could focus on the following themes :
- Mobility and/or migration of LGBTQ+ people in territorial contexts where low population density is a real issue for community gathering;
- Local gender and sexual norms and their impact on the expression of LGBTQ+ identities; - The expression and management of LGBTQ+phobic violence (homophobia, heterosexism, etc.) and its impact on the spatial practices of potential or actual victims;
- Institutionalisation and local reappropriations of sexuality and gender and applications of laws, norms and social values.

  • Gray M., Johnson C., Gilley B. (2016). Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies, New York: New York University Press, 416 p.
  • Halberstam JJ. (2005). In A Queer Time And Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, New York: New York University Press, 213 p.
  • Phillips R., Shuttleton D., Watt D. (2000). De-Centering Sexualities, New York : Routledge, 312 p.


Plouvier, Théophile, ULR 4477 TVES, Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale