Accepted paper:

Performing queer(ed) femininities in Sydney during the government's same sex marriage postal survey: notes from the field


Katherine Giunta (University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

How were LGBTIA and Queer Sydney-siders' enactments of femininities informed by the state's same sex marriage postal survey? In this paper I consider embodied performances of queer(ed) femininities as acts of resistance to the state's processes of gender and sexual normalisation.

Paper long abstract:

What does it mean to be 'feminine' in neoliberal, Western societies where forms of gender and sexuality beyond heteronormative models are increasingly visible? What does it mean to be 'queer' when relationships, bodies and identities that exceed heterosexual, binary and cisgender norms are becoming incrementally recognised by government, private and social institutions? And what happens when the government puts the rights of these increasingly visible and recognised relationships and identities to a public opinion poll? In this paper I consider these and other questions in relation to my in-progress ethnographic fieldwork with LGBTIA and Queer Sydney-siders who self-identify as feminine. In the first few months of my field research, the Australian government conducted a postal survey which asked "Should the law be changed to allow same sex couples to marry?". The survey, and the 'Yes' and 'No' campaigns that it gave rise to, shifted national conversations around gender and sexuality onto a narrow focus on marriage. For many in Sydney's LGBTIA and Queer social scenes, the terms of the survey excluded gender identities and sexual practices that are central to their ways of understanding themselves and their communities. These participants, rather than retreating from social life or throwing their full support behind the official yes campaign, often sought out ways of enacting their non-heteronormative forms of femininities with greater visibility. Reflecting on what makes these participants' embodied performances queer, I ask if their enactments of femininity may be understood as forms of resistance to the state's processes of gender and sexual normalisation.

panel P38
Embodied rituals, symbols and performances: embodiment as a negotiation of the state, and state negotiations of embodiment