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Gay in a ‘government town’: the settlement and regulation of gay-identified men in Ottawa, Canada

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This case study examines Ottawa, Canada, a ‘government town’, as both a destination for mobile gay men and a place where their conduct historically has been regulated by the government and military institutions located there. By placing the findings of 24 in-depth qualitative interviews with self-identified gay men in a Foucauldian governmentality framework, I argue that the government town is a powerful attractor for gay men in terms of economic opportunity and official prescriptions of nondiscrimination and acceptance, but is also a site where gay men and gay communities are regulated into certain modes of conduct. In particular, this article finds that Ottawa, as both a historic center of antigay activity and a more recent center of an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) rights-seeking agenda in Canada, encourages practices that are based on discretion, gender normalization, and maintenance of the status quo. The article argues that these practices – with some notable exceptions – have led to a fragmented gay community characterized by economic and professional stratification, out-of-town consumption of gay culture, and a lack of recognizable social, political, and geographic focal points for gay men. It also posits that the mechanisms through which governmentality is leveraged are particularly central to the experiences of sexual minorities in places like Ottawa, where government institutions are especially dense or thick.
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Keywords: Canada; Canadá; gay; governmentality; gubernamentalidad; migración; migration; sexualidad; sexuality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography,Queen's University, Kingston,ON, Canada

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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