Masculinity, sexuality and disaster: unpacking gendered LGBT experiences in the 2011 Brisbane floods in Queensland, Australia



Publication Details

Gorman-Murray, A., McKinnon, S. & Dominey-Howes, D. (2016). Masculinity, sexuality and disaster: unpacking gendered LGBT experiences in the 2011 Brisbane floods in Queensland, Australia. In E. Enarson & B. Pease (Eds.), Men, Masculinities and Disaster (pp. 128-139). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.


Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations experience forms of vulnerability and resilience in disaster contexts tied specifically to their sexual and gender minority status. Discriminatory government policies and emergency management practices, for example, may leave LGBT individuals, couples and families more vulnerable to disaster impacts (Balgos et al ., 2012; Cianfarani, 2013; Dominey-Howes et al ., 2014). In this chapter, we investigate intersections between LGBT experiences of disaster and masculinities. Our case study focuses on some experiences of LGBT populations in Brisbane, Australia, during the floods of January 2011. Drawing on data from survey responses, semistructured interviews and media analysis, we suggest that the vulnerability of lesbian and transgender populations may be exacerbated by the privileging of gay male voices within disaster responses by LGBT communities (Browne, 2007; Browne et al. , 2010). We also argue, however, that certain performances and expectations of masculinity within the disaster context may marginalize gay men (Coston and Kimmel, 2012). Our concern is with the complex ways in which masculinities interact with, and are produced within, the situation of a disaster (Pease, 2014). LGBT populations in Australia are a marginalized group who experience discrimination and peripheralization in everyday life (Leonard et al ., 2012). It is important to note, however, that marginality is not experienced evenly across the disparate lives encompassed by the LGBT acronym. Moreover, intersections of age, dis/ability, race and class also modulate marginality and vulnerability, including within disaster contexts (D'Ooge, 2008; Pincha and Krishna, 2008). Our interest in this chapter lies in understanding how masculinities may operate in and through LGBT experiences of disaster. Rather than arguing that hegemonic masculinity results in uniform forms of vulnerability for LGBT populations, we suggest that a more nuanced understanding reveals both differing impacts of vulnerability, as well as ways in which hegemonic masculinity may in fact be resisted or deployed as a means of resilience. In the following section, we describe our conceptual framework. We then provide an overview of data and methods and briefly describe the Brisbane floods of January 2011. The substantive discussion of the chapter unfolds in four sections. First, we describe the effects of LGBT marginalization during the disaster. Second, we discuss how gay men experienced their masculinity and encountered hegemonic masculinity during the disaster. Third, we examine how both gay men and lesbians negotiated hegemonic masculinity in their interactions with male Armed Services personnel deployed in disaster response and recovery. Fourth, we consider the implications of gay male privilege within the LGBT community during the disaster. Finally, we offer a brief conclusion based on our arguments regarding intersections between LGBT identities and masculinities in disaster contexts.

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