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This article examines lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) experiences of displacement, home loss, and rebuilding in the face of natural disasters. LGBT vulnerability and resilience are little studied in disaster research; this article begins to fill this gap, focusing on LGBT domicide—how LGBT homes are “un made” in disasters. To do this, we critically read a range of non-government, scholarly, and media commentaries on LGBT experiences of natural disasters in various settings over 2004–12, including South Asia, the USA, Haiti, and Japan. Additionally, we utilize preliminary data from pilot work on LGBT experiences of 2011 disasters in Brisbane, Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand. we find that disaster impacts are the first stage of ongoing problems for sexual and gender minorities. Disaster impacts destroy LGBT residences and neighborhoods, but response and recovery strategies favor assistance for heterosexual nuclear families and elide the concerns and needs of LGBT survivors. Disaster impact, response, and recovery “un makes” LGBT home and belonging, or inhibits homemaking, at multiple scales, from the residence to the neighborhood. we focus on three scales or sites: first, destruction of individual residences, and problems with displacement and rebuilding; second, concerns about privacy and discrimination for individuals and families in temporary shelters; and third, loss and rebuilding of LGBT neighborhoods and community infrastructure (e.g. leisure venues and organizational facilities).
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HOME CULTURES DOI: 10.2752/175174214X13891916944751
HOME CULTURES
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VOLUME 11, ISSUE 2
PP 237–262
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY,
SCOTT McKINNON and
DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
QUEER DOMICIDE
LGBT Displacement and
Home Loss in Natural
Disaster Impact, Response,
and Recovery
ABSTRACT This article examines
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT)
experiences of displacement, home loss,
and rebuilding in the face of natural
disasters. LGBT vulnerability and
resilience are little studied in disaster
research; this article begins to fill this
gap, focusing on LGBT domicide—how
LGBT homes are “unmade” in disasters.
To do this, we critically read a range of
non-government, scholarly, and media
commentaries on LGBT experiences of
natural disasters in various settings over
2004–12, including South Asia, the USA,
Haiti, and Japan. Additionally, we utilize
preliminary data from pilot work on LGBT
experiences of 2011 disasters in Brisbane,
ANDREW GORMAN-
MURRAY IS A SENIOR
LECTURER IN SOCIAL
SCIENCES (GEOGRAPHY
AND URBAN STUDIES)
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
WESTERN SYDNEY.
SCOTT MCKINNON
IS A POSTDOCTORAL
RESEARCH FELLOW
RESEARCH OFFICER
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
WESTERN SYDNEY.
DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
IS A PROFESSOR OF
GEOGRAPHY AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY.
HOME CULTURES238
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
>
Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand. We find
that disaster impacts are the first stage of ongoing
problems for sexual and gender minorities.
Disaster impacts destroy LGBT residences and
neighborhoods, but response and recovery
strategies favor assistance for heterosexual
nuclear families and elide the concerns and needs
of LGBT survivors. Disaster impact, response, and
recovery “unmakes” LGBT home and belonging,
or inhibits homemaking, at multiple scales,
from the residence to the neighborhood. We
focus on three scales or sites: first, destruction
of individual residences, and problems with
displacement and rebuilding; second, concerns
about privacy and discrimination for individuals
and families in temporary shelters; and third,
loss and rebuilding of LGBT neighborhoods and
community infrastructure (e.g. leisure venues and
organizational facilities).
KEYWORDS: LGBT, disasters, domicide, home, home loss, shelter,
rebuilding
INTRODUCTION
This article examines lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT)
experiences of displacement, home loss, and rebuilding in
the face of natural disasters. There is little scholarly dis-
cussion of LGBT experiences of disasters (Dominey-Howes et al. 2013)
and the current analysis advances emerging research. The small body
of extant literature stresses that “the marginalisation of LGBT people
is heightened during disasters, as existing inequalities are magnied”
(Balgos et al. 2012: 338). This heightened marginalization is precisely
why consideration of LGBT displacement, home loss, and rebuilding
is important for scholarship, policy, and emergency management.
For LGBT people in a range of locations in both the Global North and
Global South, the making of home—at both scales of the house and
neighborhood—operates as a site, source, and process of resilience
in heteronormative societies that are routinely discriminatory and
potentially violent (Gorman-Murray 2007a; Waitt and Gorman-Murray
2007). While acknowledging that residential dwellings, for instance,
are porous spaces and not outside the surveillance and discipline of
social and cultural mores, they often offer one of the most immedi-
ate spaces of security and identity-support for LGBT individuals and
families (Gorman-Murray 2008).
Our contention is that the “unmaking” of LGBT homes and neigh-
borhoods—their disruption and/or destruction—by disasters enhances
HOME CULTURES239
QUEER DOMICIDE
the specic vulnerabilities of these populations in ways little inves-
tigated in disaster research, which can arguably be characterized
as “domicide” (Porteous and Smith 2001). The impacts of natural
hazards are the rst stage of ongoing problems for sexual and gender
minorities, which are compounded by social peripheralization and
policy neglect. Natural disasters not only destroy residential dwellings
but also a range of neighborhood structures that provide a broader
sense of home and belonging to LGBT populations, including com-
mercial venues and community facilities. Simultaneously, heteronor-
mative response and recovery policies often elide the needs of LGBT
individuals, families, and communities, thus impacting on means of
resilience (Dominey-Howes et al. 2013). The omission of LGBT sites
and concerns suggests this practice can be denoted “domicide.” We
argue that government, non-government, emergency management,
and information and communication organizations must consider
LGBT populations when developing disaster response policies. This
article thus seeks to extend scholarly knowledge about, and prompt
policy uptake of, the role of homes and home losses in LGBT vulner-
abilities and adaptive capacities in disaster settings.
The substantive discussion of this article is divided into three
sections, each of which relates to a scale or site at which disaster
impact, response and recovery unmakes” LGBT home and belong-
ing, or inhibits homemaking: rst, destruction of residential homes,
and problems with displacement and rebuilding; second, troubling
discriminatory experiences for individuals and families in emergency
shelters and temporary housing; and third, loss and rebuilding of
LGBT neighborhoods and “homelike” (Gorman-Murray 2006) commu-
nity infrastructure (e.g. leisure venues and organizational facilities). At
each of these sites, we examine both the enhanced vulnerabilities ex-
perienced by LGBT people and the means of resilience by which they
seek to cope with natural disaster impacts and “remake” home. First,
we discuss the key concepts underpinning this exploratory discussion
and give an overview of the data sources.
HOME, DISASTER, AND LGBT EXPERIENCES:
THEORETICAL FRAMING AND CONTRIBUTION
This article draws together two areas of literature—work on home and
disasters—that provide key terminology and theoretical framing. They
come together through a focus on LGBT people, and this population
helps further understanding of the signicance of home and the so-
cial construction of natural disasters and their impacts. We use the
Western acronym “LGBT,” but this is used inclusively of sexual and
gender minorities, including intersex and queer individuals not iden-
tifying as LGBT, and those outside the West using local terminologies
(some of whom are introduced below). We use LGBT to denote sexual
and gender minorities across the world. We use queer, however, as
term to disrupt normative social imaginaries, including those of home
HOME CULTURES240
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
and disaster impact and response. Both home and disaster might be
experienced “differently” by LGBT people, in ways unaccounted in di-
saster relief and recovery policies. “Queering” domicide thus contests
the meaning of “domicide,” which typically excludes natural disaster
impacts and foregrounds the destruction of home by human agents
(Porteous and Smith 2001). This, however, belies the fact that natural
disasters are a social construct where the existing social order means
different populations are made more or less vulnerable, and where
disaster response and recovery policies can exacerbate the marginal-
ization of some social groups. We discuss this further in the following
subsection, where we outline notions of disaster, vulnerability, and
resilience.
“Natural” Disasters: Vulnerability and Resilience
”Natural disasters” are thoroughly social phenomena (Brun 2009).
An event triggered by natural hazards is designated a disaster when
the cumulative material, human, and environmental losses exceed
“the capacity of the affected society to cope with its own resources”
(Ginige et al. 2009: 23). Natural hazards may be rapid onset (earth-
quakes, tsunamis, etc.) or slow onset (drought, tropical cyclones, etc.),
but “the overall damage due to natural hazards is the result of both
natural events that act as ‘triggers’, and a series of societal factors”
(Weichselgartner 2001: 86). A disaster, then, is an event that “occurs
within society and not within nature” (Weichselgartner 2001: 86),
and damages both society’s physical fabric, including housing and
infrastructure, and human fabric, including communities and social
relations.
Deleterious effects are not experienced uniformly across society
but affect various social groups in different ways. Gaillard (2011:
121) indicates that “marginalized groups within society may be
more vulnerable than others because they are deprived access to
resources which are available to others with more power.” While the
meaning of vulnerability is debated (Weichselgartner 2001), it can
be dened as the conditions (physical, social, cultural, economic,
political) that affect the ability of individuals, families, house-
holds, communities, and countries to respond to or recover from
disasters (Ariyabandu and Wickramasinghe 2003; McEntire 2001).
Differential socioeconomic means are signicant in increasing vul-
nerability, but so are differences based on ethnicity, race, disability,
age, gender, and sexuality (Cutter et al. 2003; Finch et al. 2010;
McEntire 2005). Despite acknowledgment of these inequities within
scholarship, policies designed to reduce disaster risk often fail to
include marginalized populations (Brun 2009; Gaillard 2011; Wisner
1998). Since disasters combine a natural event and a set of societal
vulnerabilities (McEntire 2001, 2005), disaster management and
risk reduction policies must seek to address the vulnerabilities of
all social groups, and consequently there is a need for scholarly
HOME CULTURES241
QUEER DOMICIDE
and policy research to examine the needs of marginalized groups.
The vulnerabilities of LGBT populations are little studied—a gap this
article addresses by investigating natural disaster impacts on LGBT
home and belonging.
LGBT populations have specic vulnerabilities, summarized by
Dominey-Howes et al. (2013) in their review of the limited extant non-
government and academic research on LGBT disaster experiences.
Right-wing religious groups assert disasters as divine retribution for
“sinners” and their supporters (Richards 2010)—claiming disasters
as acts of God against sexual “transgression”—which stigmatizes and
incites violence against LGBT people (International Gay and Lesbian
Human Rights Commission/SEROVie 2011). Loss of personal and
communal spaces—homes and community centers—exposes LGBT
people to harassment (Caldwell 2006; International Gay and Lesbian
Human Rights Commission/SEROVie 2011). Moreover, disaster
response agencies enact heteronormative assumptions in policies
and processes, which marginalize LGBT people from aid (Balgos et
al. 2012; Leap et al. 2007). In government and organizational poli-
cies, “family” often means an opposite-sex couple with children, while
emergency relief practices deploy binary (male/female) concepts
of gender (D’Ooge 2008; Pincha 2008). Emergency shelters, for ex-
ample, are problematic for LGBT people, especially same-sex couples,
“effeminate” males, trans folk, and other gender minorities (Gaillard
2011; International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission/
SEROVie 2011; Yamashita 2012). In some instances, sexual and
gender minorities have been denied access to emergency shelters
and aid (food, nance) as they could not be accommodated in relief
policies that framed evacuees as “nuclear families,” or as “male” and
“female” individuals.
While these vulnerabilities are experienced at multiple societal
levels, from individual safety to political organization, this article ad-
dresses displacement and loss of home, including domestic dwellings
and residential neighborhoods. Displacement and loss of home is a
traumatic experience that affects emotional health and well-being,
which has been highlighted in research on vulnerability (Brun and
Lund 2008). A sense of home, and breaches to that attachment, are
foregrounded in recent research, which has found that individual and
social identities are tied to localized places, and that when these
locations are disrupted, so too are place identities and attachments
(Fraser 2006; Hawkins and Maurer 2011; Morrice 2013). Damage to
or loss of home and neighborhood ruptures the routine and reliability
of one’s social and material environment, disrupting ontological secu-
rity, with consequences for mental and emotional health, especially in
marginal groups (Chamlee-Wright and Storr 2009). For LGBT popula-
tions, the loss of residences, meaningful places, and community in-
frastructure exacerbates vulnerabilities from social stigma and policy
neglect.
HOME CULTURES242
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
But while loss of home intensies LGBT vulnerabilities, simultane-
ously LGBT people frequently enact means of resilience in protecting,
rebuilding, remaking, or returning home (Gaillard 2011). Resilience
is a concept intrinsically linked to vulnerability, which denotes the
ability of individuals, communities, or countries to maintain relatively
stable psychological and social functioning in highly disruptive events
(Bonanno et al. 2007; Miller et al. 2010). According to the United
Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, resilience is
the extent to which a community “has the necessary resources and
is capable of organizing itself both prior to and during times of need”
(United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction 2009).
It is possible for a single disaster event to simultaneously trigger
experiences of vulnerability and resilience, and this is seen in LGBT
responses to disasters. In terms of LGBT populations, resilience may
be seen in the capacity of LGBT individuals, media, or community
organizations to counter the inequities of response and recovery poli-
cies, and introduce strategies aiming to meet the needs of their own
community (Balgos et al. 2012; Gorman-Murray et al., under review).
LGBT people may nd ways of retaining or reforging a sense of home,
place, and belonging that supports individual and community well-
being (Leap et al. 2007). We now turn to the concept of home.
Home: Making and Unmaking
What can a consideration of home add to disaster literature, especially
regarding LGBT vulnerability and resilience? While housing is a critical
concern in disaster recovery (Katz 2008; Thanurjan and Seneviratne
2009), the notion of home is a recent addition to the literature (Brun
and Lund 2008; Chamlee-Wright and Storr 2009; Hawkins and
Maurer 2011). As Morrice (2013: 33) indicates, “there has been a
notable absence in geographic literature concerning the connection
between disasters and the concept of ‘home.’” We nd utility in sev-
eral concepts about home, drawing on Blunt and Dowling’s (2006)
and Brickell’s (2012) work on the critical geography of home. Brickell
(2012: 225), notably, calls attention to “domestic injustice” and the
effects of “negative experiences of home.”
First, home is both material and imaginative; both a physical loca-
tion and an emotional locus. While housing literature focuses on the
provision of shelter, home is more than a physical shell—home is a
material structure embedded with emotion, meaning, and memory
(Blunt and Dowling 2006). Consequently, considering disaster impact
and response, Brun and Lund (2008: 278) contend that “when explor-
ing the relationship between housing and homemaking in recovery
processes, ‘house’ becomes something that is both material and
imaginative (symbolic) and at the same time an articulation of iden-
tity and power.” Thus, a home is seen to provide not just shelter and
location but ontological security (Somerville 1992)—a safe place that
secures and underpins a sense of self-identity and agency (Dupuis
HOME CULTURES243
QUEER DOMICIDE
and Thorns 1998). Such ontological security might be heightened for
LGBT people given wider social sanctions (Gorman-Murray 2008), but
this psychological function of home is not well-incorporated in disaster
literature and policy (Brun and Lund 2008; Chamlee-Wright and Storr
2009).
Second, home is not static, materially or meaningfully, but is a
process. Home and its meaning are made in everyday activities and
routines. But just as home is made, it can be unmade,” with con-
sequences for meaning, ontological security, and well-being. While
homemaking is predicated on the agency of occupants, sometimes
home is disrupted or destroyed by external forces. Domicide is one
example. Porteous and Smith (2001: 12) dene domicide as “the
deliberate destruction of home by human agency in pursuit of speci-
ed goals, which causes suffering to the victims,” including political,
bureaucratic, and corporate agendas and projects. While they exclude
natural disasters from causes of domicide, Blunt and Dowling (2006)
suggest that the collusion of natural disasters and social injustice—as
in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in New Orleans—could be character-
ized as domicide. We agree. Given that natural disasters are social
constructs with differential social impacts, marginal populations can
experience home loss as domicide through uneven preparedness,
response, and recovery in disaster policy. The omission of LGBT
populations from such policies across the world (Cianfarani 2012;
Dominey-Howes et al. 2013) thus produces conditions conducive to
“queer domicide” through the oversight and failure of human agency.
This indicates, third, that the link between home and identity is
mediated by external or public social and political power. As Brun and
Lund (2008: 278–9) state, home is “a contested territory: a meeting
point between geopolitics and identity politics. […] ‘House’ and ‘home’
are porous intersections of social relations and emotions, simultane-
ously public and private.” The agency and privacy of home can be
mitigated by dominant meanings and mores, surveillance, and govern-
ment agendas. For LGBT people, homes are not inherently private but
exposed to external sanctions; rather, privacy and safety at home are
made and incursions continuously monitored (Gorman-Murray 2012).
This investment in homemaking in turn gives many LGBT people an
important protected space beyond the public sphere for self-afrma-
tion and identity-support (Gorman-Murray 2007a; Kentlyn 2008).
This space comes under renewed external pressure during disasters,
where policies, often by necessity to distribute scarce resources,
ignore marginal populations and their meanings of home. For LGBT
people, this is often manifested in policies favoring assistance for
heterosexual nuclear family households, homes, and neighborhoods
(Leap et al. 2007; Richards 2010). “Non-normative” households, in-
cluding single-person, single-parent, and same-sex households, and
non-family neighborhoods and suburbs, are often omitted from policy
consideration (Cianfarani 2012; Katz 2008; Wisner 1998).
HOME CULTURES244
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
Finally, but as we have alluded to throughout, home is multiscalar.
A house can be a home, but home can register at different scales
and sites—streets, neighborhoods, public spaces, cities, and nations,
for example. Often a sense of home or meaningful dwelling involves
the residential house and neighborhood simultaneously (Hawkins
and Maurer 2011). The activities that make a home stretch beyond
the house and incorporate the extra-domestic—neighboring, shop-
ping, home-nancing, family and friendship networks (Moss 1997).
Neighborhood is often vital for making a home: literature shows that
attachment to neighborhood—or place-attachment and place-iden-
tity—is often part of homemaking and provision of ontological security
(Dupuis and Thorns 1998). This needs consideration in post-disaster
planning and rebuilding. Even if one’s house survives a disaster, the
neighborhood might not, and this equally disrupts a sense of home,
self, and security, as shown in various literature on post-Katrina New
Orleans (Chamlee-Wright and Storr 2009; Hawkins and Maurer 2011;
Li et al. 2010). Before discussing LGBT home loss and rebuilding at
various scales, we outline the methods and data used.
DATA AND METHODS
This article is based on research that informs a wider project on LGBT
experiences of vulnerability and resilience in disasters. The present
discussion combines secondary data from various sources. First, the
analysis draws on a literature review of existing publications on LGBT
experiences in natural disasters, including non-government organi-
zation (NGO) reports and scholarly articles discussing the impacts
of natural disasters on LGBT populations in New Orleans (D’Ooge
2008; Leap et al. 2007; Richards 2010), Haiti (International Gay and
Lesbian Human Rights Commission/SEROVie 2011), India (Pincha
2008; Pincha and Krishna 2008), Indonesia (Balgos et al. 2012),
the Philippines (Gaillard 2011), and Japan (Ozawa 2012; Yamashita
2012) over 2004–12 (Figure 1). We also identied and used online
media reports from the USA relating to the impacts of Hurricane
Katrina on New Orleans in August 2005 (e.g. Caldwell 2006; Fisher
2006). We analyzed these media, academic, and NGO publications
for information on LGBT experiences of displacement, home loss, re-
turn, and rebuilding. Second, we utilized data from pilot work on LGBT
experiences of the January 2011 oods in Brisbane, Australia, and
the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. This
comprised a review of LGBT and mainstream online and print media
reporting the effects of these natural disasters on LGBT communities
and individuals, which included New Zealand articles over 2011–12
relating to the Christchurch earthquake and Australian reports over
2011–12 regarding the Brisbane oods.
All sources were combined and subject to a critical reading. This
textual analysis extracted key themes about LGBT experiences of
home loss and rebuilding as a result of natural disasters, interrogating
HOME CULTURES245
QUEER DOMICIDE
descriptions of “displacement,” “home,” and “return,” and examining
how they were linked to themes of vulnerability and resilience. Media
and non-government reporting of these events often highlighted a re-
lationship between vulnerability and resilience. The LGBT media often
reported vulnerabilities experienced by LGBT populations and then
either described or developed options by which to overcome them
to some extent. Further, the LGBT media arguably acted as a means
of resilience by giving voice to LGBT narratives of home, which were
largely absent from the mainstream media. Thus, the LGBT media op-
erated at times to identify vulnerability and to further identify, develop,
and enact resilience in relation to home and home loss.
Applying our conceptual frame, this analysis of home and loss
incorporates not only houses or domiciles but also neighborhood or
community space comprised of other LGBT residents, community or-
ganizations, and commercial leisure venues. For LGBT people, home
is often a place of relative privacy in which sexual and/or gender iden-
tities can be performed, with careful management of the public/pri-
vate boundary and vigilance about public intrusions (Gorman-Murray
2007a, 2012). Natural disasters cause the loss of this space and thus
trouble the safe performance of identity among a cautiously included/
Figure 1
Sites of extant work on LGBT disaster experiences. Brisbane and Christchurch are the sites of our ongoing
work.
HOME CULTURES246
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
excluded public. Temporary shelters and housing can be especially
problematic. The return home becomes, in this respect, not only a
return to a physical space but to a means of enabling the performance
of LGBT identities. The following discussion is thus arranged around
three sites or scales of unmaking” and “remaking” home: rst,
disruption to residential homes, displacement, and rebuilding experi-
ences; second, troubling experiences for individuals and families in
temporary shelters; and third, loss and rebuilding of neighborhoods
and community infrastructure that underpin a sense of home and
belonging.
THE HOUSE-AS-HOME
Applying a critical reading of home as both physical and affective, we
can understand that the loss of individual domestic residences—or
the house-as-home, including houses, apartments, and other domi-
ciles—in disasters has impacts that are both material (destruction or
damage of physical structures) and emotional (place attachment and
a sense of belonging). As Morrice (2013: 34–5) argues, “[t]hose who
are displaced by these extreme events are forced to leave behind the
familiar and head towards the unknown, in a journey that is consumed
with varying levels and types of emotions.” In this section we examine
and discuss the ways in which the unmaking of the house-as-home
through disaster can exacerbate LGBT vulnerabilities in terms of both
physical and emotional well-being. For LGBT people, loss of home re-
stricts the ability to manage intrusion by, or the impacts of, discrimina-
tion from broader society. The effects may be both physical (exposing
LGBT individuals to the risk of physical violence) and/or emotional
(loss of feelings of agency, security, community, and belonging). We
also investigate some differences of gender, race, and class within
these impacts, as well as means of resilience enacted by LGBT popu-
lations in attempting to return or remake home.
Housing Loss, Home Loss, and LGBT Vulnerabilities
While recognizing the ever-present interpenetration of public and
private worlds and the need to manage this imbrication, scholarship
nevertheless shows that the house-as-home can provide a safe space
in which LGBT identities can be performed and developed in an atmo-
sphere somewhat sheltered from a potentially disapproving and some-
times violent world (Gorman-Murray 2007a, 2012; Kentlyn 2008). As
Gorman-Murray (2006: 53) suggests, “homes are important sites of
resistance to heteronormative socialization, fostering difference, af-
rming and sustaining gay identity and desire in the context of wider
disapproval.” The ability to create a space in which intrusions are
managed—and where relationships, friendships, and community can
be developed—constitutes a specic means of resilience enacted by
LGBT populations in protecting themselves and their families from the
impacts of discrimination and harassment (Gorman-Murray 2007b).
HOME CULTURES247
QUEER DOMICIDE
Consequently, the loss of houses and residential spaces in disasters
can place the benets of home at risk, thus enhancing vulnerabilities
and, at times, placing LGBT populations at risk of physical violence
and abuse. For example, according to a report from the International
Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), prior to the
2010 Haitian earthquake the physical shelter and structure afforded
by domestic spaces provided local LGBT populations with a “sense
of security” by acting as sanctuaries and barriers against homopho-
bic and transphobic violence (International Gay and Lesbian Human
Rights Commission/SEROVie 2011: 4). The earthquake “destroyed the
doors, windows and walls that had previously provided some measure
of safety” (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission/
SEROVie 2011: 4). According to the IGLHRC, many lesbians and gay
men left homeless by the earthquake subsequently reported expe-
riences of physical and sexual abuse. LGBT populations were thus
not only forced to cope with the same home loss experienced by the
broader population, but the further threat of anti-LGBT violence and
abuse.
As well as a place of security for LGBT subjects and their identity
work, media reporting of disasters suggests that the house-as-home
is a vital location for the maintenance of same-sex relationships—tell-
ingly denoted “domestic partnerships”—given constraints against
their performance in public. Reports in the New Zealand LGBT media
following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake positioned home as em-
bodying a loving relationship as well as a physical structure. The need
to ensure the safety of a same-sex partner and provide solace to each
other during the emergency was often framed as the primary impetus
for returning home during the ongoing disaster. For example, in two
reports in the publication GayNZ, disaster narratives described gay
couples who were separated when the earthquake struck, with one
partner at home and the other away from home. In each case, the
individual away from home is depicted as desperate to return. One
report states, “Bruce suddenly realised Grant, his partner through
thick and thin for many years, was home alone. ‘I had to get home to
nd Grant’” (Bennie 2011: n.p.). Another article reports that during
the disaster, “The pair couldn’t connect. ‘Texts out of New Zealand,
from Christchurch at least, never made it. The rst time John was able
to communicate with me was several days later, by phone’” (Stanford
2011: n.p.). The disaster breached both homes and their constituent
domestic partnerships.
Our analysis of New Zealand media reports about the Christchurch
earthquake found that narratives inclusive of LGBT households were
absent from mainstream (non-LGBT) publications (Gorman-Murray
et al. 2013). The invisibility of LGBT households indicates a het-
eronormative understanding of home and domestic life, and of the
potential impacts of disaster on home and domesticity. This is surpris-
ing in New Zealand, a nation that legislates for same-sex marriage
HOME CULTURES248
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
and the protection of LGBT rights. In this context of marginalization,
LGBT media reporting can instead operate as a means of resilience
by which the LGBT community renders itself visible. Via this visibility,
the home is in some ways queered and remade as a place of LGBT
identity, support, and family in deance of the broader narratives that
leave such homes outside the normative sphere.
Gender, Race, and Class Differences within LGBT
Communities
As noted earlier, disaster impacts are experienced differently across
populations and often have greater impacts on marginalized groups
(Gaillard 2011). Uneven levels of impact are thus experienced within
LGBT populations just as they are across the broader society. Evidence
from multiple locations suggests that, in some instances, the interests
of white, middle-class gay men may be better served by ofcial poli-
cies and by the media than are the interests of, for example, lesbians
and/or LGBT people of color. Efforts to return to or remake home may
be unevenly reported in the media or may be directly hindered by the
discriminatory priorities of government agencies.
For example, D’Ooge (2008) reports that recovery and rebuilding
policies in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have speci-
cally targeted localities likely to encourage the return of tourism to the
city, with implications for different LGBT rebuilding efforts. This policy
may have been implemented to support the local economy, but it fails
to support lower-income residential neighborhoods. D’Ooge (2008:
23) argues that neighborhoods with notable gay male populations,
such as the French Quarter, have been targeted as important for re-
building efforts, in order to “reclaim its gay tourist industry,” “while
rendering invisible the suffering of LGBT New Orleanians living else-
where, consisting predominantly of lesbians and African Americans.”
This invisibility may be reected—indeed, exacerbated—by the
absence of such subgroups in media reports. Although we argue for
the importance of LGBT media in expanding understandings of home,
domesticity, and household to include LGBT narratives, it is also true
that such narratives may also be uneven across LGBT communities.
For example, our analysis of reporting in the Christchurch LGBT media
found that, in the vast majority of cases, the sexual/gender identity
of informants in stories related to the earthquake was gay male (85
percent) (Gorman-Murray et al. 2013). Thus, while the LGBT media
can play a vital role in illuminating disaster impacts on LGBT homes
and households, that role may be disproportionately signicant for gay
men vis-à-vis other segments of the LGBT community.
TEMPORARY SHELTERS AND HOUSING
During and immediately after disasters, temporary shelters—
established by emergency services or NGOs—can provide accom-
modation to those forced to ee their homes, which may last for the
HOME CULTURES249
QUEER DOMICIDE
length of the disaster (e.g. during weather events) or for extended
periods if damage to homes prevents safe return. Albeit temporary,
these shelters potentially replicate some attributes of home, such
as security, comfort, and conviviality (Blunt and Dowling 2006). For
example, Datta (2005) documents how homeless families tried to
achieve some psychological and symbolic qualities of home, engaging
and working with the material characteristics and spatial constraints
of emergency shelters. However, for vulnerable LGBT populations, the
safety of these spaces can be compromised by fear of abuse. Access
can also be prevented due to discriminatory policies or actions by of-
cial agents or other residents. Vulnerability is exacerbated by binary-
gender emergency management policies that exclude the needs of
trans or intersex individuals. As a result, LGBT people often avoid of-
cial shelters and seek safe housing elsewhere.
Discrimination, Violence, and Abuse in Emergency
Shelters
Given that the house-as-home often acts as safe space for the per-
formance of LGBT identity, where intrusions are managed, its loss
seriously troubles that safety. During disasters, LGBT people face the
same risks that force other people to seek emergency shelter, but
shelters also bear specic risks for LGBT individuals and families. The
agency that having a home of one’s own allows, to exclude those who
would discriminate, is lost in such accommodation, as is the ability to
choose when to be visible or not. This exposes individuals to a range
of discrimination, including verbal and physical abuse.
For example, Pincha (2008) shows that “third gender” minorities
in India were exposed to physical harm in shelters during the 2004
Indian Ocean tsunami. The aravanis of Tamil Nadu are a group who
“may be born intersex or apparently male, dress in feminine clothes
and generally see themselves as neither women nor men” (Pincha
and Krishna 2008: 42). Often living in poverty and subject to discrimi-
nation, the vulnerability of this group was heightened by the disaster.
Some aravanis who accessed shelters reported harassment and
physical and sexual abuse. The necessity to nd shelter in temporary
accommodation mitigated the ability of aravanis to manage their own
privacy, and as a result many were placed at risk of signicant dan-
ger, and experienced physical and psychological harm.1 Yamashita
(2012) reports similar inhibited privacy and heightened harassment
experienced by transwomen at emergency shelters in Japan following
the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. One woman “refrained from using
a shower at an emergency shelter for privacy reasons” and another
was called a “cross-dressing deviant fag” by a volunteer (Yamashita
2012: n.p.).
LGBT people also experienced abuse in shelters following the
2010 Haitian earthquake. Lesbians, bisexual women, and trans
and intersex people suffered gender-based violence and “corrective
HOME CULTURES250
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
rape.” Gay and bisexual men also reported forced “sexual relations
with straight-identied men for food or money” (International Gay and
Lesbian Human Rights Commission/SEROVie 2011: 4). Consequently,
some men took on a “more masculine demeanor” to avoid abuse and
reduce the chance of “being denied access to emergency housing,
healthcare, and/or enrolment in food-for-work programs” on the basis
of appearing “effeminate” (International Gay and Lesbian Human
Rights Commission/SEROVie 2011: 4–5).
Discriminatory Disaster Management Policies and
Enhanced Vulnerabilities
In providing emergency accommodation, it is thus crucial that govern-
ment agencies and NGOs ensure safe access to, and experiences in,
accommodation for all social groups. Unfortunately, evidence from a
range of locations suggests that policies frequently—in effect, if not by
design—prevent LGBT populations from accessing shelters and other
forms of assistance. This suggests the need for greater awareness
among government agencies and NGOs about the consequences for
LGBT individuals and families of policies designed with only hetero-
sexual and gender-normative populations in mind. Heteronormative
policies that assert particular denitions of “couple” or “family,” for
example, may exclude those whose relationships or families do not
t “conventional” models. Equally, policies working on the basis of a
male/female gender binary exclude or fail to recognize those whose
gender identity sits outside a binary denition.
Evidence suggests a pattern of discrimination affects gender mi-
norities over various regions. Policies exclusively designed for gender-
normative populations heighten the vulnerability of groups already
facing discrimination and marginalization. As reported by Balgos et al.
(2012), the warias of Central Java were placed at risk in a disaster by
gendered emergency management policies.2 Ofcial policy guidelines
listed evacuees in that region only as “women, men, boys or girls”
(Balgos et al. 2012: 341). Because the gender identity of warias is
outside these denitions, they were unable to be classied and thus
unable to access shelter or aid. Similarly, while many aravanis in Tamil
Nadu experienced discrimination in shelters, others were excluded
from accessing temporary accommodation because they could not be
placed in either “male” or “female” residences (Pincha and Krishna
2008).
Even when able to access shelters, trans or other gender minori-
ties may nd themselves subject to discrimination as a result of poli-
cies operating on a male/female binary (Gaillard 2011). Reports from
post-Katrina New Orleans highlighted the heightened vulnerabilities
of trans and intersex individuals in temporary shelters created by of-
cial policies. Strict gender protocols divided access to facilities within
emergency shelters, which was problematic for those whose physical
appearance suggested a gender other than that with which they iden-
HOME CULTURES251
QUEER DOMICIDE
tied. In one instance, a transwoman was arrested because she used
facilities designated for women only and subsequently spent four days
in prison for “the simple act of taking a shower” (D’Ooge 2008: 23).
A facility that should be taken for granted as part of the temporary
housing provided by the government’s emergency agency became a
source of trauma for one individual due to the heteronormative poli-
cies of that agency.
Signs of Resilience: LGBT Temporary Housing
These documented experiences of discrimination reveal signicant
vulnerabilities, but they do not reveal the steps taken by LGBT people
to avoid shelters because of perceived risks. Again, across regions
there is evidence that LGBT people are reluctant to place themselves
in situations in which they are unable to manage the disclosure of
their identities (Ozawa 2012; Yamashita 2012). Actual experiences
of discrimination in disasters are unnecessary to prompt reluctance,
nor is awareness of government or NGO policies. The everyday experi-
ences of making home, managing boundaries, and risk containment
is enough to disincline LGBT people to place either themselves or their
families within such an environment.
In response, LGBT communities display means of resilience in
establishing and providing temporary accommodations in which they
hope to feel safe or make other members of the community feel safe.
LGBT communities in Brisbane, Australia, and Christchurch, New
Zealand, established databases of accommodation for individuals,
families, and couples reluctant to make use of “ofcial” shelters.
During the Brisbane oods, large numbers of residents were forced
to evacuate. In calling for offers of accommodation to house LGBT
evacuees, LGBT publication QNews announced on its website: “It is
not easy for couples in our community to stay together during this
crisis and many of the emergency shelters often run by conservative
groups are not so welcoming to gay, lesbian, and trans couples etc.”
(QNews 2011). This quote conveys concern for other members of the
community leading to action whereby the community will support it-
self through a crisis. It also shows awareness that emergency shelters
may not provide even a temporary sense of home and that alterna-
tives may be necessary.
Similarly, the need for LGBT-friendly accommodation in the months
following Hurricane Katrina was proffered in an article in Houston
Voice. A gay male Houston resident, John Szewczyk, stated, “We need
to take care of our own” (Fisher 2006: n.p.). Hoping to establish an
accommodation database for New Orleanians evacuated to Houston,
Szewczyk argued:
Being a gay person housed in a tent city with a bunch of rednecks
is not going to be that much fun … When you’ve lost everything,
HOME CULTURES252
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
you don’t need to worry about your sexual orientation or your
HIV status being revealed.
In using the word “revealed,” Szewczyk makes clear the requirement
to hide one’s sexual identity or HIV status, at times, to remain safe.
This is the kind of privacy and maintenance of disclosure made pos-
sible by having a home. With that privacy gone, discovery may lead to
harassment. In seeking to protect LGBT New Orleanians from that situ-
ation, Szewczyk suggests resilience that may come from identication
with a LGBT community: the community may be able to protect itself
when necessary.
NEIGHBORHOOD, COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE,
AND BELONGING
Disasters exacerbate LGBT vulnerability by limiting or removing access
to community infrastructure and commercial spaces that contribute
to a sense of home, belonging, and ontological security. Home is
multiscalar, constituted by spaces beyond the domestic or residential.
Facilities established by LGBT community organizations and commer-
cial leisure venues catering to LGBT clientele also provide opportu-
nities to safely perform their identities and manage intrusions. For
some individuals, these spaces may provide a greater sense of safety
and home than residential spaces. Young LGBT people, for example,
may face hostility within the parental home and nd possibilities for
self-expression elsewhere. Holt and Grifn (2003: 406) suggest the
“scene” is “a space in which to be authentic” for many young gay men
and lesbians, and “may come to be imbued with special signicance
as a kind of home” (2003: 409).
However, it is important to note that inequitable access plays out
within LGBT spaces and that any sense of “home” may operate dif-
ferently across the population. As Doan (2007: 62) argues, although
trans individuals may nd some level of safety in gay spaces, they
may also face difculty as “in most overtly gay spaces there is little
to no visible gender queerness or any indication that such variance is
tolerated.” Nevertheless, trans people sometimes do create or locate
spaces for themselves (Nash 2011). As we argue below, a sense of
home is often developed in both commercial venues or within the
premises of LGBT community organizations. Loss of such spaces in
natural disasters places individuals at risk and inhibits ontological
security.
Commercial Infrastructure and a Sense of Belonging
Commercial leisure venues, such as bars, clubs, and even sex-on-
premises venues, have the capacity to encourage a sense of com-
munity, home, and belonging both within the venues and in the
neighborhood where they are located. Analysis of reports in the LGBT
media suggests that damage to, or loss of, these venues as a result of
HOME CULTURES253
QUEER DOMICIDE
disasters is a signicant concern to LGBT populations. Loss of these
spaces enhances vulnerabilities by removing opportunities to gather
as a community and locate safe spaces for the performance of collec-
tive identities. The reopening or relocation of these venues indicates
a return to pre-disaster normalcy and re-establishment of a sense of
home and belonging made possible by these venues.
For example, in coverage of the Christchurch earthquake, the local
LGBT media focused on damage to, and attempts to repair or re-
establish, commercial spaces such as nightclubs and sex-on-premises
venues. Analysis of reports in the New Zealand LGBT media identied
different forms of vulnerability experienced by local LGBT populations
during the 2011 earthquake. In our analysis, vulnerabilities were
classied under the themes “material” (damage to infrastructure
and buildings), “individual” (physical, psychological, or emotional
impacts on LGBT residents) and “discrimination” (homophobic,
biphobic, or transphobic experiences), with various subcategories
beneath. Damage to commercial venues—bars, nightclubs, cafes,
and sex-on-premises venues—was the most frequently reported form
of vulnerability (Figure 2). Moreover, the potential that venues might
Figure 2
Forms of vulnerability reported in New Zealand LGBT media in relation to the Christchurch earthquake
(number of articles = 41).
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
Number of menons
Forms of vulnerability menoned
HOME CULTURES254
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
be damaged beyond repair and unable to reopen/relocate was seen
as damaging to the LGBT community. Accordingly, attempts by own-
ers to re-establish their businesses were repor ted by the media in
the months subsequent to the disaster, reecting a belief that the
survival of these venues was critical to the survival of the local LGBT
community. Thus, commercial leisure venues were positioned as vital
to the community’s resilience and their potential loss highlighted the
community’s vulnerability.
It is important to note, however, that the venues reported by the
New Zealand LGBT media predominantly catered to gay male clientele.
The venues most frequently discussed were a nightclub called Cruz
(described often in media reports as “gay,” not “lesbian and gay” or
“LGBT”) and a sex-on-premises venue called Menfriends (exclusively
male clientele). There are perhaps two factors at work. First, this may
indicate greater access to public spaces for gay men than other mem-
bers of the LGBT community. Further research is necessary to develop
a greater understanding of access to public space in Christchurch
prior to, during, and subsequent to the earthquake (cf. Brown 2000).
Second, this indicates a predominance of gay male voices and inter-
ests in the LGBT media. What is made clear is that both the venues
and the media that reports on them may reect the interests of LGBT
populations in different ways and to differing extents.
Community Organizations and a Sense of Belonging
Premises of community organizations catering to LGBT populations
are also important indicators of vulnerability and resilience in many
disaster contexts. Across locations, media and NGO reports indicated
that a sense of home and belonging is enacted within these spaces
by LGBT people, and is equally unmade by disasters. The premises of
LGBT rights, community support and health organizations often pro-
vide vital spaces to LGBT communities and contribute to the sense of
home that disasters impair. During and subsequent to disasters, the
loss of these spaces has the potential to heighten LGBT vulnerability.
However, such spaces also, at times, become examples of resilience,
as they are places where the community can support itself by provid-
ing shelter and safety to those forced to leave their residences.
For example, a community center established by the Haitian health
organization SEROVie was an important venue for LGBT individuals
(International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission/SEROVie
2011). In a society where LGBT individuals are frequent victims of vio-
lence and abuse, this space provided “a place where LGBT people can
come and relax, build community and nd acceptance” (International
Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission/SEROVie 2011: 3). So
when the center was destroyed during the earthquake, its patrons
were placed at great risk in the post-disaster context. With the loss of
this space, local LGBT populations were forced to contend both with
a lack of domestic spaces—since many houses were destroyed—and
HOME CULTURES255
QUEER DOMICIDE
with the absence of another safe space in which to shelter from
harassment.
While not drawing the same media attention as commercial venues,
loss of community facilities was highlighted as a specic vulnerability
by the LGBT media on Christchurch (Figure 2). In particular, the ofces
of community health organizations were attributed with signicance in
both catering to health needs (particularly sexual health needs) dur-
ing disasters and as indicators of a return to pre-disaster normalcy.
Damage to facilities was framed as an indicator of vulnerability likely
to enhance the risk of health problems, particularly for HIV+ individu-
als. The rebuilding or relocation of these facilities in the months after
the earthquake was seen as a sign of a resilient community able to
re-establish itself and cater for its own needs. For example, in report-
ing on a new permanent location of the ofces of the New Zealand
AIDS Foundation (NZAF) in January 2012, Gay Express announced
that along with providing public health services, the venue contained
spaces for meetings and events and was “expected to become a hub
for community members” (GayExpress 2012: n.p.). This highlights the
importance of NZAF not only as a provider of services but also of a
place that offers a physical home for the community.
Remaking “Home”: A Return to Pre-Disaster Community
Media reports on disasters in various locations also note the impor-
tance of a visible LGBT residential community in providing a sense
of home to LGBT people. As argued above, the reopening of LGBT
businesses and organizations in the months after a disaster is cen-
tral to the return to pre-disaster normalcy, reliability, and ontologi-
cal security—and therefore, to a sense of returning “home.” But the
return of other members of the LGBT community, such as friends,
family, and neighbors, is equally vital. Among individuals who may
have returned to their residences following a period of relocation to
temporary accommodations, a desire is often expressed to see other
LGBT people return to the neighborhood. There is a sense that the
return home requires not only return to a particular house but also
to the particular “neighborhood” community that existed prior to the
disaster event.
Reporting on experiences of LGBT populations in post-Katrina New
Orleans, for example, Caldwell (2006) stressed the difculties many
experienced in returning home. He noted that those individuals who
had re-established their lives in New Orleans yearned to see greater
numbers of former LGBT residents, and thus the LGBT community,
return. One gay man stated, The best feeling in the world is when
you see someone you haven’t seen since the hurricane come walk-
ing back in and say they’re moving back” (Caldwell 2006: n.p.). A
“complete” return home is indicated not only by reoccupying domestic
spaces but also by witnessing the return of others to the neighbor-
hood. This suggests that the vulnerabilities and losses enacted by the
HOME CULTURES256
ANDREW GORMAN-MURRAY, SCOTT McKINNON AND DALE DOMINEY-HOWES
natural disaster can only be overcome once the community has fully
re-established itself to its pre-disaster form (or “built back better”).
Similar sentiments were highlighted by the Christchurch LGBT
media. Local publication Gay Express, for example, interviewed three
gay men ve months after the earthquake (Banks 2011). The article
highlighted their decision to stay in Christchurch as well as their ex-
periences of witnessing LGBT friends and family leave and, at times,
return. One interviewee stated, “The earthquake has brought every-
body closer together, and I think people are starting to come back
now. Some have had a few months break and are now thinking—this
is my home, this is where I belong” (Banks 2011: n.p.). This indicates
the multiscalarity of LGBT home and belonging, which relies on signi-
cant relations beyond domestic space, stretching into neighborhood
locales. For many LGBT individuals, the home unmade by disaster is
nally remade with the inclusion of a range of material and emotional
factors provided by the wider LGBT community in situ.
CONCLUSION
The concerns and needs of LGBT people in natural disasters are largely
absent from government, emergency management, and NGO policies
and processes, and from the mainstream media. This absence has
had specic effects on the ability of LGBT individuals and families to
remain safe and secure during disasters, and to manage returning
and remaking home in their wake. Combined with the disruption of
LGBT homes and domestic life from natural disasters, the omission of
LGBT households and homes in disaster recovery policy and practice
constitutes a form of queer domicide. Social peripheralization and
policy absence exacerbates and multiplies the ways in which LGBT
homes are unmade” in disasters across a range of location in both
the Global North and Global South. In order to ensure equitable treat-
ment for LGBT communities it is necessary to understand the specic
meanings and uses of home developed by LGBT individuals and fami-
lies in these settings. In doing so, we must consider how LGBT experi-
ences are differentiated by intersections with gender, race/ethnicity,
socioeconomic means, and geographic location.
Our aim in this article has been to take early steps in addressing
these issues, and thus prompt scholarly and policy consideration. By
examining the vulnerability and resilience of LGBT populations dur-
ing natural disasters, we highlight the heteronormativity of policies
and responses that fail to accommodate LGBT concerns about home,
displacement, and rebuilding. For LGBT individuals and families,
home may operate in multiple ways, at multiple scales, and across a
broad range of locations to provide security and safety and to enable
the performance and development of identities, relationships, and
households. Disasters impact on LGBT homes in potentially devastat-
ing ways that often remain invisible to broader populations, policy-
makers, and emergency services, but which need to be illuminated
HOME CULTURES257
QUEER DOMICIDE
and accommodated in policy and practice. The present discussion
aims to prompt such thinking.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Thanks to Katherine Brickell and Richard Baxter for organizing this
issue and inviting our submission; to the helpful comments from
anonymous referees; to funding from a UWS Research Grant for pilot
work. This is part of an ARC Discovery Project (DP130102658) on
LGBT disaster experiences.
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