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  1. 1. Gay Men and the Negotiation of their Sexuality in a Multicultural Neighbourhood Geography B.Sc. with Honours University of Edinburgh 2014 Thomas W. W. Stewart 12,061 words (Excluding titles, figures, footnotes, Appendices, References)
  2. 2. I hereby declare that this dissertation has been composed by me and is based on my own work. Signature: ________________ Date: ________________
  3. 3. “Geography must render, moreover, another far more important service. It must teach us, from our earliest childhood, that we are all brethren [sic] ... geography must be—a means of dissipating these prejudices and of creating other feelings more worthy of humanity”. Pëtr Kropotkin, 1842 – 1921 “Happiness  is  not  something  readymade. It  comes  from  our  own  actions”. Dalai Lama 1935 –
  4. 4. ABSTRACT This   paper   responds   to   Valentine’s   (2008)  call   for   geographers  to   pay   greater  attention  to   minority  group  relations  in  space,  as  until  now  much  of  our  understandings  of  ‘difference’   have focused on majority-minority relations only. By utilising the abundance of geographical work  already  concerned  with  notions  of  ‘difference’  and  space,  I  will  demonstrate  that  by   turning our focus towards everyday encounters between minority groups themselves, new ways  of  thinking  of  ‘difference’  in  the  city  can  be  afforded  to geographers. Pulling on the geographies of sexuality, difference, and encounters, I will consider how gay men negotiate their sexuality in a multicultural – not just heteronormative and white – neighbourhood. The research, carried out in Tower Hamlets, London, demonstrates that the (re)production of heteronormative  space  is  often  never  simply  a  ‘straight-gay’  issue.  My  research  reveals  how   notions  of  ‘race’  can  and  do  surface  in  the  process.  I  will  argue  that  such  insights  can  only  be   achieved when we consider ‘differences’ between minority groups themselves.
  5. 5. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I thank Julie Cupples for her intellectual guidance, reassuring words, and for supporting my research topic from the outset. Similarly, I thank Jan Penrose for her time, intellect and guidance. My gratitude extends to Sophie Gackowski, Roz Lynch, Linda Wilkinson, Peter Golds, and to my wonderful parents. You each uniquely supported me and my work, especially in the times I felt like giving up. Finally, and most importantly, I thank all the men who agreed to take part in the research process. Your time, hospitality, support and beliefs that the world can be changed for the better spurred me on right through to the end, and without them, this dissertation would not have been possible.
  6. 6. TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter One: Introduction and Background_ “Son,  you  can’t  come  ‘ome.  They’ve  banned  ya” 1 Introduction 1 Tower  Hamlets:  ‘Super-diversity’  or  ‘Britain’s  Islamic  Republic’? 2 Outline of Paper 4 Chapter Two: Literature Review- The Contingent Nature of Sexed Space: From Fixed to Performative 7 Sex in the City: Power, Discourse and Performativity 8 Beyond  Heteronormativity:  Resistance,  Homonormativity  and  ‘New  Heteronormativity’ 10 Constructing  and  Spatialising  ‘Difference’:  Encountering  the  Racial  ‘Other’  in  the   12 Multicultural City Intersectionality: An Important (Albeit Brief) Point to Consider 15 When  Minorities  Collide:  Accommodating  ‘Difference’  and  Minority  Group  Intolerance 16 Chapter Three: Methodology- In-depth Semi-structured Interviews 19 Cognitive Mapping as Aide to Interviewing 21 Reflexivity,  Power,  Wine  and  the  ‘Myth  of  Detachment’ 22 Chapter  Four:  Mapping  Identity  Performance:  Designating  ‘Safe’  and  ‘Unsafe’  Spaces- Designating  ‘Safe’  Space:  Gentrification,  Cosmopolitanism  and  Shifting  Public  Opinion   25 How Things Have Changed: The Role of the Police and Private Space in Designating 29 ‘Safe’  Space Designating  ‘Unsafe’  Space:  Concealing  Sexuality  and  ‘Muslim  Space’ 31 Chapter  Five:  Racializing  Intolerance:  ‘Straight  Space’  Equals  ‘Muslim  Space’- Knowing  ‘Muslim  Space’:  The  Racialization  of  ‘Straight  Space’ 35 Lived  Difference:  Constructing  ‘Muslim  Space’ via Everyday Encounters 38 Felt and Imagined Geographies of Muslim Intolerance 42 Chapter Six: Concluding Thoughts- 47 Appendices- 51 References- 55
  7. 7. LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: “Gay  Free  Zone” 3 Figure 2: Perry’s  Map 26 Figure 3: Tom’s  Map 27 Figure 4: Justin’s  Map 28 Figure 5: Daniel’s  Map 31 Figure 6: Patrico’s  Map 36 Figure 7: Dean’s  Map 43
  8. 8. Geography Dissertation 2014 1 | P a g e Chapter One INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND “SON,  YOU  CAN’T  COME  ‘OME.  THEY’VE  BANNED YA” It was in the spring of 2011 that on planning a trip home to see my family, I gave my dad a quick phone call. He had just seen on the news that in our borough, Tower Hamlets in London,  stickers  had  appeared  with  Qur’anic  text  declaring  that  gay  people  were  “banned”   from  the  area.  It  was  not  so  much  the  stickers,  as  my  father’s  words  which ignited my interest to carry out this dissertation. INTRODUCTION Rights and liberties afforded to sexual minorities, as well as increasing societal acceptance of homosexuality, have been characteristic of most Western societies these past few decades (Bettani, 2014). Within the UK, some have proclaimed that the advent of equal marriage has brought about full equality for homosexuals under the law (Stonewall, 2013). Vaid (1996) and Podmore (2013) remind us, however, that we need to remain cautious of the potential gap between the achievement of legal rights and the ongoing struggle for social liberation. This has been the very focus of much work within social and cultural geography, and since the 1980s, geographers have contributed towards a growing academic scholarship concerned with the socio-cultural facets of sexuality and space (Oswin, 2011). The field finally became consolidated with the publication of Mapping Desire (Bell and Valentine, 1995),  and  our  understandings  of  ‘difference’  in  the  city  became  not  only  a  function  of  ‘race’   and gender (de Leeuw et al., 2011). With this is mind, Hall’s   (1993:   361)   assertion   that   “the   capacity   to   live   with   difference  …  is  the  coming  question  of  the  21st  century”,  has  not  lost  momentum.  Within   geographical thought, academic attention has considered how the city has become a site
  9. 9. Geography Dissertation 2014 2 | P a g e where  we  continuously  come  into  contact  with  the  ‘Other’  (Jencks,  1993;;  Fincher  and  Jacobs,   1998; Sennet, 1990), granting the potential for creating new urban cosmopolitanisms that support  and  foster  spaces  for  tolerating  ‘difference’  (Amin,  2002,  2006;;  Laurier and Philo, 2006).  Whether  that  ‘difference’  is  constructed  as  racialized,  or  categorised  as  ‘Other’  to  the   heterosexual norm, geographers have provided theoretical frameworks to assist in our understanding of how different marginalised groups negotiate their way in a predominantly white, heterosexual, ableist, and patriarchal society (Gibson, 1998). Hitherto,   much   of   our   understandings   of   ‘difference’   have   focused   on   dualistic   majority-minority relations (de Leeuw et al., 2011). Valentine (2008: 355) however, has requested  closer  consideration  be  granted  towards  our  understanding  of  ‘difference’  in  the   city,  calling  on  geographers  to  be  more  attentive  to  the  “prejudices  and  bad  relations  within,   and  between,  minority  groups  themselves”.  She  furthers  this call by suggesting geographers recognise   the   “competing   values   and   rights   claims   that   are   beginning   to   emerge   in   contemporary   equality   debates”   (Valentine,   2008:   355).   This   dissertation   responds   to   Valentine’s  (2008)  call.  In  utilising  the  current  theoretical  approaches  towards  ‘difference’   and sexuality within geography, I will demonstrate that by paying closer attention to ‘difference’  between minority groups themselves, geographers can be afforded new ways of thinking  with  ‘difference’  in  the  multicultural city. The research presented here focuses on gay men and the everyday negotiations of their sexuality in multicultural spaces, centred on the neighbourhood in which I grew up and love: Tower Hamlets, London. TOWER  HAMLETS:  ‘SUPER-DIVERSITY’  OR  ‘BRITAIN’S  ISLAMIC  REPUBLIC’? Tower  Hamlets  in  London’s  East  End  has  a  rich  history  of  multiculturalism  (Poynter   and MacRury, 2009). With over 120 languages spoken (Tower Hamlets, 2008), the area has long been a place in which immigrant populations have settled (Brown, 2001). The area is also diverse in terms of economic differences, with highly gentrified neighbourhoods only a
  10. 10. Geography Dissertation 2014 3 | P a g e stone’s  throw  away  from  some  of  Britain’s  poorest  wards  (Brown,  1998;;  Fraser,  2012).  The   spatial amalgamation of these social variants is   what   Vertovec   (2007)   defines   as   “super- diversity”.  Today  the  area  is  home  to  the  UK’s  largest  Bangladeshi  population,  with  over  30   per cent of the borough being of Bangladeshi descent (Tower Hamlets, 2014a). Unsurprisingly, Tower Hamlets is also home to “the  UK’s  largest  Muslim  community”  (East   London Mosque, 2014). Complementing the vibrant ethno-cultural mix of the borough, Tower Hamlets boasts a proud history of accommodating sexual ‘differences’ (Brown, 1998, 2001, 2006; Barlow, n.d.)1 . However, this sense of cohesive community and mutual respect for ‘difference’ has come under fire recently, particularly in the media and from LGBT activists. Channel 4 broadcasted an inflammatory programme in March 2010 – Dispatches:   Britain’s   Islamic   Republic – which   described   Tower   Hamlets   Council   as   being   “infiltrated”   by   an   Islamic   fundamentalist organisation, which, according to Gilligan, has been known to promote overt, violent homophobia (Gilligan, 2010, 2013). Between April 2009 and March 2011 reports of homophobic incidents rose by a third (Gilbert, 2011), and in February 2011, homophobic stickers surfaced across Tower Hamlets: 1 Barlow’s  publication  has  no  date  as  the  PDF  I  have  is  a  document  designed  to  accompany  an  art  exhibition.  I   thank Linda Wilkinson for forwarding it onto me.
  11. 11. Geography Dissertation 2014 4 | P a g e Community cohesion in the borough was under threat again in January 2013: the media obtained footage circulating around YouTube of a   ‘Muslim   Patrol’   vigilante   group   harassing  people  they  perceived  as  gay  or  as  carrying  out  ‘un-Islamic’  acts  such  as  drinking   alcohol (Razaq, 2013; de Peyer, 2013) 2 . Leaders within the Muslim community condemned the behaviour of this minority group, with the East London Mosque (ELM henceforth) reaffirming  its  commitment  “to  building  co-operation and harmony between all communities in  this  borough”  (cf.  de  Peyer,  2013).  Yet  Gilligan  (2013)  slammed  this  rhetoric  as  a  PR  stunt,   accusing the mosque of hosting homophobic hate preachers, and not seeking to strengthen community ties. In January 2014, tensions were heightened once more when it was revealed the ELM was hosting yet another anti-gay speaker (Barnett, 2014). Whilst these examples are rare and potentially guilty of sensationalism, they do demand of us to think critically as to how  ‘difference’  between  these  two  marginalised  groups  can  be  reconciled.   OUTLINE OF PAPER Chapter Two of this paper focuses on the literature and theoretical insights within which this study is situated, grounding the dissertation within existing academic thought surrounding the geographies of sexuality, difference, and encounter. The chapter will conclude  by  drawing  attention  towards  the  discipline’s  lack  of  due  critical  attention to the potential   for   ‘difference’   to   be   negotiated   between minority groups themselves. Chapter Three then outlines the methodological framework applied throughout the research, highlighting the limitations and strengths of the methods chosen, as well as the reflexive dimensions of the study. Chapters Four and Five together make up the analysis and discussion section of the paper, presenting the data I collected. Chapter Four focuses on gay men’s   constructions   of   ‘safe’   and   ‘unsafe’   spaces   in   Tower   Hamlets, concluding that the production of heteronormative space was the result of an acutely racialized process. Chapter 2 In February 2014 a similar far-right  group,  calling  themselves  the  ‘Christian  Patrol’,  were  roaming  parts  of   East London with the intent of fuelling Islamaphobia (see Elgot, 2014).
  12. 12. Geography Dissertation 2014 5 | P a g e Five looks specifically at the production of heteronormative space as a by-product of constructing  racialized  ‘Muslim  space’,  merging  the  geographies of sexuality, difference and encounter to achieve this. This paper is finally concluded in Chapter Six in which the main findings of the research are summarised and then related to possible implications for future research3 . 3 Although non-essential, I encourage the reader at this point to engage with the Appendices if they want to further their geographical understanding of the places in Tower Hamlets my participants referred to most often.
  13. 13. Geography Dissertation 2014 6 | P a g e
  14. 14. Geography Dissertation 2014 7 | P a g e Chapter Two LITERATURE REVIEW This chapter situates the study within the relevant literature across the geographies of sexuality, difference and encounter. I also draw on wider theory from mainly Foucault and Butler. Firstly I will consider the theoretical insights from within the geographies of sexuality. I will then consider where the geographies of difference and encounter fit into the research topic. The final section highlights the deficit in literature regarding minority group relations in space, instead pulling on examples to demonstrate where geographies of sexuality, difference and encounter intersect in some instances, and therefore must provoke us to think of  new  ways  of  understanding  ‘difference’  in  the  multicultural  city. THE CONTINGENT NATURE OF SEXED SPACE: FROM FIXED TO PERFORMATIVE Some of the earliest works that considered the significance of space and place and their impact on sexuality sought to map visible gay and lesbian populations, particularly the spaces in which these groups lived and played (Achilles, 1998 [1967]; Levine, 1979; Castell, 1983;;  McNee,  1984).  Castell  (1983),  for  instance,  plotted  cartographically  the  “gay  territory”   of   San   Francisco,   where   he   argued   gay   men   and   lesbians   could   live   “distinct”   lives   from   heterosexuals. Castell’s  (1983)  work  fixed homosexuality in space, suggesting that lesbians and   gay   men   could   only   express   themselves   in   these   spaces.   Similarly,   McNee’s   (1984)   arguments  resonated  with  Castell’s  (1983)  conclusions,  suggesting that the heteropatriarchal “nature” of urban space forced gay men and women to create their own spaces. Although such advancements made by earlier scholars should be applauded, these approaches – referred  to  as  “dots  on  maps”  (Binnie  and  Valentine,  1999: 176) – eventually became  reduced  to  “naïve  mappings  of  sexual  space”  (Knopp,  1998:  149).  Post-structuralists contest the idea of fixing identity in space, arguing that identities are, in fact, a fluid, contingent matter, always in the process of becoming (Buckingham, 2008; Thrift, 1999).
  15. 15. Geography Dissertation 2014 8 | P a g e Moran et al.’s  (2003)  research  on  Manchester’s  ‘gay  village’  for  instance,  demonstrates  how   we   cannot   simply   construct   certain   spaces   as   ‘gay’,   as   these   spaces   are   often   shaped   differently by different people, across different spatial and temporal scales. This shift in focus drew much theoretical intellectualism from the emerging field of queer geographies (Knopp, 2007; Oswin, 2008, 2011). For Knopp (2007: 22), queer geography – which owes its emergence to feminist geographies – has  “highlighted  the  hybrid  and  fluid  nature  of  sexual   subjectivities”   as   “the   focus   shifted   from   reifying   and   celebrating   ‘gay   spaces’   to   understanding the always multiply fluid, ambiguous and contingent sexualised spatialities that are constant in human  experiences”.  Thus,  as  Eves  (2004:  481-2)  summarises:  “queer   work has reconceptualized sexual identities as shifting and unstable, as positions offered by discursive  structures  rather  than  properties  of  individuals”.   SEX IN THE CITY: POWER, DISCOURSE AND PERFORMATIVITY As already outlined, geographers are now well aware of the performative nature of sexuality  in  space,  and  how  this  in  turn  impacts  upon  lesbian  and  gay  men’s  everyday  lives  in   the city. These insights will help further the first aspect of my research topic: Gay men and the negotiation of their sexuality [in a multicultural neighbourhood]. For instance, scholars have produced accounts of the city as aggressively heterosexual, forcing gay men and women to conceal their sexuality in public and private space (Bell, 1991; Valentine, 1993a, 1993b; Namaste, 1996; Kirby and Hay, 1997). This led Hubbard (2000: 195-6) to argue: ...while displays of heterosexual affection, friendship and desire are regarded as acceptable  or  ‘normal’  in  most  spaces  …  homosexuals  are  often  forced  to   deny or disguise their sexual orientation except in specific (and often marginal) spaces because of fears of homophobic abuse and intolerance.
  16. 16. Geography Dissertation 2014 9 | P a g e For Hubbard (2000, 2008, 2011), in order to understand the sexual nature of space, we must first examine the moral geographies that (re)produce  what  Smart  (1996)  calls  “hegemonic,   normative   heterosexuality”.   Moreover,   Hubbard   (2000:   195)   contends   that   just   as   non- normative sexualities4 are  socially  constructed,  “heterosexuality  …  is  not  a  natural  product  of   a biological urge to reproduce, but is   socially   produced   and   maintained”.   Similarly,   Lim   (2004:  1760)  reifies  this  position,  asserting  that  “heterosexual  space  … is not ontological—it is produced”.  Thus  in  order  to  understand  the  contours  of  dissident  sexualities  in  space,  we   must first critically examine the production and maintenance of dominant heterosexuality. Valentine (1996) postulates how the heterosexualisation of everyday space should be conceived as a performative act which is naturalised through repetition and regulation. Judith Butler’s  (1990:  140,  145)  concept  of  “repeated  play”  is  relevant  here,  emphasising  that  our   gendered and sexualised identities are cited in relation to hegemonic discursive regimes of heteronormativity,  and  through  our  “compulsion  to  repeat”  what  is  expected  of us. Thus, the performative nature of non-normative sexualities is always relational to the dominant heterosexist society in which they are produced (Foucault, 1976). Foucault (1975, 1976) utilises the metaphor of the panopticon to demonstrate one means by which heteronormativity is maintained. By constructing heterosexuality as the norm, dissident sexualities are then subjected   to   a   ‘heterosexual   gaze’,   which   in   turn   regulates   the   expression   of   deviant   homosexualities (Foucault, 1976). Like the prisoner under panoptic surveillance, gay men and  lesbian’s  sexualities  are  controlled  through  the  assumption  that  they  are  constantly  being   observed and scrutinised, whether this is actually happening or not (Davis, 1995; Koskela, 2003). This is not to suggest, however, that hegemonic heterosexism cannot be challenged or undermined (Davis, 1995), as I will detail further on. 4 For the purpose of this paper, by non-normative or dissident sexualities I am referring to gay and lesbian homosexuality, but in many instances this can also include other dissident sexualities that deviate from normative heterosexualities, including deviant heterosexualities such as sadomasochism (Herman, 2007) or prostitution (Hubbard and Whowell, 2008).
  17. 17. Geography Dissertation 2014 10 | P a g e In  addition,  Lim  (2004)  works  with  Bourdieu’s  (1989,  1992)  concept  of  ‘habitus’  to   argue that even homosexuals often (un)intentionally exercise compliance in the maintenance of everyday space as heteronormative. Penrose and Smith (2006: 1014) sum this conception up  fittingly:  “people  continuously  perform  the  conventions  of  any  given  time  and  place  and,   in the process they actually produce these conventions and make them appear necessary and natural”.   For   Lim   (2004)   homosexuals   can   (un)intentionally   collude   in   the   repetitive   reproduction of heteronormativity through the concealment of their own sexual identities, for instance by not displaying same sex affections in public. This is echoed by Kirby and Hay (1997:   295)   who   assert   that   “the   routine   behaviours   and   actions   of   many   gay   men   acting   within  a  heteropatriarchal  hegemony  help  make  and  keep  space  ‘straight’”.  Through  acts  of   self-policing, homosexuals regulate their identity performances in public so as to avoid disapproval or threats of violence (Valentine, 1993a). Valentine (1993a: 242) suggests that for  many  homosexuals,  this  is  done  by  either  “deliberately  'playing'  a  heterosexual  role  or  by unconsciously   'fitting   in',   not   admitting   or   representing   their   homosexuality”.   Similarly,   Kitchin and Lysagcht (2003) argue that gay men and women must often compartmentalise their sexual identity across different spaces and at different times, through the regulation of their clothes, behaviour and mannerisms. Brown (2001) for example, found that gay men in East  London  often  attempted  to  “butch  up”  when  they  knew  they  would  be  passing  through   neighbourhoods they perceive as particularly threatening. Out of fear of reprisal, these men not only conceal their own sexual identities, but in doing so facilitate the reinforcement and maintenance of the dominant heterosexualities expected from them (Lim, 2004). BEYOND HETERONORMATIVITY: RESISTANCE, HOMONORMATIVITY  AND  ‘NEW   HETERONORMATIVITY’ Whilst performativity lies at the heart of the production of heteronormative space, so too can space be disrupted and subverted through alternative performances of sexual
  18. 18. Geography Dissertation 2014 11 | P a g e identities (Butler, 1993). Discursive regimes are always in the process of becoming, for as Foucault (1976:  59)  reminds  us,  “where  there  is  power,  there  is  resistance”.  In  this  sense,   spaces  such  as  ‘gay  villages’  can  be  sites  where  marginal  sexualities  come  together  to  subvert   and disrupt spaces previously given as heterosexual (Nash, 2006). Studies have shown, for example,  that  proximity  to  gay  venues  or  ‘spaces’  can  have  positive  effects  when  it  comes  to   the   expression   of   one’s   homosexual   identity   (Furlong,   2006;;   Brown,   2001).   However,   as   Moran et al. (2003) remind us, gay men and women are still under surveillance and must nonetheless continue to police themselves, even in these spaces. In addition, some suggest that  such  spaces  can  work  to  create  distinctive  ‘homo-patriarchal’  enclaves  that  exclude  other   marginalised subjects (specifically trans* people, ethnic minorities, as well as other markers of  ‘difference’)  that  don’t  fit  the  ‘scene’  (Binnie  and  Skeggs,  2004;;  Nast,  2002;;  Pritchard  et al., 2002; Doan, 2007). Furthermore, some even suggest that these spaces further reproduce dominant discursive regimes of heteronormativity – or   “new   heteronormativity”   (Duggan,   2002) – critiquing them as being regulated within neoliberal moral economies that seek to promote normative sexualised spaces of consumption; sites that nonetheless derive from heteronormative dichotomies of moral and immoral sexual practices (Duggan, 2002; Bell and Binnie, 2004: Casey, 2007; Brown, 2013). Whilst much attention has been concerned with the  queering  of  distinctive  ‘gay  spaces’,  ‘everyday’  streets  or  spaces  can  also  be  queered.  By   ‘everyday’  street,   I  mean  the  majority  of  spaces  in   the  city  not   designated  as  visible  sites   where gay men and lesbians go to partake in consumption economies such as gay commercial districts (Brown, 2013; Bettani,  2014).  Brown  (2006)  refers  to  these  spaces  as  ‘post-gay’.   As well as unravelling the moral contours surrounding the production of heteronormative space, the practice of queering the street also disrupts spaces given as ‘straight’ (Ivanchikova, 2006). Foucault (1976: 96) highlights how power relations are never static,  but  “produced  from  one  moment  to  the  next,  at  every  point,  or  rather  in  every  relation  
  19. 19. Geography Dissertation 2014 12 | P a g e from  one  point  to  another”.  Moreover,  just  as  Kitchin  and  Lysagcht  (2003)  highlight  how   policing  one’s  clothes  or  mannerisms  can  reinforce  spaces  as  heteronormative,  Kitchin  (2002)   previously acknowledged that these very facets of performativity can, at the same time, be appropriated as everyday strategies of resistance. Queering the everyday street can be done through events such as Pride Marches (Kitchin and Lysagcht, 2003; Lim, 2004), as well as public art (Lim, 2004), popular music (Valentine, 1995), or other subtle behaviours like cruising glances exchanged by two men (Leap, 1999). However subtle, simple acts of ‘queering’  the  street  can  challenge  assumptions  that  city  streets  are  fixed  as  heteronormative   (Kitchin, 2002; Valentine, 1993a, 1995). CONSTRUCTING AND SPATIALISING DIFFERENCE: ENCOUNTERING THE RACIALIZED  ‘OTHER’  IN THE MULTICULTURAL CITY As the previous sections of this literature review considered the ways in which gay men negotiate or perform their sexuality in space, I will now consider the literature and theoretical insights that give scope to understanding the second part of the research topic: [Gay men and the negotiation of their sexuality] in a multicultural neighbourhood. To achieve this, I will draw on literature from the geographies of difference and encounter. Everyday geographies of multiculturalism demonstrate how geographies of difference and encounter interlock (see Swanton, 2008; Clayton, 2008, 2009). In other words, to understand how gay men negotiate their sexuality in a multicultural space – not just heteronormative, white space – we  must  consider  how  ‘difference’  comes to matter in cities, and how such ‘difference’  is  negotiated  through  everyday  encounters  in  multicultural  spaces.  It  is  pertinent   to mention that by invoking notions of multiculturalism, in this instance, I am not referring to a political ideology that many scholars and politicians problematically infer as demising or
  20. 20. Geography Dissertation 2014 13 | P a g e ‘dead’   (Hesse,   2000   cf.   Nagel   and   Hopkins,   2010;;   Kundnani,   2002) 56 . I am referring to ‘difference’  and  diversity  as  being  a  common  and  permanent  feature  of  many  socio-cultural landscapes (Fincher and Jacobs, 1998; Nagel and Hopkins, 2010; Penrose, 2013; Valentine, 2013), including Tower Hamlets (Brown 1998; 2001, 2006; see Wessendorf, 2013 on neighbouring London Borough of Hackney). I am referring to what Amin (2002) contends as the conditions  of  ‘living  with  difference’.   But  what  do  we  mean  when  we  refer  to  ‘difference’  in  geography?  Gibson  (1998:  304) grants  insight  into  how  we  might  articulate  this  conception,  contending  that  “discourses  of   difference focus upon all those identities which are designated as Other to the social norm – that  being  the  white  heterosexual  ‘middle-class’  able-bodied young male”. For de Leeuw et al. (2011:  19),  this  occurs  by  “grouping  entities  and  subjects  together  based  on  constructed  ideas   of  sameness,  [and  as  such]  categories  of  what  constitutes  normal  are  produced”,  which  in  turn   works to reify what constitutes as abnormal,  or  ‘different’  from  the  mainstream.  They  then  go   on  to  observe  that  these  categories  “function  to  exclude  subjects  who  do  not  adhere  to  the   characteristics  of  sameness  or  normalcy”  (de  Leeuw  et al., 2011: 19-20). And so, whilst cities are spaces where we  may  come  into  contact  with  the  ‘exotic  Other’,  acting  as  sites  for  cross- cultural understanding and exchange (see Sennet 1990; Jencks, 1993; Fincher and Jacobs, 1998; Nava, 2006; Laurier and Philo, 2006), urban spaces can also be sites where hegemonic discourses of morality and normativity become (re)produced (Sibley, 1995). How  we  encounter  and  mediate  multiple  ‘differences’  in  multicultural  spaces  is  often   produced via social constructions and popular representations (see Hall, 1997). The social construction  of  the  racialized  ‘Other’  is  generally  rooted  within  hegemonic  discourses,  that   Young  (2001:  685)  highlights  as  being  constituted  in  a  system  of  knowledge  which  “conveys   5 In 2010 and 2011 respectively, both the German Chancellor Angela Merkal and British Prime Minister David Cameron publicly denounced multiculturalism as a failed state project (see Modood, 2013). 6 Unless stated otherwise.
  21. 21. Geography Dissertation 2014 14 | P a g e the  widely  accepted  generalizations  about  how  society  operates”.  How  we  see  and relate to one another in the street, for instance, can stem from representational and discursive knowledges that are historically and culturally produced (Jackson and Penrose, 1993). Their continued reification, often carried through the media, can then become accentuated until given   as   natural   and   ‘known’   as   ‘fact’   (Hall,   1997;;   Sibley,   1995).   These   popular   representations are then reproduced in everyday spaces of multiculturalism, often through the practice of ethnic and racial coding in which certain parts of the city may become known for being  ‘black’,  or  ‘white’,  or  ‘Muslim’  (see  Clayton,   2008,  2009;;   and  Kuppinger,  2014  on   ‘Muslim  space’;;  and  Thomas,  2005  on  the  racial  coding  of  a  high  school  lunchroom).  Hall   (1992: 16, cf. Grossberg, 1996: 99) contends that those ideas and practices that sort and fix ‘race’  and  ethnic  ‘Others’  into  place  can  work  “  secure  us  ‘over  here’  and  them  ‘over   there’”.   These   spaces   are   never   fixed   or   static,   however;;   they   are   always   reworked   via   performed and imagined geographies (Pratt, 1998; Thomas, 2005). Racialized boundaries are then imitated by those who move within them, and by those who gaze upon them in the daily grind of urban living (see Kuppinger, 2014). The racialization of space can be achieved symbolically too, through the presence of a mosque for example (Henkel, 2007), or the geographical  boundaries  and  cultural  fixtures  that  make  up  spatial  entities  like  ‘Banglatown’   (see  Begum,  2008;;  Alexander,  2011),  or  ‘China  Town’  (see  Anderson,  1987). ‘Difference’,  therefore, is an inherently spatial phenomenon (Sibley, 1995; Thomas, 2005).  Much  of  our  understanding  of  ‘difference’,  however,  stems  from  top-down discursive approaches  regarding  the  construction  of  ‘race’  (Swanton,  2010a,  2010b),  yet  how  we  come   to know and   negotiate   ‘difference’   – that   is,   how   ‘difference’   is   performed   in   everyday   interactions – is the product of the lived experience (Wilson, 2011). It is what bodies and subjects do that comes to matter on the street (Saldanha, 2006; Swanton, 2010a, 2010b; Wilson, 2011). This is not to rebuke social construction theories; popular representations do
  22. 22. Geography Dissertation 2014 15 | P a g e not appear out of nowhere, but are culturally and historically constructed (Jackson and Penrose, 1993; Hall, 1997). What I am interested in, however, is how formations of the ‘Other’   come   to   be   lived   out   in   everyday   spaces;;   how   local people come to denote the racialization of local spatialities.  To  think  through  this  lens,  therefore,  “requires  a  shift   in   attention from the grand towards the more mundane yet significant relationship between space  and  racialized  identities”  (Clayton,  2009:  483).   Kuppinger (2014), for example, worked with de Certeau’s   (1984)   writings   on   the   everyday  street  to  reveal  how  constructions  of  ‘Muslim  space’  in  Stuttgart,  Germany,  were   transiently  produced  by   local  pious  Muslims  in   their  everyday  ‘authentic’  encounters  with   one another7 . She (2014) contests ideas regarding the secularization of European cities, suggesting that the millions of Muslims across Europe are creating post-secular   ‘Muslim   spaces’  – semi-permanent or even permanently known – through symbolic architecture, dress, commercial  districts,  and  Islamic  behavioral  codes.  She  concluded  that  these  ‘Muslim  spaces’   demanded certain etiquettes to be upheld by Muslims and non-Muslims alike (Kuppinger, 2014).   What   Kuppinger’s   (2014)   article   gets   us   to   consider   – as do the countless other ethnographies   on   living   with   ‘difference’   – is how constructions of racialized space rely heavily on everyday interactions between people, and across  lines  of  ‘difference’. INTERSECTIONALITY: AN IMPORTANT (ALBEIT BRIEF) POINT TO CONSIDER It is necessary at this point to inform the reader that this dissertation does not seek to position  sexuality  and  ‘race’  or  religion  in  total  opposition  to  one  another. To do so would tarnish the very point I have been trying to make so far: that identities are never fixed, but fluid and multiple (Buckingham, 2008; de Leeuw et al., 2011). Therefore, it is important to think through the lens of intersectionality when  writing  on  ‘difference’  (Valentine,  2007).  Put   simply, there is more to gay men than their sexuality. Similarly there is more to racialized 7 I thank Julie Cupples for drawing my attention to this article specifically, as well as others.
  23. 23. Geography Dissertation 2014 16 | P a g e subjects  than  their  ‘race’  or  religion.   Indeed  these  identity  markers  often  intersect  (see  for   example Hopkins, 2006 on gendered constructs and youthful Muslim masculinities; and Begum,  2008  on  Muslim  women’s  exclusion  from  ‘Banglatown’).  However,  it  is  important  to   consider that specific identities come to the surface at specific times and in specific spaces (de Leeuw et al., 2011), which is demonstrated by the application of sexuality and ‘race’/religion   in   this   dissertation.   In   other   words,   although   we   must   acknowledge   the   significance of intersecting identities, indeed work with them in our research, it is necessary at  points  to  rally  around  particular  “operational”  or  strategically  essential  identity  markers  to   forward particular causes (Spivak, 1990: 12; see also Fuss, 1989). WHEN MINORITIES COLLIDE: ACCOMMODATING DIFFERENCE AND MINORITY GROUP INTOLERANCE This final section situates the literature so far examined within emerging debates surrounding   differing   minority   groups’   claims   to   space,   conceptualising the research topic into one whole: Gay men and the negotiation of their sexuality in a multicultural neighbourhood.  Hitherto,  much  of  our  understandings  of  ‘difference’  in  the  city  have  tended   to focus on dualistic conceptions of those with or without power (de Leeuw et al., 2011), often white majority and minority ethnic groups (Valentine and Sadgrove, 2012). Whilst it is imperative that these majority-minority relations are constantly scrutinised and contested (white-ethnic minority, hetero-homosexual, and so on), if we are to reach a more equitable city, greater attention needs to be granted towards the potential conflicts and negotiations of ‘difference’  that  exist  between marginalised groups themselves. In this vein, Valentine (2008: 355) has called for closer consideration to be given to the  potential  “prejudices  and  bad  relations  within,  and  between,  minority  groups  themselves”,   that   recognises   the   “competing   values   and   rights   claims   that   are   beginning   to   emerge   in   contemporary   equality   debates”.   Considering   the   deficit   of   theory   that   looks   at   minority  
  24. 24. Geography Dissertation 2014 17 | P a g e group intolerance, I will therefore use the limited examples available to explain my point. For instance, Valentine and Waite (2012) conducted focus groups that examined the complex negotiations   of   ‘difference’   at   play   when   it   concerned   two   equality   strands:   religious   and   LGBT groups. They deduced  that  “given  the  incompatibility  of  the  values  of  heterosexual   people of faith/belief and LGBT people at the abstract level, tensions should be emerging between  these  groups  in  public  space”  (Valentine  and  Waite,  2012:  4808 ; see also Andersson et al., 2011).  Similarly,  Skelton’s  (1995)  analysis  of  gay  resistance  to  the  homophobic  lyrics   of  the  Jamaican  ragga  song  ‘Boom,  Bye,  Bye’  demonstrates  that  ‘difference’  is  often  never   simply a white-black or straight-gay  issue.    For  Skelton  (1995:  268),  when  it  “appears at first sight to be white gay resistance against black Jamaican culture then the complexities of race and  sexuality  further  complicate  the  issue”. Finally,  consider  Byrant  and  Poitras’  (2003)  film:  Flag Wars, where the gentrification of downtown Columbus, Ohio, not only personified the class conflicts and structural violence at play, but how matters became even more complex when added facets such as sexuality and ‘race’   came   to   the   surface9 . The film highlights how the incoming gentrifiers, mostly economically  privileged  (white)  gay  men,  attempted  to  exploit  the  neighbourhoods  ‘rent  gap’   (see Smith, 1987) so as to create spaces where they could collectively resist the heteronormative temperament of the city (see Lauria and Knopp, 1985; Bouthillette, 1994; Lees, 2000; Hubbard, 2011). However, this resulted in the displacement of many longstanding black residents of the neighbourhood, whose historical oppression and continued exclusion from much of Columbus resulted in highly vested claims to that same space (Flag Wars, 2003). What the film signifies, as do the other examples I have highlighted here,  is  the  need  for  geographers  to  make  greater  room  for  the  “complex  geographies  and   8 Interestingly, they later concluded that everyday interactions between these groups demonstrated that conflicts did not necessarily materialise. 9 I thank Rowan Ellis for drawing my attention to this film.
  25. 25. Geography Dissertation 2014 18 | P a g e relationships between differently positioned subjects who are each uniquely and individually marked  as  different  within  a  broader  white  and  heteronormative  society”  (de  Leeuw   et al., 2011: 27). By paying greater attention to the potential conflicts that may arise between marginalised groups, geographers can find themselves in positions to contribute to emerging equality debates of 21st-century Europe, particularly post 9/11; debates that seek to reconcile how  we  might  come  to  live  with  multiple  ‘differences’  (Valentine,  2008,  2013;;  Valentine  and   Waite, 2012; Valentine and Sadgrove, 2012). Feminist scholars began asking these questions over   two   decades   ago,   suggesting   that   women’s   rights   were   potentially   incompatible   with   multicultural  visionaries  surrounding  ‘group  rights’  (Okin  et al., 1999) 10 . Consequently, as I hope is now discernible, I strongly urge that geographers – particularly queer geographers – start taking seriously the potential conflicts of interest that may (or may not) exist between the gay community and other minority groups (or as I will consider, the Muslim community in Tower Hamlets). These debates are taking place outside of geography with respects to homosexuality and Islam (see Halstead and Lawicka, 1998; Beckett and Macey, 2001; Abraham, 2009; Siraj, 2009; Zanghellini, 2012), but as I will demonstrate through my own research, geographers are uniquely positioned to assert the importance of space and spatiality in the simultaneous construction of sexual and racialized ‘difference’.   10 Here I am referring to multicultural policies and practices specifically.
  26. 26. Geography Dissertation 2014 19 | P a g e Chapter Three METHODOLOGY This chapter evaluates the methodological approaches employed throughout the research, and then considers the reflexive component of the study. The qualitative method of semi-structured in-depth interviewing was the primary technique utilised in this study. In addition, many interviews were complemented through the use of a cognitive mapping exercise, adding greater depth to the discussions had, and enhancing the data presented here. Qualitative methods were befitting of this study as any research involving emotions, feelings and experiences cannot be quantified (Bell, 1997; Kitchin and Tate, 2000; Patton, 2002). IN-DEPTH SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS My decision to develop this study through the use of the qualitative method of interviewing stemmed directly from the type of data I needed to collect (see Valentine, 2001). As mentioned before, the very foundations of this study are vested in emotions, feelings and experiences, so interviews were best suited to draw out such responses from participants (Kitchin and Tate, 2000). This seemed the most informative method of choice, as I sought to gain the perspective of gay men in the performance of their sexuality in multicultural spaces, which  cannot  be  accounted  for  through  “dots  on  a  map”  (Binnie and Valentine, 1999: 176). Moreover,  as  such  complex  notions  surrounding  sexuality  and  ‘race’  can  only  be  understood   through  detailed  ethnographic  fieldwork,  interviewing  afforded  me  an  ‘inner  perspective’  on   the lives of those being researched (Patton, 2002). A total of fourteen interviews with gay men were conducted in London over July and August of 201311 , including one on-record interview with a local politician12 . The interviews were in-depth in nature, flowing more like a discussion, with open-ended questions allowing 11 Not all interviews were used in the write-up, as some of the earlier interviews were not conducive to the information I needed to collect; gathering the right data took practice. 12 Peter Golds, leader of the Conservative Group in Tower Hamlets.
  27. 27. Geography Dissertation 2014 20 | P a g e participants to fully reflect on their feelings and for me to then be able to respond with additional relevant questions. This gave participants greater control throughout the interview process to discuss matters that were of concern to them, which I may have overlooked in the design process (Patton, 2002). The semi-structured format of the interviews also helped break down some formalities that are difficult to overcome in social research, helping me to build rapport with participants which in turn enriched the discussions had. Participants were informed they would remain anonymous in the write-up and that they had the right to withdraw their consent at any time (see Dowling, 2000)13 . Each interview was audio recorded and transcribed verbatim by myself, then analysed through qualitative content analysis in which key themes were highlighted through the process of coding (see Kitchin and Tate, 2000). I used the social dating website Gaydar14 to recruit the majority of participants. Using internet sites such as Gaydar can be useful when attempting to recruit members of minority sexualities for research, as gay men in particular have developed online communities in cyberspace so as to explore and perform their sexual identities (see DiMarco, 2003; Ashford, 2006; Bryman, 2012). However, I cannot assume that my sample of participants was in any way a diverse representation of the gay male population in Tower Hamlets. The majority of my   participants   were   white,   with   only   two   interviewees   identifying   as   ‘mixed-race’   and   ‘Indian-born’.  In  addition  only  three  participants  saw  themselves  as  ‘working-class’.  These   three participants were the only interviewees native to the area of study, while the remaining respondents were professional incomers to Tower Hamlets. As Tower Hamlets is home to large working-class housing estates with communities of largely Bangladeshi-Muslim heritage, this could be deemed a limitation to the research. The narratives presented here, 13 In addition, before commencing an interview I supplied each participant with an information sheet that highlighted the main concerns of my research, and each participant was then asked to sign a consent form. 14 Gaydar is a popular online dating site for gay and bisexual men (see
  28. 28. Geography Dissertation 2014 21 | P a g e however, do not seek to reflect or speak for whole communities. I am aware that my results may have turned out differently had I been able to recruit more men who identified within these socio-cultural   groups,   as   studies   have   shown   that   the   negotiation   of   one’s   sexuality   often intersects with other identity markers (Valentine, 2007). For instance, the perspectives of queer Muslims are absent from my research; something I struggled to overcome. However, the accounts produced here, although offering an incomplete picture, still afford us interesting and compelling biographies  of  the  lives  of  some  gay  men  living  with  ‘difference’  in  Tower   Hamlets. COGNITIVE MAPPING AS AIDE TO INTERVIEWING I  reconstructed  Brown’s  (2001)  approach  in  researching  socially  marginalised  groups   through the means of cognitive mapping; this technique works to assist in giving voice to those  whose  histories  often  go  unrecorded.  I  reproduced  Brown’s  (2001)  method  here  as  my   location of study is the same focus of his article15 . Brown (2001: 51) found that by using cognitive mapping alongside conducting in-depth interviews, he was able to gain insight into the  “emotional,  political  and  economic  dimensions  of  how  both  individuals  and  communities   relate  to  the  areas  in  which  they  live”.    This  method  was  similarly  applied  to  give  depth  to  my   own interviews, as participants found it easier to discuss highly emotive narratives surrounding their sexuality when they were able to apply these experiences to particular spaces. Before commencing any interview, I asked those participants who wished so, to annotate  their  individual  map  with  regards  to  spaces  in  Tower  Hamlets  they  perceived  as  ‘gay   friendly’,   ‘gay   spaces’,   or   where   they   would   feel   comfortable   ‘expressing’   their   sexuality   (whatever  ‘expressing’  one’s  sexuality  meant  to  that  individual).  I  then  requested participants 15 Brown (2001) Listening to Queer Maps of the City: Gay Men's Narratives of Pleasure and Danger in London's East End.
  29. 29. Geography Dissertation 2014 22 | P a g e to map spaces they perceived as being otherwise. There was no correct way to handle this task, as the primary aim of the exercise was to enhance the interview process. Although using the technique of cognitive mapping can disguise the topological dimensions of negotiating ‘difference’  in  space,  these  maps  do,  however,  illustrate  (literally)  the  importance  of  space   and spatiality in the construction of heteronormative and racialized spaces. Moreover, cognitive maps work to visually support  claims  by  Latham  (2003)  regarding  Butler’s  (1990,   1993) misrecognition of the importance of spatiality in understanding performativity. REFLEXIVITY, POWER, WINE  AND  THE  ‘MYTH  OF  DETACHMENT’   It would be naive to assert that my own positionality, as a gay man from Tower Hamlets,  is  absent  from  any  facet  of  the  research  process.  To  acknowledge  one’s  position   within research is not to discredit any data gathered as being polluted with bias, as Rose (1997:  318)  asserts:  “geographers  should  keep  these  worries,  and  work  with  them”.  Indeed  it   is important that researchers recognise that they are active participants in research so they can remain reflexive throughout (Hetrz, 1997). In other words, as each participant presented their own  biographies  in  relation  to  their  age,  gender,  class,  ‘race’  and  sexuality,  so  too  does  my   own epistemological stance permeate all facets of the research process. To  be  reflexive  is  to  occupy  an  understanding  that  research  is  undeniably  “interleaved with  relations  of  power”  (Dowling,  2000:  29).  This  could  be  with  respects  to  the  power  that  a   researcher has through their role as interviewer. My decision to tape-record the interviews, for instance, emphasised particular formalities that could have reinforced certain power relations between me and the interviewees (England, 1994; Dubisch, 1995; Dunn, 2000). Moreover,  the  interviewees  became  aware  of  their  ‘role’  within  the  research  process,  and  as  a   result participants sometimes hesitated to share their exact thoughts and feelings regarding particularly sensitive topics. In one instance during my research, a participant completely
  30. 30. Geography Dissertation 2014 23 | P a g e backtracked on his words once the recorder was turned on. However, my decision to audio- record interviews allowed me to pay closer attention to the discussions had (Kitchin and Tate, 2000), and once rapport was established, interviewees soon dismissed the presence of the mechanical device. Critical reflexivity involves submitting oneself to these unavoidable power dynamics, but ensures that we critically engage with ourselves in as much as we do our research subjects (Dowling, 2002). Finally, I would like to grant due attention to what Cupples (2002) refers to as the “myth  of  detachment”  regarding  the  relationship  between  reflexivity and sexuality. Cupples (2002:  382)  has  called  for  “greater  self-reflexivity”  in  social  research  so  as  to  “expose  the   contingency  of  the  researcher’s  sexuality”.  She  argues:  “If  sexuality  both  produces  space  and   permeates social life, then the fieldwork  experience  is  no  different”  (Cupples,  2002:  382;;  see   also Caplan, 1993). I therefore believe it important to reflect upon the erotic dimensions of my own research. My positionality as a gay man, for instance, assisted in building rapport with my participants over our shared sexuality, sometimes even mediated through the act of flirting, and sometimes over a glass or two of wine. Here, the impact of my sexuality cannot go unnoticed in the research process, as had I attempted to remain sexually ‘detached’ when conducting interviews, the ability of my participants to share, confide, and relate to me, could have been weakened, potentially diluting the narratives recorded. This   worked   partly   in   granting   me   ‘insider   status’   with   my   research   subjects   (see   Dwyer and Buckle, 2009)16 , but also worked in one particular instance to blur the lines of professionalism, especially when alcohol was involved (see Herrold, 2001 on how much vodka is too much vodka?). To illustrate, on one occasion, after accepting a few glasses of wine from an older participant, advances were made towards me. Whilst I rejected his 16 Dwyer  and  Buckle  (2009)  also  elaborate  on  how  researchers  can  simultaneously  hold  ‘outsider  status’   alongside  ‘insider  status’  in  the  research  process.  For  example,  due  to  other  cultural  positionings  we  and  our   research subjects hold, and the enforced knowledge that we are the researchers and they are the researched.
  31. 31. Geography Dissertation 2014 24 | P a g e advances, and he backed off respectfully, I had to ask myself in that situation, what role did I play in the lead up to him propositioning me? Had I not accepted the invitation for wine, or had I not laughed off the encounter and continued on with the interview17 , would I have gathered  the  insightful  narratives  regarding  this  man’s  life?  Probably  not,  I  would  argue.  Yet   as geographers, we are often too afraid to make these daring social steps in research; too afraid to accept more than one glass of wine, and risk finding ourselves in potentially sexually uncomfortable positions18 . Or, if we do, we are often too squeamish to admit it (see Binnie, 2007; Bell, 2007). 17 At his request, I must stress. 18 To  stress,  I  differentiate  here  in  what  I  mean  by  the  term  “risky”.  I  am  differentiating  between  potentially   uncomfortable,  as  in  “awkward”  or  laughable  encounters  in  the  interview.  In  no  way  should  any  researcher  put   themselves in sexually risky positions that are potentially dangerous.
  32. 32. Geography Dissertation 2014 25 | P a g e Chapter Four MAPPING IDENTITY PERFORMANCE: DESIGNATING ‘SAFE’  AND  ‘UNSAFE’  SPACES This chapter introduces us to the ways in which participants of this study used their cognitive  maps  to  designate  spaces  in  Tower  Hamlets  as  ‘gay  friendly’,  or  not,  highlighting   the dominant themes that led to these decisions. We will first consider the reasons behind the designation  of  ‘safe’  spaces.  I  will  then  conclude  by  briefly  considering  the  construction  of   spaces deemed as not being gay friendly, leading us on to the next chapter which focuses on constructions   of   ‘Muslim   space’.   This   chapter   is   intentionally map / quote heavy, as the voices of my participants – not mine – speak with greater volume in denoting the construction  of  ‘safe’  and  ‘unsafe’  spaces  for  gay  men.     DESIGNATING  ‘SAFE’  SPACE: GENTRIFICATION, COSMOPOLITANISM AND SHIFTING PUBLIC OPINION As we considered in Chapter Two, the majority of spaces in the city are continuously (re)produced as heteronormative (Hubbard, 2000, 2008, 2011; Lim, 2004), making it difficult for gay men and women to express themselves without fear of being judged or threatened with violence (Bell, 1991; Valentine, 1993b, Namaste, 1996; Kirby and Hay, 2003). To detach ourselves slightly from this pessimistic stance, I will draw attention towards those spaces  in  Tower  Hamlets  that  my  participants  designated  as  ‘safe’, ‘comfortable’  or  where   they  felt  ‘free’  to  express  their  sexuality.  With  the  advent  of  equality  legislation  as  well  as   shifting public opinion (Brewer, 2003; Valentine and Waite, 2012; Stonewall, 2013; Bettani, 2014), it would be naïve to assume that in all instances and in all spaces, gay men are still highly constrained in their ability to perform their sexuality (Gorman-Murray and Waitt, 2009). Indeed there are many spaces in Tower Hamlets where gay men do not feel
  33. 33. Geography Dissertation 2014 26 | P a g e constrained. Perry19 (map below), who moved to Tower Hamlets in the early 2000s, had this to  say  about  the  spaces  he  decided  to  designate  as  ‘gay  friendly’: …the  area  around  Bow,  the  area  in  Wapping,  the  city  fringe  area,  the  Isle  of   Dogs.  They’re  all  areas  that  are  very  cosmopolitan, and have attracted a very cosmopolitan type of person to live there. We  will  consider  Perry’s  and  others’  decisions  to  map  ‘unsafe’  or  ‘unfriendly’  spaces   further  on.  But  firstly,  as  you  can  see,  many  of  the  spaces  in  Perry’s  map  are  considered  “gay   friendly”.  For  Perry,  these  spaces  were  areas  known  for  their  ‘cosmopolitan’  vibes,  and  also   happened to be the highly gentrified neighbourhoods of the borough. Gay men like Perry have often played prominent roles in the urban regeneration of inner-city neighbourhoods, and this in turn has created spaces for these men in which they feel comfortable expressing themselves (see also Lauria and Knopp, 1985; Knopp, 1997; Brown, 2006; Lees, 2000; Flag Wars, 2003; Hubbard, 2011). Participants in this study suggested that in these spaces, 19 To  ensure  anonymity,  participants’  names  have  been  replaced  with  pseudonyms.  In  addition,  I  have  decided to not include transcripts in the appendix for this very reason. Given the sensitive nature of the research, anonymity was an important request made by many participants. Figure 2
  34. 34. Geography Dissertation 2014 27 | P a g e expressions of queering the street were commonplace – such as showing same-sex affection in public or the ability to make flamboyant gestures with gay friends (see Leap, 1999; Kitchin, 2002). This contributed to the attractive qualities of these spaces for gay men seeking somewhere to live and socialise (see also Furlong, 2006; Brown, 1998, 2001, 2006). Like Perry,  Tom  and  Justin  (maps  below)  also  suggest  similar  reasons  behind  designating  ‘safe’  or   ‘gay  friendly’  spaces,  and  how  this  also  reflected  their  ability  to  be  ‘out’  (openly  gay)  in  these areas of Tower Hamlets.  one  batters  an  eyelid  over  there  [Shoreditch/Spitalfields],  it’s  full  of   Yuppies  and  Hipsters,  and  they’re  all  too  busy  with  their  own  shit  (Tom). I swear down, once in Canary Wharf, I was snogging this guy, like ... people looked,  but,  I  didn’t  give  two  shits  because  I  knew  they didn’t  give  two  shits   either (Justin). Figure 3
  35. 35. Geography Dissertation 2014 28 | P a g e As the cognitive maps suggest so far, we can infer some correlations between those areas  participants  have  designated  as  ‘safe’  for gay men to express themselves and the highly gentrified spaces of the borough. In addition to Perry, many other participants expressed how ‘cosmopolitan’   these   spaces   were,   in   terms   of   economic   plurality,   ethnic   diversity,   and   as   having visibly queer populations.  The  diversity   of  these  areas  meant   that   ‘difference’  was   commonplace to most people (Wessendorf, 2013; Brown, 2006; Vertovec, 2007), and for my participants this was reflected in their beliefs that such spaces were also tolerant of sexual ‘difference’.  Interestingly,  none  of  the  spaces  marked  as  ‘gay  friendly’  were  determined  by   the  presence  of  a  distinctive  ‘gay  scene’.  Indeed  Tower  Hamlets’  once  flourishing  ‘gay  scene’   has been reduced to one sauna and one pub in the last two decades (Barlow, n.d.). Gavin Brown  (2006)  argues  that  this  is  a  common  feature  of  ‘post-gay’  or  ‘cosmopolitan’  spaces,   where he suggests banal performances of homosexuality are increasingly fading into the backdrop of many urbanscapes, especially as public attitudes towards homosexuality have softened over time (see also M. Brown, 2013). Figure 4
  36. 36. Geography Dissertation 2014 29 | P a g e HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED: THE ROLE OF THE POLICE AND PRIVATE SPACE IN  DESIGNATING  ‘SAFE’  SPACE The construction of space as heteronormative is (re)produced by means of a ‘heterosexual  gaze’  that  ensures  the  marginalisation  and  displacement  of  dissident  sexualities   from both public and private space (Foucault, 1976; Davis, 1995; Robinson et al., 2004). Whilst the policing of sexuality is mainly achieved through everyday low-level acts of habitus between members of the public (Lim, 2004; see Bourdieu, 1989, 1992), the police and other formal institutions have often played a significant role in the continued displacement of non-normative sexualities from space (Bell, 1995; Nash, 2005, 2006). In this sense, considering this historic linkage between the police and the marginalisation of gay men and women, it was startling to hear participants share how the simple presence of a police station or the visibility of police officers, as well as other forms of private securitisation, contributed  to  their  decisions  to  designate  certain  neighbourhoods  in  Tower  Hamlets  as  ‘safe’:   ...Wapping …  It’s  got  a  police  station  right  in  the  middle,  so  you  know  you’re   okay there (Justin). ...the great thing about Canary  Wharf  is  it’s  all  entirely  policed  and  controlled   by a private company, so they decide what behaviour goes ... a very policed environment and that makes you feel very comfortable of not being attacked or threatened (Daniel, map below). Foucault’s  (1976)  metaphorical  application  of  a  panopticon  helps  us  understand  the   ways in which expressions of homosexuality have historically been policed and displaced from many public environments. In 2014, however, my findings suggest that the presence of institutional surveillance can actually serve to protect gay men from homophobic abuse. The older participants of the study could recall times past when harassment and violence from
  37. 37. Geography Dissertation 2014 30 | P a g e police officers were commonplace, and often institutionally endorsed. Yet according to the men I spoke with this seemed to have shifted towards a much more positive relationship. This has therefore contributed to almost all of my participants beliefs that particular areas of the borough  were  safer  for  men  to  be  ‘out’,  partly  as  a result of a greater police/security presence. However, as the moral contours surrounding sexuality have shifted, and in doing so have legitimised certain expressions of homosexuality in particular spaces, in some cases this often coincides with the intentional displacement of other groups. As Ruddick (1996: 135) asserts: “growing  privatization  results  in  the  potential  exclusion  of  certain  ‘others’  from  these  spaces”.     This was a somewhat uncomfortable reality for many gay men, as Daniel continues: ...I think  they  actively  police  people  out  of  it  [Canary  Wharf],  and  I’m  not   sure I like that either. So ... those are the places that I feel very comfortable, which  is  sad,  because  what  I’m  basically  saying  is  that  I  like being in nice middle class, mainly white areas that have Waitroses. It   is   therefore   important   to   think   critically   about   the   surfacing   of   queer   or   ‘gay   friendly’  spaces in the city. Although on the surface it appears that those spaces gay men have  designated  as  ‘safe’  are  the  result  of  purely  social  circumstances,  we  must  not  discard   the   economic   dimensions   potentially   involved.   Duggan’s   (2002)   concept   of   ‘new   heteronormativity’  is  applicable  here.  It  is  possible  that  as  gay  men  become  increasingly  vital   in the consumption economies of the city, their homosexuality is becoming normalised within dominant discursive regimes of heteronormativity, so long as they abide within capitalist modes of living (Bell and Binnie, 2004: Casey, 2007). In other words, whilst Daniel is grateful  that  he  can  feel  ‘safe’  expressing  his  sexuality  in  the  gentrified  areas  of  East  London,   he   is   uncomfortably   aware   that   those   ‘others’   who   do   not   fit in with these spaces are ultimately excluded. What Daniel and others are suggesting, therefore, is that these highly exclusionary spaces in Tower Hamlets were not exclusionary for them – more the result of
  38. 38. Geography Dissertation 2014 31 | P a g e their racialized, gendered and economic privileges than a product of their sexuality20 . The difficult   realisation   that   Daniel   and   others   are   faced   with   therefore,   is   that   those   ‘others’   excluded  from  the  very  spaces  they  have  designated  as  ‘safe’,  are  also  the  very  people  that   influenced their decisions to  conceive  of  ‘unsafe’  spaces  in  which  to  express  themselves.   DESIGNATING  ‘UNSAFE’ SPACE: CONCEALING SEXUALITY  AND  ‘MUSLIM  SPACE’   The  “people”  Daniel  referred  to  in  that  last  interview  extract,  those  being  policed  out   of spaces such as Canary Wharf21 , were young, Bangladeshi, Muslim men who generally reside in the deprived areas of the borough (Aftab et al., 2005). Tower Hamlets has a large and diverse Bangladeshi Muslim population, in fact the largest outside of Bangladesh (Tower Hamlets Council, 2014b). The spatial distribution of this group within Tower Hamlets, however, is not evenly spread (Aftab et al., 2005), and this awareness shone through in the interviews.  Let  us  consider  Daniel’s  map,  and  the  spaces  that  he  designated  as  ‘unsafe’  or   ‘not  gay  friendly’. 20 Remember, the majority of participants were white, middle class men. 21 London’s  second  Central  Business  District.  See  Appendix  for  more  information.   Figure 5
  39. 39. Geography Dissertation 2014 32 | P a g e Daniel  designated  the  areas  around  Commercial  and  Whitechapel  Roads  as  “dangerous”  for   himself and other men to be openly gay. Perry and Tom also designated these areas of the borough  as  ‘unsafe’.  For  these  men,  the  perceived  high  numbers of Bangladeshi Muslims in these areas, particularly young men, justified their responses. Daniel elaborates: Daniel: If  you’re  a  gay  man,  I  virtually  wouldn’t  feel  comfortable  walking  down  the   street  holding  hands,  for  example,  you  know,  if  you’re  kissing your boyfriend, outside Whitechapel tube station, in the middle of the market. I would find that very uncomfortable ... and I would expect a very high level of abuse for doing that. [TS: And what is it about that area?] Daniel: …because  it’s  predominantly  a  Muslim  area.  It  has  a  very  high  proportion  of   young Muslim men, in that area, and ... I  think  they’d  find  that  reason  to  object,   or   worse.   Whereas   I   don’t   think   that   would   be   the   same   in   Shoreditch,   or   Canary Wharf for example… Just   as   participants   constructed   certain   areas   of   Tower   Hamlets   as   ‘safe’   or   ‘gay   friendly’  – based  on  factors  such  as  how  ‘cosmopolitan’  a  place  felt,  how  gentrified  an  area   had become, or how institutionally policed those environments were – all of the men that took  part  in  the  mapping  exercise  determined  how  ‘dangerous’  or  ‘unfriendly’  a  particular   area  was  for  gay  men  as  a  direct  result  of  those  areas  being  constructed  as  ‘Muslim  space’.   Although other factors contributed to these decisions, the overwhelming consensus was that heteronormative  space  equated  to  ‘Muslim  space’,  and  therefore  gay  men  must  be  alert  of  this   contention so as to avoid any unwanted hostility. We will explore the construction of ‘Muslim  space’  in  more  depth  in  the  next  chapter.  In the meantime, it is important to consider
  40. 40. Geography Dissertation 2014 33 | P a g e for now how the construction of heteronormative space, for my participants, was a distinctively racialized process22 . In these spaces, many participants felt as though they needed to conceal their sexuality so as to avoid disapproving looks or the potential threat of violence (see Valentine, 1993a). The heteropatriarchal nature of Whitechapel and Commercial Roads therefore, as assumed by those men whom I interviewed, was (re)produced and reinforced as heterosexual via dominant discourses surrounding the production of heterosexuality in space (Hubbard, 2000).  In  other  words,  the  intentions  of  my  participants  to  pass  as  ‘straight’  only  served  to   maintain spaces like Whitechapel Road as heteronormative (Lim, 2004; Kirby and Hay, 1997; Kitchin and Lysagcht, 2003, Valentine, 1993a; Penrose and Smith, 2006). Justin highlighted the banal ways he regulates himself on the streets in Tower Hamlets he denotes as “dangerous”  or  “dank  [sic]”23 , giving this detailed account: ... I would put a jacket over a colourful top. I would, walk, and talk, in a very neutral way  ...  if  I  got  on  the  phone  to  someone,  I  wouldn’t  be  busting  jokes,  I   would just  be  getting  my  business  done.  Like,  I  wouldn’t be like, hey girl, like, I’m  not some big pretty boy or whatever, but, um, sometimes I do bust jokes on my  phone  wit’  ma  girls.  Oh  my  god,  or  my  guys.  I’d  be  like,  oh  my  god   Ethane,  you  tryin’a  flirt  wit’  me.  I  wouldn’t  be  like  that  in  those  kinda  areas.   I’d  just  be  like,  alright  Ethane;;  I’ll  see  you  at  seven. We   can   deduce   from   Justin’s   detailed   account   above,   as   well   as   the   other   insights   presented  in  this  chapter,  that  spaces  in  the  city  are  never  simply  fixed  or  given  as  “safe”,   “straight”,  “gay”,  “gay  hating”  or  “Muslim”.  These spaces are socially constructed and made 22 The  construction  of  the  racialized  ‘Other’  often  derives  from  physical  characteristics  surrounding  skin  colour   and  notions  of  ‘race’.  Although  not  your  usual  racialized  category, in the case of Islam and Muslims, the construction  of  the  ‘Muslim  other’  often  stems  from  racialized  processes:  for  example  ‘brown  skin’,  dress,   language, architecture, and other sensate stereotypes of Muslims (see Dunn et al., 2007). 23 “Dank”  is  slang  for  “rubbish”  or  “unpleasant”.
  41. 41. Geography Dissertation 2014 34 | P a g e through the actions of gay men; through performances that maintain, or subvert, dominant discourses of heteronormativity (Butler, 1990, 1993; Valentine, 1993a; Lim, 2004; Hubbard, 2001, 2008). Geographies of sexuality denote causation behind the construction of space as ‘straight’,  yet  offer  us  little  in  the  way  of  ‘straight’  space  stemming  from  constructions  of   racialized   space,   or   ‘Muslim   space’.   Turning   to   the   next   chapter,   I   will   continue   to   think   through the lens of sexuality and queer geography. However, in order to understand how ‘straight’  space  derives  from  constructions  of  ‘Muslim  space’,  it  is  necessary  to  fuse  sexuality   literature with insights from everyday geographies of difference and encounter.
  42. 42. Geography Dissertation 2014 35 | P a g e Chapter Five RACIALIZING INTOLERANCE: ‘STRAIGHT SPACE’ EQUALS ‘MUSLIM SPACE’ Geographers  tend  to  treat  constructions  of  ‘difference’  dualistically  – as the product of majority-minority relations only (de Leeuw et al., 2011). Having argued for new ways of thinking  with  ‘difference’,  this  chapter  demonstrates  how  the  construction  of  heteronormative space  in  Tower  Hamlets  is  never  a  solely  ‘straight-gay’  issue.  Notions  of  ‘race’,  I  will  argue,   can and do surface frequently in the process24 . This becomes clear when we consider minority group relations in multicultural spaces, and are particularly attentive to everyday lived  and  felt  encounters  with  ‘difference’  that  gay  men  negotiate  on  a  regular  basis.   KNOWING  ‘MUSLIM  SPACE’:  THE  RACIALIZATION  OF  ‘STRAIGHT’  SPACE As outlined earlier, Lim (2004) and Hubbard (2001, 2011) posit that the construction of space as heteronormative, or indeed homonormative, is never ontologically definitive, but socially and culturally produced. This way of thinking applies equally when we consider the construction of racialized spaces (Jackson and Penrose, 1993; Dwyer and Bressey, 2006), or ‘Muslim  space’  with  respects  to  the  specific  focus  of  this  chapter.  Combining  these  two  sets   of  thought,  focusing  on  everyday  encounters  with  ‘difference’,  my  interview  responses  reveal   how the (re)production of heteronormative spaces in Tower Hamlets coincided with the construction  of  racialized  spaces,  demonstrating  the  interplay  between  notions  of  ‘race’  and   heteronormativity. In other words, as the previous chapter briefly considered, the gay men whom I interviewed generally  conceptualised  ‘straight’  areas  of  the  borough  as  equating  to   spaces they perceived as having high concentrations of Muslim men. Additionally, symbolic representations  of  Islam  in  the  urban  landscape  also  featured  highly  in  participants’  decisions   to accentuate   space   as   ‘Muslim’.   Kuppinger   (2014)   highlights,   for   instance,   the   symbolic   24 And to a lesser extent, gender.
  43. 43. Geography Dissertation 2014 36 | P a g e function  that  mosques  can  play  in  the  creation  of  ‘Muslim  space’.  Take  Patrico’s  map  (below)   and his decision to emphasise the presence of the ELM on Whitechapel Road: ...the mosque is over there ... The problem comes that a lot of people have very strong feelings about, that religion, and whatever goes against that religion is going to be seen as, bad. Perry also connected the location of the ELM with his decision  to  mark  Whitechapel  as  “gay   hating”:’ve  got  the  East  London  Mosque,  where,  there  are  lots  of  people,  who   are particularly religious ... and with that comes certain views that are intolerant. Constructions  of  ‘Muslim   space’  and  Muslims  as  intolerant towards homosexuality did not appear out of thin air, but were rationalised by participants twofold: (i) based on dominant discourses and popular representations of Islam; and (ii) through everyday encounters with their Muslim neighbours. In many instances one perpetuated the other. Figure 6
  44. 44. Geography Dissertation 2014 37 | P a g e Although the latter featured more highly, sticking briefly with the first reference, the construction  of  ‘Muslim  areas’  equating  to  ‘straight’  or  “gay  hating”  spaces  derived  partly   from dominant discourses surrounding Islamic condemnations of homosexuality 25 , and representations of Muslims as homophobic in media spaces (Saeed, 2007). As Hall (1997) reminds us, these discourses can work to produce specific meanings of subjects that then become normalised as common knowledge, which in turn works to fix these groups in space (Hall, 1992 cf. Grossberg, 1996: 99). For many participants, the view of Islam as a particularly intolerant religion stemmed from media representations and local discourses amongst the gay community regarding  the  ELM’s  relationship  with  homophobia.  To  vivify   this, local and national newspapers – as well as the LGBT news source Pink News26 – have drawn attention to the numerous recent homophobic incidents involving the ELM (see Gilligan, 2010; 2013; Gilbert, 2011; Green, 2011; Barnett, 2014). This concern was emphasised by Patrico and Perry in the excerpts above, but was not confined to them. A number of participants gave similar impressions regarding the ELM. These representations of the ELM, and Muslims by association, carried themselves from abstract levels and became (re)produced in the banal spaces of everyday encounters, contributing towards the racial coding   of   particular   spaces   as   ‘Muslim’.   Such   constructions   then   worked   to   (re)produce   Whitechapel Road in particular as heteronormative. Racial coding, as we have considered, involved the designation of certain spaces as distinctively  “Asian”  or  “Muslim”27 , as Justin asserts is the case of his old housing estate: “it’s   Muslim   territory   over   that   way”.   This   practice   involves   making   sense   of   one’s   own   identity in relation to the prescribed identities we forge onto others, and the spaces in which 25 Like any religion or belief system, Islam is not homogenous. Whilst it is not naïve to suggest conservative views regarding homosexuality are more commonplace than not in Islam, alternative narratives do exist and traditional  readings  of  the  Qur’an  are  continuously  being  contested  to  make  room  for  queer  readings  by  queer   Muslims. See for example: Yip (2005) and Shannahan (2010). 26 27 Throughout  the  interviews,  references  like  “Asian”  and  “Muslim”  were  used  interchangeably.  
  45. 45. Geography Dissertation 2014 38 | P a g e those  ‘Other’  bodies  become  placed  (see  Clayton,  2008,  2009).  Bobby28 , for instance, had this to say regarding why he  would  never  be  ‘out’  in  Whitechapel:  seems   more  their  territory  than  someone   else’s.  You  know,  it’s  kind  of   more, condensed, in terms of it being, a kind of, heavily, Muslim area. Namely, for my participants to make sense of places like Whitechapel as aggressively heterosexual – or  Justin’s  sense  making  of  his  old  housing  estate  – it seemed necessary for them to ascribe particular racialized bodies to those spaces. As previously deduced, this was partly the result of media representations as well as local knowledge within the gay community (see Sibley, 1995). More importantly, however, how these men came to know spaces   as   ‘Muslim’   – and heteronormative by association – was reinforced through the imagined,   emotional   and   lived   geographies   of   their   everyday   encounters   with   ‘difference’   (see Clayton, 2008, 2009; Swanton, 2008, 2010a, 2010b; Pratt, 1998; Saldanha, 2006). LIVED  DIFFERENCE:  CONSTRUCTING  ‘MUSLIM  SPACE’  VIA  EVERYDAY   ENCOUNTERS The   construction   of   ‘Muslim   space’   surfaced   most   acutely   for   my   participants   via   everyday  encounters.  As  discussed  in  the  literature  review,  ‘difference’  is  often  something   that is made and felt; something that is performed between bodies in space (Saldanha, 2006: Swanton, 2010a. 2010b; Wilson, 2011). To digress for one moment, I must point out that not all encounters between participants and their Muslim neighbours were felt as homophobic; merely  a  fraction  of  the  “billions  of  happy  and  unhappy  encounters”  (Thrift,  1999:  302;;  see   also Wilson, 2011) that surface between bodies in public spaces29 . However, just as the construction of heteronormative space had simultaneously undergone processes of 28 Bobby is in his mid-30s and lives in gentrified Shoreditch. He moved to London from Australia many years ago. He decided not to take part in the cognitive mapping exercise. 29 Due to word constraints, I am unable to move away from discussions surrounding homophobia and the production of heteronormative space, which sadly, is never a positive process. I must stress however, that many positive encounters between gay men and their Muslim neighbours do surface in everyday spaces.
  46. 46. Geography Dissertation 2014 39 | P a g e racialization, real and encountered experiences of homophobia also manifested themselves into sensate differences between participants and their Muslim neighbours in public. For example, recalling one of the many happy and unhappy encounters with his Muslim peers, Justin described how there were times during his sixth form years where he often felt subjected to religious prejudice: None of the Asian boys wanted to sit next to me ... they didn’t  want  to  sit  with   the gay boy ... See the thing is, we all know that Islams [sic] hate gays. In the everyday space of his sixth form college, Justin spoke of the regular animosity he encountered from some of his Muslim peers. Whilst research shows that homophobia in adolescent years is frequently expressed in further education colleges, particularly by young men attempting to perform normative heteromasculinities (see Martino & Pallotta-Chiarolli, 2003), Justin rationalised his experiences of homophobia and intolerance through an acutely racialized lens. This derived from his everyday encounters with his Muslim peers, fuelling beliefs  like:  “we  all  know  that  Islams  [sic]  hate  gays”.  As  a  result,  Justin  felt  it  necessary  to   conceal aspects of his homosexuality whilst at college, often holding back the more flamboyant  aspects  of  his  identity,  not  “wishing  to  offend  nobody  [sic]”.   Kevin30 , an older gay man who has lived in Tower Hamlets for over fifteen years, shared a similar experience of not wanting to offend his Muslim neighbours through expressions of his  homosexuality.  Kevin’s  constructions  of  ‘Muslim  space’  led  him  to  assert   that particular behaviours were expected of him in these spaces, which in turn suppressed aspects   of   his   identity   at   times.   In   those   areas   constructed   as   ‘Muslim’,   Kevin   believed   it respectful  of  him  and  other  gay  men  to  “not  rub  it  [homosexuality]  in  their  faces”.  Kevin   elaborated on the spaces in which he would cover up his homosexuality: 30 Kevin chose not to take part in the cognitive mapping exercise.
  47. 47. Geography Dissertation 2014 40 | P a g e ...around  the  mosques,  down  there,  there’s  another  mosque  down  there.  I   mean, you could say  you’re  being  respectful  to  them,  to  their  religion. Again, like Perry and Patrico, Kevin made reference to the symbolic presence of mosques  in  denoting  ‘Muslim  space’.  Similarly  to  Kuppinger’s  (2014)  writings  on  Muslim   normatives, Justin and Kevin both suggested that in these spaces they would often disguise the visible aspects of their homosexuality, feeling it necessary to perform identities that fit with expected Muslim normatives (see also Henkel, 2007) 31 . Through acts of self-policing, these men not only facilitated the construction of heteronormative space (Valentine, 1993a; Kirby  and  Hay,  2007;;  Lim,  2004),  but  also  partook  in  the  production  of  ‘Muslim  space’,  not   wishing  to  disrupt  the  hegemonic  discourses  viewed  as  existing  within  ‘Muslim’  spatialities (Henkel,  2007;;  Kuppinger,  2014).  Butler’s  (1990)  concept  of  “repeated  play”  is  relevant  here:   not   necessarily   out   of   fear,   but   out   of   “respect”,   many   of   the   men   whom   I   interviewed   conformed to what they saw as the dominant conventions in these spaces, only working to reinforce  such  conventions  as  “natural”  and  “necessary”  (see  Penrose  and  Smith,  2006:  1014).   To illustrate, through the concealment of their homosexuality, many participants became (un)intentionally compliant in making and keeping space ‘Muslim’,  and  by  default  ‘straight’.   As such, the (re)production and maintenance of heteronormative space in this instance was concurrent  with,  and  then  enunciated  through,  the  production  of  racialized  ‘Muslim  space’. Alongside racialized processes, everyday encounters of gendered constructs seemed to  bode  significantly  in  fabricating  ‘Muslim  space’.  It  should  become  apparent  by  now,  that   many  participants  emphasised  that  those  spaces  they  deemed  as  ‘unfriendly’  for  gay  men,  did   not just pertain to having high concentrations of Muslim bodies. Encounters with Muslim men,  more  so  than  Muslim  women,  featured  in  the  construction  of  racialized  ‘Muslim  space’.     As  a  result,  notions  of  gender  and  ‘race’  often  intersected  vis-à-vis: 31 Note: neither Kuppinger (2014) nor Henkel (2007) explicitly refer to homosexuality in their articles.
  48. 48. Geography Dissertation 2014 41 | P a g e The  girls  are  fine,  they  wouldn’t  hurt  a  fly.  It’s  the  boys that give the trouble  ...  I’ve  been  hounded  twice  and  both  times  it  was  a  bunch  of  Asian  lads   trying to intimidate me, you know, call me a fag and all that... (Richard)32 Richard’s   account   suggested   that   Muslim   men  were   more   likely   to   homophobically   abuse   him. Based on his lived experiences, Richard therefore gendered, as well as racialized his accounts of homophobia, constructing Muslim men as potentially violent (see Dunn, 2001 cf. Hopkins, 2006), whilst simultaneously conceptualising Muslim women as passive and incapable   of   homophobic   aggression.   Recalling   Daniel’s   interview   from   Chapter   Four,   Richard was not alone in gendering his encounters with Muslim homophobia: It has a very high proportion of young Muslim men ... and I think they would find that [holding hands with a boyfriend], experience, I think they’d  find  that  reason  to  object,  or  worse. Justin’s  previous  excerpt  also  personified  the  significance  of  gender in his experiences of   homophobia:   “None   of   the   Asian   boys wanted   to   sit   next   to   me   [in   college]”.   Gender   constructs were therefore concurrent in the racialization of Muslim intolerance, in turn fuelling  the  production  of  ‘Muslim  space’.    Moreover,  constructs of Muslim men in particular as homophobic played out in the mundane spaces of everyday encounters; passing through Whitechapel Market, close to the ELM, or the large council estates around Poplar. As such, participants adapted and performed identities in accordance with the constructed gendered dimensions   of   ‘Muslim   space’.   For   instance,   although   the   Whitechapel   Market   was   constructed  first  and  foremost  as  ‘Muslim  space’,  many  of  the  market  stalls  are  owned  and   32 Richard  is  in  his  early  50s,  described  himself  as  a  “raging  queen”,  and  moved  to  the  Isle  of  Dogs  six  years   ago. He is originally from Dundee, Scotland. He chose not to take part in the cognitive mapping exercise.
  49. 49. Geography Dissertation 2014 42 | P a g e worked on by men33 . Similarly, due to religious expectations and exclusionary gendered practices within Islam, the ELM and surrounding streets were also overwhelmingly gendered as masculine space (see Begum, 2008). In many instances therefore, encounters with Muslim men specifically – and not just figurative, non-gendered Muslim bodies – demonstrated how the   production   of   racialized   ‘Muslim   space’   intersected   with   constructs   of   Muslim   heteromasculinities. FELT AND IMAGINED GEOGRAPHIES OF MUSLIM INTOLERANCE The difference between real and imagined encounters with Muslim intolerance was also  noticeable  in  constructing  ‘Muslim  space’,  although  the  lines  between  what  constitutes  a   ‘real’  or  ‘imagined’  encounter  are  often  blurred  (Conley  et al.,  2007).  Dean’s  (map  below)   accounts help us make sense of   the   importance   of   felt   encounters   with   ‘difference’.   As   detailed previously, a panoptical gaze works by making one believe that they are constantly under scrutiny from a watchful eye, and as a result one must conduct themselves within normative behavioural frameworks (see Foucault, 1976; Koskela, 2003; Kuppinger, 2014). In producing heteronormative space, as discussed in the literature review, this is usually achieved  via  a  ‘heterosexual  gaze’  policing  the  behaviour  of  homosexuals  (Foucault,  1976).   The success of such a gaze is that it works to keep people in check even if no such informal surveillance is taking place (Davis, 1995). Dean elaborates on this contention for us: …when  I’m  with  the  man  [boyfriend]  we  always  make  sure  we’re  not  being   couple-ly  or  anything  ...  It’s  funny,  I   think we both just have this agreement not  to  do  that  when  we’re  passing  through  the  [Whitechapel]  market.  Not  that   anything  has  gone  wrong  to  us,  but  you  can’t  be  too  sure  around  there. 33 Although from my own observations, it is becoming increasingly common to see Muslim women working on the market.
  50. 50. Geography Dissertation 2014 43 | P a g e Dean’s  map  and  account  resonates  with  many  of  his  fellow  participants;;  designating   Whitechapel  and  Poplar  as  ‘unsafe’  to  be  openly  gay.  However,  when  asked  whether  he  had   ever experienced homophobic abuse from his Muslim neighbours, he could not produce an example,  but  then  again  Dean  was  never  ‘out’  in  many  parts  of  the  borough.  Yet  the  potential   for Muslim homophobia was still very much felt by  Dean:  “but  you  can’t  be  too  sure  around   there”.  Foucault’s  (1976)  panopticon  metaphor  sits  well  with  this  account, highlighting the importance of fear and assumption in the maintenance of heteronormative space (see also Koskela,  2003).  Subsequently,  the  policing  of  Dean’s  and  his  partner’s  relationship  in  spaces   like Whitechapel was cited time and time again, brought  about  through  their  “compulsion  to   repeat”  those  behaviours  expected  from  them  (Butler,  1990)  – unconsciously  “fitting  in”  with   the heteronormative temperament of the area as Dean saw it (Valentine, 1993a). This experience resonates with Justin and Kevin’s   compliance   with   Muslim   normatives.   More   crucially in this instance, is that this felt encounter was not solely a product of distinguishing space  as  only  heteronormative.  Like  his  fellow  participants,  Dean’s  map  and  our  subsequent   discussions revealed plenty  of  spaces  in  Tower  Hamlets  where  he  felt  comfortable  being  ‘out’   Figure 7
  51. 51. Geography Dissertation 2014 44 | P a g e with  his  partner.  “NO!”  on  Dean’s  map  did  not  just  mean  heteronormative  or  ‘straight’  space.   “NO!”  equated  to  ‘Muslim  space’  and therefore equated to heteronormative space. Similar to Skelton’s   (1995)   revelations   as   discussed   in   Chapter   Two,   the   production   of   heteronormativity   in   Tower   Hamlets,   therefore,   is   not   solely   a   ‘straight-gay’   issue.   The   encounters   expressed   so   far   in   this   paper,   including   Dean’s   felt   encounters   of   Muslim   intolerance,  reveal  how  notions  of  ‘race’,  religion,  gender  and  sexuality  become  entangled  in   the production of racialized, heteronormative space. This became even clearer when probed further to disclose his sensitivities on the matter. Dean spoke of feeling upset   that   he   could   never   be   ‘out’   with   his   partner   in   Whitechapel.  Describing  himself  as  a  “realist”,  Dean  made  it  clear  to   me  that  he  knew  of   homophobia  existing  in  all  parts  of  the  UK,  ‘Muslim  space’  or  not.  What  played  in  the  back   of   Dean’s   mind,   however, was that although he made a point to challenge anti-Islamic sentiments in wider society, he felt as though the Muslims he encountered daily on the streets would not return the favour, reinforcing his views of Whitechapel and Poplar as aggressively heterosexual. Regarding homophobic sentiments expressed within the ELM, he states: ...I know it’s  against  their  religion, but they must know  what  it’s   like to be hated ... it does piss me off when they let these bigots call for me to be pushed off a mountain.34 The  racialization  of  space  as  ‘Muslim’  by  my  participants  cannot  be  conceived  of  as   bigotry on their part, or even irrational. Lived, emotional and imagined encounters of ‘difference’  are  felt,  and  therefore  real  and  worthy  of  attention  (Pratt,  1998). The final excerpt by Dean sheds light on this contention; that as long as intolerance is felt by gay men in 34 Although my knowledge of Islamic literature is very weak, Dean is referring to a story from an Islamic text where  the  Prophet  Mohammed’s  companions  were  unsure  as  how  to  deal  with  those  “committing”  homosexual   acts. One group of men suggested pushing those accused down a mountain. As well as the story of Lut, this example often surfaces as scriptural evidence when Muslim clerics condemn homosexuality within Islam.
  52. 52. Geography Dissertation 2014 45 | P a g e ‘Muslim  spaces’,  then  ‘race’  will  continue  to  function  in  the  production  of  heteronormative spaces in Tower Hamlets. In my view, this then works in detaching both gay men and their Muslim neighbours from wider discursive regimes of hegemony, regimes that leave both groups continuously marginalised from mainstream society. As geographers, these encounters  must  demand  us  to  think  more  critically  as  to  how  ‘difference’  between  minority   groups can be evaluated (Valentine, 2008), and then accommodated in this so-called age of “super-diversity”  (Vertovec,  2007).   My   findings   concur   with   Valentine   and   Waite’s   (2012:   475)   observations   in   this   respect;;   that   “there   is   a   need   for   geographers   to   be   more   attentive   to   potential   tensions   between the values, interests,  and  rights  of  equality  groups  in  everyday  encounters”.  The  felt   intolerance experienced by Dean – and the many more participants that cannot be accounted for due to word constraints – exposes geographers to how (in)tolerance and prejudices are performed and constructed in a manner of ways that have so far escaped many of our current understandings  of  ‘difference’  in  the  city  (de  Leeuw  et al., 2011). Minority group intolerance has therefore escaped necessary critical reflection. Consequently, as Skelton (1995: 268) rightly  highlighted  almost  twenty  years  ago:  “If  tensions  and  divisions  within  and  between  [...]   marginalised groups are created and actively maintained then it is much easier to maintain a cultural and geographical hegemony: white, Western, male  and  heterosexual”. In my view, by obfuscating minority group relations in space, the continued marginalisation of all minority communities by wider discursive forces can only continue to be served legitimacy.
  53. 53. Geography Dissertation 2014 46 | P a g e