Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Women's Studies and Feminist Research


Dr. Wendy Gay Pearson


There has been an increase in literature over the last decade on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (LGBTQ) communities. However, aside from health-related studies, little has been published pertaining to LGBTQ communities in London, Ontario. This dissertation seeks to answer the following research questions: what are the constitutive elements that make up London’s LGBTQ communities? What forms of community-making prove to be viable and effective in a smaller urban setting? Does the practice of aesthetics/artistic performance lead to socio-political change among members of London’s LGBTQ communities? This is a multidisciplinary research project that utilizes archival, theoretical, and ethnographic-informed qualitative research methods. I argue that LGBTQ community in London is based on four major tenets: they require social supports; there are common or shared visions or goals; they require physical spaces such as bars; and there must be LGBTQ-specific events in these spaces. While some argue that bars and events provide superficial or short-lived communities, London’s LGBTQ history suggests that these spaces are a requirement for communities to flourish. I analyze the ways in which the Homophile Association of London Ontario (HALO) functioned historically as a community and both the promises and limitations of community in three contemporary London LGBTQ venues: The APK, Buckwild’s, and Lavish. I examine the arts and community building of an event called Gen Pop, and argue that it is the most effective contemporary example of LGBTQ community. I discuss the aesthetics of Gen Pop poster advertisements and how this queer aesthetic, through a utilization of camp and raunch, contests normative categories and boundaries. I extend this analysis of a queer aesthetics in discussing how they function at Gen Pop events. I argue that drag performance and other forms of art at Gen Pop utilize a queer aesthetic to challenge social norms. These queer arts are important for community as they expand our understandings and practices of gender and sexuality. Through challenging norms, the arts at Gen Pop help to build a more inclusive and political community where they engage people in dialogue and practice that can lead to socio-political change. I conclude by highlighting the importance of queer arts events for community and the negative consequences for the closure of LGBTQ-specific spaces in London.