What are the contours of "the country of gay"? How do these contours become known to us, particularly in places that are defined by conservatism? And how do they help us to define our sense of safety and community? This talk explores these questions through a discussion of lgbtq oral histories collected in and around Lethbridge, Alberta.In dominant discourse, the rural landscapes and small urban centres of southern Alberta are imagined to be hostile to queer bodies and sexualities. Indeed, these places are typically understood to be the opposite of "the country of gay," places that stifle non-normative gender and sexual expressions. This research intervenes in this discourse to illustrate a more complicated picture of the emotional and material landscapes of lgbtq lives in Lethbridge. Juxtaposing narrators’ stories with local social policy measures, I trace the uneven pathways and the unexpected pleasures that define and shape the ways people craft a “queer” life in Lethbridge.
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