Academic journal article Rural Society

Policing LGBTIQ People in Rural Spaces: Emerging Issues and Future Concerns

Academic journal article Rural Society

Policing LGBTIQ People in Rural Spaces: Emerging Issues and Future Concerns

Article excerpt


In recent times, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and/or questioning (LGBTIQ) have been the focus of research relating to policing (Himmelstein & Bruckner, 2011). The LGBTIQ acronym is commonly used as a broader "catch all" term that incorporates a range of other categories, such as genderqueer, pansexual, asexual and questioning (Bartkowiak-Theron & Asquith, 2012). Focus on LGBTIQ research is timely given the growing subfield of "queer criminology" exploring LGBTIQ experiences of criminal justice (Ball 2014; Panfil 2014; Woods 2014), historical victimizing and violent police-LGBTIQ relationships. Some research shows LGBTIQ people have been victimized by a member of the public and police do not respond, or indeed further victimize them (Dodge, 1993), while other accounts suggest police specifically target LGBTIQ people for violence (Comstock, 1991). Even gayand lesbian-identifying police officers report experiencing discrimination from other police (Colvin, 2012).

To date, however, the focus of research has been informed by an implicit assumption: that these issues are urban. Similar to the Anglo-centric (Crichlow, 2004) focus of queer criminology, the urban focus appears accidental rather than deliberate, for instance emerging out of the methodological difficulties presented by connecting with LGBTIQ people in rural areas, given they are hidden in these locations due to homophobia, "the fear or hatred of homosexual people" (Flood & Hamilton, 2008, p. 16) and trans-phobia, similar fear, hatred and prejudices directed towards transgender people (Chakraborti & Garland 2009, pp. 56-57). Social science research also shows LGBTIQ people in rural areas can experience similar discrimination in their everyday lives as urban LGBTIQ people, but being in rural spaces intensifies this (Gottschalk & Newton, 2009). Even so, it is clear the focus on LGBTIQ policing has come to be thought about largely as an urban issue.

This article argues we need to trouble this urban-centric focus in research on police-LGBTIQ relationships. It makes a case for thinking outside urban centres to elaborate the more complex relations that may emerge within LGBTIQ-police relationships in rural areas. The article first engages with three key bodies of literature, exploring: how policing happens in rural contexts broadly; specific experiences of LGBTIQ people in rural spaces; and how policing happens with LGBTIQ people in urban areas. This research highlights a need to focus within both queer criminology and rural criminology on how rurality shapes LGBTIQ-police relationships. The article then presents interview data from three urbanized studies of LGBTIQ-policing relationships that also indicate the need for a rural turn in research about policing LGBTIQ people. While only passing references were made about rural issues, the data nevertheless reinforces the need to shift research towards rural issues. The article concludes by calling for a "queer turn" within rural criminological research at the same time as a "rural turn" within queer criminological research (Hogg & Carrington, 2006; Peterson & Panfil, 2014). Only such "turns" can be effective in elaborating most fully the intersecting issues in the rural lives of LGBTIQ people and their experiences of policing.

Literature review

Why focus on LGBTIQ policing in rural contexts?

As detailed below, there are three key bodies of literature highlighting the increasing importance of focusing on LGBTIQ policing in rural contexts. First, research on rural policing shows issues specific only to a rural setting, including police racism emerging as a result of social diversification of rural spaces. Second, research with LGBTIQ people in rural contexts indicates how LGBTIQ people living in rural spaces may experience complex discriminations, suggesting the need for rural police to have specialized knowledge. …

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