This project consists of an archival and interview-based examination of safer sex practices and knowledges among queer and trans/gender-nonconforming persons. This project contributes to a critical reading of institutionalized “LGBT health” found in social science and public health literature in addition to work on pleasure and desire in sexuality education. What are the implications for health promotion practice when sexual actors’ bodies and practices are illegible and unknowable? In the absence of known clinical effectiveness in preventing disease transmission, what are the social and political significances of queer and trans safer sex practices? To explore these questions, I analyze archival documents and participant interviews to draw connections between the important political history of queer safer sex and its contemporary manifestations in a time of continued in/visibility and surveillance.
“Queer and trans safer sex” here refers to a range of gender-nonconforming bodies and identities employing practices including the use of barriers such as internal or external condoms, gloves, dental dams and saran wrap, the cleaning of toys, enthusiastic consent, boundary negotiations with partners and so on. I am interested in how queer safer sex technologies and discourses materially represent nonnormativity in pleasure, desire, and the body as well as what these technologies and discourses signify, the epistemological work they do, and their consequences in terms of the pathologization of queer and trans bodies. Seen through a lens of governmentality, these processes can be interpreted as a form of self-governance that works to (re)pathologize queer sex. An alternative view is to read queer safer sex epistemologies and practices as strategies for claiming a space for the legitimacy of nonnormative bodies and identities, constructing a community ethics of care, and establishing symbolic relational boundaries.