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"If it’s not gay, it’s not gay”: Animal exploitation and queer liberation

  • Deakin Downtown Level 12, Tower 2 727 Collins Street Docklands, VIC 3008 Australia (map)

Late last year the Aotearoa based RainbowYouth Team broadcast an advertisement tackling homophobia, particularly targeting the derogatory use of the word gay. Set on a farm, the advertisement depicts an idyllic image of country life and comradely masculinity. The highlight of the ad uses the mateship of men to call out a baffled white man for using the word “gay” when he dropped his meat pie. The ad ends on a picture of the smashed pie and the words “If it’s not gay, it’s not gay”. The advertisement has a worthy cause, showing that using gay as a negative is more than just using a word. However, in this advertisement, the joke is premised on the silent and unacknowledged exploited animal. This use of animal exploitation as the background for queer liberation discourse is not a singular event. In fact, this draws on a long history that, in the past, associated queerness with animality; this association is strongly distanced from most LGBTQIA activism today. For example, as gay marriage was labelled as a slippery slope that would invite people to marry their dogs, homonormativity dug its heels in. Avoiding the slippery slope arguably prompts publicised acts of normativity, such as some people during the Australian marriage vote hosting an “equality sausage” party, to prove that gays and lesbians could be just like meat eating straight Australians.


This paper will look through some of these cultural examples of animal exploitative homonormativity. It will situate this in a longer history, through looking at how sodomy has been treated historically. This discourse still pervades both the law and culture today. Basing a liberation discourse on animal exploitation and homonormativity is one that will inevitably serve the status quo, so this paper asks, what would a queer-animal liberation look like?

Please join us for drinks and dinner afterwards!

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Presenter Bio:

Jessica Ison is in the final stages (hopefully) of her PhD at La Trobe University, where she also tutors in Gender, Sexuality and Diversity Studies. Jess is the representative for the Institute for Critical Animal StudiesOceania, co-founder of the La Trobe Animal Studies Association and a rescuer for the Coalition Against Duck Shooting. She is also an editor for the journal Writing from Below and a co-convenor of the La Trobe Violence Against Women Network