Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram
Over the last two decades, post-Stonewall notions of queer (as in affirmative of LGBT / LGBT2S experiences) space (as in supportive and defensible sites) have been replaced by queer ecologies (as in dynamic relationships and transactions). For LGBT communities, both "space" and "ecologies" have had crucial uses and problematic limitations especially for imaginings as part of early phases of planning and design of a range of healthier environments.
Queer space framings skirted big questions of the lines between public and private and those of ecologies have tended to avoid disparities in distribution of social resources -- and political economies more generally. In the same period over the last half century, framings for decolonization have shifted away from symbolic responses to the aftermaths of the formal European empires to the dismantling of racial, language, and cultural hierarchies created both by the expansion of states and by global capitalism. And contemporary forms of resistance, most notably Black Lives Matter and its allies along with indigenous environmental activism, in turn highlight huge disparities within LGBT communities, activism, and governance.
For decades, planners and designers have been responding to localized queer spaces and ecologies often through taking on LGBT organizations and enterprises as clients while not always focused on broader needs for protections from violence, systematic racism, and economic precarity. In contrast, critical engagement with local political economies and more marginalized populations has been crucial for identifying possible interventions, appropriations and projects that begin to correct some of these massive constellations of disparities. In contrast, a movement for queer infrastructure has been ongoing but its goals have too often been limited to a small number of public goods, such as LGBT community centres, social venues, not-so-open spaces, and cultural markers, rather than life support.
The theoretical obstacle has been around difficulties of queering more general public goods for sexual minorities (a favourite spectre of homophobes) a process that cannot be achieved without more effective forms of decolonization especially the dismantling of systematic racism along with ongoing challenges to increasingly sublimated homophobia and marginalization. In a time of multiple crises spanning persistent racial violence and destruction of communities from climate chaos, we can begin to explore a paradigm of queer infrastructure as part of insuring the life support resilient communities even extending to sexual health and expression of diverse cultures -- especially for the contemporary work of architects, landscape architects, and community planners on the West Coast.
More Information: queerecologicalimaginations.wordpress.com
GORDON BRENT BROCHU-INGRAM
Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram is an environmental planner and landscape ecologist who these days is often funded as an environmental artist. His heritage is primarily Métis, a large indigenous demographic across the middle latitudes of Canada, and he grew up in a W̱SÁNEĆ (Salish) community near Victoria, British Columbia. Along with the late Latina activist Yolanda Retter and Anne-Marie Bouthillette, Brent compiled and edited the first survey of LGBT public spaces and design issues, the 1997, Queers in Space: Communities | Public Places | Sites of Resistance.
Along with studio studies at the San Francisco Art Institute and a Master of Science in Ecosystem Management, Brent spent two decades studying, teaching, and conducting research based at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design completing a PhD in Environmental Planning in 1989 and then collaborating in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning. He has also taught at the universities of British Columbia, Twente, Parma, and Victoria and at George Mason University where he was an Associate Professor and Associate Dean.
Much of his work has not been on LGBT communities but rather on indigenous governments reasserting stewardship over territories and protecting cultural sites. Now part of a small research and teaching centre, ḴEXMIN field station, focused on the drier islands between North America and Vancouver Island, Brent combines design theorizing and making site-based art works while monitoring and protecting Salish cultural landscapes some of which he has been documenting for four decades. A recipient of a UC Regents Fellowship for his studies at the College of Environmental Design and a Lambda literary award for a non-fiction anthology, Brent's work has been supported by the Graham Foundation, the Canada Council, and the British Columbia and Yukon arts councils.