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Cataloguing global queer action

Robert Mizzi finds sites of queer resistance abroad

In Malta, gay and trans people organize Pink Sundays, piggybacking on existing cultural traditions around food and fraternizing. It’s a social endeavour meant to bring Maltese queers together to share their experiences.

Nearly 10,000 km away, gay Cubans rally around the National Institute of Sexuality. The government body becomes a channel for activists, a way to use the regime’s resources to push for social change.

Gays and lesbians globally are changing their circumstances — through resistance, rebellion, subversion and all out battles for sexual freedom. But little research in English has looked at the tactics and strategies of gays in the non-Western world, and almost none of it has been compiled into book form.

That’s what former Ottawa resident Robert Mizzi found three years ago. Mizzi, now a doctoral student at York University, is the founder of Queer Peace International (QPI). He’s compiled the research of international academics into a book, Breaking Free, published by QPI and the Lambda foundation.

“It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears to put it together,” says Mizzi.

We tend to think of international intervention as being unidirectional, Mizzi says, but the gay activists in the West could learn a thing or two from queers in the developing world. Meanwhile, some Western strategies would be a poor fit overseas.

“We organize here through grants applications, through boards of directors — some of the ways which we organize aren’t going to be much help abroad,” he says.

As an academic and a gay man who has travelled, worked or studied in 35 countries, Mizzi was well placed to collect the research that comprises this book. He was specificially looking for people who write about the intersection of sexuality, development and peace — no small feat, no matter what country you’re in. Still, he hopes that this research finds its way out of its specific context and into the broader, global conversation.

“There are so many projects — the environment, poverty, gender equality — but sexuality is a strategy we could use for discussion, since it’s an issue that cuts across a lot of these projects,” he says.

TAG: Robert Mizzi will be speaking at Pink Triangle Services Jan 29 at 5:30pm to launch Breaking Free: Sexual Diversity and Change in Emerging Nations. Special guests gay MP Bill Siksay and Gary Sealey of the Lambda Foundation.