Kay Lalor, UoA 20, Law

Placard with text no human being is illegal

I studied Social and Political Science at Cambridge and Human Rights at the LSE before coming to the University of Westminster to research sexual orientation rights as part of the Centre for Law, Gender and Sexuality and the Westminster International Law and Theory Centre.

I have become part of a network of socio-legal scholars involved in researching and teaching gender, sexuality and law. I’ve had the opportunity to present my work at national and international conferences, most recently at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

My approach attempts to situate problems of rights within both material locations and conceptual genealogies and thus draws from a number of different disciplines. At Westminster, I have found the resources, support and flexibility to develop this methodology in order to address the most current and pressing questions of LGBT rights, power and activism.

The increasing trend towards the articulation of the concerns of sexual minorities as human rights has resulted in controversy in numerous legal arenas. The subsequent debates and judgments have brought much-needed rights protections for many, but have also led to moments of impasse and backlash, and to the hardening of rhetorical devices through which sexual rights are either welcomed or condemned. Rights, it seems, are a double-edged sword for many of those they seek to protect.

I argue that the problematic intersection of sexuality and rights must be approached as both a theoretical problem of linguistic constructs and conceptual genealogies and a material question of the differential embodiment of sexuality and rights as a singular lived experience.

In this approach, sexuality and rights are constantly changing and specifically located. Sexuality must be viewed as a multiplicitous and changing flux. Rights must be viewed as a dual-sided paradox operating simultaneously as modes of control, restriction and exclusion as well as modes of communication, connection, challenge and escape.

By addressing both their conceptual and material foundations, we can reformulate many of the controversies surrounding sexuality and rights. As such, I argue that the encounter between sexual orientation and rights is a moment of uncertainly and a site of productive engagement. Rights are not always the answer to injustices; they are instead the location through which we might begin to ask more questions. In doing so, we can engage productively with issues of power, subjectivity and justice in international LGBT activism.

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