The Toronto Women's Bathhouse Raid: Querying Queer Identities in the Courtroom

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Abstract

In 1998 the Toronto Women's Bathhouse Committee (TWBC) organized the “Pussy Palace”, Canada's first women's bathhouse event. Held semi-annually at a gay male bathhouse in downtown Toronto, this newly emergent and potentially transgressive form of identity politics and spatial organizing caught the eye of the policing arm of the state; charges were laid and a public trial ensued. Through an analysis of the court decision and mainstream and alternative press coverage of the Pussy Palace, in this paper we explore the unstable and highly transitory operation of “queer” sexual citizenship within the confines of both the homonormativity of the gay and lesbian community and the regulatory regimes of the nation state. We argue that the policing and judicial institutions of the state seek to neutralize the potential transgressiveness of queer identities by absorbing them into hegemonic nationalist and citizenship discourses.

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