Just Spaces presents the work of UTS Master of Design student Ella Cutler. This body of work has emerged from Ella’s thesis research into the microaggressions experienced by Lesbian, Bisexual, Pansexual and Queer (LBPQ)* women and non-binary identities in their everyday lives, and how she as a designer can help facilitate and imagine safe spaces for this community.
Ella’s investigation begins with her personal experience as a young Queer woman feeling tired, exhausted even, with the constant and daily discrimination towards the LGBTQI+ community that exists within the media, politics, society and everyday interactions between people. It seems that recently there has been an extra amount of news and social media coverage of discriminatory events towards the LGBTQI+ community, for example, the plebiscite on same-sex marriage, which was a particularly tiring event for the community. This experience of tiredness is shared broadly by marginalized communities and identities, which can lead to minority stress and impact the mental and physical health of people. Although an LBPQ identifying person may not experience outright discrimination on a regular basis, they are faced with microaggressions that can take the form of intentional or unintentional comments and actions that question and demean them.
Using design practices and methods, Ella’s research aims to communicate the effect that microaggressions have on LBPQ identifying people to activate dialogue and instigate change surrounding the creation of safe spaces for this community. In 2017, Ella facilitated two workshops with a group of anonymous LBPQ identifying people where they were asked to reflect on moments where they felt their sense of safety had been breached and then to imagine and plan new safe spaces for the future, for them and their community. The series of six double-sided risograph prints are Ella’s visual translations of the stories, anecdotal data and the solutions that the workshop participants offered. Workshop outcomes included the necessity for safe spaces to be: for all (identities and sexualities), accessible, inclusive of narratives so they become culturally accepted, maintained and committed to by everybody, educative, equipped with medical and counseling facilities, and to be everywhere.
Held in April of 2018, Just Spaces was an exhibition held at the library of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) sought to discuss and present the imagined and potential safe spaces of six LGBTQI+ women and non-binary participants. Together they form six visual translation that attempt to inhabit design norms differently.
Just Spaces emerged in part out of personal anger and frustration about the marked effects that microaggressions have on the physical and mental health of myself and others. This exhibition was about examining their everyday effect, and very often this is through breaches of safe spaces. The works both examine these spaces, but also imagine and generate new ones, especially as during the time of this project the LGBTQI+ community was subjected to unnecessary and vitriolic hatred due to the marriage equality plebiscite held in late 2017. These responses are group and context specific; they act as a testament to the experiences of a specific group of individuals and community.
*Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally or sexually attracted to people of the same gender.
Bisexual: Someone who is emotionally or sexually attracted to both women and men. Bisexuality can also be used as an umbrella term for the attraction to more than one gender, including non-binary people (genders or identities other than men or women).
Pan: Pangender refers to someone who feels they belong to all genders, which could include all gender expressions. Pansexuality refers to the attraction to others regardless of their sex, gender identity or sexual orientations, for example, transgender, intersex or queer.
Queer: Someone whose identity falls outside of the gender binary and/or who feels restricted by terms such as male/female or gay/lesbian. A queer identifying person does not identify with traditional gender and sexual identities. Queer identity can be an ambiguous and liberating term for those who resist hetero and homo-normativity. However, it should be noted that the term ‘Queer’ is still a slur for many within the LGBTQI+ community especially among some of its older members.
Please note: These are broad definitions intended to help clarify the terms for those who may be unfamiliar with them. However, it must be acknowledged that the complexities and distinctions of these terms are defined by those who identify with them.