Something Special Lecture

Assistant geography professor LaToya Eaves discusses queer geography and her studies within the topic over Zoom on April 20, 2022.

Among all the research done surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, many would not expect there to be a geographical component within this research. The Commission for LGBT People and The Pride Center hosted a virtual lecture with LaToya Eaves, assistant professor of geography at UT, on Wednesday afternoon to educate people on queer geography.

The event was called “Something Special: The Role of Place in Researching LGBTQ Populations.” Eaves lectured about many topics within queer geographies, such as subfields in human geography, Black queer geography, researching in the virtual era of COVID-19 and more.

Bonnie Johnson, coordinator for Pride Center at UT as well as a member of the Commission for LGBT People, introduced Eaves and the topic at hand. Johnson was also the host for the question and answer session that took place after Eaves’ lecture.

Eaves’ lecture began with an introduction into queer geography. She mentioned authors and researchers who have inspired her in her journey in learning about the subject, like Gill Valentine and Gavin Brown. Eaves explained queer geography research for listeners who were uninformed on the subject.

“Understanding queer geography and the research process requires attention to three major perspectives,” Eaves said. “First is a focus on the production of space, where the researcher considers and explores the dominant factors that have allowed a particular queer space to exist. Second, researchers must be cognizant of the bearings of everyday social and power relations… Finally, the materiality of performance that comes to queer embodiment provides an alternative perspective through which to analyze an individual’s actions.”

After lecturing about the basis of queer geography and the search process, Eaves discussed her own research experiences. She has used many methods to conduct her research, and originally began by using Downlink. Downlink was an online community, similar to MySpace, for the LGBTQ+ community.

“I started doing this work as part of a quantitative methods class. As most of us know, there’s not a lot of data sources about LGBTQ life in terms of census numbers,” Eaves said. “The flirt function in Downlink was really a delight because it allowed you to search for members, people who were engaging with the site based on zip codes. I literally spent a lot of time putting different zip codes of U.S. South states into the flirt function to see who I could find that met my perimeters.”

Eaves explored Black queerness, female queerness, Black feminism and more in the Southern part of the United States in her research. Her findings were focused on how comfortable people felt in their cities and towns, and more specifically if they were able to find a strong, supportive LGBTQ+ community within the regions.

Before the questions and answers portion, Johnson was extremely impressed with the lecture and showed her gratitude to Eaves for taking the time to bestow her knowledge to the listeners. Johnson is very interested in the topic and is always excited to learn more about it.

“Thank you so much Dr. Eaves, that was so illuminating,” Johnson said. “I feel like when we first met, back before Dr. Johnson’s lecture last spring, you were the person who was like, ‘geography is more than that,’ so I didn’t know and I love learning about it.”

Eaves was passionate about the subject and was eager to explore her research and findings with the audience. The Pride Center and Commission for LGBT People will continue to host similar events, the next one taking place on May 3 at 10 a.m. with guest speaker Lance Poston, assistant vice president for external relations and operations at the University of Kentucky.

UT Sponsored Content