An Out Gay Cop: Protecting the Privacy and Property of “Gay” Los Angeles and the Policing of People of Color in a Modern Skid Row in AIDS Crisis Los Angeles

Authors: Nic John Ramos*, Drexel University
Topics: Sexuality, Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography
Keywords: LGBTQ, Skid Row, Police, Trans, Race, Blackness
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper explores the fraught but effective campaign of mostly white gay and lesbian activists in Los Angeles to win the right to hire openly “out” gay cops in 1992 to defend the property and privacy of middle class gender-conforming gays and lesbians in West Los Angeles against homosexual subjects and same-sex sexual activity they argued were neither “gay” nor protectable under public health and penal law. Using documents to trace the activism and rhetoric of gay moderate political leaders, the paper demonstrates these activists worked with police and public health officials to re-define the boundaries of police and public health protection for homosexuals by defining trans and gender non-conforming people of color as outside of the political, public health, and police protection of gay community politics. In so doing, they assisted city officials and Black community leaders in re-making Los Angeles’s Skid Row into what Jennifer Wolch and Michael Dear term an “open-air detention camp” to contain Black and Brown Trans women the police referred to as “the Dragons” and manage the myriad problems associated with the AIDS crisis, homelessness, and deinstitutionalization. Rather than dampen the political power of gay activists, this paper thus shows that moderate gay activists used the AIDS crisis to spatially police new boundaries of racial and sexual exclusion by the early 1990s. These processes also suggest that rather than attribute Wacquant’s “hyperghetto” to emerging patterns of austerity and social conservatism, new patterns of segregation might also be spatial expressions of racial and sexual liberalism.

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