A mark that is no mark? Queer women and violence in HIV discourse.

Research paper by Carmen H CH Logie, Margaret F MF Gibson

Indexed on: 13 Nov '12Published on: 13 Nov '12Published in: Culture, health & sexuality


Lesbian, bisexual and queer women are invisible and ignored in HIV discourse, as epidemiological classifications result in their institutionalised exclusion from risk categories. Simultaneously, these women live with HIV, often in situations of societal exclusion and under threat of violence. In this paper, we consider the connections between discourse and violence to examine how both are reproduced through, applied to and dependent upon people. The ways lesbian, bisexual and queer women do (or do not) appear in HIV discourse tells us much about how people and categories operate in the global pandemic. The fault-lines of lesbian, bisexual and queer women's constrained visibility in HIV discourse can be seen in situations where they are exposed to HIV transmission through homophobic sexual assault. In dominant HIV discursive practices, such homophobic assault leaves Judith Butler's 'mark that is no mark', recording neither its violence nor its 'non-heterosexuality'. Structural violence theory offers a means to understand direct and indirect violence as it pertains to HIV and lesbian, bisexual and queer women. We call for forms of modified structural violence theory that better attend to the ways in which discourse connects with material realities. Our theoretical and epidemiological lens must be broadened to examine how anti-lesbian, bisexual and queer-women bias affects transnational understandings of human worth.