Making Space - X Kabir - ebook

Making Space ebook

X Kabir



This book is a part of SFQs ongoing work towards intersectionality and inclusiveness. It is even a protest against the growing right-wing extremism and racism in Sweden. This research used in-depth qualitative interviews with students to present a deeper intersectional understanding of how homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, racism, and similar forms of discrimination, are experienced and maintained within the social spaces that non-Swedish and/or non-white LGBTQIA+ people living in Sweden move within. From a critical feminist theories perspective, this book presents stories that show the intersectionality of the layers of struggles, discrimination, and violence that LGBTQIA+ people living in Sweden face. Finally, this book discusses a way forward and presents a critical reflection, with specific recommendations, on how to make safer and more inclusive spaces for the diverse LGBTQIA+ community in Sweden.

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Authors: Kabir and Rachel McDonald

Editor: Stina S. Lundin

Project leaders: Kabir and Rachel McDonald

Contributors: Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh (Writer), Eliott "Wyrneck" Karlsson (Illustration), Charlie Rytterlund (Illustration), Evelina Svärling (Translation), Moa Strinnö (Translation), Sanna Forsberg (Transcribing), and Sumaiya Hafsa (Transcribing)


The project team would like to thank all the people that made this project and book possible. Firstly, to the board of SFQ that supported this project idea from 2015, assisted in writing a project application in 2016 and then continued to help the team with organization, networking, and advertising of the project during 2017.

A special thank you goes to Daniel Dannfors and Linda Hörberg for managing the financial side of this project and to Stina S. Lundin for taking time to edit this book.

SFQ is extremely thankful to MUCF, Myndigheten för ungdoms- och civilsamhällesfrågor, the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society, who granted the financial support needed to see this project through.

Thank you sincerely to the participants, collaborators, and to everybody that has come to the lectures, workshops, and meetings across Sweden during 2016 – 2017.

SFQ: Swedish Federation of LGBTQIA+ Students

In English

The Swedish Federation of LGBTQIA+ Students is a national federation for norm criticism and LGBTQ-perspectives in higher education. SFQ has local branches throughout Sweden’s universities and colleges. The organization works to better the situation for people that are marginalized by hetero- and cis-norms. For example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, asexual and queer students at Sweden’s universities and colleges. Through educating on intersectional normcriticism the organization advocates nationally and locally with a focus on cis- and heteronormativity in higher education. SFQ also educates and creates debate about the consequences that these norms have for students, studies, and the study environment.

As of summer 2017, there are eight active local branches spread all over Sweden. SFQ is a queer feminist organization believing in an intersectional approach to work against discriminatory structures. The SFQ work includes educating on LGBTQ issues at universities and university colleges, fighting heteronormativity within the academic sphere, in both the educational contents as well as in the study environment. SFQ’s local branches are in Umeå, Stockholm (4), Örebro, Gothenburg, and Malmö.

For further information or to get involved with the federation: [email protected]

SFQ: Sveriges Förenade HBTQIA+ -studenter

På svenska

Sveriges Förenade HBTQIA+-studenter (SFQ) är riksförbundet för normkritik och HBTQIA+-perspektiv i högskolan, med lokalavdelningar runt om på landets universitet och högskolor. Förbundet arbetar för att förbättra situationen för personer som marginaliseras av hetero- och cisnormer, exempelvis homo- och bisexuella, transpersoner, intersexuella, asexuella och queera personer som studerar vid Sveriges universitet och högskolor. Genom intersektionell normkritik bedriver förbundet påverkansarbete nationellt och lokalt med fokus på cis- och heteronormativitet i högre utbildning, samt utbildar och skapar debatt om dess konsekvenser för studenten, studier och studiemiljö.

Från och med sommaren 2017 finns det åtta aktiva lokala avdelningar spridda över hela landet. SFQ är en queer feministisk organisation som tror på ett intersektionellt sätt att arbeta mot diskriminerande strukturer. SFQ:s arbete omfattar utbildningar om HBTQIA+-frågor vid universitet och högskolor, att bekämpa heteronormativitet inom den akademiska miljön, både i utbildningsinnehållet och i studiemiljön. Våra lokala avdelningar finns i Umeå, Stockholm (4), Örebro, Göteborg och Malmö.

För mer information och kontakt med förbundet: [email protected]


Chapter 1: Background

Research Aim

Chapter 2: Disposition

Chapter 3: Definitions

Section 1: Terms

Cisnormativity, cisgender



Gender identity and gender expression





Racism, Racialized, Racialization

Second-generation Swedish citizens

Section 2: Theories and concepts

Space, Time and Entity



Norm critique, norm criticism

Performance and performativity theory

Master suppression techniques (MST)

Making invisible


Withholding Information

Damn you if you do, damn you if you don’t

Heaping blame and Putting to shame

Chapter 4: Methodology

Section 1: Focus group

Section 2: Recruiting Participants

Section 3: Profile of the participants

Section 4: Research Method

Method 1: Online Survey

Method 2: Semi-structured Interview

Section 5: Data collection process

Chapter 5: The qualitative analysis

Section 1: Sense of belonging

White normativity in Sweden

Layers of complexities in sense of belonging

Section 2: Language barrier

Section 3: Student life and the education environment

Power hierarchy based on access to CSN

Cis-heteronormativity and white-normativity in educational environments

Section 4: Life in Digital Space

Body politics and White Normativity

Safety and Privacy

Hatred in Social Media

Social media: A space for separatist activism

Chapter 6: Profound examples

Chapter 7: Bi invisibility in Sweden and academia: from the perspective of an Iranian activist

Chapter 8: Closure

Section 1: Summary of findings

Section 2: Critical reflection

Section 3: Limitation of the research

Section 4: The way forward

Internal norm-critique and self-reflection

How can we make more inclusive and safer spaces for the diverse LGBTQIA+ community in Sweden?

What can you do as a person?

What can the organizations do?

What can the organizations do for hidden identities?

Guidelines for organizing events


The idea for this project grew from SFQ’s need to see a LGBTQIA+1 community that is representative of the movement’s diversity. The project team wanted everybody to see themselves represented and wanted everybody to be seen and heard. The LGBTQIA+ community is diverse on many levels, and it is tiring to see only one homogenous group represented and heard at prides, meetings, and in the news. Therefore, this project came into place.

In the current years, SFQ has been actively working with the questions of inclusiveness and intersectionality. SFQ’s previous project Avslöja heteronormen! 2014 – 2015,2 (in English: Reveal the hetero-norm), and Examensbevis i fokus, 2015,3 (in English, Degree certificate in focus), derived from SFQ’s understanding of the need for inclusiveness and intersectional analysis. The project Examensbevis i fokus investigated and compiled university and college’s procedures, routines, and attitudes when issuing a new degree certificate after a graduate had changed their legal gender (and therefore personal number) in Sweden. In the project Avslöja heteronormen! SFQ used intersectional analysis to show how cis-heteronormativity is reinforced in higher education, as well as that many equality plans or policies made LGBTQIA+ identities and experiences of racism and racialization invisible by not describing these experiences even though it affects a large group of students.4 There were stories about non-white students stereotyping white-Swedish norms against “other” (non-Swedish) norms on sexuality,5 in other words, assuming that it would be less accepting to have a non-normative sexuality / sexual orientation when you are non-white. Even one story about how a person had specifically excluded a university based on their white-normative marketing (lack of representation of different skin colors) and another student that explained how they constantly needed to go into defense-mode as they were the only racialized student in their class.6 Furthermore, there were other stories that highlighted white-normativity at university, for example, the use of racist course material.7

Through the project Making Space, SFQ wanted to expand SFQ’s work further by critiquing the normative representation of the Swedish LGBTQIA+ community and by raising voices from the student community to represent this diversity. When SFQ received the grant from MUCF and started the ball rolling, the project team brainstormed a significant name for the project that will summarize the needs and aims of this project. Thus, the name Making Space: Raising hidden voices of the Swedish LGBTQIA+ community came into play.

The acronym LGBTQ+ was used in the project name when the project started instead of LGBTQIA+ as when the team began the work in 2016 SFQ was known as Swedish Federation of LGBTQ Students and the team wanted the project name to reflect SFQ’s name. To acknowledge the diversity within the community and be more inclusive of the identities from the diversity in the community the project team used the “+” sign. However, during the duration of this project, SFQ acknowledged the importance of being inclusive to marginalized parts of the community, people that identify as intersex and/or asexual are often made invisible, therefore I and A were added to make these two groups more visible. SFQ also wants to include other identities in the acronym that further represent the diversity in the community, the best way that SFQ could do this now was to add the “+” sign to symbolize other identities within the community.8 Therefore, throughout this book, the acronym LGBTQIA+ has been used when referring to both to the project work, research and the community at large.

This project Making Space is done in English so that it can be available to the non-Swedish speaking people as well. As an organization SFQ has many international students, and students that have recently moved to Sweden, who do not speak Swedish which will also be benefited from this project. The project believes that having materials in English will complement those materials that already exist in Swedish and other languages, as a way of building the knowledge base for those who do not know Swedish. It also empowered the project team to get involved in this project, as they couldn’t have done this together if the project language was in Swedish.

Therefore, SFQ hopes that this project has and will help empower others that do not currently see themselves represented to get involved in the LGBTQIA+ movement. By this the project hopes that LGBTQIA+ people living in Sweden will be motivated to join a local organization as a member, e.g. our own organization SFQ or another LGBTQIA+ organization or to become an activist here in Sweden. SFQ acknowledge that fighting for inclusivity is complex work, and that is why SFQ hopes that people who are currently active continue to fight for more inclusive spaces for LGBTQIA+ people. This project is for you, to know that you are not alone, and that together we are strong. SFQ sees a future LGBTQIA+ community that is diverse and representative. SFQ wants everybody to feel welcome and motivated to join the LGBTQIA+ movement regardless of how your body looks or what it is capable of, regardless of what you believe in or which religious views you have, regardless of whether you speak Swedish, regardless of how your family relations are, and regardless of your sexual or gender identity (or lack thereof) and regardless of where you are from.

Another part of this project was to build a network for Swedish LGBTQIA+ organizations. The aim of this network was for organizations to plan their work on racism and together make the LGBTQIA+ movement accessible to more people. As this is an ongoing process, it is not addressed further in this book. The project team has held meetings with other organizations and has held lectures and workshops at pride festivals throughout July 2016 to September 2017. The lectures covered the background and aims of the project, the findings from the research, and the workshops covered how to create more inclusive and safer spaces for the diverse LGBTQIA+ community.

This project aimed to bring academic knowledge from feminist theories and LGBTQIA+ activism on the same platform. SFQ started the project by pointing out that even though the LGBTQIA+ community is heterogeneous, there is a homogenous representation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the media, prides and leaders. This project wanted to raise voices that have not previously been heard in the understanding of the situation of LGBTQIA+ people in Sweden. By lifting the perspective from students with a non-Swedish and/or non-white background this project wished to create a greater understanding of the discrimination that these LGBTQIA+ students encounter. Through that, this project wanted to come to a point where the Swedish LGBTQIA+ movement can work together, long term, to get a more representative participation of people from different socio-cultural and religious groups with a changed approach.

A central term of this project is space. Based on different feminist theories,9 the project team defines space as the embodiment of our ideas, activities, and perception time and place. We all, who are LGBTQIA+, live in our own cultural-social-religious-political-economic-academic-activist spaces but again we all are part of the bigger common space, which is Sweden and LGBTQIA+ community. This project used the words space, community, platform and groups interchangeably. This project wanted to bring the experiences and stories of people from diverse cultural-social-religious space to one common space: the Swedish LGBTQIA+ community by making a safe space for the diversity of voices. This is where the significance of the project name stands. This project is about making safe spaces for the people who either get unnoticed or are subject to stereotyping by already existing norms and perceptions about their own communities.

Another central part of this project’s work is to see the LGBTQIA+ community is represented with diverse identities. The word representation can mean different things depending upon the context it is used within. For the purposes of this book representation is used as a term to describe a deliberate process consisting of two parts. The first part of this process is giving people who face marginalization the space they need to talk about their experiences and to own these experiences. This is what this book aimed to create, for this purpose this book is the space. Further in the book there are many stories from voices that are otherwise hidden. The second part of this process is increasing the diversity that is represented in both the media and within LGBTQIA+ organizations, so that a more accurate image of the LGBTQIA+ community in Sweden is seen. This is a central part to this entire project. The project team have tried to increase the representation through sharing diverse stories on social media, raising the findings from the research in media, and contacting other LGBTQIA+ organizations to ask how they are working on issues of representation, racism, and discrimination.

Making Space does not only mean that SFQ wants all people to find their own space to express themselves in the Swedish LGBTQIA+ community, but also means that SFQ wants those who are already taking space, to acknowledge their privilege and to help the Swedish LGBTQIA+ movement create space for hidden voices. Making Space is a collaborative action, and SFQ hopes that by raising hidden voices the whole community can get onboard and make the Swedish LGBTQIA+ community safer and more welcoming for all LGBTQIA+ people in Sweden.

The existing lack of understanding and space for diverse identities, alongside the rise of the right-wing extremist movement in Sweden and anti-immigration political agenda in Sweden and Europe have motivated the project team to do this work. This because, these things affect the LGBTQIA+ community in Sweden. The project team and others from SFQ are aware of the need for it through what we have heard from others and experienced ourselves in our time within SFQ and the wider LGBTQIA+ movement in Sweden. This project is a product of all of that and much more. It is a product of a growing anti-racist movement, women’s movement, the never-ending fight for refugee and immigrant rights, intersectionality and norm critique as activism, and LGBTQIA+ activism.

This book is a product of the qualitative research done as a part of this project. The research presented is based upon interviews with students that have a non-Swedish or non-white background.

Research Aim

The aim of this research is as followed: How homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, and similar forms of discrimination, and racism, are experienced and maintained within the social spaces that non-Swedish and/or non-white LGBTQIA+ people living in Sweden move within.

This research presents a deeper intersectional understanding of how different levels of struggles, discrimination and violence are faced by LGBTQIA+ people who are non-white and/or non-Swedish and living in Sweden. Instead of using homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and similar forms of discrimination this book uses LGBTQIA+ phobia. This book uses this term as a more inclusive term to describe the struggles, discrimination and violence faced by LGBTQIA+ people.

This research was important for the project team to address since SFQ wants to see a student community that is representative of the diverse LGBTQIA+ community. However, SFQ has seen that there is a lack of understanding within the LGBTQIA+ community when it comes to the experiences of those that are discriminated against both because of where they come from, or the color of their skin, on top of the LGBTQIA+ phobia that all LGBTQIA+ people experience. It is this discrepancy which the project aims to address and understand through this research.

1 An umbrella term that is used to describe the community. LGBTQIA+ is the acronym used by SFQ since the start of 2017. LGBTQIA+ is an abbreviation for different identities: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and/or asexual. The plus (+) is used to illustrate that our community is more diverse than just these labels/identities as there are many more identities regarding sexual and romantic attraction and gender identity/expression than are included with the letters “LGBTQIA”. Other common abbreviations used today are LGBT, LGBTI, and LGBTQ with or without the plus.

2 Lundin, Stina, (ed.), Strömberg, Elise & Fuentes Araya, Catalina, Sveriges Förenade HBTQ-studenter, project report, Avslöja heteronormen!: En undersökning om cis- och heteronormer vid universitets och högskolors verksamheter 2014-2015, (Stockholm: SFQ, 2015).