Department of Political Studies panel discusses queer issues

Panellists speak to LGBTQ+ representation in the Canadian government and individual voting behaviour 

Panellists share their research on LGBTQ+ issues in politics and the workplace.
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On Sept. 20, the Department of Political Studies hosted an online panel to discuss contemporary political issues surrounding the queer community in the face of the 2021 federal election. 
 
As a part of Kingston Pride 2021, the panel kicked off with Elizabeth Baisley, assistant professor of political studies, who discussed the LGBTQ+ representation among candidates for member of parliament races. 
 
“Despite a record number of LGBTQ+ candidates running, there was actually a decrease in the number of LGBTQ+ members of Parliament between 2015-19,” Baisley said. 
 
“This didn’t go unnoticed, we weren’t the first people to see this […] the representation losses were really quite noticed, and people were wondering what was going on here.”
 
To explain these loses, Baisley brought up the “sacrificial lamb” explanation. According to this theory, queer candidates are nominated by their party in ridings where the party is less likely to win.
 
“I think a lot of us think of the example of some progressive LGBTQ+ candidate for a [left-leaning] party finding themselves in a staunchly conservative riding,” they said.
 
According to Baisley, this trend has worsened in both the 2019 and 2021 elections, with all parties except the Progressive Conservatives nominating queer candidates in less winnable ridings when compared to straight candidates. Baisley said this has resulted in a downward trend in LGBTQ+ representation in Canadian politics.
 
“I know we talk about it gets better, but things don’t always get better,” they said. 
 
“Progress is not linear. We see that within certain parties, things were actually better for LGBTQ+ candidates in 2015.”
 
Next to speak was Quinn Albaugh, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, who discussed individual voting behaviour in the queer community. Albaugh noted the difficulty of analyzing LGBTQ+ voting behaviour due to problematic questions posed by prominent political surveyors. 
 
Surveys are often uninformed and do not gather accurate data pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community and all its sub-communities. 
 
“It’s ‘are you a man, a woman, or other?’ This is a sort of literal othering,” Albaugh said. 
 
A wider array of gender identification options than just ‘man’ and ‘woman’, when they’re available, have allowed for progress in political LGBTQ+ research, Albaugh said. Even if they’re not perfect. 
 
“It’s a step forward, I guess, in comparison to what came before because so much of survey research just relied on telephone interviewing,” Albaugh said. 
 
Based on Albaugh’s research, the NDP is most popular queer voters, particularly with nonbinary people. Conservatives garner the least support amongst LGBTQ+ people.
 
Looking ahead, Albaugh has consulted with the Canadian Election Study team, an organization that conducts Canadian election surveys, to inform updated queer language in studies. 
 
Albaugh cites these questions as key in gaining a more thorough understanding of the community’s political preferences and developing more inclusive electoral surveys.
 
“We have some new questions that will hopefully fix some of these  problems,” they said. 
 
“The first is an updated gender question that has explicit options for nonbinary people, along with an open-ended category […] Having an open-ended option should help with actually capturing how people talk about their gender identities.”

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