In his book The Right to the City, Lefebvre designed the right to a city as a right to a transformed, renewed urban life.
He responded to the social problems caused by the rapid urbanization of the post-war period, in particular by mass housing construction. Lefebvre lamented the numerous quality losses that accompanied the urbanization process. At the same time, however, he also identified an enormous positive potential in urbanization that could lead to the emergence of an emancipated urban society in the context of an urban revolution. Thus, the right to a city is a societal right to these urban qualities, which in Lefebvre’s urbanization process lie in the encounter, in the exchange, in the feast and in a collectively designed and used urban space.
It is a right to centrality, as the access to the places of social wealth, the urban infrastructure and knowledge; and the right to difference, which stands for a city as a place of meeting, of recognizing and of discourse. It does not confine itself to the concrete use of urban spaces, but also encompasses access to the political and strategic debates on future development paths. The right to the city is based on the utopian promises of the urban and claims a right to the creative excesses of the urban. Lefebvre states that everyone has a right to the city, that is to say, a right to public space. We know, however, that public space within the city is not an equal place for everyone.
When individuals belong to different marginalized identities, their experiences of partisanship intensify through those intersections. Through an intersectional lens, this paper will examine how LGBTQ2S homeless youth face exclusion and lack of membership within the city. Those that can afford to live within the city are presented with an urban rhythm and have the luxury of being located close to markets, offices and cultural places. Those that cannot afford to live within the city are pushed back to the dormitory suburbs, which have very limited resources. Sherene Razack argues that “it is through the homeless body that we know who is a citizen and who is not. Through its presence as a material body that occupies space, but as one that is consistently denied space through a series of violent evictions, the homeless body confirms what and who must be contained in order to secure society” (Razack, 10). Because they do not have housing, the public space is a central element in the lives of homeless people. However, space, if it is public, comes with norms, formal and tacit rules that regulate behavior that homeless people have quickly transgressed as an “abnormal” use of the space.
Therefore homeless bodies including homeless LGBTQ2S youth, those who embody the difference, are part of the “undesirable” figures of the city.In their book Where Am I Going To Go? Abramovich and Shelton state that “experiencing homelessness typically means spending a lot of time in public places, and some jurisdictions have responded by enacting legislation or deploying law enforcement in a targeted way to try to restrict the use of public space by individuals experiencing homelessness” (Abramovich, Shelton; 280). Generally speaking, sleeping one night in the street is an act punishable by fine and, in some cases, imprisonment. There is thus a reinforcement of repressive measures attesting police mistreatment of homeless youth. These measures that are usually taken in the name of security of all, equate homeless bodies with criminals. It seems that we have chosen to solve the question of poverty by sweeping the dust under the rug.In their text Recolonization’ and Public Housing: A Toronto Case Study, Kipfer and Petrunia state that “in the view of outsiders and the media, Regent’s problems were best blamed on the project itself” (Kipfer and Petrunia; 119). They argue that it was “the supposed shortcomings of the residents” that were the reasons for crime and poverty (Kipfer and Petrunia; 119).
The policies implemented are a way for cities to propose a security response to a social “problem”. These measures that target the poorest are all the more inefficient as they are more expensive than providing accommodation. Under the pretext of wanting to preserve security and public order, the poor on the public space are assimilated to potential criminals when realistically, it is them, in the streets, who are in danger. Much like Lefebvre’s thoughts in the Right to the City, in her work titled Constructing Differences in Public Spaces Ruddick argues that there is this assumption that “public spaces are universally accessible to a civic public” (Ruddick, 133). Despite this notion, we have been aware of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning and two-spirited homeless people in Canada for more than 20 years yet it is only recently that we have begun to talk about it seriously. This is an issue that has been neglected and left out of the important dialogue on homeless youth for far too long. It is estimated that “up to 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ2S” (Abramovich and Shelton; 7). LGBTQ2S youth are overrepresented among homeless youth, but under-represented in shelters, which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to assess the issue of homeless LGBTQ2S youth.
In addition, shelters do not collect data on young people’s sexual identities, making it even more difficult to measure the prevalence of queer and trans youth among the homeless (Abramovich and Shelton’ 2).There is a very evident problem in the exclusion of marginalized people in Canada. Browne and Lim argue that “While geographers have started to pay attention to the differences that class and ethnicity make to marginalisation among lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people (LGBT) taken in aggregate, gendered differences have tended to be either neglected or assumed to operate within a male/female binary” (Browne and Lim; 615). This then creates a sire of exclusion for underrepresented individuals that do not fit into this binary such as certain trans folk or two-spirited individuals.