By Francesca Ammaturo and Olimpia Burchiellaro

Abstract: LGBTQI+ spaces have always provided LGBTQI+ communities with forms of intimacy and belonging beyond the heteronormative precincts of everyday life. In the wake of COVID-19, however, new forms of LGBTQI+ sociality, solidarity and community have emerged. These are in response to the social isolation and economic vulnerability engendered by the crisis but have also exposed some of the limitations of ‘actual’ LGBTQI+ spaces themselves. The ‘queer house party’, a weekly virtual event which takes place on an online video-sharing platform and attracts around 200-300 participants every Friday night, is one such form of community and place -making which demonstrates the different forms of life that develop in times of crisis. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork conducted at these virtual queer parties with the DJs, performers, participants and activists who populate these spaces, the paper will investigate how LGBTQI+ people navigate virtual worlds during COVID-19 and how these spaces reconfigure participants’ relationship to space, place and personhood.

In particular, the paper is interested in doing away with deterministic depictions of technology as either our saviour or as evidence of our impending doom, and with understandings of virtual forms of belonging as ‘failed intimacies’ that disrupt the flows or ‘normal life’. At a time in which established flows, certainties and ‘normal’ experiences of space and time have been reconfigured, the paper will ethnographically attend to the ‘queerness’ of the virtual and the virtuality of ‘queerness’ in order shed light on the practices of social interaction and intimacy that emerge through LGBTQI+ virtual worlds.

Keywords: queer theory, virtual worlds, LGBTQI+ communities, performativity, ethnography

Francesca Ammaturo is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Human Rights at the University of Roehampton, focusing on the study of LGBTQI+ rights and social movements in Europe. Francesca’s works is interdisciplinary, versatile and with a strong critical edge. During the last five years, she has been contributing to the field of LGBTQI+ studies by writing on a range of issues, from homonationalist sexual citizenship in Europe to debates on “gestational surrogacy” in Italy. – 

Olimpia Burchiellaro is a Leverhulme Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Westminster, focusing on the politics of homocapitalism in the global south. Olimpia’s work is interdisciplinary, primarily ethnographic and with a strong activist dimension. She has contributed to the field of organization studies, politics and anthropology by writing on a range of issues, including the politics of LGBTQI+ inclusion in London, feminist approaches to organizations, LGBT-friendly organizations and gentrification. –