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The Regulation of Desire: Queer Histories, Queer Struggles

Revised Third Edition

Gary Kinsman

The third edition of this revolutionary text includes new chapters and an introduction from the author himself that contextualizes the work within today’s fight for liberation and equality in Canada

Originally published in 1987 during the panic around HIV/AIDS, The Regulation of Desire was the first book-length study of sexual regulation in Canada. Drawing on his long experience in anti-capitalist groups, the gay liberation movement, anti-racist and anti-police organizing, and AIDS activism, Gary Kinsman’s investigation of the social forces that produce both sexual regulations and resistance and enforce queer, trans, and Two-Spirit oppression laid the groundwork for subsequent studies of queer sexuality in Canada and beyond. It quickly became an essential work of scholarship and an expanded second edition appeared in 1996.

Ranging from the beginning of colonization to the twenty-first century, Kinsman’s historical-materialist approach attends to the specificities of race, class, and gender to show how desires, pleasures, and sexualities have been organized and regulated by state relations—in the service of patriarchal, capitalist, and imperialist relations. At the same time, Kinsman documents the emergence of Indigenous, gay, lesbian, and trans resistance, and the formation of queer and trans movements and communities.

This new edition of The Regulation of Desire includes new chapters on the rise of the neoliberal queer and the mainstreaming of white-defined homosexuality since the late 1990s, along with a new introduction by the author examining how the COVID-19 pandemic, the housing and poverty crisis, and the necessity of Indigenous liberation and police/prison abolition intersect with and transform the politics of queer liberation.

This new edition also features a foreword by OmiSoore Dryden and an afterword by Tom Hooper, plus updates to the text addressing topics such as the limitations of legal reform and same-sex marriage, and the emergence of transgender activism and abolitionist perspectives, moving far beyond limited rights approaches.

February 2024
$54.95 CAD | $49.95 USD
684 pages | 6 x 9
9781988111476 | Paper
9781988111483 | E-book

"Gary Kinsman’s The Regulation of Desire has been setting the agenda for queer scholarship for decades now, in Canada and elsewhere. Kinsman’s academic work has always been distinguished by his deep involvement in a range of radical social movements, and the additions and revisions to this third edition reflect that long experience. They would not have been possible without Kinsman’s first-hand knowledge of organizing, mobilizing, coalition-building, and solidarity work. The book offers powerful lessons about the limitations of single-issue sexual politics, making clear the connections between sexuality and anti-colonial struggles, the politics of housing, the climate crisis, Covid, and a whole range of other pressing and persistent issues that shape the world in which desires emerge. What I like best about this new edition, especially when I think about how it can be used in the classroom, is Kinsman’s own obvious and constant willingness to learn, and to put his learning into practice. His critiques of earlier editions of the book allow us to see the transformation of his thinking and of the social movements and activism that ground it. In addition to being a sweeping and ambitious narrative of the history of sexuality in this place called Canada, the third edition is also a master class in the way that scholarship and activist practice can combine to support a complex and liberatory politics." — Mary Louise Adams, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University

"The 3rd edition of Regulation of Desire by Gary Kinsman is a brilliant, thoughtful and captivating text.  It is one that offers us insight into his process of uncovering and disrupting the discourses and practices of whiteness, homonormativity, capitalism and neoliberalism of the contemporary white queer movement in Canada. In this new edition, Kinsman reveals how the social organizing of forgetting has worked to subvert the histories of organizing by Black, racialized, queer, trans and two-spirited people. He endeavors to address these erasures by centering the most recent revolts and uprisings by Black and Indigenous and Two-Spirit Peoples. Kinsman is an incisive, caring, radical, activist and scholar, whose new edition holds in its pages ways to create liveable queer futures." —Beverly Bain, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University of Toronto

“Gary Kinsman has once again undertaken the formidable challenge of tracing histories or queer and trans social movements and activism. Kinsman succeeds at this project by weaving the concepts of colonialism, neoliberalism, homonationalism, and anti-Black racism throughout. This new edition of The Regulation of Desire is also successful, and impactful, because it is based on the author’s activism, which has spanned decades and has engaged in critically important issues for queer and trans people. The inclusion of personal experiences and perspectives grounds and humanizes the texts, making it more accessible to researchers and students, and accountable to activists. These additions model how members of queer and trans communities can be self-reflective while engaging in research, activism, and community building.” —Alexa DeGagne, Women’s and Gender Studies, Athabasca University

"Hetero/Homo - Normal/Queer - Masculine/Feminine - Colonizer/Colonized - White/Black - Owners/Workers. Kinsman's Regulation of Desire provides vivid new insights into capitalist society's ruling binaries and the turbulent, frightening world we are living through, calling us to collective action for fundamental social change." —Jonathan Ned Katz, author, The Invention of Heterosexuality

“The 3rd edition of The Regulation of Desire is a pleasure to read and fills in many gaps on queer and trans social-movement literatures. Kinsman’s intellectual work de-essentializes historical materialism and simultaneously makes clear the relevance of queer and trans Black, Indigenous, and racialized lives in anti-capitalist struggle. This theoretical work comes alive through its documentation of contemporary social struggles and it is a stunning update of social-movement history and theory informing sexuality studies.” —Jamie Magnusson, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

“I remember, as an aspiring queer historian, eagerly reading The Regulation of Desire when it first appeared in 1987. Gary Kinsman’s pathbreaking book launched the history of sexuality as a field in this country. Over three decades later, this updated and expanded third edition remains as vital and necessary as ever. With a megaphone in one hand and a keyboard in the other, Kinsman gives us queer history in close conversation with the changing concerns of activist communities, be it resistance to the policing of sexual spaces in the 1980s, the AIDS activist movement of the ‘90s, or, in our own time, the critique of ‘Pride, Inc.’ politics by a resurgent transgender/Black/Two-Spirit/queer-of-colour radicalism. This is queer history from and for the streets. Buy it, read it, be inspired by the past struggles it documents, and use it in the fight for a freer, fairer, and queerer future for us all.” —Steven Maynard, Department of History, Queen’s University / Co-Chair, Canadian Committee on the History of Sexuality

"Read this book! Really, whoever you are, read this book: It matters to your life. The Regulation of Desire has been brought up to the minute with an erudite, generous third edition, addressing the historical and current formation of sexuality as a site of pleasure, resistance, and collectivity. Against gender essentialism and the white-washing of history, its attention to practices of agency and activity by the those the state aims to oppress or exploit is both instructive and inspiring. Gary Kinsman has long been an enormously significant anti-capitalist movement intellectual, crafting a lively practice of resistant remembering and illuminating histories that matter, with particular attention to race, class, colonialism, and more. This book gives us a grounded assurance that our own struggles - interconnected, irreducible, imperfect, ongoing - can produce collective movements that change the world. We have never needed this insight more." —Alexis Shotwell, author of Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times

"For more than three decades, Gary Kinsman has been a rigorous and fearless social historian, theorist, and activist whose work has concerned itself with the conditions that shape and structure queer life. In The Regulation of Desire, he brings the practices of social history and history from below together, combining theory and activism to plot how we collectively work against the forces that would literally take our queer lives. Kinsman’s insights, analyses, observations and, importantly, his participation in political struggles provides us an account from the heart of the struggle for queer lives to come into their fullness—and by that we mean the making of an entirely new world. This book was a crucial intervention more than two decades ago. Today its updated version is an urgent record of our failures, our accomplishments, and the ongoing struggle to invent new forms of relation to win the world we so desperately need." —Rinaldo Walcott, author of On Property: Policing, Prisons, and the Call for Abolition 

"Gary Kinsman has written a comprehensive historical account of the repression of queer and trans people, coupled with a cutting radical critique of colonialism, cisheteropatriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism and queer and trans respectability. The Regulation of Desire is an accessibly written indictment of not only the state that has endeavored to surveil, control and contain queer and trans communities, but also the neoliberal queers who are complicit with it. Kinsman maps resistance to repression, resisting “the social organization of forgetting” and helping us situate ourselves in history and struggle. With growing attacks on queer and trans communities, The Regulation of Desire is the book we need for this moment." —AJ Withers, author of Fight to Win: Inside Poor People’s Organizing and Disability Politics and Theory (Revised & Expanded ed.)

The e-book version of this title is available on our Manifold platform.

Foreword OmiSoore Dryden  xiii
Introduction to the Third Edition    xvii
Introduction to the Second Edition    lvii
1 The Creation of “Homosexuality” as a “Social Problem”  3
2 The Historical Emergence of Homosexualities and Heterosexualities: Social Relations, Sexual Rule, and Sexual Resistance  21
3 Sexualities in Canadian Histories—Problems of Sources and Interpretation  45
4 Sexual/Gender Colonization, Genocidal Practices, and Indigenous Resistance  51
5 Buggery and Sodomy in New France, Upper Canada, and the West  63
6 “These Things May Lead to the Tragedy of Our Species”: The Emergence of Homosexualities, Lesbianisms, and Heterosexualities  71
7 World War II, Coming Out, and Constructing Homosexuality as a National, Social, and Sexual Danger  101
8 The Struggle for Law Reform    153
9 Gay/Lesbian Liberation and Communities    217
10 Danger Signals: Moral Conservatism, the Straight Media, the Sex Police, and AIDS  247
11 The Emergence of the Neoliberal Queer: 1996–2023  283
12 Unmaking the Neoliberal Queer: From Resistance to Liberation    343
Afterword Tom Hooper 409

Gary Kinsman is a queer liberation, anti-oppression, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist activist and the co-author of The Canadian War on Queers: National Security as Sexual Regulation.

OmiSoore H. Dryden is James R. Johnston Endowed Chair of Black Canadian Studies in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University.

Tom Hooper is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University.

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