Beyond Binary Places: The Social and Spatial Dynamics of Coming Out in Canada


  • Nathaniel M. Lewis Gender and Health Promotion Studies Unit School of Health and Human Performance Dalhousie University


LGBTQ, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer, migration, oppositional spaces, countryside, metropolis, coming-out, migration narratives, place, social dynamics


This article contributes to the growing body of literature linking migration to coming out among gay, lesbian, and other queer individuals. Much of the extant literature frames or imagines these migrations as journeys between sets of oppositional spaces. The common metaphorical trope of moving from inside to outside of “the closet” is frequently equated with moving from a conservative country to a more liberal one or from the homophobic countryside to an accepting metropolis. This discourse abstracts the role of place in coming-out migrations and flattens the complexity of the challenges and concerns that drive them. This analysis of migration narratives among 24 self-identified gay men living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, frames coming-out migrations as emerging from the complex interplay of individuals’ needs and desires and the networks and institutions they occupy in places (i.e., the social dynamics of places) and not just a flat “mismatch” between one’s sexuality and a place’s containerized attributes or characteristics. The discussion elaborates on motivators for coming-out migration influenced by the social dynamics of the places that respondents were both situated in and seeking out. These include moving to advance gay life courses perceived to be stunted, moving to seek anonymity during the coming-out process, and moving to lessen the imagined social and familial burdens associated with coming out.


How to Cite

Lewis, N. M. (2015). Beyond Binary Places: The Social and Spatial Dynamics of Coming Out in Canada. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 12(2), 305–330. Retrieved from