“On These Bones: The Queer Regenerations of the Toronto Gay Village Serial Killings” article by CFR Research Associate Jin Haritaworn in TOPIA 40

Forthcoming in TOPIA 40 by Dr. Jin Haritaworn

Article abstract:

The story of Bruce McArthur, the white gay man convicted of killing eight men, most of whom were South and West Asian, repeats the well-worn trope of the rotten apple.

But unlike with other serial killers, whose pathological qualities often become a media focus, it is Bruce McArthur’s uncanny normalcy—his everyman qualities, his fun disposition, his regular status as a well-known and well-liked patron and entrepreneur on Church Street—that came to dominate the local and national mediascape. This innocent view of the gay village and its wider surrounding entities—city, nation, West—is put into question by the subjugated archives of the queer and trans Black and Indigenous people and people of colour (QTBIPOC) who contributed to the collaboratively curated archive that this article is born from (Choi 2018; Haritaworn, Moussa and Ware 2018; Haritaworn, Moussa and Ware with Rodriguez 2018; Moussa 2019, Rodriguez and Panag 2016; Ware 2017).

In this archive, the successful territorialization of the village becomes apparent as an effect of a carceral city that is not only neoliberal, but also racial and colonial, and that treats low-income trans women of colour in particular as excessive. Using media ethnography conducted in 2017 and 2018 (before McArthur went to trial) as well as writings by and interviews with QTBIPOC in Toronto conducted between 2014 and 2018, the article provides a snapshot of the saga, which at the time of publication is ongoing, and which occurs at the particular historic conjuncture of a waning diversity regime that identifies respectable LGBT subjects as its transitional objects, of the global rebirth of an unfettered racism that is revealing itself behind its neoliberal multicultural camouflage, and of a finance-capitalist condominium boom that is fast erasing the traces of QTBIPOC loving and living.

To queer urban justice in this lethal environment, and to prefigure futures that go beyond murderous inclusions, means to remember differently and to step into the unfinished legacies of geographic and historical subjects who are rarely missed and whose removal has been constitutive of urban and academic spaces designated progressive.