Professor lectures on LGBT issues in justice system

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018.  Queer Criminology Lecture.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018. Queer Criminology Lecture.

Rachel Matuszewski

On Tuesday, April 3, Carrie Buist, assistant professor in the school of criminal justice, spoke to Grand Valley State University students on her co-authored book “Queer Criminology.” 

Buist’s original research was on policing, but through her interviews she learned many of her participants identified as lesbian. Her interest from these encounters marked the shift in her focus on LGBTQ issues within the criminal justice system. Buist stressed to the audience that there are numerous issues members of the LGBTQIA or “queer” community must face on a daily basis.

Crimonology, which asks why people commit a crime, is answered through a number of platforms. Buist said mainstream criminology is research done by, for and about white males. Critical criminology was developed by college students in California who focused on class and race. Feminist criminologists said gender was the number-one predictor of crime and researched the experiences had by both girls and women. 

Buist asked students how they identified themselves. Students’ answers were athlete and male or female. She then asked students how they would feel if they were arrested for these qualities. Through this example, she explained that sometimes people who identify as queer are arrested for no reason other than who they are. 

“Queer criminology examines the experiences of LGBTQ folks as victims, offenders and criminal legal professionals,” Buist said. 

The remainder of Buist’s discussion was about the unfair arrests individuals who identify as LGBTQIA experienced. She reminded students of incidents such as the arrest of lesbians for dressing in a traditionally masculine way in 1957, transgender people taking part in the Stonewall riots of 1969 against the police and a gay club that was detained by police in Highland Park, Michigan, in 2003.

Another issue Buist discussed was bills that dictate who can use which restrooms. Although these laws were put in motion to protect others from inappropriate behavior, Buist said there have been more issues with politicians sexually assaulting people in public bathrooms and none regarding transgender people. 

“(I want students to know) the greater understanding of the issues that LGBTQ folks face,” Buist said. “The more we know, the more we can move towards not only tolerance but acceptance and justice.” 

As a student who identifies as queer and a millennial who is regularly flooded with similar stories on her social media feed, Lucretia Dunlap was familiar with a few of the cases Buist described. 

“I (think) hearing about the inequalities (queer students face) would make (students who do not identify as queer) confront the truth,” Dunlap said. “I hope (the examples we learned) would bring (this topic) to their attention (to see) just how unequal it is.”