"Stay home": queer(y)-ing the heteronormative assumptions of COVID policy responses

Peter Matthews*, Daniel Edmiston

*Corresponding author for this work

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In early 2020, governments in many countries responded to uncontrolled community transmission of COVID-19 by instituting lockdowns, or shelter-in-place orders, of varying degrees of stringency. As we waited for the roll-out of vaccines to lower the mortality and morbidity of the viral infection, lockdowns were used repeatedly by governments across the world as a public policy measure to reduce transmission. In this chapter, we use the experiences of LGBT+ people during the COVID pandemic in the UK, as captured in research, to “queer” public management. Public policy, and its administration, routinely appeals to the circumstances, needs and preferences of the majority in designing services and distributing resources. There are all sorts of unintended and exclusionary consequences of this that preoccupy researchers interested in minoritized or marginalised populations. The public policy response to COVID-19 is of course no different. At times, this appeal to the majority has pivoted on a heteronormative understanding of what can and should constitute “home” and intimate relationships during times of public health crisis. At other times, a failure to recognise difference in the lives of all citizen-subjects has benefited LGBT+ people, but not sufficiently to fulfil their distinctive circumstances and needs. In this chapter, we demonstrate how policy responses to COVID-19 have tended to reflect a series of heteronormative assumptions that typically underlie public management, uniquely shaping the lives, security and opportunity of LGBT+ people.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on Public Management and COVID-19
EditorsHelen Dickinson, Sophie Yates, Janine O'Flynn, Catherine Smith
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781802205954
ISBN (Print)9781802205954, 9781802205947
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2024

Publication series

NamePolitical Science and Public Policy 2024
PublisherEE Elgaronline


  • Equality
  • Isolation
  • Poverty
  • Queer
  • LGBTQ+
  • Lockdown


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