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New to U of T, Julie Moreau explores relationship between sexual identity and legal equality

Julie Moreau says Toronto’s reputation as a “global queer city” was also attractive, given her strong focus on activist groups in LGBTQI social movements (photo by Diana Tyszko)

There is a long list of reasons why Julie Moreau chose to join the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto.

The university’s reputation for excellence and the fact that U of T is financially accessible to students from all walks of life were important considerations, as was the opportunity to work in a public institution and serve the public good.

“That’s all very much in line with my politics personally,” says Moreau, an assistant professor of political science and sexual diversity studies who recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington in St. Louis.

Toronto’s reputation as a “global queer city” was also attractive, given her strong focus on activist groups in LGBTQI social movements.

“There are many organizations doing great work here, and it’s interesting to think about the different types of research projects I can develop based in Toronto,” says Moreau, who was born in Philadelphia and did her PhD at McGill University before teaching at Northern Arizona University for two years.

As an educator who stresses the value of collaboration to her students, Moreau was equally intrigued that her position was a cross-appointment between the department of political science and U of T's Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.

“The political science department gives me the opportunity to work with something like 80 colleagues who are all doing fascinating and diverse research, so there is no shortage of folks to talk to and collaborate with,” she says.

“And the centre is interdisciplinary, so I get to work in a rich intellectual environment and work with scholars in many fields.”

This fall, Moreau is teaching a third-year political science course called Sex in the State, and a fourth-year course, Global Sexualities. In the spring, she’ll teach courses on sexual diversity politics and the politics of sexuality in Latin America.

The courses connect to Moreau’s research on politics and sexuality in the global south, particularly the expansion of rights to LGBTQI citizens. Her book manuscript, After Equality: Organizing Lesbian Citizenship in South Africa & Argentina, draws on her field research in Buenos Aires and Cape Town examining sexual identities within the context of legal equality.

Another project she is working on examines the diffusion of same-sex marriage norms in Latin America, and she is also part of a collaboration that looks into LGBTQI Latinx political participation in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

While Canada prides itself on its sexual diversity policies, Moreau says her students are often surprised to hear about inclusive legislation in South Africa and Argentina. South Africa legalized same-sex marriage shortly after Canada did and Argentina has arguably the most inclusive gender identity laws of any country in the world.

But inclusion goes beyond sexuality and gender.

“In order to understand the demands groups are making, or what the consequences of political inclusion are going to be, we can’t just look at sexual and gender identities,” says Moreau.

“We need to be looking at other factors, like race, class and religion. No one bears just one identity at any given time.”

She cites the example of the recent so-called “Nashville Statement” by evangelical Christian leaders laying out their opposition to such things as same-sex marriage, a position that ignores the existence of Christians who are also members of the LGBTQI community.

Moreau says she feels proud when students tell her she has taught them to think critically about issues they previously took for granted, and say they can share their insights in class and feel respected.

Noting that it is important for academics to listen to other voices, Moreau says she has deep respect for the activist groups whose work she studies.

“These are people who do astute social and political analysis of issues and take action to make the world a better place, and I feel very lucky to be part of that.”