This led to her homelessness, but again she found herself in an abusive relationship, this time with a woman, who was very controlling, for example tracking the calories she ate
‘an online relationship with a partner and I went to live with them, but they were very abusive and so I was in a very difficult situation then as well where I was trying to escape from that abuse. I was essentially kept housebound for a month and a half, two months, which was terrifying, obviously. They lived in a town far away from a city – public transport was difficult – so that took me a while. I got out of that in June.’ – Kai
This was on top of experiences of abuse within their family of origin. Another participant, Anna, who was bisexual had experienced domestic abuse in a relationship with a man: ‘I had been living there for three years and my ex was not a good person sometimes – very violent and occasionally angry’. This meant she experienced a continued period of housing insecurity.
The situations outlined above are all horrible, and in this analysis we do not wish to minimise the distress and harm that these experiences caused our participants. But following McN ), and looking at how these people described their move to homelessness, in difficult situations it was a choice which allowed another part of their identity – their sexuality or gender – to flourish in a much better way. The ‘thin rationality’ and agency that these people expressed can be contrasted with the appalling situation Kat, a recent in-migrant, found themselves in:
‘Just my previous boss is gay and his boyfriend (my friend) is gay. My friend (my second boss) is interested sexually about me and he tried a few times, last May, to have something with me. I said no and the big problem started after this because I said no.’ – Kat
Kat’s sexual identity is involved in this story of becoming homeless, but ultimately their homelessness was caused by an exploitative employer, who also happened to be gay, who took away their tied accommodation. This extreme vulnerability contrasts sharply with the other participants’ experiences, where homelessness was intertwined in a complex way with the people’s emerging identities and broader experiences of exclusion and abuse. For many of our participants to become comfortable with their identity required a home, for as suggested by Noble ( 2002 , p. 57) ‘the home provides for most people a grounded space for identity work.’
Lack of security and identity
Sommerville (2013, p. 408) suggests that ‘[b]eing at home in the world (or ‘home’, for short) is a multidimensional phenomenon, comprising a complex assemblage of relationships of a number of different kinds’. In particular home offers comfort in a sense that ‘refers not just to our immediate sensory satisfaction but to a less explicit and more general sense of familiarity with space-the feeling of being ‘at home’-and in relation to the larger world’ (Noble, 2002 , p. 56). This becomes apparent when we consider the experiences of homelessness and transitions out of homelessness of our participants. Here, a link between comfort within one’s own queer identity in a heteronormative society, and comfortable experiences of being at home becomes apparent during and then out of experiences of homelessness.
To begin by focussing on insecurity, most of our participants described periods when they were precariously housed – living with friends, or in hostel accommodation that was unsuitable for them. This lack of security was felt by our participants who had ‘sofa surfed’ – that is, slept at friends’ houses without their own bedroom or secure tenancy – as a feeling of being in the way. As explained by Michael: