Kyle Kirkup

Study program:
JSD law
Current affiliation:
University of Toronto

The human rights and dignity of LGBT individuals cannot be addressed by family law alone. Kyle Kirkup wonders whether it is possible to achieve equality for LGBT community members in the domain of criminal law.

From the Street to the Prison: Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Canadian Criminal Law

Over the last three decades, Canadian debates surrounding same-sex marriage and relationship recognition have tended to locate queer inequality squarely within the domain of family law. This is a startling development, particularly given the longstanding conflation between queerness and criminality in Anglo-American discourse. It is also surprising in a country such as Canada, where events including the decriminalization of homosexuality (1969) and the Toronto Bathhouse Raids (1981) mobilized communities and laid the foundation for the contemporary queer movement. Somewhat paradoxically, Kyle’s research takes us back to the future to examine the criminal law’s continued use as a tool that disciplines — and, at times, fails to discipline — those with unruly expressions of gender and sexuality. Weaving together policing on the street, stories from the courtroom, and experiences in prison, Kyle’s project analyzes Canadian criminal law as a site for maintaining, contesting, and transforming contemporary norms of gender identity and sexuality. 

Kyle Kirkup is a lawyer, academic, and writer.  He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, where he is a 2013 Trudeau Scholar and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada Graduate Scholar. Before joining the University of Toronto, Kyle completed graduate studies at Yale Law School (LLM, 2012). He also holds degrees from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law (JD, 2009) and the College of the Humanities at Carleton University (BHum, 2006).

In 2010-2011, Kyle served as a law clerk to the Honourable Madam Justice Louise Charron at the Supreme Court of Canada. He has also taught in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University, and worked at a national law firm in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Kyle’s research interests include criminal law and procedure, sentencing, and queer theory. His doctoral thesis, supervised by Brenda Cossman and Mariana Valverde, explores the role of police, courts, and prison officials in regulating contemporary norms of gender identity and sexuality. Kyle’s research has been published or is forthcoming in the Canadian Journal of Law and Society, the Supreme Court Law Review, the Ottawa Law Review, the Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues, and the Journal of Race, Gender and Ethnicity.

Kyle is also a frequent media commentator, most recently publishing editorials on solitary confinementtrans people in Canadian prisonsjudicial complaintssex work and HIV non-disclosure in The Globe and Mail and and the National Post. He also also been interviewed by the CBC, The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the National Post, The Lawyers WeeklyXtra!, The McGill Law Journal Podcast, and Torontoist about his research. In 2014, he appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as an expert witness.

Kyle recently served as the principal investigator for Best Practices in Policing and LGBTQ Communities in Ontario. Commissioned by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the project is the first of its kind in Canada. He is also a member of the Egale Canada Legal Issues Committee, and he served as the Conference Coordinator for the WorldPride Human Rights Conference 2014.

  • May 3, 2016
    Several Foundation members will take part in two major annual gatherings of Canadian academics: the 84thCongress of l'Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS) will take place from 9 to 13 May at Université du Québec à Montréal on the theme of “Meeting points,” and the 85thCongress of the Humanities and Social Sciences will take place at University of Calgary, from 28 May to 3 June on the theme of “Energizing communities.”
  • November 13, 2014,
    2013 Trudeau scholar Kyle Kirkup participated on a panel entitled BDSM Consent and the Law that was held at the University of Toronto on 13 November 2014. The panel discussion can be viewed here.
  • August 13, 2013
    2013 Trudeau Scholar Kyle Kirkup was invited at CBC's Metro Morning to talk about his research with the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. The first of its kind in Canada, “Best Practices on Policing and LGBTQ Communities in Ontario” examines the relationship between police services and members of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities in Ontario.