Kyle Kirkup

Current affiliation:
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

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.

Sex Crimes: Queer Engagements with the Criminal Law from the Street to the Prison

Over the past three decades, debates in Canada surrounding the introduction of human rights protections, benefits for same-sex couples, and relationship recognition have tended to invoke a new legal subject, one draped in the garb of respectability. When members of queer communities have sought access to legal protections, they have tended to predicate their claims on respectable familial arrangements. Largely absent from this turn to respectability, however, is engagement with the criminal law, particularly in cases where queer people cannot be easily read as the victims of crime. Sex Crimes: Queer Engagements with the Criminal Law from the Street to the Prison returns to the criminal law to examine its continued use as a tool that disciplines — and, at times, fails to discipline — those who cannot be read in terms of respectability. The project weaves together the practices of policing on the street, stories about HIV non-disclosure from the courtroom, and the experiences of queer people in prison. This project argues that when queer people become ensnared in the repressive aspects of criminal justice, the contemporary legal system stops addressing the hardships they face due to their sexual and gender identities. While norms of substantive equality are now well entrenched in the fields of human rights law, family law, and constitutional law, these standards are cast aside when it comes to the administration of punishment. The project concludes by developing a theory of the law and order queer movement, arguing that when queer people code themselves as respectable victims of crime seeking protection from the punitive apparatuses of the carceral state, they run the risk of instantiating law and order agendas. As a result, they may inadvertently breathe new life into systems that continue to be used to discipline the most vulnerable members of queer communities. 

Dr. Kyle Kirkup is an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (Common Law Section). His research explores the role of constitutional law, criminal law, and family law in regulating contemporary norms of gender identity and sexuality.
Kyle’s work has appeared in the Canadian Journal of Law and Society, the Ottawa Law Review, the Supreme Court Law Review, the Osgoode Hall Law Journal, the Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues, and the Journal of Race, Gender and Ethnicity. He is currently working on a book length manuscript, under contract with UBC Press, titled Law and Order Queers: Respectability, Victimhood, and the Carceral State.

Kyle holds a doctorate from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law (SJD 2017), where he was a 2013 Trudeau Scholar and a SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholar. He also studied at Yale Law School (LLM 2012), the University of Ottawa 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 also taught advanced constitutional law in the Faculty of Law at Western University and worked at McCarthy Tétrault LLP in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Kyle is a frequent media contributor, most recently publishing editorials in The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Policy Options, and TVO on topics including judicial complaints, sex work, and HIV non-disclosure. Kyle has also appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as an expert witness and has written expert reports for the Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.