Larp as a Potential Space for Non-Formal Queer Cultural Heritage




gender, sexuality, LGBTQIA+, queer, heritage, larp, non-formal education, emancipatory bleed


Queer experience has, until very recently, been invisible or significantly misrepresented in cultural and scholarly fields of record including history, sociology, and ethnography. Self-recording of our lives, communities, and culture has occurred almost exclusively through non-formal means. Queer heritage has seen recent scholarly study of these non-formal means in the form of archives of oral histories, ephemera, and ethnographies. This work emphasises the critical role safer community, social, and performance spaces play in containing, creating, and disseminating queer histories and heritage. Despite this increased visibility, the need for more grassroots expressions of nonnormative genders and sexualities remains crucial for queer people to find support.

As part of my wider work exploring the potential live action role-playing games (larps) might have for the exploration of gender subjectivity through play, in this paper I suggest that larps can also provide a space to document, disseminate, and educate on queer experience, history, and culture. Larp is a democratic form of expression that does not require performance skill or training, but rather allows people to experience empowerment, including for those who come from marginalized backgrounds, i.e., through emancipatory bleed (Kemper 2020; Baird 2021; Cazeneuve 2021). Larp has on occasion been used for non-formal education on queer history, such as in the larp Just a Little Lovin’ (2011) about the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, which includes educational workshops and debriefs on notable historical and cultural themes (Groth, Grasmo, and Edland 2022). Larp used this way is not dissimilar to the way queer social and performance space has been co-created as a container for both meaning-making and heritage for LGBTQIA+ people. On this basis, I argue that game design that seeks to reflect and represent this kind of queer cultural production in social and performance spaces may allow for the non-formal education on LGBTQIA+ lives and heritage, as well as opportunities for personal (gender) expression, exploration, and embodiment.




How to Cite

Baird, J. (2023). Larp as a Potential Space for Non-Formal Queer Cultural Heritage. International Journal of Role-Playing, (14), 71–81.