Normativity in an LGBT youth group

In 2012, I conducted an in-depth ethnographic project with an LGBT youth group in the North of England, with participants aged between 15 and 22 – this is detailed below. I’m currently also working on a British Academy/Leverhulme-funded project with three additional youth groups at locations around the UK.

The first paper to emerge from my work with the Northern England youth group was published in Language in Society. This work analyses interviews that I’ve conducted with some of the group members, and argues that underlying assumptions about the links between ethnicity and sexuality are evident in the data. Specifically, the mostly white young people use language which positions Asian people as a homogenous, inherently homophobic group, and tend to position the LGBT experience as one which only white people share.

A second paper, published in Journal of Sociolinguistics, explores how the young people position themselves in line with discourses which draw on prevalent homonormative ideologies to construct their own sense of legitimate citizenship and downplay the significance of their non-heteronormativity. However, this identity work stands in opposition to the actual lived experiences of the young people outside of their youth group setting; they are frequently subjected to homophobia by members of their local community, and positioned as other by significant people in their lives.

A third paper was published in Sexualities journal, exploring stories that the gay and lesbian members of the group told me about how they ‘came out’. In the paper, I show that the young people draw on essentialist ideologies associated with binary gender and innate sexual desire, in order to construct a culturally ‘authentic’ sexual identity.

In 2015, I was invited back to do some more work with the transgender members of the Northern England group – more information on that is here.

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