In 2012, I conducted an ethnographic research project with a youth group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, based in the North of England. The young people involved were aged between 15 and 22, and it was truly humbling to work with them and spend time getting to know them.
The first paper to emerge from this has been 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 tend to share.
A second paper, presented at IGALA 9 in Hong Kong in 2016 and now under review for the Journal of Sociolinguistics, explores the ways in which the members of the LGBT youth group 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. The abstract for the written version of this paper is here.
I am currently working on a third paper, which I intend to submit to Sexualities journal, exploring stories that the gay and lesbian members of the group told me about how they ‘came out’. In the paper, I plan to 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.