Jones, Lucy (under review) Essentialism and normativity in lesbian and gay youths’ coming out stories. Sexualities.
This article demonstrates, via discourse analysis of a group of young gay and lesbian people’s coming out stories, the salience of essentialist ideologies on their identity construction. The study reveals underlying normative assumptions in the young people’s narratives, including those associated with binary gender and innate sexual desire, which they employ in order to construct a culturally authentic sexual identity. Through close sociolinguistic analysis of interactions, it is shown how identity construction is directly influenced by broader ideologies. The analysis provides evidence of the continued prevalence of heteronormativity and homonormativity as key influences in young queer people’s identity work.
Jones, Lucy (under review) “I’m not proud, I’m just gay”: Lesbian and gay youths’ discursive negotiation of otherness. Journal of Sociolinguistics
This article outlines the shared identity construction of five gay and lesbian members of an LGBT youth group, situated in a conservative, working-class, Northern English town. It is shown that the young people’s identity work emerges in response to the homophobia and ‘othering’ they have experienced from those in their local community. Through ethnography and discourse analysis, and using theoretical frameworks from interactional sociolinguistics, the strategies that the young people employ to negotiate this othering are explored; they reject certain stereotypes of queer culture (such as Gay Pride or being ‘camp’), and reject the notion that their sexuality determines their social identity. It is argued that this reflects the stigma of their sexuality and their subsequent desire to ‘fit in’ and be ‘normal’. These findings contrast with previous sociolinguistic studies of sexual identities and those focused on older participants, providing evidence of the impact of homonormativity (Duggan 2002) on contemporary, Western gay identities.
with Georgina Turner, Sara Mills, Isabelle van der Bom, Laura Coffey-Glover and Laura L. Paterson (forthcoming 2018) Opposition as victimhood in media debates about same-sex marriage. Discourse and Society. 29(2).
Manuscript available here.
A summary of this paper can be found via the Discourses of Marriage Research Group blog.
In this paper, we take a queer linguistics approach to the analysis of data from British newspaper articles that discuss the introduction of same-sex marriage. Drawing on methods from CDA and corpus linguistics, we focus on the construction of agency in relation to the government extending marriage to same-sex couples, and those resisting this. We show that opponents to same-sex marriage are represented and represent themselves as victims whose moral values, traditions, and civil liberties are being threatened by the state. Specifically, we argue that victimhood is invoked in a way that both enables and permits discourses of implicit homophobia.
This work emerges from the Discourses of Marriage Research Group.
Jones, Lucy (forthcoming 2018) Discourses of transnormativity in vloggers’ identity construction. International Journal of the Sociology of Language
Draft manuscript available here.
This paper investigates the construction of two transgender vlogger personas, providing insight into the prevalence of normative discourses which may be drawn on when constructing transgender identities. Many transgender people around the world rely on the internet as a source of information and guidance; online video diaries (‘vlogs’), in which young people record and chart their experiences of transition, play a particularly important role. In this paper, discourse from two popular transgender vloggers is critically analysed. It is found that the vloggers index identities which are broadly in line with what Zimman (2012) terms the archetypal ‘true transsexual’, an ideological model of what it means to be ‘authentically’ transgender. This corresponds with heteronormative, essentialist expectations of binary gender. The vloggers are shown to authenticate their own experiences by stating what is ‘typical’ and positioning themselves as ‘experts’. Ultimately, it is argued that the version of transgender identity and experience that they put forwards reproduces prevalent discourses of normative gender and sexuality.
With Sara Mills, Laura L. Paterson, Georgina Turner and Laura Coffey-Glover (forthcoming 2017) Identity and naming practices in marriage and civil partnerships. Gender and Language, 11:3.
Manuscript available here.
Using data from an online survey of 1,000 respondents, this article demonstrates the continued prevalence of traditional, heteronormative practices regarding marriage and naming practices. The survey data reveals that it continues to be viewed as more ‘normal’ for a woman to take her husband’s surname in a heterosexual union. Whilst other options (such as the woman retaining the surname given to her by her parents, for instance) are often considered or taken following heterosexual marriage, these continue to be seen as a deviation from the norm. We find that the role of tradition is critical to people’s decision over what to do with their surname, whether they follow the culturally expected route or consciously deviate from it, and that it is broadly perceived that same-sex couples have comparably more freedom than heterosexuals to do as they choose regarding their names. Through qualitative, critical analysis of the discursive responses of those completing our survey, we demonstrate that heteronormative assumptions about a woman’s role in a relationship with a man have continued salience and that, for many heterosexual women, this leads to a conscious and often difficult negotiation of her own identity as both an individual and a wife. We also suggest that there is a cultural perception in the UK that same-sex couples’ relationships are intrinsically more equal than opposite-sex couples’, and that they benefit from standing outside of heteronormative traditions. This work emerges from the Discourses of Marriage Research Group.
Jones, Lucy (forthcoming 2017) Lesbian Identity Construction. In Kira Hall & Rusty Barrett (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality. Oxford University Press
Manuscript available here.
This chapter considers the relevance of cultural discourses to speakers’ indexing of recognizable ‘lesbian’ identities. It begins with a discussion of the ideological discourses that lesbian women have been found to draw upon in their interactions, explaining key aspects of lesbian culture and experience. It then provides a survey of linguistic research into lesbian discourse, offering an account of the mostly Western studies conducted to date. A critical discussion of the prevalence of ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ identities is provided, with the inclusion of data from the author’s ethnographic fieldwork with a lesbian community of practice. The chapter demonstrates that these normative notions carry symbolic value in the construction of some lesbian identities, but also argues – through an account of studies looking at same-sex identified women who identify with categories other than lesbian – for research that looks beyond the white, middle-class, western women who so far dominate work in this area.
Jones, Lucy (2016) “If a Muslim says ‘homo’, nothing gets done”: Racist discourse and in-group identity construction in an LGBT youth group. Language in Society, 45(1), 113-133.
Manuscript available here.
This article presents ethnographic data emerging from research with a group of LGBT young people, detailing the construction of a shared identity. Using discourse analysis, it shows how the group members position people of South Asian descent as a homogenous out-group, one framed as ‘other’ to their own in-group identity of ‘non-Asian’ due to the assumption that Asian people are homophobic. It is argued that this very local form of identity construction is facilitated by broader discourses of Islamophobia, as well as homonormative ideologies positioning gay people as white. The article therefore provides evidence to support Bucholtz and Hall’s (2005) claim that identity positioning relates not only to the interactional moment and the norms of a given ethnographic context, but that it also encompasses macro-level discourses and ideologies. It also, however, reveals the pervasiveness of Islamophobic discourses in Britain today, and the marginalisation of LGBT people of colour.