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Uneven Possibilities: Understanding Non-Heterosexual Ageing and the Implications of Social Change

Brian Heaphy and Andrew K. T. Yip
Sociological Research Online 8 (4) heaphy

Abstract: The article draws from focus group data generated for a UK study of the life circumstances of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals aged 50 and above, to consider some key elements of the conceptual framework we are developing for understanding the issue of non-heterosexual ageing. The article considers ways in which non-heterosexual ways of living have been positively evaluated as 'prime' experiments in late modern ways of living, and identifies three core areas (identity, relationships and community) where it has been argued that lesbian and gay lifestyles can be viewed as indicators of the implications of social change. Employing the data to discuss the notion of 'do-it-yourself' biographies, we identify a number of factors that work to enable and limit an empowered sense of self amongst older lesbians and gay. In doing so, we also highlight the uneven possibilities that exist for self-creation in detraditionalised settings. Non-heterosexual couples and friendships can offer distinct possibilities for 'negotiated' and 'chosen' relationships. These are not, however, uniformly adopted or created by older non-heterosexuals. Finally, our data indicates that while non-heterosexual communities can provide crucial supports and resources for their members, some older lesbians and gay men experience these communities as exclusionary. This raises a number of questions about the dynamics that facilitate inclusion or exclusion in reflexive or critical communities. While the article highlights that non-heterosexual ageing cannot be understood without reference the creative possibilities open to non-heterosexuals, and late modern individuals generally, we caution against celebratory accounts of both non- heterosexual and late modern ways of living, and of social and cultural constraints transformed, that is inherent within them.

Researching Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Christians and Muslims: Some Thematic Reflections

Andrew K. T. Yip
Sociological Research Online 13 (1) 5

Abstract: This paper highlights some thematic reflections primarily based on two empirical research projects on lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) Christians and Muslims. It begins by discussing reflexivity by way of contextualising the subsequent exploration of specific themes. This is followed by a discussion of the plight of LGB Christians and Muslims which renders research on this population highly sensitive. The paper then explores the theme of researching meanings and lived experiences sensitively, focusing on the importance of being theoretically and culturally sensitive; and the relevance of methodological pragmatism and pluralism. It then proceeds to a detailed discussion of accessing 'hidden' populations and trust building; and the dynamics of the insider/outsider status. The paper concludes with a call for LGB research to take seriously intersectionality of contemporary LGB identity (e.g. sexual, religious, cultural, ethnic), and the role of religion/spirituality in LGB lives and politics.