9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Sexuality in the Workplace Building I, 1E10

Forms of Resistence to Workplaces' Symbolic Heteronormative Order

In order to produce a significant contribution to our understanding of how minority sexual identity is constructed and managed at work, I will present five challenges that non-heterosexual workers pose to Italian public and private workplaces in order to counteract to the heteronormative hegemony of organizational contexts.
The empirical background is based on 32 narrative interviews conducted to self-defined non-heterosexuals who had came out with at least one person in their workplace.
Coming out is not considered as a single event that happens once, but it's defined as a process, being a performative act that is reiterated, following Butler's definition of performance (1993).
Following the stories' analysis about challenging the symbolic gender order in organizations (Gherardi and Poggio, 2007), I identified five ways of resisting to the symbolic heteronormative order of workplaces. First of all, I've recognized three distinctive features characterizing non-heterosexuals narratives about work life: the degree of visibility, the committment showed towards work, and the centrality of sexual identity in the workplace.
These five challenges are:
1) the challenge through professionalism characterizes men occupied in managerial positions that give value to a sharp division between private and professional sphere. They usually try to silence their sexual identity at work.
2) the challenge through peripheral symbolic presence is performed by workers that have an high degree of committment and try to manage both professional and relational satisfaction by coming out only with colleagues that they trust.
3) the challenge through temporary symbolic presence is characterized by a lower committment. These workers have come out with everybody in the organizational context because they hope for a surpassing of gender and sexual identity.
4) the challenge made possible by constant symbolic presence aims to completely change the organizational culture through practice and explicit reference to non-heterosexual way of living. Visibility has been reached gradually after evaluating how wokplace could have reacted to coming out.
5) the challenge as struggle is carried out by workers that daily take a stand towards discrimination.