9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Sexuality Across the Life Course Building I, 1E8

Being different - managing and living with state sponsored homophobia: the life course of 6 British older lesbians and gay men

This paper seeks to explore one aspect of the effect of state sponsored homophobia which has been made manifest in and has had a consistent presence through-out the lives of 6 older lesbians and gay men (3 women and 3 men) - the concept of separation - of not being the same as everybody else.

The current cohort of older lesbians and gay men were born in an era of severe reaction to their sexuality as the state enforced through legislation, policy and rhetoric the idea that lesbians and gay men were separate to the rest of society.

In developing a sense of themselves as they were growing up through the 1930's, 40's and 50's the paper will argue that the idea of separation became incorporated into the identities of older lesbians and gay men in the negative sense in which it was intended and was made manifest in the behaviour and attitudes of older lesbians and gay men as they engaged in same sex relationships and as they conducted their ordinary lives in a heteronormative society through-out their life course. The paper will present evidence which identifies that the concept of separation was also incorporated into their lives in a very positive sense which initially accounted for their sense of difference but appears to grown into a very positive expression of who they are based upon what they have lived through.

The evidence is drawn from 25 biographical interviews undertaken with the 6 older lesbians and gay men in a 2 year period from 2005. The paper will question whether such an idea is the manifestation of a cohort effect - the effect of growing up and being different at a time of severe oppression. The implication is that this cohort learned to cope with being separate from the rest of society. In particular the paper will ask whether the more individually positive manifestations of separation are the unintended consequence or backlash of oppression which have been reconstructed at a time when such oppression is much less severe and at a time of state sponsored social cohesiveness.