Queerying Notions of “Difference” Among Two Generations of Australians Who Do Not Identify Heteronormatively

  • Asha PerssonEmail author
  • Christy E. Newman
  • Mary Lou Rasmussen
  • Daniel Marshall
  • Rob Cover
  • Peter Aggleton
Original Paper


Non-normative genders and sexualities are often framed in research and popular discourse in terms of difference. This descriptor not only signals their departure from social norms, it also promotes the assumption that people who do not identify with traditional binary categories perceive themselves as different, and that their gender or sexuality is the core reason for this. This notion of difference seems particularly ripe for interrogation at a time when traditional categories of gender and sexuality are being disrupted by a burgeoning catalogue of non-binary and hyper-specific identity labels among young people on social network sites and elsewhere. What are we to make of difference in this emergent landscape? We explore this question, drawing on findings from a recent qualitative study of two social generations of Australians who do not identify heteronormatively. Our analysis suggests that the notion of sexuality and gender difference as a coherent basis for identity was far from straightforward in either generation, even though difference figured in notably divergent ways in the two groups. We consider what these tensions around difference might mean for the contemporary politics of gender and sexual identity categories.


Binary categories Difference Gender and sexuality Generations Identity labels Normativity Queer Traces 



We are grateful to research participants, partners and funders. The Belonging and Sexual Citizenship Among Gender and Sexual Minority Youth study [also known as ‘Queer Generations’ project] received funding from the Australian Research Council as a Discovery Project 150101292 (2015–2019), led by Professor Peter Aggleton, Professor Mary Lou Rasmussen, Associate Professor Rob Cover and Dr. Daniel Marshall. The work described in this paper was also supported by the Centre for Social Research in Health, which receives funding from UNSW Arts and Social Sciences and the Australian Government Department of Health. Data collection for this paper was undertaken by the second author (CN), Toby Lea and Max Hopwood. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Government or the Australian Research Council.


Funding was provided by Australian Research Council (Discovery Project 150101292).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Social Research in HealthUNSW SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of SociologyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.School of Communication and Creative ArtsDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  4. 4.School of Social SciencesUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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