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Narrative, Identity, and the Politics of Exclusion: Social Change and the Gay and Lesbian Life Course

Abstract

The social and political context of sexual identity development in the United States has changed dramatically since the mid twentieth century. Same-sex attracted individuals have long needed to reconcile their desire with policies of exclusion, ranging from explicit outlaws on same-sex activity to exclusion from major social institutions such as marriage. This paper focuses on the implications of political exclusion for the life course of individuals with same-sex desire through the analytic lens of narrative. Using illustrative evidence from a study of autobiographies of gay men spanning a 60-year period and a study of the life stories of contemporary same-sex attracted youth, we detail the implications of historic silence, exclusion, and subordination for the life course.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the collaborative role of Elisabeth Morgan Thompson, Andrew Pilecki, Jessica Andrews, Timothy Bartell, David Buennagel, Natasha Gintel, Leifa Mayers, Eric Windell, Emaline Friedman, and Jason Newman in the research described in this paper.

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Correspondence to Phillip L. Hammack.

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Hammack, P.L., Cohler, B.J. Narrative, Identity, and the Politics of Exclusion: Social Change and the Gay and Lesbian Life Course. Sex Res Soc Policy 8, 162 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-011-0060-3

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Keywords

  • Sexual identity
  • Homosexuality
  • Social policy
  • Exclusion
  • Discrimination
  • Narrative
  • Gay
  • Lesbian
  • Bisexual
  • Voice and silence