Making Up Allies: The Identity Choreography of Straight LGBT Activism
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This qualitative study investigates the contemporary landscape of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) politics and activism, specifically the concept and identities of “straight allies.” Through in-depth interviews with 13 individuals who identify as straight allies, we explore how these heterosexuals engage in LGBT politics and activist cultures. We take a grounded theory approach to data analysis, through which the concept of “passive” and “active” activism emerges as a framework to understand these allies’ meaning-making practices, as well as how they negotiate the emotional, interpersonal, life-historical, and mass-mediated complexities of being straight allies when interacting with LGBT communities and engaging in pro-LGBT politics. We draw upon Thompson’s (2005) theory of ontological choreography to posit “identity choreography” as way to describe and make sense of the heterogeneous knowledges and experiences our participants use to constitute their straight ally identities and to evaluate others’ ally identities and activisms. Implications for future research on LGBT politics and straight allies, particularly in terms of education, attitude change, and activism, are discussed.
KeywordsAllies Activism Heterosexuals Identity Politics
This article is an extension of Jake Adler and Jennifer Blazer’s undergraduate honors thesis at Arizona State University under the direction of Patrick R. Grzanka. This research was funded by a Sol and Esther Drescher Memorial Faculty Development Grant from Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University. The authors wish to thank Joseph R. Miles, Ph.D. and Breanne Fahs, Ph.D. for their invaluable guidance throughout the thesis project and the audience at the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction’s 2014 annual meeting in San Francisco for their valuable feedback on an earlier version of this manuscript. Finally, we thank our interviewees for their generous participation in this research.
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