Stories told/stories rejected: Narrations of queer identities

Jason Evan Mihalko (2003)

The narrative paradigm suggests that stories told to one another represent one way people organize and interpret phenomena. This qualitative study examined some narratives that eleven interview participants told about their queer identities. A consensus coding process was used during an initial examination of archival interview transcripts in which queer people talked about their perceptions of their own identities as queer people. Instances were isolated in which participants told a narrative about a particular kind of queer identity, rejected that narrative, and replaced it with a counter-narrative. These instances were examined utilizing both content-categorical and holistic-content narrative strategies. Rejected narratives generally were those that described queer people as abnormal, people who violate gender roles, people who have a choice about sexual orientation, people whose identity is defined solely by sexual activity, people who meet specific criteria of certain social groups, and people who must strive for perfection. Rejected narratives were attributed to heterosexual people, to other queer people, to society in general, and to a nebulous they . Counter-narratives that participants used to replace rejected narratives generally described queer people as being not like other people, as non-homogenized, as being born queer, and as having no sex or being conflicted about sex. Some respondents attempted to undo negative narratives of homonegativity and heteronormativity (H&H) that are omnipresent in the ways queer people are talked about through offering no replacement narratives about queer people and instead offering a boarder socio-political analysis, engaging in a reflexive move, engaging in a dialogue to better understand H&H, or offering no narratives. While no respondent was able to fully counteract the effects of H&H, the interviews suggested processes in which change can occur. Implications are discussed on the individual level with specific invitations issued to psychotherapists and a vision is presented of a world without H&H.