Voices of selves : the lives of six older lesbians and gay men and their negotiated making of the self

Pugh, Stephen Edward (2010). Voices of selves : the lives of six older lesbians and gay men and their negotiated making of the self. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d3c8


This thesis aims to achieve an understanding of the development of sexual selves and the impact that growing older has had on the sense of self of three older lesbians and three older gay men. The research project upon which it is based involved multiple in-depth interviews that were undertaken in a two year period from 2005.

The stories that were told to me indicate that the older lesbians and gay men have been very clear about their sense of their sexual selves - they are lesbian and gay. Living their lives alongside the structures that are privileged by heteronormativity, they also constructed a clear sense of separation - they were not the same as heterosexuals and as such their very `being' became a site of resistance. As older people, their sense of self is much more complex as they articulate their understanding of what it means to be both old and lesbian or gay. Their narratives clearly indicate that as they engaged in a process of self-making and negotiated the tensions involved in constructing the self as `other' when they were younger so they are continuing these processes in later life.

In seeking to understand the stories about constructing the self that is an older lesbian or gay man, this thesis rejects the dominant discourses in social gerontology and post-Enlightenment constructs of the self in favour of dialogism which is based upon very different assumptions. This approach facilitates an understanding of the self which is negotiated in dialogue that in turn has specific contexts such as time and relationships. As a consequence the focus rests with how the individual negotiates the contradictions that arise from their own understanding of what it means to be an older lesbian or gay man and in doing so construct new meanings of self.

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