Organized Leisure Experiences of LBGTQ Youth: Resistance and Oppression

By Theriault, Daniel | Journal of Leisure Research, August 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

Organized Leisure Experiences of LBGTQ Youth: Resistance and Oppression


Theriault, Daniel, Journal of Leisure Research


Introduction

Theoretical rationale and empirical evidence for the causes and incidences of negative experiences are primary topics of interest within the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and queer (LBGTQ) literature (Savin-Williams, 2008; Talburt, 2004; Talburt 8c Rasmussen, 2010). Speculative explanations for the working of oppression among LBGTQ populations have been offered by Rubin (1993) and Rich (1980), among others (e.g., Butler, 1990; 1993). For instance, Rubin (1993) argued people distinguish normal from abnormal sex through hierarchies such as heterosexual or homosexual, and married or unmarried. Classification of certain sex acts, such as homosexual sex, as deviant offers one explanation for the pervasive discrimination against LBGTQ populations in terms of, for example, the absence of sexuality in many anti-discrimination policies.

Other researchers have documented the incidence of problem behaviors among LBGTQ youth, such as suicide, depression, and use of illicit substances (Garofalo, Wolf, Kessel, Palfrey, 8c Durant, 1998; Marshal et al., 2008; Russell 8c Joyner, 2001). These studies have often found that LBGTQ populations experience a higher rate of problem behaviors than their heterosexual counterparts. Problem behaviors often arise as a response to oppressive conditions in a variety of contexts, including leisure. For example, researchers have investigated how LBGTQ populations confront and negotiate harmful stereotypes such as, "male basketball players date female cheerleaders" which function to ignore or demean same-sex relationships as well as partnerships between individuals that do not fit into traditional male/female classifications. Findings have demonstrated that some youth that identify as members of a non-dominant sexuality retain positive benefits of leisure participation despite discrimination, but many also avoid activities or prefer to participate mainly with other members of the LBGTQ community (Johnson, 1999; Kivel, 1994; Kivel & Kleiber, 2000; Lewis & Johnson, 2011). Similarly, gay-straight alliance clubs have been cited as providing leisure experiences in which sexual diversity is advocated for, supported, and celebrated (Lee, 2002; MacGillivray, 2005; Russell, Muraco, Subramaniam, & Laub, 2009). These adaptive responses to discrimination may constitute resistance in the Foucaultian sense, that is, behaviors that elude the domination of oppression (Prickett, 1996).

Research with non-LBGTQ populations has further underscored the potential of leisure as a site of resistance. For example, studies have also shown that leisure settings and experiences can provide women with opportunities to engage in resistance by challenging hegemonic ideals about femininity or confronting constraints on leisure participation and practice (Shaw, 1994; 2001; Wearing, 1990; Yuen 8c Pedlar, 2009). However, the ways that LBGTQ youth resist oppression remain understudied. Thus, the purpose of this study was to further explore oppression and resistance in the leisure experiences of LBGTQ youth.

Theoretical Framework

The postmodern feminist framework of Foucault (1990) takes inequitable power relationships, such as those characterized by oppression and resistance, as a starting point for explorations of the social world. Inequitable power relationships become oppressive when individuals' "ability to develop and exercise their capacities and express their needs, thoughts, and feelings" (Young, 1990, p. 39) is inhibited. Oppression might entail prohibiting behaviors such as leisure participation, creating behaviors such as adopting 'heterosexual' behaviors and mannerisms in order to avoid abuse or harassment, depriving one of developmental resources such as information or social support, or physical violence (Foucault, 1982; Prickett, 1996; Young, 1990).

Power relationships are marked by resistance in everyday life because domination is never complete. These spaces and moments in which people are not rendered completely docile hold possibilities for resistance or eluding power (Prickett, 1996). …

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