Belonging, Exclusion, and Imagined Community: LGBTQ Life in Two Mid-Sized U.S. Cities

Troia, Bailey, Sociology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Press, Andrea, Sociology, University of Virginia

This dissertation is about ambivalence and belonging in a particular time period in the U.S. where national politics and culture place LGBTQ people in a precarious middle ground. In this project, I consider the ways in which ambivalence towards LGBTQ people on a national level impacts queer and trans folks’ everyday lives. This project draws on 79 semi-structured in-depth interviews with LGBTQ adults in Cincinnati, Ohio and Richmond, Virginia to analyze experiences of belonging and exclusion within families of origin and local community. I argue that ambivalent acceptance across multiple institutions and contexts can not only accompany emotional and mental health consequences, but contribute to material precarity.

In this project, I explore how LGBTQ respondents cultivate, maintain, and seek to improve familial ties with parents who are not definitively or consistently supportive of their sexual and/or gender identities, with particular focus on contradictory and disapproving responses from parents. I explore how LGBTQ respondents utilized various rationales to maintain family ties – especially to gain acceptance (or tolerance) from parents - engaging in a process of what I call "bargaining for belonging" with(in) family. I show how community could occasionally act as a buffer in the face of familial ambivalence. However, I show how respondents often experienced barriers to local social support that compounded their experiences of unbelonging. In this project, trans and nonbinary respondents were disproportionately likely to express an ambivalent sense of belonging within community networks, marked by occasional support combined with marginalization and discrimination. I show that for some trans and nonbinary adults, ambiguous acceptance within their families and community connections compromised their ability to maintain financial stability and locate safe and consistent housing. Ambivalent belonging across contexts contributed to material insecurity and what I call a "cycle of precarity" that pushed multiply marginalized LGBTQ respondents into financial instability.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: