Out of the Country, Out of the Closet: Positioning in Gay Immigrants' Coming-Out Stories
De Fina, Anna
Queer coming out is widely discussed and theorized in the West. While the research on coming out has explored many of its aspects ranging from parental reactions (Denes & Afifi, 2014; Fields, 2001) to online identity formation (Craig & McInroy, 2015; Gray, 2009), a notable gap exists pertaining to coming out in cross-cultural contexts. Thus, there remains much to be studied regarding LGBTQ individuals’ lived experiences of coming out in different cultural backgrounds. This thesis investigates four gay Indian immigrants’ coming-out narratives in interviews; it highlights how the narrators bring about their social identities as they respond to available social constructs and the sociopolitical landscape in the U.S. Heeding Rust’s (1993) call for reconceptualization of coming out as “an ongoing dynamic process of describing one’s social location within a changing social context” (p.74), I use discourse analysis to examine the narrators’ use of linguistic devices to accomplish positioning in their coming-out narratives. This illuminates how these gay immigrants negotiate the challenges they face migrating from India to the U.S. and reveals their reflections on these contrastive sociocultural contexts.The analysis identifies and explicates three shared features in the coming-out narratives. First, responding to the interviewer’s question “what is coming out,” participants emphasize different aspects, including coming out to others and coming out to self, but omit the inner conflict of accepting their gay identities found in previous studies (e.g., Liang, 1997). Second, their engagement in local queer communities in the U.S. reinforces their openness toward disclosure of their gay identities that would otherwise be impossible in India, indicating their identification with the queer discourse pertaining to coming out and their understanding of the transition from one social context to another as facilitating coming out. Finally, they cast themselves against the backdrop of marriage to resist traditional Indian heteronormativity while affirming their gay identities in the U.S.
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