Learning to construct our identities over the life course: a study with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults in Scotland

McAllister, Christopher (2016) Learning to construct our identities over the life course: a study with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults in Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

To date, adult educational research has had a limited focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) adults and the learning processes in which they engage across the life course. Adopting a biographical and life history methodology, this study aimed to critically explore the potentially distinctive nature and impact of how, when and where LGBT adults learn to construct their identities over their lives. In-depth, semi-structured interviews, dialogue and discussion with LGBT individuals and groups provided rich narratives that reflect shifting, diverse and multiple ways of identifying and living as LGBT. Participants engage in learning in unique ways that play a significant role in the construction and expression of such identities, that in turn influence how, when and where learning happens. Framed largely by complex heteronormative forces, learning can have a negative, distortive impact that deeply troubles any balanced, positive sense of being LGBT, leading to self- censoring, alienation and in some cases, hopelessness. However, learning is also more positively experiential, critically reflective, inventive and queer in nature. This can transform how participants understand their sexual identities and the lifewide spaces in which they learn, engendering agency and resilience. Intersectional perspectives reveal learning that participants struggle with, but can reconcile the disjuncture between evolving LGBT and other myriad identities as parents, Christians, teachers, nurses, academics, activists and retirees. The study’s main contributions lie in three areas. A focus on LGBT experience can contribute to the creation of new opportunities to develop intergenerational learning processes. The study also extends the possibilities for greater criticality in older adult education theory, research and practice, based on the continued, rich learning in which participants engage post-work and in later life. Combined with this, there is scope to further explore the nature of ‘life-deep learning’ for other societal groups, brought by combined religious, moral, ideological and social learning that guides action, beliefs, values, and expression of identity. The LGBT adults in this study demonstrate engagement in distinct forms of life-deep learning to navigate social and moral opprobrium. From this they gain hope, self-respect, empathy with others, and deeper self-knowledge.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: LGBT identities, lifelong learning, life wide learning, life deep learning, intergenerational learning.
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Social Justice Place and Lifelong Education
Supervisor's Name: Osborne, Professor Michael
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Mr Christopher McAllister
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7707
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2016 14:42
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2016 08:23
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7707

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