Troubled rainbows: an anthropological study of LGB communities and sectarianism in Northern Ireland
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date25/11/2020
This thesis examines the intersection of LGB communities with sectarianism in Northern Ireland. Against the widespread notion, maintained both within and outside LGB circles, that there was no space for divisions within LGB groups, this study shows how the contradictory narratives and behaviour of my interlocutors reveals the embeddedness of sectarianism within LGB communities as well as the reproduction of sectarian dynamics by these same groups and individuals. Drawing on fifteen months of fieldwork in Northern Ireland, conducted between January 2013 and June 2014, the manifestations and legacies of sectarianism are explored by taking into account specific issues affecting the everyday experiences of LGB people. From the analysis of public events, such as the Gay Pride parade and Orange Marches, a tension emerges between fixity and change, as well as between a desire for LGB people to be an active presence in the social landscape and a fear of the consequences of being seen. Such concern is also manifest within the family realm, where forms of concealment and control of information about one’s sexuality were deployed to safeguard relationships and status. The impossibility of considering gay politics outside of a sectarian framework becomes evident in a number of instances: discussion around the common belief that it is easier to be a gay Catholic than a gay Protestant, the marginalisation of women within LGB associations, and public discourse on marriage equality. By ranging from the private sphere of families and interpersonal relationships to public policies and debates, this thesis shows how sectarianism was and still is entrenched in the lives of LGB people in Northern Ireland, and uncovers through their stories the less visible instances of post-Good Friday Agreement divisions.