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Citizenship, Normativity and Well-being: an Exploratory Analysis of the Life Narratives of Men in Civil Partnerships in the UK

Stocker, Robert (2014). Citizenship, Normativity and Well-being: an Exploratory Analysis of the Life Narratives of Men in Civil Partnerships in the UK. (Unpublished Post-Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Countries around the world provide various forms of legal recognition for same-sex relationships. In the UK, legal recognition for same-sex relationships first became available in 2005 with the introduction of civil partnership (CP) which remained the only option until 2014 when same-sex civil marriage legislation was passed in England, Wales and Scotland. In a context of heated debate and speculation, this thesis contributes to emerging literature on individual’s experiences of legal forms of same-sex relationship recognition by exploring how CP is experienced, given meaning, and situated biographically. The thesis draws on personal narratives elicited through qualitative life story interviews with 28 men from across the UK. Interviews covered the life course, but were thematically focused around CP to provide insight into: motivations for entering CPs; experiences of planning, constructing, and participating in CP ceremonies and celebrations; and meanings and impacts of becoming and being civilly partnered. The resulting co-constructed narratives were systematically analysed using narrative methods. Minority stress theory, along with other relevant theories and concepts, were employed to further illuminate, analyse, and interpret participants’ narratives. Two generational core-narratives were identified in participants’ biographical accounts. Older participants told stories of struggle and resilience, and younger participants told new narratives of normality. Despite some generational differences, all participants reported experiences consistent with minority stress, including coping and resilience mechanisms, arising from their gay social identities which remain subject to residual stigma. Participants’ accounts of CP revealed that becoming and being civilly partnered was largely, but not wholly, a positive experience which can be understood in terms of the overarching, and overlapping themes of citizenship, normativity and well-being. With regard to citizenship, participants welcomed the legal rights and recognition of CP which was seen to offer varying forms and degrees of equality. In terms of normativity, some participants reported that CP confirmed their perceived normality while others thought it was a normalizing process granting them normative identities. Furthermore, while some engaged in, or were compelled to engage in, arguably normative marital practices, others felt they were resisting these. Regarding well-being, becoming and being civilly partnered seemed to mitigate minority stress and contribute to well-being. Overall, the knowledge generated from the personal narratives presented in this thesis enriches debates, contributes broadly to the social sciences literature, and provides new perspectives on, and representations of, gay men’s identities, lives, and relationships.

Publication Type: Thesis (Post-Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
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