IDAHOT 2016 @ Surrey

I am so looking forward to this year’s IDAHOT event, not least because the thesis will be submitted.

Queer in Surrey presents….

Queer in Surrey IDAHOT 2016

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What is and how to do LGBT History?

Feb conference

I am rounding off LGBT History Month 2016 with a presentation at the third “What is and how to do LGBT History?” Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University tomorrow.

My presentation is the first paper in a three paper panel entitled:

“A queer turn of events: LGBTI Psychology, past and present”

The aim of our panel  is to track LGBT history within the discipline of psychology.  Psychology as a scientific discipline is relatively young.   Despite the youthfulness it has a long history of studying human sexuality that traces its roots to the pioneering work of sexologists such as Havelock Ellis and Richard von Krafft–Ebbing.  The panel presents the work of three social psychologists, myself,  Dr Katherine Hubbard and Professor Peter Hegarty, all of whom are engaged in work that critically examines the history of psychological research with sexual minority people.  Paper 1 by myself takes a broad sweep across the history of psychology to examine the changes in how the lesbian and gay individual, and more recently the bisexual and transgender individual, has been considered by the discipline over the years, tracking the shift from pathology to affirmation.  Paper 2 by Dr Katherine Hubbard focuses on a specific method of testing lesbians and gay men, employed by psychologists in the mid 20th century: the Rorschach Test.  Finally, paper 3 by Professor Peter Hegarty brings the focus of enquiry closer to the present day, taking a look at how the dichotomy of essentialism and choice has shaped developmental, social and clinical psychological enquiry in relation to sexuality in the more recent past.  Taking all the papers as a whole, the panel maps out the rich, but relatively short, history of the psychology of sexuality.

The abstract for my paper is here:

“From homosexual subject to queer participant: The changing position of the LGBT person in psychology”

Psychology and sexuality has had a long and turbulent relationship, with sexual minority people piquing both academic and medical interests since the inception of the discipline. From the early roots of enquiry in the field of sexology, the psy disciplines have endeavoured to understand the complex nature of sexuality.  The extant psychological LGBT research base falls into two distinct corpora.  On the one hand there is a body of research that holds the LGB or T  person as being the focus of research: that is the subject.  The second body of work engages with heterosexual perceptions of the LGB or T subject.  This paper will focus on the former body of work, seeking to chart the changing discourses that have shifted the psychological focus.  Starting with the homosexual subject, the examination of whom was necessary in the quest to establish the aetiology of homosexuality, via a discourse of pathology and cure, to affirmative and positive psychological explorations of the lives of queer participants that provide insight into the unique issues that impact LGBTI lives and ultimately informs the practice of psychologists and psychotherapists working with LGBTI people.


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#AcWriMo 2015 – what I have learned from week 1

I am on a deadline which is fast approaching – a little thing called a thesis needs to be submitted within the next few months and I still have what seems like loads of writing to do. So in order to get some progress on the writing that needs to be done I decided I needed some accountability and motivation and signed up for Academic Writing Month, or  #AcWriMO for short, which happens every November.

My goals for the month are in two parts.  Firstly, complete chapters 3, 4 and 5 of the thesis.  Each chapter is at a different stage of writing with chapter 3 around 75% of the way done, chapter 4 a published paper in need of being made “fit” as a thesis chapter, whilst chapter 5 needs the most work with only the analysis completed. That said, chapter 5 is part of the same empirical study as chapter 4, being a development of a specific theme which I presented at conference.  As I presented a literature review as part of that conference presentation I think I will be able to utilise some of it as part of the chapter introduction so it is not as bleak as first appears.  My second goal: to write for 6 hours a day every week day.  The aim here was to get something of a more regular writing habit.  Simple!

Now the first week is over I think it worthwhile for me to take stock and reflect on how it has been and what I  have learned about my writing practice so far.  Any lessons I can take from week one may make the thesis progress a little more quickly.

So, the first notable point of the week is that I have not achieved in week 1 what I had hoped I would – namely around 3000 words over 30 hours of actual writing work.  The number of words written amounted to around 1000 in a total of 10 hours; both considerably under the target of words/time that I set my self.  However, based on the actual words written and time put in, if I had managed the 30 hours planned then I should have been able to have produced the target number of words, namely 3000.  And, 3000 words should have about finished chapter 3.   Another point of reflection is that when I signed up for this writing challenge I set my goals on the accountability spreadsheet where others had stated theirs.  Some people had set higher goals than me, namely more words in less writing time, whilst others less.  This did not bother me, then.  But tuning into the #AcWriMo twitter feed brings me nuggets of “2000 words done today” or similar and then I start to stress.  I see that there are others in similar straits to me, not achieving what they set as their targets, but of course it is the achievers and over-achievers that press home my lack of progress.  But, I need to keep in mind that provided I can get my writing hours in I should be near to target.  Finally, my writing environment is important.  The actual writing hours put in and the words written were completed at my desk at home on my desktop PC. The hours not put in were taken up with another (equally pressing) task that of elder caregiving.  Caregiving takes me out of my personal writing space away from my PC and (when I get time to work on my thesis) onto my laptop, that is literally on my lap.  I do not have a desk or large area where I can work so I work from the sofa.  The lesson here is that if I can schedule my writing hours actually at a desk I should be more productive.  This week I have no caregiving scheduled so I should be able to spend all my writing hours at a desk/pc set up, hopefully with better results.

Reflecting on the points last week’s writing raised, it all appears very negative.  However,   there are lessons to be learned here that can be put into practice for this week.  Namely:

  1. If I achieve the target number of hours I should write the target number of words.
  2. I should not compare myself with others – my goals are my own.
  3. I need an appropriate writing space, such as a PC/desk set up.

Stated so plainly these points seem so simple, but in the midst of the working week with so many demands on time the simple things tend to get forgotten.  The message here  is clear – get the writing hours in to achieve the word goal, do not compare myself with others, and work at a desk.

On this positive note, we’ll see what week 2 brings!


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Conference Week!

This week has been a busy week on the conference front.  Monday and Tuesday saw me at Intersections of Ageing, Gender, Sexualities (I-AGES) Conference where I presented Family carer or lesbian: Is it a choice or can I be both?.  Whilst yesterday saw me attend the first day of the BPS Psychology of Women Section Annual Conference where I presented Family carer or lesbian – do I have to choose?

Intersections of Ageing, Gender, Sexualities 6th-7th July, 2015

This two day conference was a multidisciplinary international conference hosted by the Centre for Research on Age and Gender based at the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey.  This was truly a multidisciplinary conference with contributions from academics in a variety of social science and arts disciplines.  It was also very friendly conference with some fantastic papers on a variety of different intersections of age, gender and sexuality.  The highlights for me came from Andy King (University of Surrey) with his paper Intersecting what? Exploring intersections of ageing, gender, sexualities in talk-in-interaction, and one of the Keynotes The Secret Garden: Oral History of Older Gay Men in Hong Kong by Travis Kong from the University of Hong Kong.  That said, I enjoyed all the papers that I managed to get to.  Unfortunately due to being double booked the one paper I really wanted to get to was by Rebecca Jones (The Open University) ‘Queer’ and ‘traditional’ families in bisexual people’s imagined and experienced later life which I think would have some interesting points in common with my focus group study with young lesbians about their hopes and fears about their future lived outness: Lesbian Futures.

PoWS Annual Conference 2015, 8th-10th July 2015

Unfortunately I could only attend for one day of the PoWS Conference so by default attended on the day I was scheduled to present my paper, the first day of the conference.  The conference was opened by Lindsay O’Dell, chair of POWS (The Open University).  Up next was the first Keynote of the event Gender, Sexuality and Asylum in South Africa by Ingrid Palmary from University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg who told us that asylum seekers fleeing from gender based persecution are up against a system that works to exclude rather than include.  I was up next followed by Sonia Soans (ManMet).  After a coffee break and a chance to catch up with a few people the POWS Postgraduate Prize Winner Emille Appertain presented her MSc dissertation Man vs Vagina –  A Foucauldian Analysis of Men’s Discourses About the Perfect Vagina and Female Genital Grooming.  All the papers I was able to take  in were interesting, I am just disappointed that I couldn’t be there for longer than one day – hopefully next year I will make all three days.

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Cultures of Experimentation in Social Psychology @ X IASSCS


I recently attended the 10th International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society Conference at Dublin City University.  The International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS) was founded in 1997 in Amsterdam with the aim of developing a broad range of multi-disciplinary researchers in the field of sexuality.  In the eighteen years since IASSCS inception nine successful conferences have been held around the world.  The most recent conference hosted by DCU was the 10th IASSCS event to occur, held over four days in June 2015 (17th-20th).  The title of the conference was Literacies and Sexualities in Cultural. Fictional, Real and Virtual Worlds: Past, Present, Future Perfect?

The afternoon of second confrence day (18th June) was when our symposium, Cultures of Experimentation in Social Psychology: Re-interpretation and re-invention. was scheduled.  The aims of which were to introduce sexuality researchers and activists from other disciplines to social psychology experimentation through contemporary work, to present evidence of heteronormativity in contemporary Europe, and to examine differences in the impact of heteronormativity on sexual minorities by gender in research cultures and research results.  The key themes were social psychology, scientific cultures, languages and discourse, equality, stereotyping, lesbian erasure, prejudice, affirmative research and experimentation.  The symposium presented the work of four early career researchers in psychology who examined a variety of topics on the broad spectrum of sexuality research.  The first paper by Katherine Hubbard (University of Surrey) re-examined the ground breaking research of Evelyn Hooker. My paper on the heteronormative construction of caregiving and the impact of this on lesbian caregivers came next, followed by new research on stereotyping by voice from Fabio Fasoli (University of Lisbon).  The final paper was from Sapphira Thorne (University of Surrey) who examined the heteronormative construction of romantic love.

After everyone had presented our discussant, Professor Peter Hegarty (University of Surrey), highlighted the common themes from our broad, but sexuality related, topics.  Peter highlighted how, despite the very different areas of psychology we examined (lifespan development, psycholinguistics, cognition and categorisation) all four papers were committed to the empirical project engaging critically with issues of heterosexism, heteronormativity, invisibility, erasure, and stereotyping in relation to sexual minority lives.  Indeed, the papers made clear that within the permeable boundaries of social psychology there is space in which to explore claims about discourse and reality in relation to lesbian and gay lives via a re-examination of the past (Hubbard), a case study of caring (Parslow-Breen), stereotyping (Fasoli), and implicit cognition about love and marriage (Thorne).  Overall the gendered nature of heterosexism was put into sharp relief as the papers made clear that lesbians and gay men experience visibility in different ways, with gay men being perceived as much more visible than lesbians, who generally find their experiences erased both with and without the academy.

Following Peter’s synthesis of the symposium themes the panel were open to questions.  Each paper appeared well received and each presenter received pertinent and insightful questions from the floor.

Generally the conference had a great atmosphere and provided an encouraging and receptive environment for both experienced and early career researchers alike.  I am already thinking ahead to 2017 and the 11th IASSCS!

Finally, a big thanks must go to BP Psychology of Sexualities Section for their bursary support which helped make our symposium a success and allowed us to showcase contemporary British and European sexualities psychological research to an international audience.

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LGBT housing and later life

As the 2015 election looms and political parties get in to the swing of electioneering, housing is just one of the issues that has made its way onto the campaign agenda.  Something that is not top of the political agenda however is LGBT housing.  Here Dr Andy King (University of Surrey Sociology Department) offers a timely reminder of the housing issues of older LGBT people.


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Psychology of Sexualities Review – Books Available for Review 2015

POSR                                      BPS

The Psychology of Sexualities Review accepts Book Reviews for publication. A number of books are available for reviewing as listed below. Authors who complete a review that is published in the PoSR will be able to keep the book. If there is a particular book you would like to review that is not listed below please get in touch and we will see if we can obtain a copy for review.

Batsleer, J. (2013) Youth Working with Girls and Young Women in Community Settings (2nd Ed). Farnham: Ashgate

Bartolo, P & Borg, M. (Eds.) (2003) Homosexuality: Challenging the stigma. London: Agenda

Caldwell, R. A. (2012). Fallgirls: Gender and the Framing of Torture at Abu Ghraib, Farnham: Ashgate.

Doan, P. (2011) Queerying Planning: Challenging Heteronormative Assumptions and Reframing Planning. Farnham: Ashgate

Drescher, J., & Zucker, K. J. (Eds.). (2006). Ex-gay research: Analyzing the Spitzer study and its relation to science, religion, politics, and culture. New York: Harrington Park Press.

Endean, S. (2006). Bringing Lesbian and Gay Rights into the Mainstream: Twenty Years of Progress. New York: Harrington Park.

Gerber, L. (2011) Seeking the Straight and Narrow: Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Glassgold, J.M. & Drescher, J. (2007). Activism and LGBT Psychology. New York: Haworth Press.

Gorman-Murray, A. & Hopkins, P. (2014). Masculinities and Place. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing

Hanway, D. G. (2006). A Theology of Gay and Lesbian Inclusion: Love Letters to the Church. Binghamton, NY: Haworth.

Helminiak, D.A. (2006). Sex and the sacred: Gay identity and spiritual growth. New York: Harrington Park Press.

Minichiello, V.  & Scott, J. (2014). Male sex work and society, New York: Harrington Park Press

Oswald R.F (Ed.) (2003). Lesbian Rites: Symbolic Acts and the Power of Community. Binghamton, NY: Haworth

Peniston, W. (2004) Pederasts and Others: Urban Culture and Sexual Identity in Nineteenth-Century Paris. New York: Harrington Park Press.

Phellas, C. (2012). Researching non-heterosexual sexualities. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Prince, V., Ekins, R., & King, D. (2005). Virginia Prince: Pioneer of transgendering. New York: Haworth Press.

Sharratt, S. (2011). Gender, Shame and Sexual Violence: The Voices of Witnesses and Court Members at War Crimes Tribunals. Farnham: Ashgate.

Tremblay, M., Paternotte, D. & Jognson, C. (Eds.) (2011). The Lesbian and Gay Movement and the State. Farnham: Ashgate.

Valentine, B. (2006). A Season of Grief. New York: Haworth Press.

van Hooff, J. (2013). Modern Couples? Continuity and Change in Heterosexual Relationships. Farnham: Ashgate

Winfield, L. (2005). Straight talk about gays in the workplace: Creating an inclusive, productive environment for everyone in your organization, Binghamton, NY: Haworth

Whipple, V. (2006) Lesbian Widows: Invisible Grief, New York: Haworth Press.

Yekani, E.H., Kilian, E, & Michaelis, B. (Eds.), (2013). Queer futures: Reconsidering ethics, activism, and the political. Farnham: Ashgate.

If you are interested in reviewing any of these books, please contact me,  Orla Parslow-Breen, Book Reviews Editor for Psychology of Sexualities Review, for further information and guidance at

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