Sexual Stories as Resistance Narratives in Women’s Sports: Reconceptualizing Identity Performance

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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Previous research has relied on the personal narratives of female coaches and athletes to generate knowledge related to homophobia in women’s athletics. We suggest that the body of knowledge generated from these investigations has served to construct a meta story of victimization surrounding women’s sport experiences. We make this claim primarily around theoretical frameworks that link a final, liberating stage of development with being explicitly out as a lesbian. As a result, only a narrow range of sexual identity performances (e.g., linguistically naming oneself as lesbian) is recognized as being effective in creating climates of tolerance and, by extension, social change. Employing an analytical tool developed by Plummer (1995), we examined the “sexual stories” of intercollegiate coaches who did not identify themselves as “out” lesbians, but who nevertheless employed a multiplicity of strategies related to the performance of their sexual identity to actively resist social injustice. Based on these findings, we call for a reconceptualization of identity performance that recognizes the non-linear, fluid and contextualized nature of sexual identity.

J.G. Iannotta is with the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC; M.J. Kane is with the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota.

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