The role of alcohol in identity construction among LGBT people: a qualitative study

Carol Emslie*, Jemma Lennox, Lana Ireland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Research suggests that alcohol use and misuse are higher among lesbian, gay and bisexual than heterosexual populations, yet the social context of drinking in sexual minority communities has rarely been examined. To explore lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people’s relationship with alcohol, we conducted seven focus groups (N=33) with pre-existing groups of friends and work colleagues (18 to 52 years) in Scotland, UK. We identified and analysed patterns in our data using thematic analysis. Respondents perceived heavy drinking as central to the commercial gay scene. Choice of drink and drinking vessel was an important part of identity construction. Respondents discussed the perception that gay men would drink alcopops and cocktails while lesbians would drink pints of beer. Even when stereotypes were dismissed as inaccurate, they were still thought to pressure people to drink ‘appropriately’. Respondents who did not identify as male or female, and those who used drag, were particularly aware of their choice of drink as a means to express identity or to challenge people’s preconceptions about gender. Researchers developing interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm in sexual minority populations need to take account of the central role of identity construction in LGBT drinking practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1465-1479
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Volume39
Issue number8
Early online date19 Aug 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

Keywords

  • alcohol
  • LGBT
  • identity

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