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Alternative Title

Disjunctures between class position and presentation in gay communities

Publication Date


First Advisor

Rick Fantasia

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




LGBTQ, Gay communities, Gay rights movement, Social class, Social mobility, Culture, Gender, Pierre Bourdieu, Seattle, Life hisory interviews, Mixed methods


Research on sexuality tends to neglect its relationship to the class structure, with key exceptions. This thesis investigates ways in which community-level cultural practices reflect the class origins, experiences, and aspirations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer (LGBQ) residents of the greater Seattle area, with particular attention to cultural patterns associated with axes of gay community fragmentation. I conducted 39 interviews with LGBQ people over 45 (approximately half men and half women) and contextualized these interviews through quantitative analysis of patterns in sexual orientation and intergenerational social mobility in data from the General Social Survey. Patterns in dress, speech, and behavior in Seattle’s gay community suggest tendencies to imitate culturally and socially dominant, yet economically dominated, class fractions in both gay male and lesbian culture, with the imitation of working-class culture more pronounced in lesbian communities. Narratives circulating in LGBQ culture of sexuality-linked social mobility supplement these tendencies, with gay men perceiving their sexual orientations as generative of upward mobility, while lesbians perceive their sexual orientations as generative of downward mobility. However, actual patterns of intergenerational social mobility in the LGBQ community do not differ substantially from patterns of social mobility among heterosexual people. Social mobility narratives and other cultural patterns instead appear to result from subcultural socialization processes and differing levels of gay community engagement by class. These findings highlight the significance of gender and sexuality as potential mediators of the class-culture relationship, with symbolic dimensions of this mediation appearing to mask the salience of class as a determinant of life outcomes and principle of division among LGBQ people.


2018 Emily Hawley Ruppel. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




280 pages. Includes bibliographical references (pages 252-270)