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Title: Loving, Fighting, Loving: Tales of Intimacy and Conflict in Queer Relationships (AFAB)
Authors: Chatterjee, Ishita
Keywords: School of Human Ecology
Aparna Joshi
young adulthood - Queer Relationships
Issue Date: 2018
Abstract: The formation of intimate relationships is considered to be one of the central tasks of young adulthood. Despite the universality of this developmental experience, the study of intimacy and conflict, has largely been restricted to experiences within heterosexual relationships. Like the wider culture does, the scientific community, so far, has privileged the voices of cisgender, heterosexual, male participant, over all other, and have thus been unable to gain a nuanced understanding of the fundamental ways in which intimate relationships impact the lives of individuals who lie at the intersection of multiple marginalisations. In an attempt to bridge the gap within literature on intimate relationships, therefore, the present study focuses on the relational dynamic between Persons Assigned Female at Birth, and explores areas such as queer identity development, courtship, intimacy, conflict, power, minority stress, and resilience. Through a series of qualitative interviews, and the process of thematic analysis, conducted in accordance with concepts in Critical Theory, it was found that the process of Queer Identity Development, and Interpersonal development of Intimate relationships was mutually reinforcing. Further, an analysis of issues related to courtship brought to light the various ways in which queer AFAB experience invisibility, and how that, coupled with other hurdles such as closeting, taboos on sexuality, and absent scripts of courtship present hurdles to the process of couple formation. Exploration of the construction of Intimacy showed that AFAB prioritized a continued sense of friendship and companionship, over all other aspects of intimate interactions, followed by emotional and intellectual attunement. It was also found that the nature of intimacy evolved over time, for most participants, but that it remain interrupted by the different contexts in which it simultaneously existed. Expressed conflict in these intimate relationships centered around partner availability, and shared tasks. But it was also observed that a number of areas of discontentment remained unexpressed by either or both partners (including that of personal attributes, social networks, disparity in degree of outness, etc.). The analysis of the process of conflict revealed that participants prioritized relational goals above personal goals, viewed their partners positively, and tended towards strategies of collaboration and compromise. The study found that the participants and their partners valued equality in their relationship deeply, and strived to achieve it. But this didn’t imply that they always succeeded in keeping their relationship balanced in terms of power, all the time. While power didn’t stem from gender segregated roles in this relationship, it stemmed from other unique sources such as age, experience, degree of outness, sexuality, financial stability etc. It was also discovered that queer AFAB often experienced unique challenges to their intimacy, in the form of the multiple marginalization of heterosexist, androcentric, binary ideals. Additionally, they also experienced thoughts about future as disconcerting. However persistent though, these challenges were often tackled by the sources of strength which are as unique to queer AFAB, as their challenges are. These included internal processes of disputing problematic ideals, finding strength and comfort in proximity, accessing the family of choice, making use of rituals, and seeking out empowering information. The present study, therefore put forth the narratives of love and resilience, which have been previously exoticized, ignored, or rejected by the dominant discourse on intimacy and couplehood. The present study is an attempt in the direction of developing conceptual language through which queer may celebrate their journeys of intimacy. Further, it may also prove to be beneficial for those who seek to study, and engage with these aspects of queer life effectively, in the field of academia, advocacy, or supportive services
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