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Title: Older single gay men : questioning the master narrative of coupledom
Author: Suen, Yiu Tung
ISNI:       0000 0004 2744 9721
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis fills an important research gap in the sociology of ageing and life course, and the sociology of sexualities and intimacies by exploring the understudied experience of singlehood among older gay men. It is a qualitative study based on semi-structured in-depth life story interviews conducted with 25 self-identified gay men over the age of 50 who live in England and have been single for most of their lives. The primary objective of the study is to investigate how older single gay men interpret and assign meanings to their lives in later life. In considering the role of narratives in bridging structure and agency, the thesis suggests that the older gay men’s narratives of singlehood need to be understood with reference to the master narrative in society that privileges couplehood. The master narrative undoubtedly informed and at times overshadowed the ways in which the older gay men understood their lives. But at the same time this thesis finds that the research participants engaged with the master narrative in a variety of creative ways – they did not only adopt, but also adapted and subverted the dominant story line. These counter-stories do not only reproduce, but have the potential to reinvent, the meanings of relationships in contemporary societies. To achieve this, resources were needed in reframing the master narrative. From a life course perspective the thesis suggests that the older gay men’s earlier life experiences and current social locations influenced the narratives they told. Only some of the older single gay men were able to (re-)claim sexual citizenship while others were denied this. In addition, the older gay men’s story-telling was filled with ambivalence and ambiguities. As a whole, the thesis sees the older gay men’s stories as displaying agency within structure.
Supervisor: Leeson, George Sponsor: Swire/Cathay Pacific Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociology ; Ageing ; Gender ; Older persons ; ageing and life course ; sexuality ; older gay men ; singlehood ; life story ; qualitative research