The de-gaying and re-gaying of AIDS: contested homophobias in lesbian and gay awareness training

Celia Kitzinger*, Elizabeth A. Peel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From the first recognition of AIDS as a disease, it was publicly conceptualized as a 'gay plague'. In response, health education and diversity training sought to counter this association claiming that AIDS is an 'equal opportunity' virus - that it can affect anyone. In this article, we analyse talk about HIV/AIDS within a data corpus of 13 tape-recorded lesbian and gay awareness training sessions. Counter to the way in which interactions are described in the lesbian and gay awareness training literature, we found that it was trainees, rather than trainers, who pursued discussions about HIV/AIDS, and who did so in order to claim the 'de-gaying' of AIDS, which they treated as representing a 'non-prejudiced' position. By contrast, and in response to trainees' insistence on de-gaying AIDS, trainers were 're-gaying' AIDS. Our analysis highlights that in these sessions - designed explicitly to counter homophobic attitudes - apparently 'factual' claims and counter-claims about infection rates and risk groups are underpinned by essentially contested definitions of what constitutes a 'homophobic' attitude. We conclude by pointing to the value of detailed analysis of talk-in-interaction for understanding professional practices, and suggest strategies for improving the pedagogic value of training. Copyright © 2005 SAGE Publications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-197
Number of pages25
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


  • AIDS
  • conversation analysis
  • discourse
  • heterosexism
  • HIV
  • homophobia
  • language
  • lesbian and gay awareness training
  • lesbian and gay psychology
  • prejudice


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