Chronic illness in non-heterosexual contexts: towards a critical LGBTQ health psychology

  • Adam Jowett

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In this thesis, I contribute to the expansion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) psychology by examining chronic illness within non-heterosexual contexts. Chronic illness, beyond the confines of HIV/AIDS, has been a neglected topic in LGBTQ psychology and sexual identity is often overlooked within health psychology. When the health of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people has been considered there has been an over-reliance on quantitative methods and comparative approaches which seek to compare LGB people?s health to their heterosexual counterparts. In contrast, I adopt a critical perspective and qualitative methods to explore LGBTQ health. My research brings together ideas from LGBTQ psychology and critical health psychology to explore non-heterosexuals? experiences of chronic illness and the discursive contexts within which LGB people live with chronic health conditions. I also highlight the heteronormativity which pervades academic health psychology as well as the „lay? health literature. The research presented in this thesis draws on three different sources of qualitative data: a qualitative online questionnaire (n=190), an online discussion within a newsgroup for people with diabetes, and semi-structured interviews with 20 LGB people with diabetes. These data are analysed using critical realist forms of thematic analysis and discourse analysis. In the first analytic chapter (Chapter 3), I report the perspectives of LGB people living with many different chronic illnesses and how they felt their sexuality shapes their experiences of illness. In Chapter 4, I examine heterosexism within an online discussion and consider the ways in which sexuality is constructed as (ir)relevant to a diabetes support forum. In Chapter 5, I analyse LGB people?s talk about the support family and partners provide in relation to their diabetes and how they negotiate wider discourses of gender, sexuality and individualism. In Chapter 6 I explore how diabetes intersects with gay and bisexual men?s sex lives. In the concluding chapter, I discuss the contributions of my research for a critical LGBTQ health psychology and identify some possible areas for future research.
Date of AwardMay 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRachel Shaw (Supervisor) & Elizabeth A Peel (Supervisor)


  • Chronic illness
  • critical psychology
  • internet research
  • interviews
  • lesbian
  • gay and bisexual health
  • qualitative research

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