GenSex: Gender and Sexuality Research Group

30th Nov 2009, 6:15pm - 8:30pm

Edge Hill University

GenSex – Edge Hill University’s Gender and Sexuality Research Group – is holding its next session on Monday 30th November 2009, from 6:15pm-8:30pm in room M42, in the Main Building at the Ormskirk Campus.

‘Narrative, identity and social policy in the ex-gay movement’

By Sam Kirkham, Dept. of English Language and Linguistics, University of Sheffield.

“The ex-gay movement is a worldwide organisation founded on the belief that homosexuality is something that’s socially acquired, against God’s will, and can and should be changed.

“In this paper, I discuss the role of the narrative testimonial in the ex-gay therapy process, showing how it is seen to act as a performative site for the transformation of sexual identity. In doing so, I briefly present the results of an analysis of metaphor in ex-gay narratives, demonstrating how certain metaphors and cultural models permeate the public discourses of the movement. However, I then link the socio-cognitive models that these metaphors evoke to the Christian Right’s influence on social and educational policy in the United States, showing how apparently private stories get made into political capital and can be used to exert significant influence on the lives of LGBT people in America. In this way, this paper elucidates some of the ways in which metaphor can be used to conceptualise sexuality, as well as discussing the policy debates surrounding the role of religion, sexuality and youth in US education.”

‘Seeing through gender: theologising around a complex gender experience’

By Jennie Barnsley, Dept. of Theology and Religion, University of Birmingham:

“Researching for my PhD Theologising around the complexities of gender, I interviewed Leigh, a 19-year-old with a highly complex gender identity. Key themes emerged, concerning instances of Leigh’s being seen and being seen through.

“In analysing interviews, I employ a technique, part grounded theory and part narrative analysis, that ultimately leads me to seek to render theological in character, that is to theologise, my responses to the interview’s emergent themes. This process of theologising centres on the production of metaphors (after McFague, 1982) with which to create new “words about godde”.

“The theme of being seen/through in Leigh’ experiences led me to reflect upon the concept of “thin place”, the idea that in certain locations the barriers between the mundane and the divine are especially permeable. Analogising from this in relation to Leigh’s experiences, I develop concepts of both “thin person” and “thin gender”, positing that there are people through whom it is possible for others to see more clearly the fragility of binary gender. I then theologise around Leigh’s story, reconstructing it as a tangential metaphor for divine-human relationships. I offer this methodology as having the potential to undercut both traditional and feminist theological practices of metaphoricising by gross somatic analogy (Father/Son/Holy Ghost, Maiden/Mother/Crone), and instead to present an opportunity to metaphoricise at a tangent to human experiences.”

Speaker Biographies

Sam Kirkham is a PhD student in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sheffield. His current research investigates the relationship between language variation, identity and style in youth cultures. His other interests include anthropology, social cognition, and the psychology of reading.

Jennie Barnsley is a PhD student at the University of Birmingham and a member of the Gender and Sexuality Research Group at Edge Hill University. Her paper Godde and the complexities of gender is published in Negotiating boundaries? identities, sexualities, diversities.

Contact Details

Would you like to give a paper to GenSex or lead us in a workshop or seminar?  Interdisciplinary research-based debates, presentations and art installations are always welcome.  Topics can include… masculinities, feminisms, gender theories, queer studies, sexuality and subversion, bodily narratives and transgendered identities…just contact Dr Mari Hughes-Edwards by emailing