Data Type: Journal Article

Gagged Grief and Beleaguered Bereavements?’ An Analysis of Multidisciplinary Theory and Research Relating to Same Sex Partnership Bereavement.

Green, L., & Grant, V. (2008). `Gagged Grief and Beleaguered Bereavements?’ An Analysis of Multidisciplinary Theory and Research Relating to Same Sex Partnership Bereavement. Sexualities, 11(3), 275-300.

This article examines the nature of same-sex partnership bereavement. Specifically, the authors explore the relationships between same-sex partnership bereavement and “disenfranchised grief,” or grief that has been deemed socially undesirable. In further examining the literature on bereavement, Green and Grant also highlight the need for more research in this area (as of 2008).

Instead of espousing a particular methodology, Green and Grant weave together existing sociological and psychological literature on bereavement in order to examine what such works may have to say about same-sex partnerships. The authors begin by examining traditional psychological works (e.g., Parkes’ four bereavement stages), which they argue are unrealistically linear, and move on to discuss Doka’s notion of “disenfranchised grief,” or forms of bereavement which may be deemed socially unacceptable (e.g., a woman’s grief over an aborted fetus) (p. 279). Green and Grant argue that homosexuals, because they are a marginalized group, are particularly susceptible to “disenfranchised grief.” They further note that while there is already discussion about the particular challenges that homosexual partners can face with AIDS-related bereavement (ARB), more discussion is needed regarding lesbian and gay bereavement more generally. Notably, the authors implicitly point toward issues of intersectionality by highlighting within-group differences among sexual minorities. For example, the authors argue that lesbians may generally be less liable than gay men to have their bereavement experiences socially validated. This is because lesbians may be doubly marginalized due to the fact that they are both homosexual and female. However, the authors note that “disenfranchised grief” is not universal even among the most marginalized members of the LGBT community, and instead depends on a number of factors, such as how well-adjusted the bereaved are to losses and to how open their relationships with the deceased were.

While most previous research on homosexual bereavement focuses on AIDS, Green and Grant use this article to express why an expanded focus on homosexuality more generally is important. Green and Grant note that the marginalized role of homosexuals in society generally can make their grief socially stigmatized—which may contribute to more severe grief. This is compounded by the fact that some bereaved homosexuals may be especially marginalized (e.g., for being lesbians), and may not seek out mainstream options for grief support due to a fear of further marginalization. By highlighting such complications, Green and Grant move past just focusing on the issue of AIDS, and offer a solid foundation for further research regarding emotions among individuals with marginalized sexualities.

Categories: Queer Theory/Sexuality Studies, Sociology of Mental Health and Illness
Publication Date: 2008