Gay men in the performing arts: Performing sexualities within 'gay-friendly' work contexts

N. Rumens, J. Broomfield

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    Building on emerging research on ‘gay-friendly’ organizations, this article examines if and how work contexts understood and experienced as ‘gay-friendly’ can be characterized as exhibiting a serious breakdown in heteronormativity. Taking the performing arts as a research setting, one that is often stereotyped as ‘gay-friendly’, and drawing on in-depth interview data with 20 gay male performers in the UK, this article examines how everyday activities and encounters involving drama school educators, casters and peers are shaped by heteronormative standards of gay male sexuality. Adopting a queer theory perspective and connecting with an emergent queer theory literature in organization studies, one concern articulated in this article is that heteronormative constructions of gay male sexualities constrain participants’ access to work; suggesting limits to the abilities and roles gay men possess and are able to play. Another concern is that when gay male sexualities become normalized in performing work contexts, they reinforce organizational heteronormativity and the heterosexual/homosexual binary upon which it relies. This study contributes towards theorizing the heteronormative dynamics of ‘gay-friendly’ places of work, arguing that gay male sexualities are performatively instituted according to localized heteronormativities which reinforce contextually contingent, restrictive heteronormative standards of gay male sexuality which performers are encouraged to embody and perform both professionally and personally.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)365-382
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014


    • Gay men
    • gay-friendly workplaces
    • heteronormativity
    • performing arts
    • queer theory
    • sexualities


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