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A Life of Otherness: Identity Negotiation, Family Relationships, and Community Experiences among LGBQ Armenians in Los Angeles

  • Author(s): Aroush, Rosie Vartyter
  • Advisor(s): Cowe, Peter S.;
  • Erai, Michelle
  • et al.

Diaspora as a permanent phenomenon and Los Angeles as host to one of the largest and most heterogeneous Armenian diasporic communities provide a fascinating backdrop for an expansive illustration on identity negotiation, family relations, and community networks. Identity as a marker cannot be compartmentalized; parts of oneself are not divided into segments, but rather experienced as a complete whole made up of many ingredients. What happens when people are not encouraged to accept their personal identity in all its diversity? What choices are made when one ingredient of their identity conflicts with another? This study discusses the struggles endured and strategies employed by Los Angeles lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer (LGBQ) Armenians in negotiating and reconciling their multiple identities by constantly privileging then covering one over the other. The research indicates that LGBQ Armenians use distinct disclosure strategies in approaching coming out with their family and community members, not only to belong in these heteronormative spaces, but also to maintain coexisting relationships. Furthermore, this study explores the impact of ethnic-based institutions and the influence of family values and cultural norms on the coming out process and on their experiences as LGBQ Armenians. This dissertation employs qualitative research methods and is based on a series of interviews with LGBQ Armenian adults aged 21-51 from Los Angeles, consisting of questions relating to their ethnic and sexual identity, family experiences, and community involvement. Interviews are transcribed following customary research and transcription conventions. The transcripts are analyzed using qualitative techniques with an issue-focused thematic analysis approach.

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