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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Narrative, psychology and the politics of sexual identity in the United States: From 'sickness' to 'species' to 'subject'

  • Author(s): Hammack, PL
  • Mayers, L
  • Windell, EP
  • et al.

Since early legal, medical and scientific discussions of homosexuality, the discipline of psychology has assumed an instrumental role in both maintaining and challenging cultural and political perspectives on same-sex desire, identity and behaviour. This article presents a critical historical review of psychological research on same-sex desire in the United States, with a focus on the way in which studies reflect three master narratives on the nature and meaning of same-sex attraction: (1) a sickness script that dominated the majority of research from the late 1800s to the 1970s; (2) a species script that became popular with the removal of homosexuality as a diagnosable mental illness in 1973 and initiated several new lines of research; and (3) a subject script inspired by scholarly and cultural shifts beginning in the 1990s that challenged the taxonomy of sexual identity. We conclude with a discussion of the transformative potential of a narrative approach that integrates analysis of historical forces and individual psychological development. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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