“Labels are for clothing ”: Negotiating LGBT Identities Within Social Question- Answering Sites

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


This study examined 300 question-“Best Answer” pairs from the LGBT thread of Yahoo! Answers to determine what information individuals find meaningful, relevant, and/or credible in interpreting an LGBT identity. Using a grounded approach, five main themes were identified that characterized information shared within the thread: a) defining an LGBT identity, b) romance, sex, and relationships, c) marginalizing others, d) coming out, and e) functioning as a community. Askers often solicited information regarding how to define and establish an LGBT identity, as well as how to engage in a sexual or romantic relationship. Answerers provided coming out metanarratives and framed LGBT individuals as being part of a community, providing askers with a discursive space to construct an LGBT identity for themselves. Askers and answerers also engaged in marginalization, within both heteronormative and essentialist contexts, which might affect how individuals continue or discontinue pursuing information related to an LGBT identity.