Remembering My Hat

3rd August 2016

EuroBiReCon16: Workshop on ageing

This is some notes from a workshop that I co-organised with Sue George and Nickie Roome, as promised to the participants. Our abstract said:

Growing older and being bisexual

What is it like to grow older as a bisexual person? What issues and needs are likely to become more important? How can bisexual and LGBTQ communities be more inclusive of older people? How can research best serve the needs of older bisexual people? This open discussion session will discuss these and other questions related to bisexual ageing. People of all ages are welcome to attend but those who feel these questions have personal relevance are especially welcome. The facilitators of this session are: Sue George, long-time bisexual activist and author of Women and Bisexuality, Nickie Roome, founder of the UK’s first group for older bisexual people and Rebecca Jones who researches and campaigns around ageing and bisexuality.



(cc) photoscarce

It was great to have a room full of people all wanting to discuss ageing – about 25 people in total, I think. We started off with some introductions from Sue, Nickie and me, about why we had wanted to run this workshop. Then we generated some possible topics to discuss and each person voted for their favourite. There were two topics that only one person wanted to talk about (‘being ‘younger’ older’ and ‘working with existing organisations for older people’) so those people chose a second topic. This left us with four topics:

  • Making bi space more age-inclusive
  • Identity and history
  • Sexuality, sex and ageing
  • Inter-generational issues

I took some brief notes while listening in on the groups, and also as each group fed back to the whole group. But if anyone who was in one of the groups would like to add more detail so we have a better record, that would be great – just let me know.

Making bi space more age-inclusive: This group talked about recognising the resources that older bisexual people can offer to bisexual communities and individuals. These resources include both personal experience gained through having lived a relatively long time and also, sometimes, long experience of activism and organising community events. This group also talked about the importance of recognising and acknowledging different choices of identity labels.

Identity and history: This group talked about painful personal experiences of their bisexuality not being accepted by others. They commented that it seemed to be very different for (some) young women now, with ‘bi-curious’ and similar identities seeming to be much more common. They noted that this new acceptability of female bisexuality is often very sexist and thought that we would really know that bisexuality had become acceptable once more men felt able to claim it.

Sexuality, sex and ageing: This group discussed the invisibility and taboos around later life sexuality and sexual activity. They felt that this did harm to both ageing individuals and to younger people and communities more widely. They also talked about significant age differences between partners seeming to become more taboo in later adult life, and about the possibility of intimacy becoming more important than sex for some people. They also discussed coming out in later life, dating apps and the impact of parenting on sexuality.

Inter-generational issues: This group started off by discussing some hurtful personal experiences of being excluded from an LGBT group on the grounds of age, because older bisexual men were seen as sexually predatory. It then went on to talk about experiences of ageism in both directions – from older people towards younger as well as vice versa. The group talked about the way in which someone’s ‘length of being out’ age may not match their chronological age. It suggested running workshops on inter-generational issues at future BiCons and other bi gatherings.


smaller sunset amsterdam

“Sunset over Amsterdam” (cc) by Peter Eijkman


10th June 2015

Queer Kinship Conference: Notes part 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 17:48
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve only liveblogged one session today, due to a combination of technical issues and being tired. Click backwards from this one on the blog to find the earlier ones. As always, this is my version, not necessarily what the speakers intended.

Parallel Session 10: Practices of trans-parenting

Sally Hines, Leeds

Pregnant pauses: Trans* blokes, bodies and babies OR Pregnant men: An international exploration of trans male practices of reproduction

Early thinking, not yet funded. First title is what she’s interested in, second is one she thinks is more likely to get funded.

Wants to look at post-transition transmen’s experiences of pregnancy in order to look at what male pregnancy tells us about gender in society.

Pregnant men in scifi (Marge Piercy etc.). Donna Harraway imagined reproduction untied from feminity. And reproduction has been a key theme in feminism – as major cause of women’s disadvantage (Woman’s Room). Desire for men to experience disadvantages of pregnancy and reproduction. Also feminist desires for gender-neutral parenting. Pipefish and seahorses do it.

Proposing: mixed qual methods, interdisc, internat, experiences, health needs and citizenship claims of transmen re pregnancy.

Growth in phenomenon e.g. 50 transmen in Australia gave birth in 2nd half of 2015. Support and help groups in UK around these issues.

Subject of fear and fascination – an interesting binary. Potentially fetishized. Citizenship and recognition not well though through in policy and law. Few differences across Europe, unlike same-sex marriage.

Media furore around Thomas Beatty (?sp) 2010ish – claimed to be first pregnant man, although wasn’t actually (Pat Califa’s husband). Diverse responses although little celebration.

Non-academic phrased research questions:

  • What’s is like to be a guy and be pregnant
  • Who’s got access? What sort of families are being reproduced?
  • Does gender-recognition legislation help?
  • Is reproductive technology playing a major role, or are people doing it for themselves?

Documentary auto-ethnographic film will be part of the outputs. Reps from trans health groups costed into bid as project consultants.


Rachel Epstein, LGBTQ Parenting network, Sherbourne Health Centre, Toronto

Space invaders: Queer and trans bodies in fertility clinics

Run courses for queer people planning parenthood. Heard lots of stories about fertility clinics, did funding bid ‘Creating our families’. Qual 44 ints with 66 LGBTQ ppl across Ontario. Produced a guidebook for LGBTQ people, a tips sheet for clinics, fact sheet for trans people, theatre pieces for clinics, turned into a video (will soon be avail freely online – look at their website) + academic outputs.

Fertility industry – hugely gendered, raced, classed. How does queer fit into these spaces?

Drew a lot on Charis Thompson’s 2005 ethnography of fertility clinics, mainly het people.

Newness of technologies get normalised, become less scary by linking them back to conventional gender roles and family relationships. Heterosexual matrix (Butler) really gets naturalised. Sex = PIV heterosexual sex, desire for children is natural etc.

Gender labour – repairing of damaged gender identities. Men congratulated on how many sperm they produce, applauded on returning from the donation room! Body parts are separated from social identities.

So when queer and trans people enter this space, they may be unintelligible. Bodies don’t line up with norms. E.g. described 2 lesbians, one transwoman, as ‘het couple with male factor infertility’. ‘Good girl’ when ovulates, sperm called ‘the boys’. Advised to go home and have sex. Because transwoman can produce sperm, she is seen as a man. Cisfemale partner also found the kinds of femininity they expected her to perform difficult – would have preferred just to be treated as a uterus-on-legs, not to be constantly incited to perform femininity in traditional ways [also an issue for heterosexual people in fertility clinics].

Yuval Topper-Erez, Hoshen – LGBT education Centre

Transgender pregnancy and queer parenting from the personal perspective

Born to orthodox Jewish family. FTM, started testosterone age 20, told that after a year would never be able to get pregnant, but felt if he didn’t take T, he wouldn’t survive anyway. He and male partner thought they might adopt, but not possible as gay couple in Israel. Felt surrogacy wasn’t ethical for them since he had a uterus. Now have a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old.

Stopped testosterone, got pregnant. Outed in media – sure hospital leaked it, so decided he had to become a media figure – gained rights to edit and veto. Wanted to give birth at home in order to avoid media attention but medical complication meant couldn’t – not a good experience at all.

Took 18 months to register them both as parents – only way to do it was to register him as female again, register as mother, then change his gender back to male.

Second child state refused to register at all, so no access to health care until 3 months old. Same solution to ‘problem’ of his gender – Guinness Book of Records for most registered sex changes!

Has lots of implication for how bring up children – lots of talk about gender in their household. Kids know that gender is a choice and that you shouldn’t ascribe. Also changed his gender practices – told son nail polish was for everyone, then felt hypocritical that never wore it himself. Started to do so sometimes (also makes his son very happy).


Q to Sally: Are you going to look at what are the narratives that transmen develop in order to navigate this difficult terrain? [Like narratives developed to get treatment at gender clinics]

A: A really good suggestion, thanks.

Q to Yuval: Say more about experiences – any difficulty or dysphoria from being pregnant?

A: Spoken to with female pronoun during labour (he didn’t notice!). Social worker came 12 hours after birth, asked lots of questions ‘now are you going to stay a woman’ ‘I’m a man now’ argument. Just have to agree to disagree. Didn’t feel there was anything feminine about being pregnant. Didn’t like being pregnant but it didn’t feel dysphoric. Since being pregnant it has changed his gender identity a bit because feels greater connection to the many women who have also given birth.

Q: Dominant cultural narrative that transpeople hate their original genitals and reproductive parts. I don’t see this in my work with trans youth. Do any of you?

A: It’s a narrative we had to tell to get treatment – a strategic rehearsed narrative. Maybe we are outgrowing the need for that story as trans gets more common.

12th March 2015

Beyond Male Role Models? Gender identities and work with young men. End-of-award conference

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 14:35
Tags: , , , , , ,

My usual partial and incomplete liveblog from a conference. My own reaction in square brackets.

Kate Mulley

Director of Policy and Campaigns, Action for Children (Joint project between AfC and OU)

This group of young men is invisible to policy, except as villains.

What sold the project to them:

  • Understanding better something that is usually thought about in a stereotypical way
  • making unheard voices heard
  • fitted their strength-based approach – avoiding deficit models (e.g. support that lone dads give their kids)
  • chance to use research in inform policy and practice

Martin Robb – PI

Relationship with Action for Children has been vital – involved in drawing up the bid as well as once fieldwork. Also ‘Working with Men’ group.

Background rationale for project:

‘Male role model’ discourse has become a kind of taken-for-granted explanation and solution to the ‘problem’ of boys and young men. Problem boys lack good male role models (absent dads) and the solution is supplying alternative good male role models

  • Little evidence to support this. Some on education – does the gender of the teacher matter? Answer: can’t tell – too complex an issue.
  • What about the role of women in young men and boys’ lives?
  • Isn’t that a bit reified about gender?
  • What do these young men and boys think about these issues?


(cc) Frank M. Raflk

Mike Ward – Researcher

Individual and group interviews with 93 people at Action for Children and Working with Men projects, UK-wide, range of locations, rural and urban

  • 50 young men
  • 14 young women
  • 12 male staff
  • 17 female staff

Projects recruited from:

  • Young offenders
  • care leavers
  • YP with additional needs
  • young carers
  • care council (young Insepctors)
  • respite centres
  • young fathers mentor scheme


  • Family both a source of support and trouble
  • Many have strong relationship with mothers and grandmothers but ambivalent ones with fathers and step-dads
  • Becoming a father often a catalyst for transition to a more ‘responsible’ masculine identity [supports strength-based approach, not deficit in relation to yound dads].
  • Locality plays a huge role in shaping masculine identities for young man
  • ‘at risk’ young men often involved in hypermasculine cultures
  • Routes to ‘safer’ masculine identities varied by location – west of Scotland often fatherhood and work (traditional working-class masculine jobs) whereas in London it was much more through education.

Sandy Ruxton – Consultant on project

Support services provide safe spaces to help make the transition to a less risky masculine identity. Avoids being on the street, being stopped by the police or engaging with other young men they wanted to avoid. Many of the young men were actually very underconfident about engaging with the outside world.

Practical activities were helpful to building relationships (round the Pool table) or walking and talking.

Qs didn’t mention ‘male role models’ but some young men and staff did use the term but they weren’t clear as what it meant – people close to them but also people they looked up to and didn’t know.

They didn’t look up to ‘celebrity’ role models

The people they meant by role models were more like mentor or guides – people who helped them negotiate and co-construct new identities and futures. Not a passive transmission of values/masculinity (as ‘role model’ implies) something much more active and dynamic. Women were really important in this.

Sense of shared experience and social background between young men and staff was very valuable for some (especially in the west of Scotland projects). Class and race especially (although not named by participants as this).

Brigid Featherstone – Co-I

The young men valued personal qualities and commitment of staff above gender or other social identities.

Had a keen sense of genuine care from workers (and other workers who were just ‘doing it for the money’). Valued respect, trust, consistency, and commitment highly too.

Really clearly that authoritarian masculinity doesn’t work. Hate being told what to do. That’s a really hard task for workers because you have to not be authoritarian but also help them not do really stupid things! ‘Troops for teachers’ initiative not liked – ‘that won’t work with us’.

Lives very precarious – very easily pushed off their trajectory of building the life they wanted. Very poor, very low chance of getting work, benefits cut etc.

(We used to talk about race, ethnicity and class, now we talk about ‘stories’!)

‘Boys need positive male role models’ is lazy thinking

When young men come to services, it is often because they are seeking to make the transition to safer adult masculine idendities and their asprirations (job, home, family) are similar to other young people.

Services don’t need to have male workers to be able to work with young men (or young women). Gender is not as important as care, trust and consistency.

Gender is still hugely important to young men’s lives and being able to identify with staff along lines of gender, ethnicity and class is also often helpful.

Steve Hicks, Uni of Manchester – Steering Group member

Responding to the project findings.

Gender role models can be a smoke-screen – allows you to justify cutting back the Welfare State. Relationships with fathers is what really matter, so we don’t need all these expensive support services.

Good mums, bad dads dichotomy. What’s that doing and where’s it going? What about extended family and friends too?

Irony of being perceived as too authoritarian as a social worker when SWers currently being criticised for being insufficiently authoritative

Hypermasculinity in other arenas of life too, like the House of Commons! It’s not just a working-class phenomenon.

Black young men in this study described a lot of everyday harassment which limited their options very profoundly. Restricted the subject-positions they could access. Doesn’t determine – they had some very creative strategies for resisting racism and questioning racial identities.

Some young women also drawing on masculine identities – trans, genderqueer and questioning [+ tomboy identities or butch?]

Methodological Qs:

  • How do we know when gender is going on in a situation or a piece of talk? Lots of answers to this are possible! Big can of worms. [I want to know more about how the team are going to handle that].
  • Why is gender only invoked as a problem in relation to these young men? Gender doesn’t cause things. ‘It was gender wot done it’ is not an adequate answer.

28th January 2015

Older LGB&T people: Minding the Knowledge Gaps. Final conference.

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 15:53
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My usual partial and erratic liveblog-ish notes from a seminar. Not a complete record of what’s going on – just the things that interest me [and my own responses in brackets].

Liz Barker: How far we’ve come: Older LGBT rights movement[s?]

Greengross & Greengross (1989)  ‘Living, Loving and Ageing’ called by Daily Mirror a ‘raunchy sex guide for older people’ [Fantastic! It’s just not! I’ve got half a paper written comparing LL&A with modern sex guides for older people. Maybe I should revisit that…] A really important start to awareness about older people’s sexuality in the UK [although academically the interest in older people and sexuality starts earlier with (I think) the Starr-Weiner report]

HIV&AIDS as a catalyst for work around OP’s sexual health, and older LGBT people [as so often – such a mixed blessing – raises awareness of the existence of a group, but in a context where it’s a problem. Like the history of public awareness of bisexuality]

Polari did first research  on LGBT older people (initially on housing options) [again, not sure this is true if you include academic research. When was ‘Gay and Grey’?]

Spark to (then) Age Concern Opening Doors programme was an older gay man who was a carer who was told council couldn’t help him with his partner because his set up wasn’t ‘normal’.

Opening Door report and first seminar in 2001 [I was there. It was great].

Opening Doors didn’t originally include T because they didn’t want to assume issues were the same and their sample was very small and opportunistic [no explanation given for why they didn’t include B. I’m pretty sure the first report was originally called ‘Working with older lesbians and gay men’ which does not include older bi people. I think it later got rebadged as ‘l, g and b’].

Round up of past seminars (various speakers)

1st seminar on bi ageing – made a nice change to be first seminar in a series, given usual erasure of bisexuality within LGBT acronym.

Being told you are too old to be bisexual – that you ought to have made up your mind by now

Intergenerational work with LGBT really adds to diversity and complexity of labels and experiences people have.

Being BME and LGBT can increase visiblity in unhelpful ways (with migration status sometimes as another intersection) – research on Irish Gay men working in England.

Venn diagram – three overlapping circles, older, LGBTQ and BME – that gives you overlaps of older and LGBTQ, LGBTQ and BME and older and BME, with the overlap in the middle of older, BME and LGBTQ. Middle group is relatively small and but can extrapolate from other overlaps (e.g research on LGBT and BME experiences or on older BME people’s experiences). Lack of visible older BME LGBT people is also a problem for younger people who need elders and role models. [Importance of being able to imagine your own ageing].

How and in what circumstances do older LGBT people wish to be visible to H&SC services? [Not always].

Need for staff to know about LGBT history, so they can understand possible fears and reticences.

Shd the focus be on specialist provision or enhancing pracice across the sector? [Both! But if I had to pick one, I think it would be the second]

24th April 2014

BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 4): Baby boomers + ‘quick and dirty’ research

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 19:34
Tags: , , ,

Jennie Bristow, Kent

The Baby Boomer generation and the problem of knowledge

How has the baby boomer generation come to be constructed as a social problem in Britain today?

3 books came out in 2010 doing this, most influential David Willets’ The Pinch’, right wing perspective. Francis Beccket ‘What did the babyboomers ever do for us. ‘Jilted Generation’

Babyboomers hed responsible for a wide range of social problems – economic crisis (demographic size + bad political decision = Tony Blair), housing shortage, pensions and healthcare, lifestyles, values and cultural change, and young people’s inablity to grow up (including because they can’t afford to buy houses).

Boomer-blaming transcends left-right divisions and also generational differences (baby boomers themselves and younger people [what about those older than the baby boomers?]

Did media analysis of 4 national newspapers in 6 date periods, mid 80s – present day, using term ‘baby’ and ‘boomer’. Analysed 200+ articles in depth.

Increased mention over time (also on Google Ngram)

Not always negative discussion – often quite positive, especially around time of election of Bill Clinton.

How boomers were defined varied depending on the problem that was being articulated. – one bulge or two. If talking about demographic problems, tend to define widely as born 1945-65. But if talking about cultural change, really mean people graduating from university in about 1969.

Used Qualitative Media Analysis – aiming to take acount of social contexts in which texts are created (e.g. election of Bill Clinton)

Mannheim 1922/28 on sociology of generations

Cultural problem – failure to preserve welfare state (left wing) or self-indulgent individualism like Tony Blair (right wing)

By 2006 beginning of hardening of narraive of baby boomers as a problem (n.b. before the financial crisis). Prompted by retirement of the first baby boomers. ‘Boomergeddon’. Demographic problems, but culturally morally loaded through talk of 60s barminess.

Can’t win – if look after your health, you’ll live longer, which makes you even more of a problem!

A new generationalism? Trying to create generationally based social divisions?

Historically, younger generations have criticised older generations for being set in their ways. But here we see baby boomers saying that they went too far, shouldn’t have changed things so much. [Very interesting!]

Idea of babyboomers originally came from US, which is why it doesn’t actually map very well on to UK demographics.

This is an elite idea that has become popular through the media, not a grassroots one. Thinks most people’s actual experience is not of intergenerational conflict but of mutual support with significant transfers of wealth down the generations.


Hannah Jones, Warwick

Urgent! Reflections on doing ‘quick-and-dirty’ research, and on sociology and social action.

Danger of it just being descriptive, but that’s also a danger with slow research. Difficulty of taking historical and wider perspective – only if you don’t already know the literature.

Back and Puwar (2012) A manifesto for live methods.

Can use quick sociological methods to have political effects – quick survey they did in response to ‘Go Home’ immigration vans. But harder to have sociological effects with quick research? She thinks not.

Amphibious sociology – Lury 2013




BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 3): Sexuality

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 19:29
Tags: , ,

You know the form


Katy Pilcher, Aston

Subverting heteronormativity in a lesbian erotic dance venue?

Erotic dance is v contested area in feminist debate – classic sex positive v. sex negative case. But this binary is itself problematic

Can the heteronormative gaze be subverted?

Power is always still operating

Using Jackson and Scott’s defn that ‘what makes an act, a desire or a relationship sexual is a matter of social definition: the meanings invested in it’ (2010:84) so erotic dance is not inherently erotic, it’s the meanings people ascribe to it that make it so.

Club she studied (‘Lippy’) was a product of 1980s lesbian sex wars – predecesor version ‘The Cage’ was SM and seen by some participants as more radical and more queer than Lippy.

Founder of Lippy felt that The Cage had paved the way for the more moderate Lippy [classic discursive relationship between the more extreme and the more moderate]

Dancers dressed in quite traditional normative gendered ways, including one as 1950s housewife – the archetpe of trad gender!

But could say that they are displaying the performativity of gender (vide Butler) and making femme queer identities visible independently, not just when in contrast with a butch partner.

In one act, one dancer dresses as a man but with trad female lingerie underneath – not a drag king, something more complex than that.

Valued as a women’s space. But this is policed – fat and hairy/trans women not acceptable to all.

Massey – spaces as made and remade – so not inherently inclusive space because women-only, made so (or not).

One dancer couldn’t get work in straight clubs because too heavily tatood – suggests Lippy was a queerer space, because was acceptable here.

But women punters not taken seriously as customers by club employees, seen as sexually fairly passive and less sexual than men.

Dancers go up to punters and touch them, unlike in male strip clubs. Hugging – quite a reciprocal gesture.

Some evidence of punters taking up more hegemonic masculine subject-positions, like approaching dancers outside the club and asking for a kiss.


Stevi Jackson, York (and Sue Scott)

Towards a practice theoretic approach to sexuality

They have previously used sexual scripts theory. Gagnon and Simon’s levels of scripting – cultural scenarios (like discourses), interpersonal scripting (through interactions with others, sexual partners and also other) and intrapsychic scripting (reflexive stuff, conversations with yourself). All three inter-relate. Not deterministic. You improvise around the scripts.

But this can be seen as too cognitive. Based on active meaning making and reflexive practice. Jackson and Scott 2007 and 2010 trying to move beyond this by looking at embodied sexual conduct e.g. orgasm  – not just a physiological process but a social one

Drawing on Becker 1963 on learning to feel appropriately (becoming a marijuana user). Useful to think about in relation to sex – becoming a competent sexual actor. But doesn’t explain variety and complexity of sexual practices well [why not?]. Scripting solves this in part, because of way it look at agentic individuals, interactional situation and surrounding socioculral context. But not well theorised how this turns in to practices.

Turn to practice in Sociology since about 2000. Especially strong in sociology of consumption, building on Bordieu. Not much theorisation of practice in sexuality. Idea is used in sociology of families (Morgan, Finch, Jamieson) i.e. displaying family through practices.

Is sex a practice? It has defining features, although historically and culturally variable and although could be more than currently is. It is generally recognizable as an event – period of activity, involving sexual arousal [does this apply to all BDSM activities? I’m not sure it does. Although it could get quite circular about what you define as sexual arousal]. There are shared understandings, standards, advice on how to do it better.

Danger of defining sex as a practice could be that it seems to move away from the sociological, to focusing more on habits and routines. But these are rooted in biography and social context, so this isn’t really a problem.


BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 2): Veganism + teaching LGBT+ in HSC

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 19:26
Tags: , , , , ,

More erratic and partial notes from a conference. Part 1 here. My own thoughts in square brackets. No pretty pictures, I’m afraid, due to aforementioned technical problems.


Symposium on Veganism

Kate Stewart, Nottingham

Health benefits of eating more fruit and veg seem clear. 5-a-day and so on campaigns (now 8-a-day)

But doesn’t necessarily follow that vegans are healthier. Study of German vegans showed participants ate equivalent of 18 a day! And better health.

Analysis of four prominent health-advice websites (NHS choices, Change for Life etc.) and what they said about veganism.

Focus on health risks of plant-based diets. Don’t report benefits. Focus on adding fruit and veg to existing diet, not radically changing diet or basing dishes on vegetables.

Plant-based diets are constructed as marginal in advice literature


Richard Twine, IoE

Negotating relationships in transition to veganism

Practice Theory [looks v interesting] about not overstating the rational and intentional, looking at what people do and ways to change what people do.

Changes through recrafting practicing, substituting practices

[A really interesting paper – too tired at this stage to make proper notes except to remind myself to follow this one up]


All the presenters in this symposium had lots of experiences of very hostile responses to doing research on veganism – accusations of being partial, unobjective, unbalanced, including difficulty getting through ethics committees on these grounds [I never get any trouble with  this in relation to doing research on LGBT issues, including LGBT ageing. Is this because these days it’s perfectly respectable to research LGBT stuff, but that’s not (yet?) the case for veganism? It would be really interesting to do a sort of historical analysis of what ethics cttees reject (although they haven’t existed for that long). What is seen as risky / problematic / dangerous research  over time]


Zowie Davy, Lincoln

Freire’s pedagogy – 2 way, problem-focused, master / slave relationships (pedagogue /student). Need to co-create knowledge.

‘Limit situations’

Looking at teaching of LGBTQI issues to medial, health and social care students  in 5 universities in one are of UK

When there is teaching on LGBTQI issues, it’s not integrated into general topics, but ‘special topics’.

[I want to think about this properly in relation to K118, where we have got some bits of teaching on LGBT issues, I’m very pleased to say]



13th September 2013

BSG 2013, Oxford, Part 3

Partial and particularly incomplete notes from a conference. Part one here and part two here

Symposium: Using the Arts to humanise healthcare education about people with dementia

Sherry Dupuis, University of Waterloo, Canada

The pedagogical possibilities of research-based drama in dementia care

Project came out of desire to resist dominant popular discourses of dementia ‘shell of himself’ ‘burden of care’ ‘long goodbye’ ‘36 hour day’ ‘loss of self’ as well as bio-medical versions.

Looking at effects on audience members  – how images and actions changed for families and workers of PWD over a one year period, after seeing film called ‘I’m still here’ – research based drama – script much from transcripts of interviews, result of collaborations with PWD, workers, actors and playwrite.

(cc) Nico Macdonald

Pre and immediately post-performance focus groups (n=106 people)

Interviews 6 weeks and 12 months after viewing (no.s reduced at each stage as you’d expect to 83 at end)

Participants had vivid memories at 6 weeks – feelings of compassion and better understanding of PWD’s perspective. Talked about scenes flickering into their brains months later. Expanded perspective, deepened understanding

Some people felt they are unchanged because already knew this – affirmed their existing awareness. But often in the interview they then went on to talk about ways they had changed [this is surely about face and presenting yourself as a competent member to start with – dynamics of interview].

Some evidence of changed behaviours as a result – family members joking more, recognising humour in situations + focusing more on person, not trying to get other jobs done at the same time. Care workers talked about checking for UTIs more, having a better admission form, running support groups for families.

Cathartic experience for some family members, transformative healing process, emotional release.

DVD and teaching-learning tool available from

New study will do observational work in care homes about whether it actually changes care worker’s practices. There is some evidence of practical changes already e.g. policy changes, support group set up etc.

Dialogue with others after the performance was really important for deepening learning.


Ruth Bartlett, Univ of Southampton

Agnes & Nancy – a short film about two women with dementia

A documentary film she commissioned. Comes out of her ESRC First Grants study of PWD who are activists and campaigners for dementia (like Terry Pratchett but he didn’t take part!) – ‘No Limits: reimagining life with dementia’. 16 people took part, 11 men, 5 women.

Agnes and Nancy are real people, real names – offered pseudonym but all but 2 didn’t want that – being named and known is part of their activism. Film is available on vimeo or email Ruth and she can also send teaching resources / resource pack for facilitators to use.

Documentary film definition: about real life, but not itself real life. Term first used in 1926.

Health Equity Institute in San Francisco is leader in the field, have 35 documentary films ‘For Health and Social Justice’ made by and for students, incl ‘Old Age is not for Cissies’ about LGBT ageing.

Paper by Aagje Swinnen in The Gerontologist (2013) on dementia in documentary films – way it is always a representation of reality, not always helpful.

Common responses to film:

  • lovely film.
  • But also lots of challenges ‘do they really have dementia?’ – still living quite independently, travelling and so on.
  • It’s about friendship, not demetia
  • ‘She shdnt be allowed to chop wood (one memorable scene)
  • The PWD I support aren’t like Agnes and Nancy

Raises interesting questions about perceived authenticity – if someone doesn’t seem to be behaving like PWD, their illness identity gets challenged.

Bartlett, R (2012) ‘The emergent modes of dementia activism’ Ageing & Society

Interesting discussion among audience about both the importance of positive role models but also the pressure they create for other people who can’t be like that because of physical health, cognitive issues, social class, race etc. Ruth: someone with dementia saying ‘I thought I was doing well’ until they saw the Agnes and Nancy film [gulp!]

Ransackers Association – group for PWD – audience member.


Hannah Zeilig, UEA

Descartes: Using the arts to educate the dementia care workforce.

Still no clear regulatory framework for the dementia care workforce.

Staff in care home they worked in initially hostile to word ‘Arts’ and also to researchers, seeing them as ‘experts’ coming in to tell them how to do a job they’d been doing for 20 years.

People usually think of Arts hierarchically: Opera, poetry, classical music, sculpture at top. Pop music, tv, comics, cartoons, as lower, not really Arts even.

Tried to get staff to talk about their feelings about their work (in focus groups). 4 themes emerged:

  • Identity of staff as well as PWD
  • Awareness – how to behave sensitively, how to understand the condition
  • Language and communication. Care home staff refered to themselves as ‘bum-wipers’ and PWD as ‘nutters’ or ‘fruitcakes’. Powerful derogatory language. Invented game ‘word salad’ – magnetic words. As way of conveying that we all struggle with language sometimes
  • Practice of caring – lifting, toileting, moving, feeding.

So then researchers went away to find Arts resources addressing these themes. Everybody on staff wanted music.

[Frustratingly, at this point I had to leave, so I don’t know what happened next! I’m planning to contact the authors to find out though and I’m sure they’d welcome enquiries from anyone else who is interested]

BSG 2013, Oxford, Part 2

Partial and personal notes from some parts of this conference. Part one here

Plenary: John Beard, World Health Organisation

Global ageing and health: From talk to action

(cc) US Mission Geneva

Pace of ageing of population much quicker in e.g. Brazil, Thailand than West, so no time to get infrastructure in place.

Pop ageing was initially about more and more people surviving childhood and women childbirth. That ?led to reducing birth rate (+avail of contraception)

Dependency ratios are pretty valid in relation to proportion of children in pop (kids do need lots more care than contribute), but not so much for OP because OP aren’t necessarily, or simplistically, dependent. Changes in behaviour, attitude and policy can reduce dependency effect of ageing pops.

Fab graphs from Mathers et al 2013 on female deaths across the life course – low income countries v. middle v high income. Really clear and interesting graphics [use for K118?]

What is WHO doing about pop ageing? Now a formal priority at WHO, via:

  • Partnerships and political commitment
  • Build evidence base
  • Knowledge translation (evidence into policy and practice)
  1. Health promotion across life course – OP are not too old to change diet, behaviour etc.
  2. Early detection and screening, primary health care and long term care. EoL care.
  3. Age-friendly environments
  4. Rethinking ageing – toss out the stereotypes

Showed a video WHO produced for World Health Day 2012 about challenging stereotypes.  [Nice pictures. Might be a good resource for K118 LG13]

People get more diverse as they grow older, especially in terms of physical function (graphs to show across lifecourse. Physical function falls off with age, but range within age cohorts is much bigger). So generalising about later life even more unhelpful.

[Cd do one of those ‘see what the other students thought’ polls on ‘how old is an old person’ or similar, then follow on activity problematizing. Or one of these for awareness of own ageing (similar to K319 but not too similar?)]

Importance of getting beyond demography. Just because societies have pop ageing doesn’t tell us anything. Most healthcare costs are in the last 18 months of life, at whatever age those 18 months occur.

Need to move beyond gerontology and geriatrics as only disciplines that think about later life to include urban planners, architects, designers, technologists, people who make stuff.

Demographer in audience: working now on new ways of doing demography that are less ageist! Better measures.

[I am amused that this kind of thing always happens at academic conferences: speaker somewhat caricatures and demonises some group (in this instance Demographers) and in the questions slot, a member of the group resists and problematises this characterisation. I love academia!]

British Society of Gerontology, 42nd Annual conference, Oxford UK, Part 1

I only attended for one day this year, partly to launch these two books in the CABS/CPA methodology series. One is on Secondary Analysis and the other on working with existing older people’s groups. Both are available from the CPA for a bargainaceous £10 each.

What follows is my usual idiosyncratic note-form post from a conference. As usual, this is in no sense intended to be a complete representation of what any speaker actually said, just some things that I found interesting and managed to capture. Things I thought or things I need to follow up are in square brackets.

Symposium on Ageing and agency: Developing new theoretical perspectives for critical gerontology.

Based on book Ageing, Meaning and Social Structure [investigate for possible K118 Reader chapters]

(cc) crowt59

Amanda Grenier and Chris Phillipson
Agency in the ‘Fourth Age’ (or the problem of ‘Active Ageing’)

Gilleard & Higgs article 2010 Ageing without Agency, Jnl of Aging and Mental Health [find this]: The problem with the notion of the 4th Age is that it becomes a terminal destination, not a life stage or a cohort.

Attempts to give dignity at End of Life have failed because of perception of lack of agency in 4th Age. Assumption that agency is something you either have or don’t, but actually it’s much more complex and nuanced than that.

Grenier 2007 and 2012 discusses ways in which ‘4th Age’ has been used differently (e.g. age 80+ OR intersection of age and impairment OR objective measurement)

If 4th Age is about ‘decline and dependency’, how can you have active agency?
Impairments may make perception of having agency more difficult e.g. verbal / cognitive impairments.

Health and impairment are unhelpfully polarised anyway. 4th Age conceptualised as ageing without agency increases / sustains that.

If agency is increasingly important now that we are all supposed to have individualised post-modern lifecourses, that gets really important for ageing and the fourth age in particular.

Seeing people as having low agency increases their vulnerability to abuse and neglect.

So how can you increase /restore perceptions of agency in 4th Age?

  1. Develop new cultural narratives and frameworks for partic conditions e.g Alzheimers George and Whitehouse 2010 in Handbook – don’t let medical narratives dominate
  2. Agency may look different in later life (active ageing narratives don’t help)
  3. ‘Reduced’ or ‘diminished’ agency might be a better way of thinking about it than ‘present’ or ‘absent’. Also thinking about how it’s being constructed as reduced [that sounds really interesting to me].

Other possible things that might help:

  • Positively look for agency
  • think about inhibiting or encouraging conditions.
  • Allow for more passive and less active notions of agency (structural to personal)
  • Challenge underlying assumption of health.

Contingency rather than ‘lack of agency’ may be better description of late old age.
Settersten & Trauten chapter 2009 in Bengston Handbook of Aging

[There was an excellent moment in the middle of this paper when the presenter, Chris Phillipson, moved his hand into the light stream from the projector and the word ‘agency’ appeared appositely across his gesticulating hand].


Jan Baars, University of Humanistic Studies): Agency and Autonomy: Beyond
Links to old debates on autonomy. Interdependency is more characteristic across life course [could do Activity getting students to think about way they are interdependent with others – leading on to recognition of it being a continuum – wd also help to address worry about otherising OP]

Competency – how tested? What if someone refuses to take test? Are they then seen as incompetent? What about emotional, social, dialogic skills – they are seldom tested in the way that recall is.

Authenticity as a marker of competence – feeling someone is taking decisions that are ‘not like them’

Regarding yrself as having power and competency to make decisions [but this isn’t nec the case for younger people too. Can have life stages when have less at any point]. Ageist practices reduce this.

Suggested better definition of competency: Capacity to make adequate decisions as person sees it, which are responsive to situation and others. [But who gets to define ‘adequate’ and ‘responsive’]
Dignity as another key concept

Return to this in Discussion: is dignity separable from agency? Can you really have dignity if you have ceded control (or had it taken from you)?


Joseph Dohmen
Ethics, art of living, lifestyle (also chapter in the book)

Life politics (Beck, Giddens, Bauman) wanting to lead a life of your own
1. A promise,
2. daily struggle,
3. collective experience in Western world,
4. remnant of our communal feeling
(Beck and Beck-Gernsheim)

Martha Holstein 2010 – if autonomy is ultimate good, what does that do for OP?

Agency tends to talk about ‘life choices’ whereas structure more about ‘life chances’

Wants to moralise lifestyle. Make it about more than consumerism and health. Claims ‘lifestyle’ bridges gap b/w structure and agency [the philosopher’s stone! How many different theories are there that claim to bridge the structure / agency gap?!]

  1. Reflective distance – exploring one’s biog and social scope. Taking distance from directions about how you should grow older (e.g. Active Ageing)
  2. Expropriation – trying to relate yrself to yr own biog. Free yrself from own unhelpful influences. Future may restore the past
  3. Appropriation – autonomy as about positive freedom to make substantial choices in later life. Identifying with deepest desires.
  4. Authentic orientation – what makes life really valuable and meaningful. Strong evaluation of this.
  5. Engagement – how and why to (dis)engage. Relational autonomy
  6. Integration – coherence of life: maximal (classically), minimal (liberally or more p-mly), contextually, or not aiming for coherence but reliability in episodic life (Margaret Walker)
  7. The tragic condition – 1-6 are modes of active ageing but life is also passive ageing. The good life is the vulnerable life. Can’t escape in later life. We have to make tragic choices. There are always losses. Our passions can destroy our lives and the lives of others.

Everything in life is finite. This implies continuous dynamic b/w mourning and accepting losses and new beginnings.

Discussion: overlaps with Disability arguments e.g. ‘autonomy’ not as about independence. Also lit on Ethics of Care.

Relational autonomy changes as you age, esp into 4th Age – people don’t understand you, yr partner dies, you are mainly relating to much younger people. So you get less relational autonomy as you grow older. CP- paper by Elder on autonomy across life course. How does agency work in life course transitions? Do you reach a point when you can’t rework your agency?


Next Page »

Blog at