Inclusive and Exclusive Language around LGBTQIA+ and Disabled Populations: A Sociolinguistic Discourse Analysis of In-Group and Out-Group Autobiographical Narratives




Fontenot, Rebecca

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Inclusive language is meant to reduce stigma towards marginalized populations, particularly serving to include LGBTQIA+ and disabled individuals of minoritized racial and ethnic backgrounds within social constructions of "normalcy," but inclusive language is far from universally adopted. In this study, I apply an intersectional Black feminist theoretical lens to a linguistic discourse analysis, in which I consider the similarities between linguistic features in autobiographical narratives by self-identified LGBTQIA+ and disabled individuals. I then contrast these in-group narratives written by marginalized authors against out-group narratives by non-LGBTQIA+ and non-disabled authors, to isolate the linguistic forms of discrimination that are common around LGBTQIA+ and disabled identities, especially when racially minoritized. I analyze a total of fifteen in-group narratives, selected to prioritize multiply marginalized identities and writers of color: five narratives are written by LGBTQIA+ authors, five by disabled authors, and five by intersectional LGBTQIA+ and disabled authors. My major findings indicate that similarities between LGBTQIA+ and disability discourse are profound: at the same time that LGBTQIA+ identities are pathologized, disabled individuals are de-sexed in the public gaze, leading to a large intersection between LGBTQIA+ and disabled identities. Furthermore, the contrast between out-group, non-marginalized authors' discourse and in-group, marginalized authors' discourse is clear: While in-group LGBTQIA+ and disability narratives consistently report the frustration of wanting and being unable to achieve "normalcy," the out-group cis-hetero-abled perspective constructs non-cis-hetero-abled identities as so far outside the realm of "normal" they might as well be a different species entirely.


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disability, discourse analysis, intersectionality, LGBTQIA+, linguistic analysis