Queer Play, Failure, and Becoming: Investigating Queer Young Adults’ Memories of Play and Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Child and Youthhood




Jack, Astri

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This study investigated (1) how and where queer young adults remembered playing and exploring gender and sexuality in their child and youthhoods, and (2) how those memories influenced their identities as queer young adults. Eight young adults from Southern Vancouver Island were recruited to the study using non-probability and purposive sampling. Each participant took part in a narrative interview and was asked to recreate in a sand tray one or more places where they remembered exploring gender and/or sexuality in their childhood or youthhood. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis through a queer phenomenological lens inspired by Sara Ahmed. It was determined that “queer failure,” as described by Jack Halberstam, was a critical, formative process that contributed to the reorienting of queer children and youth towards queer futures. The way that queer failure was responded to by significant adults appeared to have enduring impacts on participants’ self-esteem and self-regard, with having a supportive caregiver being associated with positive self-regard as a queer adult, and a lack of support associated with long-term poor mental health and lower likelihood of experiencing pride in being queer. Additionally, participants demonstrated how access to the outdoors provided a meaningful locus of self-discovery wherein the limitations and structures of gender were less omnipresent and they felt more external and internal acceptance of their queer identities.



child, youth, queer, play, identity, identity development, transgender, trans, gay, nonbinary, gender failure, outdoors, family, schools