Negotiation between Chinese Homosexuals and Their Parents on Marriage


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date28 Nov 2018


Living in a heteronormative society, homosexuals in China face many challenges. Among them, marriage poses itself a top concern for the majority of homosexuals, in that the sociocultural factors cultivate it into an almost mandatory obligation. This thesis addresses how Mainland homosexuals negotiate the marriage issue with their parents and how both sides achieve social well-being by various negotiation tactics and results. Extant research documents precarious consequences of homosexuals’ social well-being yielded by these negotiations, which primarily employed distributive negotiation tactics (confrontation- oriented tactics). As integrative tactics (non-confrontation-oriented tactics) prove to be conducive to favorable outcomes, their application in homosexuals’ negotiation is worth the present study. Data evolved from 38 semi-structured in-depth interviews with 22 gays, 12 lesbians, and 4 parents whose children were homosexual. The data were analyzed with two approaches separately, the grounded-theory method and critical discourse analysis (CDA) to unravel the negotiation process and expose ideologies and power use in the informants’ discourses.

Grounded theory analysis of their interview data identified a grounded theory of a dyadic power based tactic model, which illustrated detailed negotiating process between homosexuals and their parents and critical conditions mediating this process. Three types of negotiation emerged, which were soft power negotiation, hard power negotiation, and mixed power negotiation. Pre-negotiation factors that affected the negotiation process including both personal and relational conditions were revealed. Exact power bases and concrete tactics that carried out consistent power were discovered. Finally, distinct negotiation’s efficacy on influencing both parties’ social well-being was uncovered. Current results documented the efficacy of each strategy differently from previous literature, which demonstrated that soft power negotiation tactics worked most effectively for enhancing both homosexuals and parents’ social well-being. Within each tactic, various conditions and its influence on the social well-being of both sides were revealed.

For the results yielded by CDA, various types of discursive rhetoric were identified and their functions were critically interrogated to see how manipulations and power use were carried out. The CDA revealed that the homosexuals constructed the discourse to espouse and argue for the normalcy of the homosexuality, and slaying the conventional marriage institution. The homosexuality normalcy discourse had three discursive functions. First, it legitimized that homosexuality was normal and natural. Second, it functioned to problematize heterosexual marriage by declaring more benefits from singlehood, sincere intimacy in same- sex relationships, and more disadvantages in conventional marriage. Third, this discourse promoted alternative ways of living other than getting heterosexually married. Three forms of rhetorical techniques identified were polarizing, exaggerating, and metaphorizing. Individualisation and post-modernization furnished the ideological bases of this discourse.

The results have both theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically speaking, the current study is a new trial of existent theories, namely discourse theory and communicative action theory. It aligned these two theories together and combined them into an original model, which explains how conflictive parties exercise power influencing each other while providing arguments to move the conflict toward a resolution. Besides, the current study has identified crucial theoretical constructs. Altogether five sets of theoretical constructs were discovered, and they are relational and personal conditions, negotiators’ power bases, negotiation tactics, and outcomes of negotiators’ social well-being. These theoretical constructs together demonstrated and explained a dyadic negotiation process where power flowed between conflictive parties and reasoned consensus arose from these negotiators. The discovery and alignment of these theoretical constructs into a theory makes up what prior research has not yet been ripe on. Further, this study enhances theoretical effectiveness by discovering specific conditions that shaped the negotiation process and conditions that mediated relationship among these constructs.

Practically, this study has some implications in terms of practice of negotiation, obtainment of social well-being, and empirical generalization. First, it concentrated on a special group of people in China whose voice is frequently weak and whose social well-being is precarious. Results generated by this study contribute to more and deeper understanding of Chinese homosexuals and their family. Moreover, the current research roused our attention to focus on mistakes and biases that could be avoided by negotiators, hence the enhancement of practical communication and negotiation skills. In addition, this study also suggests that one does not have to be perfect to win the negotiation. As long as one performs better than his or her counterpart does, the probability to win the negotiation is high. Besides, the current research points out prospective directions for researchers and practitioners who work on meliorating relationships between sexual minority people and their family. Finally, the study has a generalization implication. It investigated into how a suppressed group negotiated against the mainstream social value, which shall shed light on how other social minorities negotiate with social majorities. The study manifests that social well-being could be obtained under certain circumstances via appropriate tactics. Therefore, it highlights some prospective directions for the public to consider should they consider enhancing their social well-being.