"Am I Doing it Right?"

Examining Authenticity as a Key Mediator of Insider/Outsider Dynamics among US LGBTQ+ Young Adults


  • Vanessa L. Kitzie University of South Carolina College of Information and Communications




A key mechanism of information marginalization, insider/outsider dynamics shape who gets to seek, share, and use information within a specific context. However, these dynamics are limited because LIS literature often treats them as myopic, totalizing, and static. This study deepens understanding of these dynamics by examining how they are shaped by authenticity narratives of identity among US LGBTQ+ young adults (ages 18-37). Data were collected via semi-structured interviews with 30 LGBTQ+ young adults between 2015-2016. Data analysis was iterative and employed both deductive and inductive qualitative coding. Findings demonstrate how authenticity both assisted and hindered participant seeking, sharing, and use of identity-related information. Participants seldom reported barriers to access, often citing readily available information in the form of lifeworld and small world narratives describing the "right" or "correct" way to be a particular identity. This information influenced participant decision-making since they had to engage in prescribed activities to be deemed authentic by others. However, authenticity limited participants' information practices to fit within insider, regulatory frames. Embodied subjectivity via individual perceptions and experiences emerged as a valuable information source for participants to counter these limitations. This phenomenon did not shut off participants from outside information as previously argued by Merton and Chatman but rather opened participants up to new, information avenues outside of those provided by authenticity narratives. Findings have theoretical implications for a better understanding of insider/outsider dynamics as a critical dynamic of information marginalization.

Pre-print first published online 8/14/2021

Author Biography

Vanessa L. Kitzie, University of South Carolina College of Information and Communications

Dr. Vanessa Kitzie studies the information practices of marginalized groups, with a focus on individuals identifying as LGBTQ+. Her research findings inform how information centers, such as libraries, and systems can better serve these individuals. Kitzie's  work is interdisciplinary, spanning library and information science, communication, sociology, and critical studies.