Research project

Exploring Life-time LGBT2QI+ Love and Relationships through intergenerational storytelling

This project explored the social and health outcomes associated with younger and older peoples’ LGBT2QI+ love and relationship experiences using creative intergenerational storytelling.

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Start date

April 2021

Completion date

July 2021



Interdisciplinary Incubator Grant (IIG)

This project explored the social and health outcomes associated with younger and older peoples’ LGBT2QI+ love and relationship experiences using creative intergenerational storytelling.

Working jointly with our community partner, Citadel Centre, we captured voices from youth members of the Citadel Youth Centre and older people associated with the Out of the Box Network (Umbrella organization which consists of the Intergenerational National Network) who identified as LGBTQ+. A community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach was used to ensure an equitable academic-community partnership, with the shared goal of improving health and social outcomes with and for LGBT2QI+ people.

We conducted three inter-related online creative storytelling workshops using the Microsoft Teams Platform with 3 middle – older aged adults; 2 adults; and 5 youths who identified as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer.

  • Workshop (I) held on June 17, 2021 – Story Content “Identifying Topics and Issues”: 2-hour workshop that brought participants together to identify salient LGBTQ+ love and relationship topics and issues.
  • Workshop (II) held on July 1, 2021 – Story Forming “Exploring Mechanisms for Nuance and Context”: 2-hour workshop whereby participants explored creative writing practices for bringing nuance and context to address complex emotions associated with LGBTQ+ love and relationship topics and issues.
  • Workshop (III) held on July 15, 2021 – Story Product “Creating Story Products for Social Change”: participants engaged in creative writing as a mechanism to reflect, generate awareness and bring to light the complexities of  LGBTQ+ love and relationship across generations, and its impact on health and wellbeing.

Thematic analysis of interdisciplinary incubator grant project

For the thematic analysis, intersectional feminism and principles of transitions theory were used to guide conceptual development and provided an analytical frame to unpack life experiences and opportunities.

Participants’ stories and post-workshop survey data were analysed to capture understandings of:  intergenerational knowledge exchange; explore LGBTQ+ love and relationship phenomena across sociocultural and environmental contexts; and unpack diverse experiences shared through a self-reflexive creating writing process when witnessing, exchanging and/or co-constructing of stories.

The thematic analysis generated six key themes are presented below in condensed form:

  • Theme 1: Role of technology in facilitating and hindering love and relationship experience. Intergenerational exchanges about love and relationship experience identified the role of technology as a facilitator and hindrance. The initiation of a connection was seen as particularly affected by current norms around use of technology, in particular, dating apps.
  • Theme 2: Making connections within LGBTQ+ communities that are not romantic. Related to the discussion about use of technology in love and relationship experiences, participants identified the value of meeting LGBTQ+ people and having connections that are not romantic.
  • Theme 3: Moving beyond labels and silos to enhance outcomes related to love and relationship experience. Alongside the importance of friendship and community identified, there was a sense that labels and siloed thinking around LGBTQ+ love and relationship experiences was not helpful. Older people who had experienced more restrictive social attitudes were cognisant of the differences between their early and later relationships and between them as older people and the younger participants in the workshops.
  • Theme 4: Impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ love and relationships. The COVID-19 pandemic was identified as impacting love and relationship experiences particularly in relation to lockdown.

Specifically, lockdown facilitated reflection on the meaning and circumstances of their relationships as well as experiences with social isolation.

  • Theme 5: Creating one’s own community (logical versus biological families). The importance of an embracing support system, particularly given variability of experiences with families’ acceptance or rejection of an LGBTQ+ individual, was deemed significant for participants.
  • Theme 6: Storytelling as beneficial for understanding one’s own experience. Storytelling as beneficial for understanding one’s own experience. For example, choosing an historical setting for a story and empowering characters with unattainable experiences for that setting was deemed meaningful.


Conclusions: Intergenerational participants conveyed a strong sense of shared love and relationship experiences. There was significant curiosity and enthusiasm about storytelling as a method for exploring shared experiences and related health and social outcomes. Participants realised aspects of their own relationships as they developed and wrote their stories which they had not realised before, generating a sense of self understanding through storytelling. Legal, regulatory and policy changes over the years meant that history shaped the way love and relationships were experienced.

Reflections: Storytelling provided a great opportunity to explore health and social outcomes associated with younger and older peoples’ LGBTQ+ love and relationship experiences. Being able to craft those stories was a freeing experiences, enabling sense-making to occur. Talking about love and relationships in the workshop enabled participants to rehearse their own stories, making them available for possible to restatement in the future

Implications: There was enthusiasm for future intergenerational storytelling exchanges. Future facilitated discussions could include specific question prompts focused on health and social outcomes to enhance exploration of outcomes.

The project resulted in a collection of creative short stories premised on LGBTQ+  intergenerational experiences of love and relationships; yet was also beyond the notion of romantic relationships inclusive of friendships, plutonic and otherwise.

The storytelling output was in the shape of Zine, edited by Fang, Sixsmith and Gratzke and designed by a comic artist and a graphic designer. Hard copies were made, and electronic copies (with an assigned DOI number) were circulated widely.

Output: Fang, M. L. (Ed.), Sixsmith, J. (Ed.), Gratzke, M. (Ed.), & Larkin, A. (2021). Citadel Love Stories - An Intergenerational Creative Storytelling Project. University of Dundee.

Final remarks

It was challenging to complete such an ambitious project in such a short timeframe, especially as these workshops were originally meant to take place in person to facilitate intergenerational engagement between younger and older people. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions we held virtual workshops which on the whole worked well but we did miss that social and community element of seeing and meeting people face to face. To address such challenges, we held weekly meetings to solve problems quickly and help keep the project on track.

Follow up activities

We are planning to submit a proposal to support a community network of scholars, members of the community, and individuals working in third sector – bringing together creative and like-minded individuals who have an interest in intergenerational, love and relationships research and storytelling.   We plan to submit a journal article publication to Qualitative Research.


External team members

Ashleigh Ward (Formerly University of Dundee)

Ryan McKay (Citadel Centre, Edinburgh)

Pat Scrutton (Intergenerational national Network)