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This multi-case qualitative study explores the phenomenon of identity development of not-straight (more traditionally labeled as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or queer) fans through their attachment to British popular singer Dusty Springfield as a fan-object. A purposefully selected sample of four fans, aged 21-45, two male and two female, from the United Kingdom and the United States, were interviewed. The interdisciplinary conceptual framework of the study combines the fields of identity development, fan studies, and psychological theories related to projection.

The themes that emerge from the data suggest that Dusty Springfield’s emotional music draws the listener into fandom and that the relationship the fan feels with Dusty is based upon the fan’s identification with and interpretation of the fan-object’s life, music, and image. Dusty mirrors the fans’ not-straight sexual identities and emotional vulnerabilities, as well as mirroring one participant’s self-definition as a racial outsider and another’s sense of victimization as a survivor of domestic abuse. Dusty’s function as fan-object also parallels many of the traits identified with affirmative therapy for gays and lesbians and highlights not-straight fans’ creative appropriation of icons for their identity work. Whether they view her as a role model, friend, or otherwise, their relationship with Dusty, and their fandom more broadly, alters their sense of themselves, their relationships with others, and their sense of where they belong in the world.



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