Author

Brad Benson

Date of Award:

2001

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Brent C. Miller

Abstract

This study is one of the first to include data from both male homosexuals and their family members to investigate disclosure of sexual orientation. Being homosexual in U.S. society can be particularly traumatic for males because strong pressures oppose the violation of masculine gender norms. Being homosexual and Mormon has unique complications. Reactions from the Mormon community toward individuals of homosexual orientation is defined by prevailing attitudes toward homosexuality, which are largely based on existing theories of etiology, attribution of etiology, and the religious and cultural beliefs extant in the community. The role of family relationships in the coming out process for Mormon male homosexuals contributed important information towards understanding their development.

As a particular example of families facing homosexuality, this qualitative study explored family characteristics reported by a sample of male homosexuals who were raised in Mormon families. Relying on reports from both homosexual males and their family members, these data inform how the coming out process is influenced by, and influences, family relationships, and expand knowledge about how family relations and culture influence development.

Findings showed that attitudes prevalent within family, church, and community influenced Mormon male homosexuals' decisions to come out. Religious influences on Mormon homosexuals and their family members had an inhibitory effect on the disclosure of sexual orientation and subsequent support and communication within family relationships. Expectations of negative response increased silence among Mormon male homosexuals about their sexual orientation and resulted in alienation from both church and family.

Mormon male homosexuals most wanted their family members to accept them and withhold judgment. They hoped for increased dialogue and understanding. Parents were typically distressed by the disclosure, with fathers having a stronger reaction than mothers. Relationships were strained in terms of family contact and communication. Family members who made efforts to gain information and understand the homosexual son were perceived as more supportive. Implications of how families and Church leaders can insulate the homosexual son from adverse social response and provide needed support are discussed.

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