Date of Award:

8-2018

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Renee V. Galliher

Abstract

This study aimed to provide insights into the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) people within LGBTQ+ culture, and to explore how they disclose or conceal their sexual identities within different social environments. A qualitative study enabled me to become immersed within the stories of LGBTQ+ people, in order to better understand the construct and importance of LGBTQ+ culture. Through in-depth interviews and focus groups, 14 members of the LGBTQ+ community from around the nation volunteered to share their experiences with LGBTQ+ culture and their negotiation of identity within heterosexual culture.

From participants’ stories, key themes were identified: sexual identity and the processes of integrating multiple aspects of identity (i.e., ethnic, religious, gender), characteristics and values within the LGBTQ+ and heterosexual cultures, and how LGBTQ+ people make decisions to conceal or “come out” about their sexual identity depending on the environment. Participants described three levels of identification as LGBTQ+: individual, proximal social group, and a broader LGBTQ+ culture. The narratives converged to reveal a process, contextual navigation, for how LGBTQ+ people conceal or disclose (“come out”) their sexual orientation depending on safety within a given environment. We suggest that people working with LGBTQ+ individuals should encourage engagement in the LGBTQ+ culture, as this may provide support for identity development and facilitate mental health outcomes.

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Included in

Psychology Commons

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