Year of Publication

2007

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational and Counseling Psych

First Advisor

Sharon S. Rostosky

Abstract

The impact of homonegativity on both sexual minorities and heterosexuals is profoundly debilitating. Due to the implicit power of their privileged status, heterosexually-identified individuals can serve a crucial role as allies in eliminating sexual minority oppression. Because minimal research exists around heterosexual identity issues, broadly, and sexual minority ally development, specifically, it is difficult to promote such ally work without a clear understanding of the developmental processes and motivational issues that lead heterosexuals to sexual minority social justice action. The current study sought to explore the developmental experiences of heterosexuallyidentified exemplars who work in their communities for sexual minority social justice. The present investigation was conducted through interviews with 12 individuals who demonstrated commitment to sexual minority volunteer work. Through the use of a discovery-oriented interviewing methodology, participants revealed the paths they have taken as they committed to social justice ally work alongside sexual minority activists. The qualitative data collected were subjected to a systematic, collaborative analysis by a team of researchers. The results revealed six general themes that arose from these participants stories, and specified subcategories within each domain: Early Family Modeling (positive modeling and negative modeling), Recognition of Oppression and Privilege (recognition of LGBT individual oppression, recognition of the oppression of others, recognition of oppression directed at oneself, recognition of ones own privilege, and recognition of others privilege), Response to Recognition (emotional reactions, taking responsibility, and behavioral reactions), Impact of Values/Attitudes (equality, attitudes about sexual orientation, personal responsibility, valuing diversity, and religious/spiritual beliefs), Reactions to Ally Work from Others (positive support from family/friends, negative reactions from local community, positive reactions from local community, positive reactions from LGBT community, and negative reactions from LGBT community), and Rewards from Ally Work (making a difference, friendships and connections, and other rewards). These findings highlighted key elements that contribute to the development of sexual minority allies. Interdependence with and empathy for others were vital elements of this growth. These often developed from encounters with otherness and led to greater involvement with social justice action. Finally, homophobia was revealed as a significant barrier to ally identification. Methods for cultivating developmental experiences are outlined.

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