Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational and Counseling Psych

First Advisor

Dr. Rory Remer

Second Advisor

Dr. Pam Remer

Abstract

While the general social climate in the U.S. has become more accepting and tolerant of sexual minority individuals, heterosexist discrimination, prejudice and violence continues to affect LGBT individuals, families and communities. While much research literature exists on the experience of minority stress and the psychological consequences of minority stress on sexual minorities, little research has been produced that examines sexual minority coping. Within the last decade, heteronegativity has been suggested as a possible coping response to heterosexism. The goal of the present study was to understand sexual minority responses to heterosexism (including heteronegativity) in a variety of contexts and circumstances.

The present study involved individual interviews with twelve adult, self-identified sexual minority participants. Utilizing Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR), an inductive qualitative methodology of data analysis, eight domains were discerned from examining the experiences of lesbian and gay men’s coping with heterosexist individuals, systems and environments. These domains were: (a) assessing sexual orientation in context; (b) observation of change; (c) messages/social influences; (d) social systems; (e) categorizing; (f) empowerment; (g) resignation; and (h) equality. Eight subcategories existed under the domain of assessing sexual orientation in context: family, childhood, coming out, heterosexuals, work, harassment, acquaintances, and general. The domain observation of change yielded six subcategories: general, personal, advocates of change, heterosexuals, family, and gay and lesbian community. Under the domain of messages/social influences, six subcategories existed: general messages, peers, heterosexuals, gender roles, media, and family. Five subcategories contributed to the domain of social systems and include: religious institutions, educational systems and institutions, political parties, systems and institutions, media and general. In terms of how individuals categorized others, the fifth domain, six subcategories constituted this phenomenon: general categorizing, social institutions, challenged assumptions, gender roles, beliefs about heterosexuals, and gay and lesbian. Empowerment is a domain comprised of five subcategories: disengagement, coming out, advocate, engagement, and values/beliefs. Four subcategories contributed to understanding the domain of resignation: avoiding confrontation, rationalizing, pressure, and suppression. And under the domain of equality, two subcategories were explicated: parity and social institutions.

Results of the study were consistent with aspects of minority stress including stigma consciousness and stigma and self-esteem. One important contribution of the findings from the present study reveals three overarching components to coping with heterosexism. These components were discernment, disclosure and concealment, and self-empowerment. Implications for trainees, educators, and practitioners were outlined.

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