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Gay identity and the experience of work: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

Boronina, Ilona (2012) Gay identity and the experience of work: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. University of West London.


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Links between homosexuality and poor health-outcomes are believed to be, in part at least, related to the stress of sexual identity concealment and stigma in the workplace (King, et al. 2008). Given the substantial number of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people in the British workforce and the relative lack of research in this area, a qualitative study was conducted to explore personal experiences of minority sexual identity and stigma in the workplace. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with n=5 self-identified gay men and lesbian women who varied in their degree of openness about their sexuality at work. Verbatim transcripts of interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The analysis produced four global themes: Negative affect from being stereotyped; Strategies employed to manage sense of identity; Awareness and visibility; and Sexuality as a ‘special status’. A description of these themes and their subordinate themes is presented using extracts from participant interviews and drawing on the existing literature in the areas of stereotyping and prejudice, identity theory, stigma theory, and minority stress. Negative findings about the emotional impact of being stereotyped, the stress of identity management in a heterocentric working situation, and problems of forced disclosure, were some of the key negative findings in line with existing research, however more encouraging findings emerged which suggest that GL employees view being “out” as a positive status that is beneficial not only to the individual but to the organisational culture itself.

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