Homosexuality : the disclosure process during adolescence

Robertson, Veronica L. (2011-12)

Thesis (MEd )--Stellenbosch University, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: During no other time in history have sexual minority individuals been the recipients of so much attention, scrutiny and unprecedented acceptance and inclusion into mainstream culture. However, despite advances and society's ever increasing tolerance toward sexual minorities, many individuals with alternative sexual orientations remain fearful of disclosing their sexuality. Consequently, adolescents often hide their alternative sexual orientation from others or disclose to only a select few. Adolescents with alternative sexual orientations face unique challenges, such as the coming out process, during which they must recognise, explore, define and disclose their orientation in a way that heterosexual individuals need not. Disclosure of an alternative sexual orientation is a struggle for most lesbian, gay and bisexual youth due to fears of discrimination, ostracism and violence from others. Despite a growing body of scientific literature on homosexuality in general, little is known about the disclosure process and its impact on an adolescent. This study seeks to help fill the gaps by giving voice to the adolescent by exploring the experience of disclosure. Furthermore, this study seeks to provide insight and knowledge to mental health professionals to aid adolescent clients throughout the disclosure process. This study's research methodology can be described as qualitative research which is embedded within an interpretive/constructivist paradigm. Purposive sampling was used to select five male and five female research participants. The methods of data collection that were employed comprised semi-structured individual interviews and reflective notes. Furthermore, content analysis was used to analyse the data. The findings of this study suggest that many unique issues besides the normative challenges that lesbian and gay adolescents share with heterosexual adolescents characterise their development. This research study suggests that there are several milestones that are characteristic of lesbian and gay identity development, the negotiation of which may hinder development in other areas. The male and female participants described a similar trajectory to coming out, consistently identifying a feeling of being different during early childhood which resolved into an awareness of same-sex attraction that concluded in their self-labelling as gay or lesbian. The findings of this study suggest that the process of disclosure is continuous and emergent. The reactions of parents ranged from extreme outrage and expulsion from the home to support and acceptance of the fact that their child had disclosed his/her homosexual orientation. From the findings of this study it would appear that the participants' parents were initially ill prepared and unable to support their child during his/her disclosure. The participants voiced various strategies to support an adolescent in the position of disclosing to family. There are several implications of this study's findings for mental health professionals working with lesbian, gay and bisexual adolescents and youth.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die aandag, noukeurige betragting, aanvaarding en ongekende insluiting binne die hoofstroom van die kultuur wat tans deur seksuele minderheidsgroepe ervaar word, is ongekend in die geskiedenis. Ten spyte van vooruitgang en die toenemende verdraagsaamheid teenoor die seksuele minderheid in die samelewing, vrees diegene wat 'n alternatiewe seksuele oriëntasie toon steeds om hulself bloot te stel. Gevolglik hou adolessente dikwels hul alternatiewe seksuele oriëntasie geheim of onthul hulle dit slegs aan 'n uitgesoekte paar persone. Adolessente met 'n alternatiewe seksuele oriëntasie kom op 'n wyse wat nie vir heteroseksuele individue nodig is nie, voor unieke uitdagings soos die openbaarmaking van hul oriëntasie te staan wanneer hulle dit moet erken, verken, definieër en aan die moet lig bring. Die erkenning van 'n alternatiewe seksuele oriëntasie plaas die meeste lesbiese, gay en biseksuele jeugdiges voor 'n stryd vanweë die vrees vir diskriminasie, verstoting en geweld deur andere. Ten spyte van die algemene toenemende hoeveelheid wetenskaplike literatuur oor homoseksualiteit, is daar weinig kennis van die verklaringsproses en die impak daarvan op 'n adolessent. Hierdie studie poog om die ervaring van verklaring te ondersoek om die adolessent se stem te laat hoor en sodoende die kennisgaping te oorbrug. Verder poog die studie ook om insig en kennis aan professionele persone binne die gebied van die geestesgesondheid te bied, om hulle in staat te stel om adolessente kliënte met die verklaringsproses by te staan. Die navorsingsmetodologie wat vir die studie gebruik is, kan as kwalitatiewe navorsing binne 'n interpretiewe/konstruktiwistiese paradigma beskou word. Doelgerigte toetsing is ingespan om vyf manlike en vyf vroulike deelnemers vir die navorsingspoging te werf. Data is met behulp van semigestruktureerde onderhoude en reflektiewe notas ingesamel. Verder is inhoudsanalise gebruik om die data te ontleed. Die bevindings van die studie dui daarop dat die ontwikkeling van gay en lesbiese adolessente benewens die normatiewe uitdagings wat deur hulle sowel as heteroseksuele adolessente aangespreek moet word, ook deur unieke kwessies gekenmerk word. Hierdie navorsingstudie suggereer dat verskeie mylpale kenmerkend is van die ontwikkeling van lesbiese en gay identiteit en dat die bewerkstelliging daarvan ontwikkeling in ander areas kan stuit. Die manlike en vroulike deelnemers aan die studie het langs soortgelyke bane tot die verklaring van hul oriëntasie gekom en het die gewaarwording dat hulle tydens hul vroeë jeug reeds 'n gevoel dat hulle anders was konsekwent geïdentifiseer. Hierdie gevoel het tot 'n bewustheid van die aantrekking van dieselfde geslag ontwikkel en tot self-etikettering as gay of lesbies gelei. Die bevindings van die studie stel voor dat die verklaringsproses voortdurend en opdoemend van aard is. Die reaksies van ouers wissel vanaf uiterste verontwaardiging en verdrywing vanuit die tuiste tot ondersteuning en aanvaarding van die wete dat hul kind sy/haar homoseksuele oriëntasie verklaar het. Die bevindings laat blyk ook dat die ouers van die deelnemers aanvanklik gebrekkig voorbereid was en nie in staat was om hul kind tydens die verklaring te ondersteun nie. Die deelnemers het verskeie strategieë voorgestel vir die ondersteuning van 'n adolessent wat hom/haar op die punt van hierdie verklaring aan die gesin bevind. Die studie se bevindings het ook verskeie implikasies vir professionele persone wat binne die gebied van die geestesgesondheid met lesbiese, homoseksuele en biseksuele adolessente en jeugdiges te doen het.

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