Individuals in same-gender couples’ experiences of outness in adult romantic relationships: the impact of the “closet” on connection

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Whitney Paige Akers (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Craig Cashwell

Abstract: By virtue of living in an inherently heterosexist/heteronormative and cisgenderist/cisnormative society (Bornstein, 1998; Infanti, 2016; Rich, 1980), lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer (LGBTQ) individuals must deal with outness, the disclosure of sexual orientation unique to those who do not identify as heterosexual (Bradford et al., 1997) or the disclosure of gender identity unique to those who do not identify as cisgender (Dentato, Craig, Messinger, Lloyd, & McInroy, 2014). As an inevitable component of identity formation to those who do not identify with the heterosexual or cisgender societal norm, one’s level of outness is likely to shift and change based on environment, social location, and surrounding influences, whether they be people, social groups, legal structures, or matters of safety (Klein, Holtby, Cook, & Travers, 2015). Relatedly, as common as the experience of outness may be, little is known about the influence of outness on same-gender romantic relationships, specifically in the arena of relationship satisfaction (Knoble & Linville, 2012). Although some researchers have found increased levels of outness to positively correlate with relationship satisfaction (Berger, 1990; Caron & Ulin, 1997; Jordan & Deluty, 2000), others have found no relationship between outness and relationship satisfaction (Beals & Peplau, 2001; Todosijevic, Rothblum, & Solomon, 2005). Thus, through use of a photovoice methodology, the purpose of this study was to (a) gain depth in understanding the experience of outness in various social arenas among people in same-gender intimate relationships as it relates to relationship satisfaction within their relationship; (b) understand themes in the meanings that participants ascribe to visual depictions of outness in various settings (i.e., familial, social, religious, legal, work, etc.); and (c) support participants in engaging with policymakers through community advocacy efforts presenting findings in whatever ways the participants see fit. Participants who are engaged in same-gender romantic relationships took photographs depicting their experiences of outness as they relate to relationship satisfaction and provided titles and captions to describe selected photographs. After participants engaged with photographs during a structured focus group, the researcher utilized Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to summarize common themes within the focus group discussion, photographs, and captions and provided counselors, counselor educators, supervisors, and researchers increased insight and depth into the role of outness regarding relationship satisfaction in same-gender romantic relationships.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Counseling, LGBTQ, Outness, Photovoice, Same-gender relationships
Coming out (Sexual orientation) $x Psychological aspects
Closeted gays $x Family relationships
Gay couples $x Family relationships
Gay couples $x Counseling of

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