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IN AND OUT OF THE CLOSET: HOW PARENTS OF GAY AND LESBIAN INDIVIDUALS DISCLOSE THE FAMILY SECRET TO OUTSIDERS

by CALDWELL, MICHELE E.

Abstract (Summary)
This study examines how parents disclose a child’s gay/lesbian identity to outsiders as a signifier of true acceptance of the child’s identity. The closet metaphor has been applied not only to gay and lesbian individuals who are hiding their homosexuality from those who perceive them to be heterosexual, but the metaphor has also been applied to parents of gay and lesbian individuals. The secret is unique because literature on family secrets discusses the solidarity among secret-keepers, but keeping the secret of a child’s homosexuality may have detrimental effects on the child’s identity and self-esteem. A preliminary study found evidence of a three-phase model of acceptance that includes going into the closet, feeling good about the issues, and coming out of the closet. The current study found evidence of this phasic model that includes variations of popular grief models, plus extended behavioral and communicative actions that make up a more comprehensive model for how parents cope with, accept, and disclose the family secret of a child’s gay/lesbian identity. Further, the study includes analysis of general versus specific disclosures and the differences between mothers’ and fathers’ reactions. A unique online method was used to gather nationwide participation.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:University of Cincinnati

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:homosexuality family secrets self disclosure grief model parental reactions

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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