Sexual identity and health of young gay men and lesbians

Mok, Catherine (2000) Sexual identity and health of young gay men and lesbians. Research Master thesis, Victoria University of Technology.


This study utilised a grounded theory approach to explore relationships between life-experiences, sexual identity and health of young gay men and lesbians. The sample was gained using a snowball technique; all informants were aged between 18 and 25 and identified themselves as gay or lesbian. Thirteen people were interviewed using a recursive in-depth technique. Through these in-depth interviews, six major themes emerged from the data collected: (i) concerns of sexual identity; (ii) coming out; (iii) social and sexual relationships; (iv) social support; (v) health issues; and (vi) experiences in the education system. clear that the process of realising sexual identity had a significant impact on respondents' lives. Most felt that they had grown up in environments that were relatively hostile to their emerging sexuality. Issues pertaining to coming out were among those that had most affected the respondents. Both hiding and disclosing their sexuality were reported as being very stressful; no informant, however, felt regret about coming out. The relationships that informants had with their parents remained very important to them. Fear about parental reactions to coming out was common. Isolation to some extent was prevalent with regards to friendships, with most informants reporting both negative and positive reactions from friends on coming out. Lack of social support was a problem expressed by many informants, especially during the time they were coming to terms with their sexuality. In their interactions with health practitioners, informants had often been assumed to be heterosexual, which had adversely affected the level of care provided to them. Generally, the health concerns of the young lesbians related to gynaecological issues, whereas for the young gay men, sexually transmitted diseases were of greatest concern. The lack of accurate and inclusive information about sexuality in curricula and the common failure to acknowledge the presence of gays and lesbians in schools were felt fo be important concerns by the informants, and most reported having felt alienated and isolated to some degree while at school. The main conclusion of this study was that young gay men and lesbians face a range of challenges and difficulties as a result of widespread homophobia and heterosexism in the community. It is clear that there is need for a broader understanding of the types of support that might be required to improve the overall health of young gays and lesbians in a predominantly heterocentric society. Several implications were proposed for future research and for practice.

Additional Information

Master of Arts

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science
Historical > FOR Classification > 1608 Sociology
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Sport and Exercise Science
Keywords homosexuality, identity, lesbians, gay men, mental health, Victoria
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