Gay male identity development: A qualitative exploration

Charles Joseph Lattarulo, Fordham University


The present qualitative study was an exploration of the process of identity development for a select group of gay men. The purpose of the study was to identify the factors involved in coming out to self and others and acquiring a gay male identity. Semistructured interviews with a diverse sample of 10 gay males ranging in age from 20 to 65 years were conducted. The men were from a variety of ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. Open, axial, and selective themes emerged from the data analysis, yielding a grounded theory. The grounded theory emerged from a total of 28 open, 13 axial, and 5 selective categories. The grounded theory that emerged from the current study is that gay males are subject to a barrage of negative messages, anti-gay language, and violence from their earliest recollections. Consequently, these males become hyperaware of their environments, and their presentation in these environments, as a strategy to negotiate an unwelcoming world. They internalize much of their plight, and become adept at keeping their thoughts and feelings secret. Concerns about safety are a constant in their lives. Resources and role models are sparse, and the males tend to find support in unorthodox areas, most notably other gay men and the Internet. Many men in this study engaged in sexual activity early in their lives, as these sex partners frequently served as mentors for them. Directions for future research and clinical implications are considered.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Personality

Recommended Citation

Lattarulo, Charles Joseph, "Gay male identity development: A qualitative exploration" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3159318.