Understanding experiences of coming out: The development of sexual identity in young gay adults
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This study explored the experience of coming out for young gay adults. Six individuals took part in an in-depth, semi-structured interview, designed to draw out personal accounts of their experience and the meaning it had for them. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), an approach to phenomenology which aims to capture and understand lived experience. Six recurrent themes were identified as being integral to the participants’ accounts and as capturing most strongly their understandings of their experience: “The alienation of the closet: Struggling to find a sense of self”; “A waiting game: The importance of acceptance for coming out”; “‘I’m gay, so what’: The revelation of coming out”; “Finding a niche: The self-preservation of a positive sense of self”; “Defying the norm: Being out in a heteronormative society” and “To be or not to be:‘Sexuality as not a label anymore’”. The findings illustrate that coming out is a challenging but ultimately positive experience which leads to ongoing sexual identity development. Areas for future research and ways in which the coming out process could be made easier for gay individuals are discussed.