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Siblings, sexualities, and secrets: exploring the sibling coming out experience

Witcombe-Hayes, Sarah 2014. Siblings, sexualities, and secrets: exploring the sibling coming out experience. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis presents an in-depth, qualitative mixed method (QMM) inquiry into the coming out experiences of 19 lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) and 6 heterosexual brothers and sisters. It investigates what happens to sibling relationships, sibling identities, and sibling practices when non-heterosexuality is disclosed or discovered. This study seeks to explore how LGB individuals manage their sexuality in sibling and wider family dynamics; the difficulties of keeping secrets, the fears of being rejected, and the joys or disappointments experienced as they negotiate their new sexual identities. This study also explores how heterosexual siblings are emotionally affected by the disclosure of their sibling’s sexuality, and the impact that non-heterosexuality can have upon the relationships between brothers and sisters over time. The analysis is based upon data generated through semi-structured interviews, sibling sticker charts, research diaries, and debrief meetings. The research concludes that heterosexual siblings are significant in the process of coming out, but that disclosure is often far from simple. What is revealed is that the lives of siblings are meshed in wider family connections (specifically parents) and that the decisions about whether or not to come out to heterosexual brothers and sisters are often made in light of family responsibilities, obligations and commitments. The research shows that when parents hold homophobic or hostile attitudes towards non-heterosexuality this can create barriers to openness between siblings, causing tension in family relationships. Findings also suggest that when LGB individuals do come out the reactions from their heterosexual siblings are complex and often tied up in understandings of their relational family connections. Heterosexual sibling stories show a range of simultaneous, competing, and non-liner emotions about having an LGB brother or sister, including happiness, shock, concern, and anger. When attention is paid to the impact of disclosure over time this research shows that coming out can change the relationships between LGB and heterosexual brothers and sisters in mostly positive ways, although there can also be some negative consequences for these relationships. Sibling connections can become stronger, closer, and more supportive post disclosure. This seemingly troubles the persuasive discourses of crisis and rejection from families that have been entrenched in family coming out stories.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2024 14:33

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