ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communications



First Advisor

Karishma Chatterjee


Identity development is a fragile process for any individual but even more complex for individuals who identify as gay and who cannot openly and freely express or communicate their sexual identity for fear of rejection and hate. Acceptance of gay sexual orientation has undergone a backlash in recent years. Legislation aimed at silencing gay individuals has increasingly been passed in several states, which, in effect, could silence the gay community's discussions and communication. The resurgence of homophobia may lead to the gay individual concealing their identity or assuming a straight identity in other social settings, resulting in the inner turmoil of cognitive dissonance and internalized homophobia. Self-discrepancy theory and communication theory of identity were used as conceptual frameworks to understand the difficulties of establishing a homosexual self-concept within a heteronormative culture. Via interviews with gay individuals, the study examined the consequences of concealing and negotiating sexual identity at a time when homophobia and hostility are possible. Study findings suggest most if not all, participants experienced fear when deciding to come out to their friends and family. Most participants revealed they had first come out to their friends and subsequently to their families. Many of them had not come out to workplace colleagues. It seemed that most participants realized they were gay early in their lives yet hid their personal identities until they reached adulthood. The relational and communal layers of identity had an influence on the acceptance of their personal gay identity. They enacted a straight identity for periods of time, which led to internalized homophobia and cognitive dissonance. Participants managed the dissonance by using drugs, experiencing mental illness, and sometimes even getting married to an opposite-sex partner.


Coming out, Gay, Cognitive dissonance, Internalized homophobia, Communication theory of identity


Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Available for download on Thursday, August 01, 2024

Included in

Communication Commons