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Coming out and outcomes: negotiating lesbian and gay identities with, and in, the family

Valentine, Gill; Skelton, Tracey; Butler, Ruth


Gill Valentine

Tracey Skelton

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Dr Ruth Butler
Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Research


In late modernity there has been a shift in the ways that individuals relate to society, in which traditional ideas, expectations, and hierarchies are being reworked. Released from the constraints and social norms of tradition, individuals, it is argued, are now freer to choose between a range of options in the pursuit of their own happiness. Notably, these social changes have been understood to provide more opportunities for lesbians and gay men to 'come out'-disclose their sexuality and live the lifestyle of their choice. Coming out is often implicitly discussed in academic literatures as an individual decision, and the consequences of coming out are also usually explored in relation to the personal narratives of the individual who has disclosed a lesbian and gay sexuality. To date, little attention has been paid to the actual processes through which sexual dissidents negotiate their identities with others, and to the consequences of such disclosures for those who are close to them or share their lives in various ways. In this paper we address this omission by focusing on young people's experiences of coming out with, and in, families of origin. We begin by examining what is at stake in the decision whether to come out or not by examining the role that families of origin play in young people's lives. We then explore how the process of coming out is actually negotiated within different families. Finally, we consider the 'outcomes' of these choices. In doing so we contribute to research on geographies of sexualities, geographies of the 'family', youth transitions, and the emerging field of social studies of emotions.


Valentine, G., Skelton, T., & Butler, R. (2003). Coming out and outcomes: negotiating lesbian and gay identities with, and in, the family. Environment and planning. D, Society & space, 21(4), 479-499.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 31, 2003
Online Publication Date Jul 22, 2016
Publication Date 2003-07
Print ISSN 0263-7758
Electronic ISSN 1472-3433
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 4
Pages 479-499
Keywords Geography, Planning and Development; Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
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