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Dissertation

Positive Identity Development in Gay and Lesbian Adolescents: AphenonienollogicalStudy

9 December 2005

Abstract

A majority of the research and literature to date on sexual minority adolescents is focused on the difficulties sexual minority adolescents experience. This qualitative study explores the phenomenon of positive identity development in gay and lesbian adolescents of five self-identified gay and lesbian individuals between the ages of 18 and 23. The participants were interviewed in person with a semi-structured, open ended question format. During the interview the participants described their experiences of identity development as sexual minorities. Content analysis was perfonned on the interview transcripts. Content analysis revealed themes common among the participants' developmental processes: they realized at an early age that they were "different", they focused on having a strong foundation that existed prior to identifying their sexual orientation, and they faced difficulties due to their sexual orientation. Content analysis also revealed coping skills and resilience factors that were common amongst the participants: they established supportive communities; they found a passion, set goals, and became very driven individuals; and they grew up in progressive towns. The analysis also revealed that all of the participants benefited from their experiences of developing a positive identity as a sexual minority adolescent: they identify as being happy with themselves and having more selfconfidence than most of their peers; they identify as being a "stronger person"; and they are involved with activism, outreach, and education. Positive identity in gay and lesbian adolescents does not appear to develop just from luck and good fortune, nor does it develop from lack of difficulties or stressors. The development of a positive identity is perceived to be an outcome of surrounding oneself with supportive people, having a positive attitude and outlook on life, and pouring one's energy into identified passions and goals. This experience of developing a positive identity as a sexual minority adolescent leads to self-confidence, inner strength, and a desire to help others achieve the same.


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