Date of Submission

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Yuma Tomes, PhD, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Terri Erbacher-Duff, PhD

Third Advisor

Patricia Trujillo-Strong, PsyD

Abstract

This research explored the understanding of coming out, using qualitative methods. Through a semi-structured interview, the present study explored: individuals’ unique experiences of coming out in middle or high school, the challenges of coming out, supports available while in school, as well as ideas of how schools can support students who decide to come out. A central theme of the study was to uncover opportunities for schools to support GLBTQQ students who self-disclose a homosexual identity. The results of the current study suggest that schools are providing no supports to limited support systems for sexual minority youth. In reference to the unique experiences of coming out, four themes emerged, which include: Coming out as a process, Fear, Disclosure, and Psycho-Social. Themes extracted from the interviews were compared with Cass’ (1984) six-stage model of homosexual identity formation. The current study proposed a linear process, which includes: Self-Awareness, Self-Reflection, Self- Acceptance, Self-Confidence, and Self-Disclosure. In reference to challenges, results revealed that individuals faced bullying, rejection from peers and family members, depression and suicide attempts, running away and prostitution. In terms of supports, results revealed that schools should provide psycho-social supports (e.g., Gay-Straight Alliances, Teacher Mentors) and academic supports (e.g., inclusive curriculum, performing arts programs).