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Title: Identity formation and conflict in older Irish gay men
Author: McCarthy, Joanne
Awarding Body: University of Lincoln
Current Institution: University of Lincoln
Date of Award: 2012
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Gay Irish men over 55 grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when homosexuality in Ireland was illegal, the Catholic Church was an unquestioned dominance within society and the heterosexual family was seen as the basic unit of the Catholic state. The power of the Catholic Church, homophobia and repressive laws combined to create an atmosphere that made many people unable or unsafe to admit their sexuality. Gay men constructed their identity under a cloak of secrecy and negotiated any identity threat and conflict between their multiple identities alone. Evidence suggests that gay and lesbian individuals with religious identities face greater social and psychosocial challenges due to their identity configuration. Furthermore, the challenges faced within identity construction, and the obstacles of threat and conflict, have shown to affect an individual’s mental health. Using the interpretive lens of Identity Process Theory (IPT) the present study used a qualitative design to explore how older gay Irish men (over the age of 55) understand and construct their sexual identity and investigate the strategies they used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven older gay men to explore their experiences, perceptions and understanding of being an older gay person in Ireland and the UK. Thematic analysis identified three themes i) experiences of sexual awareness and identity conflict; ii) the dilemma of ‘staying in ‘ vs. ‘coming out’; iii) dealing with identity conflict. The results suggested that many men faced challenges and barriers to constructing a stable identity. Religious and cultural experiences played a central role in Irish men’s identity acquisition and how they made sense of it. The results show ways in which identity conflicts were created and how the men developed strategies to minimise these conflicts. The study has implications for professionals working therapeutically with sexual minority clients. Recommendations are provided for improved understanding of sexuality issues concerning minority clients within therapeutic work. Health practitioners need to be willing to engage in discussion about the effect that religious and cultural influences have on a client’s well-being, as this will help support patients, reduce psychological distress and improve therapy outcomes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: C840 Clinical Psychology