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Title: "I cant really put into words the pain of the shame that I felt inside." : The role of religious homophobia in the development of shame and implications for sense making in HIV diagnosis : the experiences of Northern Irish gay men
Author: Kerrigan, Keith
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 7936
Awarding Body: University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2012
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HIV remains a highly stigmatised illness that has historically been associated with gay men. Religious attributions of such have historically often focused on divine retribution for homosexual activity, placing HIV positive gay men who reside in conservative religious contexts at vulnerability for experiencing dual stigma and higher levels of internalised homophobia. Whereas studies have explored how gay men negotiate sexual identity within religious contexts there is less research focusing upon the way in which previous negative religious experiences feature in the sense making process following HIV diagnosis. Given that homosexuality is often regarded as sin within religious contexts and the strong symbolic merging of same sex activity with HIV, there is a need to explore the experiences of diagnosis in gay men who were biographically exposed to condemnatory narratives regarding their sexual orientation. The current study sought to explore these experiences in a homogenous sample of gay men living in Northern Ireland. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 6 participants who grew up within religious families (where religion was taught as an important ideal), who had experienced religious homo-negativity and who had since been diagnosed with HIV. Interviews focused on two aspects of experience (1) understanding same sex attraction within religious contexts and (2) understanding the experience of HIV diagnosis. Data were analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. Four major themes emerged from within each context. Context one "Negotiating an authentic self' relates to the way in which the men negotiated same sex attraction within religious environments and includes: (a) Awareness of an authentic self, (b) Learning to doubt the authentic self, (c) A shame based self and (d) Reconstructing Gael. The second context "Negotiating HIV" relates to the way in which the men made sense of diagnosis from the position of having been exposed to religious homo-negativity earlier in their lives and includes: (a) The Devastation of diagnosis, (b) "That lingering presence ", (c) The significance of others: Protecting & preserving; and (d) Moving forward: Coping and finding benefit. Findings demonstrate the significant damage to self experienced by the men as they negotiated their sexual orientation within religious contexts and how a reconstruction of God was necessary to preserve a sense of self. Findings also demonstrate the way in which HIV was appraised according to previously learned shame-based frameworks of understanding and how despite the above, participants report experience of benefit finding and growth. The role of religious stigma on individual belief systems and implications for sense making in HIV are discussed in terms of clinical practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available