The Openly Gay Student-Athlete: Examining Experience and Peer Culture Interaction
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University of Washington ABSTRACT The Openly Gay Student-Athlete: Examining Experience and Peer Culture Interaction Michael R. Bryant Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Dr. Clayton Cook College of Education As there has been an increased focus upon improving sport spaces towards becoming more inclusive of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals, American sport culture, although improving, continues to contest homophobic attitudes towards LGB participants. This investigation seeks to capitalize upon that improvement momentum with focus upon specific variables that comprise sport spaces for male athletes and how, in combination with the cultural norms of sport, they may influence their experience as an openly gay athlete. As recent literature has identified an improving shift within the culture of sport for males, sport participation for boys and men continues to be influenced by traditional norms of hegemonic masculinity and homophobia. As the landscape of sport continues to welcome more openly gay male athletes, particularly from the high school and college ranks, ongoing empirical research is needed to continue examining and discussing their experiences and the influence offered through evolving and improving culture of sport. Additional literature exploring factors and variables most influential towards the gay male athlete experience and upon their identity development will be helpful in sustaining a dialogue that is relevant and current to the issues gay male athletes may face. Therefore, this inquiry seeks to examine experience of current openly gay male intercollegiate student-athletes by exploring the impact of their surrounding on-campus peer culture systems. This qualitative study examined six participants who all identified as an openly gay student-athlete and either currently participate or recently graduated from their intercollegiate athletics experience. Most participants were identified via online resources through which each had provided a personal account as a gay college male student-athlete, as well as contact information for further inquiry. Additional participants were identified through a snowballing approach. A semi-structured interview process was utilized as opportunity for participants to share their experiences as influenced by their on-campus peer culture. A conceptual framework was developed utilizing Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Model, primarily focusing upon the microsystem and mesosystem of which incorporate peer-culture components most proximal to the individual. Findings discussed include participant and institution profiles, individual coming experiences, interactions with teammates and coaches, advocacy efforts and interests, as well as participant-identified attributes needed to foster a positive experience.
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