Reasons for Non-Disclosure of Sexual Orientation Among Behaviorally Bisexual Men: Non-Disclosure as Stigma Management
- 1.4k Downloads
Although bisexual men are known to be less likely to disclose their sexual orientation to others than gay men, the reasons why bisexual men choose or feel unable to disclose have received minimal research attention. To examine the reasons behaviorally bisexual men offer for not disclosing to their friends, family, and female partners, in-depth interviews were conducted with an ethnically diverse sample of 203 men who had not disclosed their same-sex behavior to their female sexual partners in New York City. Men were recruited from multiple venues and online sources using a targeted sampling approach. Transcripts were thematically analyzed using Atlas.ti software. Contrary to the theory that non-disclosure is due to uncertainty about one’s sexual identity, the reasons offered for non-disclosure revealed that it was largely a method to avoid stigmatizing reactions from others. Men reported a number of specific reasons for non-disclosure, including (1) anticipation of negative emotional reactions; (2) anticipation of negative changes in relationships; (3) belief that others held stigmatizing attitudes toward homosexuality; (4) prior experience with negative reactions to disclosure; (5) wanting to maintain others’ perceptions of him; (6) fear that those told would disclose to additional people; and (7) fear of rejection due to culture or religion. These findings provide insights into the reasons why many behaviorally bisexual men choose not to disclose, potential reasons why bisexual and gay men differ in the extent to which they disclose, and potential reasons why some bisexual men report greater emotional distress than gay men. Further, they suggest that greater attention needs to be placed on addressing the stigmatizing contexts that confront bisexual men and providing them with strategies to manage stigma.
KeywordsBisexuality Disclosure Stigma Sexual orientation Sexual identity
This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01-MH076680). Daniel Cohn was supported by an internship stipend provided by the Gwen M. Greene Career and Internship Center at the University of Rochester. The ideas and opinions presented here are those of the authors and not necessarily of the funding sources. The authors would also like to thank Karolynn Siegel and Jeffrey Parsons for their efforts in conceptualizing and designing the parent study, Edward Clark and the recruitment team for their assistance with recruitment and data collection, and the qualitative coding team for their assistance with data analysis. Finally, the authors would like to thank the many participants who shared their stories with us. An earlier version of this report was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, November 2012.
- Agyemang, S., Wallace, B. C., & Liebman, R. E. (2008). An exploratory internet study of Black men on the down low: Potential factors related to non-disclosure to female partners and inconsistent condom use for Black men who have sex with men and women (MSMW). The Journal of Equity in Health, 1, 79–97.Google Scholar
- Baldwin, A., Dodge, B., Schick, V., Hubach, R. D., Bowling, J., Malebranche, D., … Fortenberry, J. D. (2015). Sexual self-identification among behaviorally bisexual men in the Midwestern United States. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 2015–2026. doi: 10.1007/s10508-014-0376-1.
- Boyatzis, R. E. (1998). Transforming qualitative information: Thematic analysis and code development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Dodge, B., Schnarrs, P. W., Reece, M., Martinez, O., Concalves, G., Malebranche, D., … Fortenberry, J. D. (2012). Individual and social factors related to mental health concerns among bisexual men in the Midwestern United States. Journal of Bisexuality, 12, 223–245.Google Scholar
- Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Malebranche, D. J., Arriola, K. J., Jenkins, T. R., Dauria, E., & Patel, S. N. (2010). Exploring the “bisexual bridge”: A qualitative study of risk behavior and disclosure of same-sex behavior among Black bisexual men. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 159–164.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Martinez, O., Dodge, B., Reece, M., Schnarrs, P. W., Rhodes, S. D., Goncalves, G., … Foretnberry, J. D. (2011). Sexual health and life experiences: Voices from behaviourally bisexual Latino men in the Midwestern USA. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 13, 1073–1089.Google Scholar
- Merton, R. K., Fiske, M., & Kendall, P. L. (1990). The focused interview: A manual of problems and procedures (2nd ed.). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Miller, C. T., & Major, B. (2000). Coping with stigma and prejudice. In T. F. Heatherton, R. E. Kleck, M. R. Hebl, & J. G. Hull (Eds.), The social psychology of stigma (pp. 243–272). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Petronio, S. (2002). Boundaries of privacy: Dialectics of disclosure. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Rosario, M., Hunter, J., Maguen, S., Gwadz, M., & Smith, R. (2001). The coming-out process and its adaptational and health-related associations among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: Stipulation and exploration of a model. American Journal of Community Psychology, 29, 133–160.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Tieu, H.-V., Spikes, P., Patterson, J., Bonner, S., Egan, J. E., Goodman, K., … Koblin, B. A. (2012). Sociodemographic and risk behavior characteristics associated with unprotected sex with women among black men who have sex with men and women in New York City. AIDS Care, 24, 1111–1119.Google Scholar