Gender and Sexual Minority Faculty Negotiating “A Way of Life”: Friendships and Support Within the Academy

  • Sean RobinsonEmail author
Part of the Queer Studies and Education book series (QSTED)


Workplace friendships, and the various networks that develop out of those relationships, are a key factor in the career and identity development for gender and sexual minority (GSM) faculty and in essence help us to create and navigate a way of life in the academy. Previous research has underscored the important role of friendships in the lives of gay men and lesbians as a source of support, intimacy, and acceptance for developing and sustaining meaningful identities and selves often at odds with cultural norms that privilege heterosexuality (Nardi in Gay men’s friendships: Invincible communities. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1999; Weeks et al. in Same-sex intimacies: Families of choice and other life experiments. Routledge, London, 2001; Weinstock in Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities in families. Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 122–154, 1998). While a few studies have examined how gay men and lesbians can struggle to negotiate identities within an organization (Lee et al. in Public Administration 86(1):149–167, 2008; Ozga and Walker in Transforming managers: Gendering change in the public sector. UCL Press, London, pp. 107–119, 1999), little has been done to explore the role that friendships and relationships, either at a network or dyadic level, enable the career and identity development of gender and sexual minority university faculty. Indeed, an exploration of this issue in contemporary organizational life is relevant given that heteronormativity is manifest in many organizational settings as the source of everyday oppression experienced by gender and sexual minorities in the workplace (Lewis in Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal 4(3):208–230, 2009; Skidmore in Gender, Work & Organization 11(3):229–253, 2004; Ward and Winstanley in Human Relations 56(10):1255–1280, 2003). Based on narrative interviews with 70 GSM faculty across the USA, this chapter explores workplace relationships and friendships of GSM faculty within university contexts as a way to add to our understanding about how, indeed, can we as GSM faculty create and sustain the multiplicity of relationships that ultimately support us and allow us to create a particular way of life for ourselves.


Workplace friendships LGBTQ Faculty University 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Morgan State UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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