Friendships between gay male college students
Wilson, William Andrew
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To add to the literature on assisting gay male college students, the purpose of this study was to examine friendships between gay male college students. The study was conducted at three institutions including a large, public research university, a two-year public college, and a highly selective, private research institution. The study was designed to answer the following research questions: 1. How do gay male college students describe their friendships with other gay male college students? 2. How do friendships between gay male college students affect their experiences in the collegiate environment? 3. What role does friendship with other gay male college students have on the identity development of gay male college students? 4. What impact does institutional type have on gay male friendships? A sample of 12 self-identifying gay males participated in this study with four participants representing each institution. Each participant took 24 photographs of inanimate objects to show how they describe their gay male friendships in college and how these friendships affected their collegiate experiences. Using these photographs, the researcher conducted semi-structured interviews. These data were analyzed to identify themes related to the research questions. The results of this study provided interesting information about friendships between gay male college students. First, gay male college students described their friendships with other gay male college students as uniquely meaningful, involving sexual attraction, a friendship hierarchy, and familial support. Second, emergent themes that illustrated how these gay male friendships affect their collegiate experiences involved culturally pressured body image, as well as serving as cultural guides through gay culture and as fundamental support mechanisms. Third, data suggest that gay male friendships also aided participants in their identity development via their essential role in initially sharing their sexual orientation, using friends as comparisons to benchmark behavior in gay culture, and integrating their sexual identity with other identities. Finally, institutional type affected gay male friendships in college as it related to validating students’ sexual identity through academic courses, resource availability, participant place of residence, and visible signs of support.