Coming Out, Distress and Identity Threat in Gay Men in the UK

Glynis M. Breakwell, Rusi Jaspal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Coming out as gay can be a psychologically challenging event, and recall of a negative coming out experience can initiate subsequent identity changes in gay men. We tested whether baseline levels of identity resilience and internalized homonegativity moderate these effects.

A between-participant experimental study, with an ethnically diverse sample of 333 gay men in the United Kingdom (UK), examined levels of contemporaneous identity threat of reflecting upon recollections of either a coming out experience that had a negative or a stabilizing effect on self-schema. Data were collected in 2020 and analyzed using multiple regression and path analysis.

Path analysis showed that a model predicting level of identity threat after recall of a negative coming out experience fitted the data well. Identity resilience was negatively correlated with internalized homonegativity and distress during memory recall. Both distress and homonegativity correlated positively with identity threat. The relationship between recalling a negative coming out experience and distress was mediated by the perceived typicality of the recalled experience.

Through its effects on distress and internalized homonegativity, identity resilience reduces the threatening effect of recollecting a negative coming out experience upon contemporary identity.

Policy Implications
Offering gay men awareness of the social and psychological routes to raising identity resilience may be beneficial in reducing internalized homonegativity and the ongoing effects of remembered negative coming out experiences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSexuality Research and Social Policy
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

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  • Coming out
  • Gay men
  • Identity process theory
  • Identity resilience
  • Identity threat
  • Internalized homonegativity


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