Sexual Orientation and Occupation: Gay Men and Women's Lived Experiences of Occupational Participation

Rebecca Twinley, Heidi Von Kurthy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The researcher's personal experience, combined with the identification of the occupational therapy profession's past and present lack of attention to the issue of sexual orientation, stimulated the decision to undertake this research, which aimed to explore and understand the lived occupational experiences of gay men and women. A qualitative approach was used, working within the tradition of phenomenology. Five gay men and women participated in unstructured interviews.

    This research generated five themes, which provided insight into how sexual orientation can affect the occupations and the environment that a person chooses to engage in through heterosexism and fear of discrimination, prejudice and even physical attack. In turn, this influenced where and to whom people ‘came out’ and where and with whom people socialised, and possibly prevented them from engaging in occupations that they might either wish or feel they biologically need to do. This could lead to increased stress, depression, reduced support and occupational deprivation and alienation (Wilcock 1998), which may have a further impact on occupational participation.

    Research into how sexual orientation affects all client groups in differing cultures is recommended. A focus on occupational deprivation and alienation in gay people's lives, including occupations such as parenting, could also be further investigated, as could issues about socialising, discrimination, prejudice, family dynamics and support. Therapists therefore need to have the awareness, the willingness and the opportunity to consider sexual orientation within the remit of occupational therapy theory and practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)402-408
    Number of pages7
    JournalBritish journal of occupational therapy
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2006


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