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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: James Patrick Dolan, Jr.
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology
Title: Private Narratives in Public Places: A Phenomenological Inquiry into the Experiences of Gay Male Undergraduates on LGB Classroom Panels
Dr. Mary Z. Anderson, Chair
Dr. James Croteau
Dr. Robert Wait
Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2007 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
3306 Sangren Hall
The scholarly literature addresses the common practice and effectiveness of using classroom panel presentations by lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) speakers to increase awareness of LGB experiences and to change attitudes. However, little is known about the experiences of the speakers themselves or how the experience may affect the speaker’s sense of self or identity. From a narrative as identity perspective, the goal of this study is to learn what effect the repeated telling of a coming out story in a public setting may have on the teller’s identity, the story they tell, and the meanings and feelings associated with the coming out story. To examine this phenomenon, the experiences of gay male panel participants were explored. Initial in-person and follow-up in-person or phone interviews were conducted with ten participants who self-identified as gay males (not transgender), took part on LGB classroom panels as undergraduates for at least one semester, and had completed at least one semester of higher education. Interview questions were designed to elicit rich descriptions of the panel experience with attention to how the experience affected the participant and the coming out story being told. A phenomenological approach to data analysis was used to capture the essence of the panelist experience by identifying common themes and elements. An important contribution of this study is that it provides information about the panelist experience. Panelists identified several essential aspects of their experience including: a strong desire to make it easier and safer for others to come out, a high level of dedication and enthusiasm for being on panels, an opportunity for self reflection and personal growth, recognition of the therapeutic aspects of the experience, and a connection with the gay community. The repeated telling of the coming out story seems to have a number of effects: a refining effect that clarifies the coming out experience and how the story is told, a labeling effect from listening to others tell their stories, a strengthening effect for identity, and a connecting effect to the gay community. The findings suggest direct implications for panel programs as well as directions for future research.