Date of Award

Fall 2009

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Burkard, Alan

Second Advisor

Knox, Sarah

Third Advisor

Edwards, Lisa

Abstract

The prospect of coming out in the workplace may generate considerable fear for lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) individuals. This includes fears of job discrimination and loss of employment, and verbal and physical harassment. Surveys of heterosexuals found that a vast majority (approximately 79%) believed that job performance, not one‘s sexual orientation, should determine how an employee is judged. Even so, LGB individuals continue to experience discrimination. As in other workplaces, LGB educators may function in environments that are unsupportive and non-affirming, and as a result, they may find it difficult to manage their sexual identity at work. While there is some understanding of the coming out experiences of the LGB educator, only one research study specifically examined the experiences of LGB school counselors (Miller, 1998). In order to develop a greater understanding of the decision-making process regarding coming out at work for these important professionals, a qualitative study utilizing interviews with 12 LGB school counselors was completed. This study sought to explore the influence a specific event or experience may have had on the school counselor‘s decision whether to come out at work. The experiences reported by participants fell into two broad categories. Typically, these counselors described inhibiting experiences or facilitating experiences that influenced the disclosure of their LGB identity. Many of the findings in the study are in line with previous research of other educators while it is worth noting that fear is still the most significant concern among these participants despite reported changes in more affirming policies and laws in protection of LGB employees. More research is needed to further examine school counselors‘ decision-making regarding coming out at work and the potential impact, if any, on their role as leaders and advocates for students.

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