Harmony, Dissonance, and the Gay Community: A Dialogical Approach to Same-Sex Desiring Men's Sexual Identity Development

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This study explores implications of adapting Hermans’ (2001) dialogical model of self as multiply voiced to Cohler and Hammack's (2007) theoretical approach to sexual identity as a dynamic relationship between sexual desires, behaviors and broadly shared cultural discourses. I used the Listening Guide as a novel way of investigating the interrelationships of individual I and social We sexual self voices in tandem with 2 cultural discourses of Struggle and Success (“coming out” as gay) and Emancipation (“post gay” queer identity). The data were individual interviews with a developmentally diverse group of 10 white, same-sex desiring men (ages 20–50). In these men's narratives of the gay community in particular, I and We sexual self voices combined in 2 distinct ways: harmoniously in tandem with a single cultural discourse of Struggle and Success or Emancipation, and dissonantly in tandem with both cultural discourses voiced together. Whereas patterns of harmony reflected coherent stories of sexual identity, patterns of dissonance marked narratives of identity confusion. I discuss implications of an approach to sexual identity as multiply voiced for current theory and practice.

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