Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Janet Jacobs

Second Advisor

Joanne Belknap

Third Advisor

Jennifer Bair

Fourth Advisor

Emmanuel David

Fifth Advisor

Lee Chambers


I analyze sexual identity formation and management among college-aged gay men as they navigate their way through a predominantly straight culture. Drawing from 42 in-depth, semi-structured interviews, I show some of the challenges men face managing their sexual identity in both physical and online spaces. First, I analyze how technology, specifically social media, has changed the ways in which gay men come out to others in addition to how gay men manage their sexual identity online. I then investigate ways in which internet technologies have changed patterns of social interaction among young gay men, particularly when it comes to seeking out romantic partners. I argue that the increase in online interaction is actually increasing public invisibility of gay men as the number of physical spaces that cater to gay men decline. Next, I examine the experiences these men have had with homophobia at different stages of their lives. Despite recent advancements in gay rights and increased visibility and perceived acceptance of gay people in various media outlets, homophobia continues to be pervasive in American culture. I then argue that the overall homophobic cultural discourse has led many men to internalize negative emotions about their gay identity. I analyze the ways in which some gay boys and men "try out" heterosexuality in hopes that they will discover that it is actually their true sexual identity. I also explore some of the ways in which men feel their sexual identity is a limiting factor in a predominantly heterosexual culture. This research allows for a richer, more detailed understanding of how gay men form and manage their identity in a society that is in part still characterized by institutionalized homophobia.