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Alternative Title

Identity and coming out experiences

Publication Date


Document Type


Study Type

Mixed methods


School for Social Work


Lesbians-Psychology, Adoptees-Psychology, Identity (Philosophical concept), Coming out (Sexual orientation), Heterosexism, Lesbian identity, Adoptee identity, Coming out, Heteronormativity, Bionormativity


A considerable body of research exists on both adoption and coming out as unique experiences of adoptees and sexual minorities, yet there is no information available to help us understand the lived experiences of people who are adopted and who have come out. This dissertation project used a mixed methods study design to explore and better understand 1) how being adopted influences the coming out process for lesbian women, 2) if type of adoption influences adoptive and lesbian identity, 3) how the process of coming out as a lesbian has changed over time for adopted women, 4) the impact of cultural norms on the lived experiences of adoptees and lesbians and, 5) supports or resources that were most beneficial to adopted women navigating the coming out process. One hundred twenty two lesbian identified adoptees completed an online survey, with 14 participating in follow-up qualitative interviews. Quantitative findings showed no differences in lesbian or adoptee identity related to type of adoption or age cohort. Qualitative results indicate that adoptive status contributes to increased fear and worry in the coming out process, regardless of type of adoption. Heteronormativity and bionormativity contributed to the vulnerability adoptees experienced in the coming out process.




iv, 147 pages. Ph.D. Dissertation-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma., 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 112-120)