Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Coming out (Sexual orientation), Brothers and sisters, Gays-Family relationships, Coming out, Sexual orientation, Siblings, Sibling relationship


This qualitative study explores LGBTQ individuals' experiences navigating sexual orientation disclosure to their sibling(s). The purpose of the study was to examine the role siblings play in sexual orientation disclosure, how and why LGBTQ identified individuals 'come out' to their sibling(s), and provide a glimpse into their experiences of this disclosure. Eleven individuals, ages 25–32 who identified as Lesbian, Gay, Bi–sexual, Transgender or Queer were interviewed via open–ended, semi–structured interviews. LGBTQ participants were asked to speak about their sibling(s) relationship prior to and following their sexual orientation disclosure and the trajectory of their sexual orientation awareness through the process of 'coming out'. Though each story was unique and individual, common themes emerged across interviews including periods of silence and secrecy, sense of relief, honesty and the intersection of self– discovery and the effects of exposure on the sibling(s) relationship. Findings from this study showed that the nature of the sibling relationship, moments of opportunity and circumstances were primary determinants of disclosure to siblings. Individuals shared diverse stories about their experiences 'coming out' that ranged in length, intensity and effect; all of which are difficult to isolate from external influences. Siblings and the sibling relationship played a role in LGBTQ individuals' sexual orientation disclosure whether it functioned as a bridge between familial generations and society or a questioning voice. Sexual orientation disclosure is multifaceted and 'coming out' to siblings is just one aspect of this ongoing intimate process that contributes to a deeper understanding of the LGBTQ community.




iii, 72 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 59-64)