Exploring gay men’s experience of the nature and content of psychology as a discipline

Hodges, Ian
Pearson, Carol
University of Westminster,
London, UK

This study aims to map the experiences of gay men studying psychology in higher education. There is a particular focus on psychology’s treatment of sexuality within its subject matter and the experience of being a gay man in a university setting. This study utilizes qualitative methodology using semi-structured interviews and grounded theory analysis. Interviews were conducted with a sample of current and ex-students who had taken psychology as (at least) the major element of their undergraduate degree programme. Four key areas were explored and preliminary findings indicate that firstly, student expectations of reading psychology reflected the findings of previous research in that issues concerning sexuality were not given a primary status, however participants expressed an expectation of a deeper understanding of themselves. Secondly, participants reported a feeling of exclusion, lack of identification and appropriateness with respect to the curriculum which was described as sometimes homophobic and heterocentric. Thirdly, participants discussed strategies by which they dealt with their inhibitions with respect to their relationships with both staff and students within the teaching and learning environment. Fourthly, there was an indication that difficulties with the personal and social milieu resulted in a clear separation between university and domestic environments. These findings indicate that Psychology as a discipline should address the heteronormativity reported here by accommodating sexual diversity within the curriculum, teaching, learning and social environment. In this way Psychology can embrace the full diversity of its student population and become a more inclusive discipline.