Disclosing sexuality: Gay and bisexual men’s experiences of coming out, forced out, going back in and staying out of the ‘closet’ in prison [2019]

Many papers have been written on the process of coming out by individuals with predominantly same-sex sexual orientation but few of these papers have explored the concept of how people negotiate the idea of coming out in prison. We conducted in-depth interviews with 13 prisoners and one ex-prisoner in New South Wales, Australia, who self-identified as gay, homosexual or bisexual men. Data was collected and analysed using an inductive or grounded theory framework since very little was known on the sexual behaviours and identities of Australian prisoners prior to the study and elsewhere. We examined and discussed the lived experiences of prisoners whose disclosure stories were seen to fall under four thematic categories: ‘coming out’, ‘forced out’, ‘going back in’ and ‘staying out of the closet’ on entering prison. Respondents were required continuously and contextually to manage their sexual identities and disclosure to different audiences while incarcerated. Findings suggest that the prison environment and its attendant heteronormative values and hyper-masculine culture, apply significant pressure on gay and bisexual men on how to manage their sexual identities and disclose their sexuality in prison.

Lorraine Yap, Paul Simpson, Juliet Richters, Basil Donovan, Luke Grant & Tony Butler
Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care, Volume 22, 2020 – Issue 11