Graduate Program

College Student Affairs

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Richard L. Roberts



The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to identify existing themes in the lived experiences of five gay males who disclosed their sexuality to some or all of their fraternity brothers while still an undergraduate member. Interviews with the participants were conducted to identify (1) their perceptions of the environment within the fraternity in regard to sexuality, (2) coping strategies used to conceal their sexuality, (3) variables that facilitated coming-out to their fraternities, and ( 4) their approach to coming-out to their fraternities.


Participants were obtained by means of a Call for Participants Email sent over a number of sizable listservs that focused on issues pertaining either to fraternity men, gay men, or gay men in fraternities. Five individuals were selected who fit the selection criteria for this study. The researcher collected data through one-on-one informal interviews that were audio-recorded and transcribed. Interviews were semi-structured to allow for the participants to fully share their stories. The researcher used the constant comparative qualitative analysis technique to identify emerging themes.


Three themes emerged in response to participants' perceptions of the fraternity environment in regard to sexuality: homophobia, heterosexism, and heterocentrism. Participants' perceptions of the fraternity environment significantly affected the usage of both the type and frequency of coping strategies employed. Numerous variables influenced a person's decision to come-out, but most of these variables were in some way linked to the individual's level of homosexual identity development. Three approaches to coming-out were identified: member specific approach, step-by-step approach, and passive/reactive approach. The member specific approach emphasized coming-out to specific members who were leaders or had a strong bond with the participant. The step-by-step approach focused on a carefully planned strategy to reveal one's sexuality. The passive/reactive approach involved creating scenarios that indirectly provided the opportunity for the respondent to affirm his sexuality. The approach used in coming-out to one's fraternity members appeared to have a strong connection with the variables that facilitated one to come-out to his fraternity. However, the different approaches to coming-out within a fraternity seemed in many ways to contain numerous overlapping elements.