Gay men at work: (Re)constructing the self as professional

Nick Rumens*, Deborah Kerfoot

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article is a study of professional identity work, using in-depth interview material from research conducted into the work lives of 10 gay men employed in a UK National Health Service Trust. Using the men's portraits of professional life, we examine the different ways they understand what it means to be a 'professional'. The article suggests that while gay men appear to be empowered by forms of agency to self-identify as professionals in 'gay-friendly' work contexts, they are by no means unaffected by dominant professional norms and discourses of heteronormativity that treat sexuality and professionalism as polar opposites. Thus how straightforward it might be for the interviewees to self-identify as 'professional' and openly gay within an organization that is perceived to be 'gay-friendly' is scrutinized in terms of the professional identity dilemmas experienced by the study participants. We conclude that, even within 'gayfriendly' organizational settings, fashioning a professional identity is a process marked by negotiation and struggle.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)763-786
    Number of pages24
    JournalHuman Relations
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - May 2009


    • Gay men
    • Gay-friendly workplaces
    • Identity work
    • Organization studies
    • Professional
    • Sexuality


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