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

Abstract

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
Volume62
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2009

Keywords

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

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