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Workplace friendships: exploring friendship development between gay and heterosexual men in the workplace

By Stephen McDonald


This thesis explores dyadic workplace friendships between gay men and heterosexual men and women. I draw on the qualitative findings of twenty interviews undertaken with men who are all openly gay in their workplaces. The interview data sheds light on these friendships within a variety of work place contexts, examining how the context of the workplace can influence the forms of friendships gay men construct. The thesis covers three main areas: 1) how gay men develop workplace friendships and the forms that these friendships take in heteronormative workplaces; 2) the importance of workplace friendships and the meanings attached to those friendships; 3) the influence of workplace friendships on gay men’s identities. In the discussion sections, queer theory is used to examine the discourses that gay men negotiate in a heteronormative workplace context. This study contributes to current knowledge on friendship development, and specifically, the issues associated with gay men developing friendships within a heteronormative workplace context. The research findings reveal the difficulties some gay men experience in developing friendships with heterosexual men, also noting how, in contrast, developing friendships with straight women was experienced as an easier process by the study participants. The study adds to current literature on the barriers to friendship construction that are faced by gay men, using queer theory to explore and analyse the findings

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