Inside a gay world: a heuristic self-search inquiry of one gay man’s experience of a ‘cultic’ gay male friendship group
Holmes, Jason Kenneth
This thesis is a Heuristic Self-Search Inquiry (HSSI) that explores the personal experience of one gay man’s participation in a gay male friendship group whose culturally constructed sense of being gay, characterised by specific places, customs and practices the researcher considers ‘cultic’. The study is undertaken through the researcher who found himself outside a closed group of emotionally intimate gay friends, which represented an entire world. Using the HSSI model created by Sela-Smith (2002), this profoundly personal qualitative study considers the researcher's internal experiencing as the primary source of knowledge. Material from online images, academic papers and personal writing of the inquirer’s lived experience of the research topic provided for periods of contemplative incubation and illumination, typical of HSSI. The output was the depiction of six emergent themes that highlight the qualities and nuances of the topic: pain, frustration, mistrust, joy, disgust and confusion. The other main findings are: this gay male friendship group developed characteristics of a symbolically enclosed cultic institution; that gay men are susceptible to forming cultic relationships; and a depth of distress experienced when intimate friendships between gay men fail. The findings finish by offering a creative synthesis, which captures the resultant integrated understanding of the experience in the form of a short story. Recommendations are made for counselling professionals to trouble their understanding of gay male friendship groups, and for public and third sector organisations working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) identifying peoples to begin discussing interpersonal issues inside LGBTQ populations.