Living in the shadow of the closet

: a discourse analysis of straight partners’ constructions of life after a partner’s disclosure as lesbian, gay or bisexual

  • Rubian Lyons

Student thesis: PsychD


This study provides a qualitative investigation of the ways in which people who identify as “straight” within “heterosexually intentioned” relationships in the United Kingdom construct their lives following the disclosure by a partner of a lesbian, gay or bisexual sexuality. Utilising a combination of discursive psychology and critical discursive psychology the analysis focused on both the local organisation of participants’ accounts of their experience as the straight partner, and included an exploration of a broader heteronormative context which emerged from the analysis.
The objective of the study was to attempt to fill a gap in current research literature on the topic, by exploring how people “do” management of the disclosure by a spouse or partner as LGB in talk at a local level, and to view the experience of the straight partner in ideological terms, as well as personal, without reducing one to the other. The findings identified that a prominent feature of such talk was a nuanced and complex identity construction: ‘establishing innocence’ which was performed by the participants in their accounts. This was comprised of three discrete but intertwined discursive strands: ‘constructing a victim identity’; ‘a question of knowing’ and ‘attributing blame’. The analysis also illuminated a discursive “heteronormative thread” which is woven through all the participants’ accounts.
The study extends our knowledge regarding the consequences of a partner’s disclosure on participants’ constructions of self and identity in the context of existing and newly developed discourses. It has implications for counselling psychology in that the study highlights a complexity at play in the need to acknowledge and address the social justice issues that exist for people who identify as LGB and simultaneously, to be aware of, and sensitive to how this experience may affect heterosexually identifying partners. It further highlights a need for counselling psychology to maintain a reflective awareness of our own therapeutic and research discourses and how we talk in this context.
Date of Award12 Apr 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorPaul Dickerson (Supervisor) & Jac Hayes (Supervisor)


  • Straight partners
  • Discourse analysis
  • Identity

Cite this

Living in the shadow of the closet: a discourse analysis of straight partners’ constructions of life after a partner’s disclosure as lesbian, gay or bisexual
Lyons, R. (Author). 12 Apr 2019

Student thesis: PsychD