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Investigating Clinician Perceptions of Outness Strategies of Latino Gay Clients


Coming out—or disclosing one’s sexual orientation identity—is seen as a critical component in gay identity development (see Cass, 1979), and is most often conceptualized as an act of verbal disclosure. Indeed, research indicates that verbal disclosure has positive and adaptive benefits for the mental health of gay men (e.g., Vaughan & Waehler, 2010). However, given the Euro-centric focus of mainstream research on gay identity processes (e.g., Han, 2009), verbal disclosure may not be applicable to gay Latino men; being gay and an ethnic minority may produce a different experience concerning coming out. For example, Rust (2003) details how verbal disclosure may put gay men of color at odds with their ethnic community and familial support networks, producing a need for a nonverbal disclosure strategy to maintain harmony or as a sign of respect.

This study examined how practicing early career psychologists (ECPs) rated the well-being of a fictional gay Latino client who utilized a nonverbal disclosure strategy when compared to a client utilizing a verbal disclosure strategy and a client actively concealing his gay identity. Relationships between training and clinical experiences and outcome ratings of a client utilizing a nonverbal disclosure strategy were also explored. Results demonstrated that clinicians endorsed issues related to coming out as significantly more salient for a client utilizing a nonverbal strategy than a verbal strategy. Additionally, there was no significant difference between ratings of a client utilizing a nonverbal strategy and actively concealing his gay identity. Further results indicated that among clinicians who read about a client utilizing a nonverbal strategy, self-reported feelings of preparedness to work with diverse clients and clinical experience with gay clients of color positively influenced endorsing issues related to coming out as salient for this client. More clinical experience with Latina/o clients and a graduate training environment receptive to multicultural concerns were related to less endorsement of coming out issues for a client practicing a nonverbal disclosure strategy.

These results reflect the dominant narrative of gay identity disclosure as clinicians viewed nonverbal disclosure as more of an identity concealment strategy than a disclosure strategy. This may then lead clinicians to encourage a client who has nonverbally disclosed to verbally disclose without fully taking into account a client’s cultural context. Various factors related to clinical experience and training may also impact how clinicians conceptualize a nonverbal disclosure strategy, which allude to the need for more research on different intersections of identity and their incorporation into multicultural training. Future work may continue to expand in order to understand how other gay people of color communities disclose a gay identity.

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