"I Want to be Free the Lebanese Way": An Interpretive Phenomenology Examination of Lebanese American Queer Youth's Experiences of Family Secrecy

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Virginia Tech

Limited knowledge is available around the experiences of queer Lebanese American young adults, specifically around family secrecy around their sexuality. This gap in the marriage and family therapy research has significant implications, and erases the experiences of queer Arab young adults around disclosure of their sexual identity. This study examined the experiences of 19 Lebanese American young adults navigating secrecy around their sexual identity. Research questions presented were the following: a) How do queer Lebanese American young adults experience family secrecy surrounding their sexual identity and relationship? b) How do queer Lebanese American young adults interpret the process of family secrecy and are impacted by family secrecy? c) What are queer Lebanese American young adults' experiences of shifts in boundaries and alliances as a result of family secrecy? The study utilized structural family therapy or SFT (Minuchin, 1974) as the theoretical framework to guide the conceptualization of family dynamics and how they are impacted by the family secrecy surrounding the participants' sexuality. Findings illustrated the complexity of the family secrecy process, which is fraught with complex emotions, which resulted in a decision-making process around who to include in the secret, who to keep out of the secrecy, as well as strategies employed to maintain the secrecy and protect the family members from the implications of disclosure. Participants described the process as stressful and signifying shame around their sexual identities, and feeling as though their two identities, Lebanese and queer, were conflicting and could not coexist together. Findings also demonstrated the family unit's resilience and collectivism through participants relying on their family members, particularly mothers and siblings, to navigate this complex landscape. The findings have research and clinical implications, emphasizing the need to extend the discourse around sexual identity and disclosure to include Lebanese and Middle Eastern families within the field of family science.

queer, Lebanese-American, family secrecy, MFT