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Navigating the complexities of gay and lesbian sexual identities among rural African university students: a narrative inquiry.

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The study focuses on the narratives of African gay and lesbian university students from the rural areas in relation to how they navigate their sexual identities in an effort to understand their experiences and realities of ‘otherness’ and oppression. The study uses a combination of two theoretical frameworks: Cass’s Model of Homosexual Identity Formation (1976) and Hardiman and Jacksons’ Social Identity Development Model (1997). This combination of theories offers a comprehensive and useful lens to better identify the oppressive experiences and realities of gays and lesbians. To understand human lived experiences, the study utilises a qualitative research design. The selection of participants was done through snowballing and purposive sampling to generate rich personal narratives as the elected strategy of inquiry. Through these sampling methods, five participants were found. Narratives were gathered through digital platforms, such as phone calls and WhatApp. While research using a small sample of five participants from a one university and different rural areas cannot claim to be indicative of the realities of all South African communities, to a large extent these narratives do reflect experiences of ‘otherness’ and oppression common to the majority of African university gay and lesbian people. The study found that students navigate their sexual identity to suit the environment they are in. These students have expressed that their homes are hostile and not accommodative towards a gay or lesbian identity therefore they hide or mask their identity. Furthermore, it has been found that universities are allowing and welcoming towards their sexual diversity.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.