Effects of Technological and Social Change on Gay Male Identity Formation
Fear of disclosure, seclusion, and lack of accessible homosexual peers and information contribute to a difficult identity. development process in gay males. The evidence gathered in this study suggests that usage of the Internet as a resource helps to overcome specific obstacles concerning gay identification, thus accelerating the gay identification process. Development and identity models conceived by Erikson and Habermas are reviewed, along with gay identity theorists (Cass, Malyon, and Troiden). Questionnaires soliciting information concerning gay identity development were completed by 104 gay males aged 17-50, separated into age cohorts, 17-28 and 29-50. The questionnaire assessed the effects of technological and social changes on gay identity development between two generations of gay males. Also, young heterosexual males were used as controls to verify that young gay males use the Internet as a means of meeting people and developing relationships significantly more than heterosexual males. The resulting data indicate that gay males overwhelmingly use the Internet to learn about homosexuality, meet gay peers and mentors, pursue relationships, and create social networks. The data indicate that young gay males are advancing through a process of homosexual identity formation at a faster pace than older gay males from a previous generation, often with the assistance of Internet tools. Also, a comparison between young homosexual males and young heterosexual males found that the former use the Internet as a method of communication and social organization significantly more than the latter. Technological advancement and greater social acceptance have altered the gay identity development processes, and this especially affects gay males aged 17-28.