South African Gay and Lesbian Youth Coming Out To Their Families:

  • Allister Butler Social Work Department, Canterbuy Christ Church University College, United Kingdom
  • Gaynor Astbury Social Work Department, Canterbury Christ Church University College, United Kingdom
Keywords: gay and lesbian youth, South Africa, identity formation, family, coming out, decision-making, child and youth care


This paper focuses specifically on the various decision-making pathways and outcomes for gay and lesbian youth coming out (disclosing their homosexuality) to their parents and other family members. It comprises one facet of a larger, three-year phenomenological study (1997-2000) focussing on the coming out process of gay and lesbian youth in post-Apartheid South Africa. A non-probability sample of eighteen young people, aged between 16 and 21 years, were interviewed regarding their coming out experiences. Their experiences are analysed with regards to achieving significant milestones in their homosexual identity formation and development. Six participants had decided to postpone their coming out to their parents until a later stage in their developmental process. They provided numerous reasons for this postponement, namely: to protect their parents, to maintain family equilibrium, fear of rejection, lack of independence, potential negative consequences, religion, parental homophobia and non­acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Implications for child and youth care workers are also considered.
How to Cite
Butler, A. ., & Astbury, G. (2005). South African Gay and Lesbian Youth Coming Out To Their Families:. Journal of Child and Youth Care Work, 20, 22–42. Retrieved from