Moral Identity in Friendships Between GLB and Straight College Students

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Harbor Lounge A
Oral Presentation
Koji UENO , Florida State University
People make moral claims about sympathizing with and providing support for stigmatized individuals, but past studies tended to focus on this type of moral identity construction within formal organizations.  The present study seeks to extend the literature by identifying the process of moral identity construction in a personal setting—friendships between gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) people and straight people.  Analyzing data from in-depth interviews with college students in the southeastern US, we show that straight students claimed their moral worth by emphasizing their deliberate decisions to develop and sustain friendships with GLB people and by highlighting how the friendships led them to personal enlightenment and political actions.  GLB students, as a stigmatized group, also claimed moral worth by emphasizing their ability to cross the community boundary and to be accepted in the larger society.  Organizational and life course contexts strongly shaped students’ strategies to construct moral identity as these contexts specified constraints and resources available in their friendships.