Date of Conferral
Due to social stigma, millions of sexual minorities have concealed their true sexual identities by entering into heterosexual relationships and marriages. Eventually, some transition to same-sex relationships and are able to live authentic lives. This latter group had identified as genuinely heterosexual, never questioning their sexuality until a particular time in their lives when same-sex desires spontaneously appeared. The experiences of transitioning from heterosexual to same-sex partners are not well known, particularly for women who have been legally married to both men and women. Diamond's dynamical systems theory for same-sex sexuality and McCarn and Fassinger's lesbian identity formation model provided the theoretical framework for this qualitative narrative study investigating the life stories of 15 female participants recruited from social media, who had experienced a transition from heterosexual marriage to same-sex marriage. Face-to-face interviews were conducted and data were coded and analyzed to identify emergent categories. The findings revealed that the women experienced shifts in private and public sexual identities over time. Despite external obstacles and personal concerns in transitioning from heterosexual to same-sex relationships, all the women had more positive experiences in their same-sex marriages than they did in their heterosexual marriages. Understanding these women's life stories will allow mental health professionals to better understand and address the needs of this population in more clinical and applied settings. This study will also help educate the general public about women who experience shifts in the desired gender of their relationship.