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The intersection of professionalism gay men, bodies and power

Simon Peter Roberts (Department of LSO, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 21 August 2019

Issue publication date: 22 May 2020




The purpose of this paper is to build upon the paucity of UK research on gay men and how they manage their identities, bodies and selves in the workplace. Particular focus is placed on gay male professionals working in positions of authority and how they make sense of themselves against the dominant expectations of professionalism.


The study draws upon in-depth interview data with eight gay male professionals working in positions of authority.


Overall, the research reveals that although the majority of participants had disclosed their sexuality in the workplace, they actively sought to integrate and normalise their gay identities. Gendered organisational norms significantly impacted upon the ways they presented their identities, bodies and selves. This was brought into focus where participants had to exercise authority. There were limited opportunities to present non-normative forms of masculinity.


This paper adds to a dearth of studies on gay men, professionalism and managing their bodies, selves and identities in the workplace. The paper builds upon and contributes to our understanding of how gay men use and construct their bodies and their self-identities as professionals. An area that has had little empirical investigation. Furthermore, the paper contributes to our understanding of organisational heteronormativity and professionalism in the workplace. The paper draws attention to issues of diversity and inclusion challenging heteronormative discourses of professionalism which are draped in masculinity. This paper highlights how professionalism serves as a normalising process that pressurises gay men to perform a specific type of masculinity. The paper argues for a more inclusive reappraisal of the meanings attached to the term professionalism.



Roberts, S.P. (2020), "The intersection of professionalism gay men, bodies and power", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 33 No. 3, pp. 491-501.



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