Gay men's experiences of Alaskan society in their coupled relationships
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Although it is true that male-male couples are more similar to rather than different from female-male couples, there are unique challenges and positive aspects for gay partnerships related to their existence in what continues to be a society of non-support. Little research exists on supportive and non-supportive experiences of gay males in society, particularly how these experiences affect their relationships, and information with regard to this topic is virtually non-existent in the remote state of Alaska. Therefore, this qualitative study, informed by constructionist frameworks, gave voice to eleven gay males currently involved in partnerships with a focus on exploring their experiences as a couple in Alaskan society. Additionally, information on the coping tools utilized by these couples, including their use of professional mental health resources, as they struggle together with societal non-support was also investigated. Themes that emerged from the interviewing process indicated that gay male couples in Alaska generally experience more societal non-support for their relationships than support and that these non-supportive experiences affect both individual and couple identity development. Social support networks, otherwise known as families of choice were identified as the primary coping mechanism for managing these negative experiences. Although the use of therapy was not the most commonly reported means of coping with oppressive societal forces, nonetheless the majority of participants in the current study did report having utilized professional mental health resources for a number of reasons. Furthermore, two themes were identified with regard to how members of the Alaskan dominant society could become more friendly or ideal in terms of their treatment towards gay male partners. These themes included a call for an increase in equality through laws, as well as an increase in societal acceptance leading to the ability for gay male couples to be able to safely display their relationship in the general public. Findings from this study have implications centered on an increase of social justice practices with regard to gay male couples for individual members of both the therapy field and the dominant society.