Symbolic Interaction has just published Koji Ueno and Haley Gentile’s article “Moral Identity in Friendships between Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Students and Straight Students in College” on Early View.
People construct moral identities for being a supportive affiliate of stigmatized groups. To extend past research that focused on such identities within formal organizations, this study seeks to identify 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, we show that straight students claim 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 engagement. GLB students, as a stigmatized group, also claim moral worth by emphasizing their ability to transcend the community boundary and to be accepted in the larger society. Students make such claims as they strategically link these aspects of cross-orientation friendships to existing moral discourses in the larger society and draw on resources available in the organizational and life course contexts.