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“To Gay or not to Gay, that is the Question”: Permeable Boundaries between Public and Private Spaces of Gay Male Academics and Students in South Africa

Jacques Rothmann


This article was informed by a study which focused on the identity construction and deconstruction of gay male participants, specifically as related to their academic lives. The findings originate from a 2012–2013 qualitative sociological study on the experiences of gay male academics and students on South African university campuses. The article reports on a subset of the data, since it provides an insightful account of these men’s navigation between their communal identification with other gay men in social and private contexts. The author argues that participants’ responses navigate between the heterosexualisation and the homosexualisation of these spaces, in an attempt to gravitate towards or distance themselves from a gay sensibility through temporary assimilation into “gay spaces” in order to negotiate their sexual agency.


gay ghetto; gay sensibility; gay spaces; heteronormativity; heterosexualisation; homonormativity; homosexualisation; queer spaces

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