Researchers have examined homophobic language (HL) with both qualitative and quantitative methods and have studied HL's relationship to multiple factors such as sexual prejudice, masculinity, and religiosity. However, our understanding of this language, while expanding, is still limited because the meaning of this evolving language varies depending on the context in which the language is used. In order to get a more in-depth and current understanding of this language, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 males who were high school seniors. I also conducted 102 hours of observations in their high school. I analyzed the interviews and observations with a phenomenological hermeneutic method. Based on the interpretations from this analysis, findings indicated that students used HL in order to marginalize other students; to both challenge adult authority and also to emulate admired adults; to get attention and assert authority by using rebellious and taboo language; to explore and understand certain aspects of sexuality and masculinity; to police sexuality and masculinity within the parameters of traditional and expected roles; and to increase group cohesion. I explored each of these themes in detail and considered how students both shape and are shaped by their culture. To conclude, I offer suggestions for strategies to support a more accepting culture and to decrease the use of HL.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





homophobic language, adolescents, masculinity, male perceptions, bullying intervention