Identity Concealment and Social Change: Balancing Advocacy Goals Against Individual Needs

Michael H. Pasek, Gabrielle Filip-Crawford, Jonathan E. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We consider the conflicting multilevel forces around concealment and disclosure that may weigh on individuals as they navigate life with a concealable stigmatized identity. In particular, we explore a tension that can arise between immediate personal motivations to conceal and the potential for disclosure to increase the visibility of a stigmatized group and normalize it, thus helping to change social attitudes and reduce structural stigma. We argue that personal benefits of disclosure are moderated by individual differences and situational characteristics. This suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach that focuses exclusively or primarily on the benefits of disclosure can be problematic. We thus recommend that any intervention campaign that seeks to encourage disclosure should balance social advocacy goals with individual needs. We conclude with a discussion of possible intervention strategies that could be used to (1) help individuals manage the disclosure process and (2) help create more favorable organizational and civic climates where concealment is less necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-412
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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