Stigmatized persons and secret deviants typically try to avoid negative consequences of labeling by keeping quiet and restricting interactions to those who accept their situation. We advance research on stigmas using an identity theory approach, which claims that persons are motivated by the need to preserve relationships and to self-verify. Our analyses of interviews with 20 respondents from a genital herpes self-help group reveal that their negative, emotional reactions are rooted in social disapproval and, like other stigmatized persons, they use secrecy, withdrawal, and preventive telling as strategies to manage their stigma. We find these strategies are motivated by identity processes but that they are often insufficient to meet respondents' needs. Consistent with our identity perspective, our respondents take the somewhat ironic step of revealing their stigma in attempts to protect predisease relationships and self-concepts. Finally, genital herpes threatens self-concepts and relationships to the extent that it, definitionally, widely implicates identities or implicates more prominent identities.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/james_daniel_lee/6/