Original Research - Topical Collection: Troubling normative constructions in careers

‘Are there gay men in the mines?’ Towards unsettling the heteronormative male occupational culture in mining

Tshepo B. Maake
African Journal of Career Development | Vol 5, No 1 | a80 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajcd.v5i1.80 | © 2023 Tshepo B. Maake | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 April 2023 | Published: 06 September 2023

About the author(s)

Tshepo B. Maake, Department of Sociology, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Available literature indicates that the male occupational culture of the South African mining industry marginalises and excludes women; however, limited attention has been given to the heteronormative element of this occupational culture and its implications on gay identities. There is a need to interrogate the heteronormative male occupational culture and how it hinders the visibility of gay men.

Objectives: This study aims to explore how the heteronormative occupational culture of the mining industry facilitates the visibility of gay male identities.

Method: This study is based on qualitative data that were collected through in-depth interviews with five black gay mineworkers who were based in small mining towns located in North West and Mpumalanga provinces.

Results: This study found that the heteronormative male occupational culture of the mining industry is maintained through the perpetuation of religious arguments and cultural traditions that validate heterosexuality as a central component of masculinity. The findings indicate that sexual diversity is not acknowledged in the mining industry, and this contributes to the invisibility of gay men because the fear of stigma and discrimination silences them.

Conclusion: A heteronormative male occupational culture undermines gay identities and informs the unequal distribution of power between heterosexual and gay men. As such, the mining industry should promote sexual diversity and develop safe working environments for gay men.

Contribution: The study brings forth the voices of a silenced sexual minority and interrogates the exclusive heteronormative mining occupational culture to encourage the development of inclusive mining workplaces.


heteronormativity; gay identities; occupational culture; mining; mineworkers.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth


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