Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


Voices Unheard: Using Intersectionality to Understand Identity Among Sexually Marginalized Undergraduate Students of Color

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Kimberly Coates (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Ellen Broido (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Patricia Kubow (Committee Member)


This study used intersectionality as a framework and methodology to understand identity among sexually marginalized undergraduate college students of color. The research questions were as follows:

  1. What are the experiences of QLGBTSGL (Queer, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Same Gender Loving) undergraduate students of color on a college campus? How do QLGBTSGL undergraduate students of color perceive their college experiences to be different from and similar to other students in college?
  2. How do environmental factors (e.g., spiritual community, society, family, student organizations, and support groups) affect identity development for QLGBTSGL undergraduate students of color in college?
  3. How do interpersonal relationships, such as those with friends, family, and romantic partners, influence identity development for QLGBTSGL undergraduate students of color in college?
  4. How do QLGBTSGL undergraduate students of color make meaning of their identities? In what ways do identity consistency and coherence characterize their identity meaning-making?

The literature implied that while substantial research has been done in identity and identity development in student affairs, including in race, gender, sexuality, and environment, the intersections and interactions of those identities had been less explored in research, if at all. The findings produced three emerging themes related to the unheard voices of the population at hand: defining self; intersections and interactions of identities and social group memberships; and defining ethics, morals, and values. The conclusions and implications both confirm previous findings on identity and identity development, while also acknowledging new areas of knowledge, implications for practice, and suggestions for future research.