Webinar Co-Sponsored by ACPA’s Standing Committees for
LGBT Awareness & Graduate Students and New Professionals
James M. DeVita, PhD
University of West Georgia
Presentation Overview
Introduction & Interactive Resources
Summary of LGBTQ Populations in Higher Education
Theoretical Perspectives associated with LGBTQ
Connecting Theory to Practice
Case Study Announcement
 This
webinar is designed to introduce participants to the
multiple dimensions of identity associated with lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ)
individuals’ development and engagement, particularly
focused on the college environment.
 Discussion is framed around the presenter’s research on
gay male college students; examples connecting
research-theory-practice are derived from his work
with Black gay male college students in particular.
Interactive Resource
Interactive Resource
 Utilize
the following wiki page during and following the
webinar to participate in on-going discussions about the
multiple dimensions of identity for LGBTQ populations:
LGBTQ Populations in Higher Education
What do we know?
 Campus
climate remains “chilly” for LGBTQ individuals
 Stereotypes matter
 Harassment
and discrimination persist in HE
 “Real” consequences
 Growing
presence, expanding initiatives
 Individuals
disclosing identity at earlier ages
 Development of programs present on some campuses;
resisted on others?
 Diversity
within LGBTQ community is meaningful
Theoretical Perspectives associated
with LGBTQ Populations
Developmental theories
 Freud
(1905): Inversion theory
 Cass (1979, 1984): Stage-based, developmental
Considering contextual influences: D’Augelli’s (1994)
Complicating identity
 Multiple
 Queer theory
 Intersectionality
D’Augelli’s LGB Identity Development Model
Exiting heterosexual identity
Personal and social recognition of a homosexual orientation;
includes disclosure of identity to others; continuous process
affected by the openness of one’s sexual orientation
Developing a personal LGB identity status
Development of a socioaffectional identity that emerges from
interaction with other LGB individuals; individuals also begin to
challenge heterosexist assumptions
Developing a LGB social identity
Individuals establish a large, affirming social network of LGB
individuals and heterosexual allies
Becoming a LGB offspring
Disclosure of LGB identity to family members and their
subsequent acceptance of that identity in an affirming manner
Developing a LGB intimacy status
Establishing meaningful same-sex relationships that are both
emotionally and intimately fulfilling
Entering a LGB community
Commitment to the social and political action that empowers
individuals to understand oppression and resist it
Significance of Studying Multiple and Intersecting
Identities for LGBTQ Populations
Renn (2010):
“Modernist and critical approaches that rely on fixed
definitions of gender and sexuality limit what can be known
about the identities and experiences of LGBT students,
faculty, and administrators. Furthermore, general problems
and questions of access, equity, learning, and leadership—
among others—persist across all sectors of postsecondary
education, despite decades of research and attempted
policy fixes. Queer theory might shed light on these
problems through research that questions normative
constructions of socially constructed binaries such as
male/female, teacher/learner, leader/follower,
research/practice, or K–12/postsecondary” (p. 132).
Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
Originally developed by Jones and McEwen (2000) and revised by Abes, Jones, and McEwen
(2007), the model of multiple dimensions of identity positions identity within a social-constructivist
frame that accounts for multiple, intersecting identities and the ways in which individuals embody
multiple aspects of identity.
The framework is organized around three parts:
Contexutal Influences - Similar to the ways external influences included in D'Augelli's (1994) LGB
identity development model, contextual influences refer to the various cultural impacts in which
individuals are immersed. Peers, family members, societal norms, and stereotypes are among the
contextual influences discussed in the model.
Meaning-Making Filter - Abes, Jones, and McEwen state that "depending on complexity, contextual
influences pass through [the meaning-making filter] at various degrees" (p. 7). This means that
depending upon the degree to which an individual values contextual influences, their influence on the
individual within a given context, and the opportunity for an individual to consider those influences,
the filter opens and closes to allow contextual influences to pass through at varying degrees.
Self-Perceptions of Multiple Identities - The third component to MMDI is how an individual chooses to
identify and where he/she/ze places various identities in relation to their core. The initial model of
multiple identities represents this aspect of identity as a series of elliptical orbits of social identities
moving around the individual's core.
Connecting Theory to Practice
Theme: Conflicts with Cultural Influences
Sidney: parents were missionaries in a conservative Christian sect, explained, “when I go to church its like I go back
into the closet.” Yet, while on campus he is an active leader in his college's LGBT organization.
Lawrence: spoke at length about his experience attending a “Black church” while the preacher was delivering an
anti-gay sermon. Lawrence’s discomfort in that instance led him to seek a different church that he considered more
Making Connections to Theory
Abes, Jones, and McEwen describe three types of meaning making: "formulaic, transitional, and foundational." Each
type reveals the degree to which an individual's filter was opened to allow contextual influences to shape their
perceptions of self and experiences.
In the example above, Sidney and Lawrence both allow contextual influences to shape their experiences, but to
different degrees--and in different ways in various spaces. The connection between religion and family for Sidney
forces him to remain closeted in certain spaces (church, home), while being open and even politically and socially
engaged in LGBT work in other spaces (on campus). In contrast, although religion played an important role in
Lawrence's life he was determined that it would not force him to deny his sexual orientation. Rather than remain
closeted in church, Lawrence sought other ways to engage with his religious identity that also celebrated his sexual
orientation. These two examples demonstrate the ways in which different individuals with similar values and
experiences can determine the degree to which contextual influences will impact their identity.
Queer Theory
Queer theory was developed from feminist perspectives that seek to challenge
traditional constructions of gender and "normal" identities. Focused on:
Challenging what we "know" about the ways in which sexual orientation is developed,
performed, and interpreted by individuals with particular attention given to the
intersections of gender and sexual orientation.
Complicating traditional notions of sexual orientation as "normal" or "abnormal" may
utilize a queer perspective, particularly if examining the ways in which gender and sexual
orientation are performed is framed as a challenge to the dominant heteronormative
“Queer, in the context of educational studies, pertains to issues of homosexuality,
and refers more specifically to lives or practices not considered ‘normal.’ Queer
theory houses the analytic tools used to examine what is ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal,’
primarily through deconstructing issues of sexuality in society. . . This queering is the
result of someone, either the subject, the researcher, or the audience, determining
that the lives and experiences of—the data derived from—the subjects are not
what an audience, or a writer, thinks the data ‘should’ be” (Dilley, 1999, p. 469).
Connecting Theory to Practice
Theme: Interpreting Gender
Blake: recalled a story of holding his mother’s purse while she took groceries inside. As a result of holding a purse,
which was perceived by his father as a “feminized action,” he suffered verbal abuse (i.e., called a “sissy”) and mild
violence from his father. Through his example, Blake reveals how his father’s words influenced his beliefs about
masculinity and his gay identify, which stifled his sexual identity development.
Terrance: talked about a Black gay male he saw on campus as a " a girl pretty much. That's what [we] use
for a girl. And when I see that I'm...I kinda stop and like, "Am I like that?" Because I really don't want to be."
Terrance's reaction to an effeminate Black gay male is representative of what all the participants affirmed: that
they were more masculine than the typical Black gay male they encountered. Despite being involved in activities like
cheerleading and opera, participants were protective of their masculinity.
Connections to Theory
Gender clearly played a significant role in how Black gay male participants positioned themselves in relation to
other Black males, other gay males, and other Black gay males. The construction and performance of gender was
always linked to some other aspect of identity. For Blake's father, a heterosexual Black male, his son's act of holding
a purse created dissonance between his expectations of appropriate male behaviors and the way in which his son
was acting. Blake believed that although he was not "out" to his father at the time that his father's reaction was due
to a connection between the performance of gender that his father labeled "abnormal," which in turn became
associated with an "abnormal" sexual orientation (i.e, gay). Despite his involvement in a stereotypically "feminized"
activity (baton twirling), Terrance viewed his gender identity as more masculine when compared to other Black gay
males he saw on campus. Although some may view Terrance's performance of gender as a deviation from the
construction of a "normal" set of behaviors associated as masculine, Terrance viewed himself, particularly in relation
to others, as a masculine gay male.
Based on Crenshaw’s (1991) work in critical legal theory and critical race theory,
which argued that discrimination based on a single categorical axis of identity
perpetuated marginalization of individuals with multiple identities.
Criticized the courts for forcing Black women to interpret discrimination based only on race
or only on gender, but not both: “Because, the intersectional experience is greater than the
sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account
cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated”
Separately, racism and sexism do not account for the raced and gendered
experiences of Black women, which “highlights the need to account for multiple grounds
of identity when considering how the social world is constructed” (94).
Though Crenshaw believed intersectionality could be one way to recognize difference and
still organize politically to affect change, she argued that “ignoring difference within
groups contribute(d) to tension among groups” (p. 1242). Crenshaw critiqued the
deployment of monolithic categories in identity politics; thus, the use of “LGBTQ” to refer to
multiple individuals and no less than four different communities (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender) erases the everyday lived experiences of multiple targeted identities.
LGBT communities are not only white, middle-class communities (DeVita 2010; Renn 2010).
Connecting Theory to Practice
Theme: Where Do I Belong
Several participants: members of predominantly white LGBT organizations on their respective college campus.
Expressed being more comfortable around white people, said most of their friends were White, and that they were
primarily attracted to White men. One participant, for example, labeled himself the “whitest black boy there is.”
However, despite feeling that their gay identity impeded their interaction with other Black men on campus,
participants still seemed to be acutely aware of their race when engaging with White LGBT individuals. One
participant described how he would frequently resort to making “the Black joke that everyone is thinking but is not
really saying” around his White gay friends to protect himself from racism and to ease any existing racial tension.
Despite encountering racism in LGBT spaces on a regular basis, participants also noted that it felt safer than
predominantly Black spaces where homophobia was consistently present.
Making Connections to Theory
Crenshaw's (1991) concept of intersectionality relates to the ways in which society supports and perpetuates systems
of oppression that link and perpetuate marginalized identities for Black women. Consider the following parallel
between Crenshaw's concept and the experiences of Black gay males:
Crenshaw states that "Because women of color experience racism in ways not always the same as those experienced
by men of color and sexism in ways not always parallel to experiences of white women, antiracism and feminism are
limited, even on their own terms" (p. 1252). Similarly, Black gay males experience racism differently from Black
straight males and issues associated with gender and sexual orientation differently from white gay males. Thus,
efforts to address racism and homophobia are limited when identifying the needs of Black gay males.
Implications for Practice
Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
Queer Theory
Winter Case Study Competition
The winter case study will be an opportunity to
demonstrate your ability to connect the above
theory to practice webinar information in a defined
situation. Participation is free. Teams can consist of
up to five members and may include both graduate
students and new professionals. To register,
email [email protected] before 11:59 pm EST on
November 18, 2011.
Thank You
Questions, comments, suggestions, etc. can be
directed to: James DeVita at [email protected]
Feel free to continue to utilize resources on the
wikispaces page, including the discussion board.

similar documents