Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Philip S. Brenner

Second Advisor

Megan Klein Hattori

Third Advisor

Amilcar Antonio Barreto


Researchers, practitioners and common practice have imputed a great deal of power onto categories of social identity (e.g. race, sexual orientation, gender, religion). It common practice to collect demographic and identifying information on the categories to which we belong in settings ranging from the Census to the online shopping profile. Moreover, we have come to expect that this information will be used to make meaningful decisions on government program funding, targeted marketing, college recruitment and so much more. We also know that minority identities have a long history of negatively impacting individuals in employment, housing and other realms of daily life beyond ‘top-down’ decisions, such as government funding.

While research has examined best practices for conceptualizing these categories, it has largely done so using terms that may not capture the nuance and actual identity experiences of respondents (e.g. offering a ‘gay’ category but not a ‘queer’ category). Additionally, little research has focused on how these categories are understood by individuals with non-normative or multiple minority identities (i.e. intersectional identities such as being both LGBT and black) and what, if any, such identities have on lived experiences. The literature generally presumes that one’s identity is stagnant - meaning, you self-identify and are known (as a sexual minority, by your racial identities, etc.) the same across all situations. This (potentially incorrect) approach likely impacts sexual minorities disproportionately, who still lack sufficient representation in the literature, and multiple minorities, whose identities are not usually considered in context. The timeliness of addressing this gap in the research is evidenced by national conversations around the Orlando Pulse nightclub attacks, the Supreme Court cases surrounding religious exemption, the Black Lives Matter movement and many others.

In response, this work proposes a three-part investigation: first, a meta-analysis of existing literature on identity and patterns of self-identification using national samples; second, cognitive interviews to investigate how respondents with multiple minority identities understand and answer questions around their identities, with an emphasis on disclosure (to whom they ‘come out’ and how) ; and third, a pilot survey using questions responding to the findings of the cognitive interviews on disclosure, with an emphasis on practices and experiences in the workplace in order to provide a specific context for examination of outcomes.