Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Gerardo Blanco

Second Advisor

Katalin Szelényi

Third Advisor

D. Chase Catalano


Research has indicated that negative attitudes exist for women student-athletes, particularly those athletes who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or questioning. There is a dearth of research on the experiences of this population of students and the impact of negative climates on their interpersonal development and academic success. This study seeks to understand how lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning women student athletes experience the collegiate environment and how may make meaning of their identities within the higher education context. Utilizing post-intentional phenomenological research methods through the lens of feminist and queer theories, this study seeks answers for the following questions: What was it like to experience the phenomenon of being an LGBQ+ woman student athlete during the last 25 years? How do LGBQ+ women student-athletes understand and explore their multiple dimensions of identity during their college years? How do systems of privilege and oppression, specifically sexism and heterosexism, shape the experiences of LGBQ+ women student athletes?

Eight participants engaged in two semi-structured interviews covering these questions. Data analysis included a thorough review of the interview transcripts, analytic memos and field notes. This analysis showed that LGBQ+ women student-athletes needed to feel a sense of safety and comfort in their environments to further their growth and develop. It demonstrated that the team and athletics environment were central to their collegiate experience as well as identity development. Furthermore, external factors, such as family, media, and society, affected identity development and experiences. The findings also included the role that gender expression played in the participant’s experiences as a key marker in their LGBQ+ identity development. Additionally, this study developed and offered a new conceptual model for understanding these student’s experiences to synthesize this information. Further research on current LGBQ+ women student athletes as well as their coaches would enhance understanding of this phenomenon as our societal culture and higher education landscapes continue to evolve.


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