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Publication Date


First Advisor

Nancy Whittier and Tina Wildhagen

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Identity, Identity formation, Boundary work, Coming out, Disclosure, Sexual fluidity, Gender identity, Sexual minorities-Identity, Coming out (Sexual orientation), Lesbians-Identity, Gays-Identity, Transgender people-Identity


The literature on sexual identity construction is largely based in the 1970s through 1990s. While some concepts and findings are still relevant, others do not adequately reflect the experiences of my participants and need updating. Sexual identity is still category-based, and thus collective, but my respondents’ understandings of their own sexualities and genders were fundamentally as personal identities. This was evident both in their narratives about sexual identity “discovery” and in their negotiations of in what contexts to come out and what to come out as. My interviewees were constantly negotiating a tension between talking about their own experiences and not wanting to speak for others, and were aware that the way they identify and talk about their own identities shapes others’ identities. Ultimately, I argue that as oppositional consciousness has declined, collective identity has become less salient, and thus LGBTQ+ identity is considered primarily personal, not collective. In response, exclusion-oriented boundary work is now viewed as off-limits rather than normal.


2018 Jessica Elianna Feinberg. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




160 pages. Includes bibliographical references (pages 146-149)