Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


African American lesbians-Psychology, Racism-United States, Sexism-United States, Heterosexism-United States, Gender identity, Blacks-Race identity, Qualitative research, Black, Queer, Lesbian, Gender, Sexism, Racism, Heterosexism, Negotiating identity, Narrative, Lived experience


This qualitative exploratory study explores the narratives that Black lesbian and queer women age 21 to 35 tell about their lived experience by addressing racism, sexism, and heterosexism and how Black lesbian and queer women live and negotiate in the world. In exploring these narratives, the research focused on the following questions: What are the ways in which Black Lesbian and Queer Women create their own story as they negotiate at the margins of society? How do Black lesbian women create meaning out of their experiences in the face of racism, sexism, and heterosexism? The study found that these 12 self-identified Black lesbian and queer Women were proactive and intentional about creating public and private spaces where they and other Black lesbian queer women could feel safe, comfortable, and free in being their full complex selves. The major findings included each participant exercised resistance strategies to maintain the integrity and expression of their identities, including engaging in practices of renaming to allow space for an intersectional and complex understanding of their identities. They were proactive in finding and building homeplaces to help them manage their complex and individually unique experiences of racism, sexism, and heterosexism. Their narratives revealed important themes regarding coming out and negotiating their identities within their family, faith communities, work, and other social groups. This study revealed Black lesbian and queer women are not simply surviving they are thriving in their communities and in their lives. I conclude with a recommendation that clinicians develop a sense of how their own identities interact and intersect within systems of oppression, and of how Black lesbian and queer women might be impacted by racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other oppressions.




iv, 84 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 69-74)