Date of Award

Spring 5-2019

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Thomas O'Brien

Advisor Department

Educational Studies and Research


The vast majority of research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth within secondary schools has focused on negative aspects of adolescent experiences such as victimization, suicidality, and depression. In addition, much recent sociological theory on the process of stigmatization suggests that these very ideas associated with LGBTQ identities become social stressors, requiring individuals to adapt to their stereotypical expectations. This study argues that academia’s focus on solely the negative experiences associated with marginalized identities, without due attention given to the positive, perpetuates the social expectations that these negative experiences are essential realities. To contribute to an emerging body of research that reveals a clearer understanding of the spectrum of LGBTQ youths’ experiences, this qualitative study uncovers holistic accounts from LGBTQ graduates of public high schools within the Deep South. The study made use of a snowball sampling recruitment method to find six research participants. During in-depth, semi-structured interviews, participants discussed their memories of experiences and interactions with peers, teachers, administrators, curricula, institutional policies, and student organizations as they related to their membership within the LGBTQ community. After reporting these findings, the study concludes with several school climate improvement suggestions for teachers and administrators, as well as suggestions for further research on improving school atmospheres for LGBTQ youth.