Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

Political Science BA


Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Hrostowski, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Dr. Bridget Hayden, Ph.D

Third Advisor

Sabine Heinhorst, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs


Five states in the American South currently have “no pro homo” policies in place, while an increasing number of bills targeting discussions about sexuality and gender identity in public schools are being introduced to House floors around the country. Although there is extensive research on the ways in which these policies put the physical and mental well-being of LGBTQ+ students at risk, there is little to no research about how they shape public perceptions of the LGBTQ+ community collectively. With inspiration from Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s social science study cited in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), this study works to discover how “no pro homo” policies impact perceptions of the LGBTQ+ community around the country. Six personal interviews were conducted to gain an understanding of the lived, individualized experiences of each participant. An analysis of the findings from these interviews discovered four significant conclusions about how queerness is perceived and treated in the American South: these policies perpetuate the notion that queerness does not exist in the real world, they associate queerness with sexual deviancy and bad behavior, they cast queerness as “other,” and they negatively impact the ways in which LGBTQ+ students perceive themselves. Through this discovery, this study encourages the eradication of these policies in order to protect the safety and well-being of all individuals in public education settings while liberating LGBTQ+ students and teachers around the country.

Keywords: LGBTQ, public schools, sex education, policy, perceptions, American South