Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Katherine Schultz

Second Advisor

Heather Love

Third Advisor

Howard Stevenson


As today’s discursive frames available to queer young adults reflect a stressful, shifting historical context for sexuality from ‘struggle and survive’ to emancipation, they still are confined by U.S. sexual norms assuming the authority of ‘truth’ while demanding heterosexuality. Consequently, sexuality and gender are linked inextricably as heterosexuality relies on the gender binary and the gender binary relies on heterosexuality. Via gender, queer, and situated learning theories this qualitative study decouples such mutual reinforcement to explore how queer young adults – who are already positioned outside of obligatory heterosexuality – learn, unlearn, or relearn gender in queer majority spaces. Research occurred during investigator facilitated gender group sessions comprised of college-aged queer young adults and also drew on individual interviews, private online journal entries, and periodic surveys. Through this work young adults had a safe space to learn about and perform gender, but were limited by previous heterocentric knowledge and language. This research raise vital questions and concerns about the hegemony of heterosexuality and the gender binary, how context affects learning, and how college students benefit from a non-judgmental space to grapple with questions of identity. Additionally, it points out the usefulness of queer and gender theories in educational research in combination with situated learning theory as well as on their own.