College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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race, sexual orientation, gender, identity, Chicago


Research on multiple identities highlights intersectionality as key to understanding overlapping forms of oppression and power within a single individual. This structural understanding of the individual, however, misses how individuals understand this multiplicity and the process taken for them to develop it. This study combined my experience as a gay white man with 14 life history interview of gay white men between the ages of 21 and 42 living in Chicago. Gay identity development primarily occurs through the dissipation of barriers to self-acceptance, while white identity development takes constant conscious thought and action to build up understanding. The inverse nature of these two processes encouraged the subjects to describe them as segregated processes. Describing a single cohesive gay white male identity became all the more difficult as a result. While people themselves are intersectional beings, they often do not see themselves that way, nor is the process to get them there intersectional.