Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Jason Goulah, PhD

Second Advisor

Gonzalo Obelleiro, PhD

Third Advisor

Melissa Bradford, PhD


Urban public schools, as social institutions, have historically played an integral role in reproducing the oppressive ideologies of society writ large. As we depart an era of cautious optimism, many LGBTQ students are teetering on the brink of hopelessness and despair. So often many of these students’ voices—particularly those of queer Black boys—are still silenced. Ergo, there is a sense of urgency on the part of educators, researchers, and policy-makers to understand how and why queer Black boys consistently disrupt the hegemonic terrain of schools by transforming them into liminal spaces; it is in these sacred spaces-in-between that new identity narratives are constructed, value is created, and authentic happiness is manifested. The purpose of this research in Curriculum Studies is to explore how the narratives of queer Black boys can be used as powerful forms of cultural, political, and social protest that help foster their personal growth toward the pursuit of authentic happiness. This study draws its epistemological lens from queer phenomenology and employs phenomenological interviewing as the method for gathering data from four queer Black high school boys and one transgender female from a small, predominantly African-American city in the Midwest. Drawing upon queer-of-color critique, Daisaku Ikeda’s concept of human revolution, and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s framework for value creation and happiness, the researcher captures how queer Black boys attain inner liberation and pursue happiness, despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Although schooling is the primary institution investigated in this study, the researcher takes on a comprehensive approach to understanding the lifeworld of queer Black boys by also exploring homonegativity within other social institutions such as the Black family, the Black church, and the media—all of which, the researcher argues, stems from a tradition of White supremacist patriarchy. Schwab reminds us that the student, the teacher, the subject, and the milieu are all co-equal forces in the ongoing development of educational programs. The educational setting is especially important in this phenomenological study of happiness with respect to queer Black boys in an urban high school because it brings into concert all of the other commonplaces in their lives. The participants in this study use their narratives to illustrate how they forge liminal spaces through which to connect, educate, create value, and inspire others to create value amidst adversity, regardless of who one chooses to love, how one chooses to identify, or how un/willing one is to adhere to the status-quo politics of gender and sexual conformity. Drawing on Ikeda’s perspective of human revolution from the “lesser” to the “greater” self, the researcher posits that a human revolution in queer Black boys promotes a sense of transcendence from their lesser ‘self’, which starts with reclaiming ownership of their truths and their queer bodies. This study ultimately examines the imperative of value creation in the lives of queer Black boys because it helps bring forth their full human potential, while emancipating them from identities that infringe upon it. Their stories help to re-theorize our understanding of “orientation” in “sexual orientation” by deconstructing how queer Black boys reside in, and understand, the spatial and temporal aspects of sexual desires.