Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Susan Kashubeck-West, PhD


Althof, Wolfgang

Nelson, Mary Lee

Taylor, Matthew


Sexual orientation-based discrimination in schools has evolved from primarily blatant, overt forms to include subtler and ambiguous forms. Recent research has found that same-gender-attracted youth are more resilient in managing school-based discrimination than previously reported. Within the framework of Symbolic Interactionism, this dissertation used a basic qualitative approach, influenced by Grounded Theory methods, to investigate sexual orientation microaggressions in high schools, strategies employed by same-gender-attracted students in managing sexual orientation microaggressions, and the relationship between microaggressive experiences and sexual identity. Fourteen adolescents, ranging from ages 16 to 19, from seven separate schools, who self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer, were interviewed. Race/ethnicities of the participants included African American/Black (n=2), multi-racial (n=3), White/Native American (n=1), and White (n=8). Results showed that high school youth experienced incidents of subtle discrimination that were both consistent with current literature based on adult samples and specific to the high school environment. Distinct strategies employed by students in managing microaggressions and a relationship between experiences with sexual orientation microaggressions and identity were also found. The results of this study, which are discussed within the framework of identity negotiation theory, provide increased awareness of the types of sexual orientation-based subtle discrimination to school counselors, faculty, and administration, allowing them to be better equipped in facilitating an inclusive environment in schools

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