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                            Eastern Michigan University
[email protected]
Intersectionality: A critical qualitative exploration of the experiences of LGBTQ persons with disabilities at the collegiate level
	Amanda Bell
		Recommended Citation
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Page 1

Eastern Michigan University
[email protected]

Master's Theses and Doctoral Dissertations
Master's Theses, and Doctoral Dissertations, and

Graduate Capstone Projects


Intersectionality: A critical qualitative exploration of
the experiences of LGBTQ persons with disabilities
at the collegiate level
Amanda Bell

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Part of the Gender Equity in Education Commons, and the Higher Education Commons

This Open Access Dissertation is brought to you for free and open access by the Master's Theses, and Doctoral Dissertations, and Graduate Capstone
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[email protected] For more information, please contact [email protected]

Recommended Citation
Bell, Amanda, "Intersectionality: A critical qualitative exploration of the experiences of LGBTQ persons with disabilities at the
collegiate level" (2017). Master's Theses and Doctoral Dissertations. 731.
mailto:[email protected]

Page 2


Intersectionality: A Critical Qualitative Exploration of the Experiences of LGBTQ Persons with

Disabilities at the Collegiate Level


Amanda A. Bell


Submitted to the College of Education

Eastern Michigan University

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of


Educational Studies

Concentration: Urban Education

Dissertation Committee:

Joe Bishop, PhD, Chair

Valerie Polakow, PhD

Phil Smith, PhD

Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, PhD

March 15, 2017

Ypsilanti, Michigan

Page 99


finally came out to his family, he said, “The family has generally been supportive . . . especially

because there are other queer people in the family that we actually know that are gay, because

they talk about it.” Scott’s autistic identity emerged from “gossip” when he was 15. He recalled,

I [was] sitting in my Italian class with a really good friend of mine . . . [he] was like,

‘Yeah, I talked to Jeff and Jeff said his mom told him . . . that she thinks you’re autistic.

Because of the way you have been acting during the vacation.

After speaking with his friend, Scott looked up the description for autism with his

therapist. When he read it, he recalled thinking, “Oh! This is a basic description of all of my

entire life.” When he told his mother about his recent discovery, she informed him that she

suspected that he might be autistic; Scott vividly remembered his mother’s reasoning for not

confirming her suspicions. He said, “And her exact words, I have never forgotten the quote:

You had too many labels to live with;

Despite his mother’s

hesitation to give Scott another label, Scott was formally diagnosed with autism in high school.

This formal diagnosis was important, because it allowed him to receive services from his

university’s autism program, which he learned about during his freshman orientation. He said,

I was at . . . some . . . kind of orientation, and someone representing the program was sitting at

the table . . . handing out a brochure. And I was like, “There’s a thing for autistic students on this

campus?! What? Let me read this, entire brochure. In front of you instead of leaving.” (Laughs).

I was also there with my mom, so after a while she was like, “Okay, next table.” And I was like,

“I’m so getting back to this.”

Since learning about the grant-funded autism services program at his college, Scott has

participated in the program throughout his three years in college. The program provided Scott

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with the support he needed as a person with autism. This continual support was important for

someone like Scott who, throughout his time in college, has become an active member in student

leadership groups. Between balancing the coursework and the numerous leadership roles that he

holds within student organizations on campus, he needed assistance balancing his schedule.

When the director of the autism center announced that students could make appointments with a

graduate intern to organize their academics, Scott seized the opportunity. Meeting with the

learn how to use a planner and computer calendar programs to keep track of his assignment

deadlines and his obligations to the various student leadership organizations he participates in.

Role of support group. In the beginning of his time in college, he used the individual

one-on-one meetings with a therapist, which was a service he had in high school, and connected

with a support group for persons with autism. This group helped Scott build relationships with

other persons with autism at his college. These individuals helped him learn about his rights as


of his queer autistic peers shared a letter from Boycott Autism Speaks, which helped Scott

become aware of the negative attitudes that popular organizations like Autism Speaks perpetuate.

of how these organizations portray aut

socially perpetuated beliefs that disabilities like autism should be pitied or, as Scott said,

and autistic pe

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Appendix H: Thematic Analysis Table for Identity Formation/Construction


Theme: Identity Formation/ Construction


I identify as queer rather than pansexual my queerness is actually something that (my social work language) is a protective factor for me more than it is a

challenge. I think it is a safe. I spent enough time developing and owning my queer identity that I am the only non-straight identified person in my cohort

and I noticed that even though my partner and I are legally married. I only use the term partner through the last year and a half everybody else's started

using partner instead of husband which is what they were using.

Avirya Um and I identify as pan if I am forced to pick something, but I am sort of between pan and lesbian. I get the spectrum thing because I go back and forth a

lot. Usually, I just say I am not straight. Like if I am asked to identify I usually just say I am not straight. If I have to pick a la

applicable, but not straight fits me best


to people is that I don't care about what's between your legs I care about what's in your heart and what comes out your mouth and your values.

Michala I identify as bisexual and I have JRA: Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which I consider a disability because there are some da

of bed too well.

Maggie ut I think I still think I am 37
years old, gay is more of this umbrella. Like instead of homosexual, say gay. So that would be technically even if I circle lesbian, I would probably say I

was gay.

SCOTT t that time identified as gay. I

the thing. Just kind of I guess I


Liza y first boyfriend and I was

-romantic side happened more when

nce with the guy. And then I was

anybody, your queerness is not that visible.

Lilly as well as women, so I started identifying as bisexual when I was 12 or

13. I explored being trans and how I came out is when I discovered it was like when I was about 16 when I started my junior year in high school. I had

participated in some online role-plays as a girl and then I discovered I was more comfortable doing that than presenting as a boy. So I started dressing as a

girl online and finally I realized I was trans at the age of 17.

Aaron for reference I started to identify myself as trans when I was about 25 um and then I started on

ears ago right before I started
grad school.I feel I am in kind of a weird in between area where I have a disability that impacts my life but I don't consider myself to be disabled. I

ysis. Obviously I am not a paraplegic or anything like that. I do say I have a spinal cord injury, mainly the way with the

ongoing chronic health problems that I have I have to see a doctor and lot of cost goes into maintaining my care.

Jessie When I was I thought I

ch on it. I just had feelings for women

but I also had feelings for men, so it was easy to kind of not identify as anything other than straight, because if you were having feelings for men then

obviously you must be straight. Your feelings for women must be something else.

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