Date of Award

8-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Mark A. Hector

Committee Members

Jacob Levy, Brent Mallinckrodt, Suzanne Molnar, Sandra Thomas

Abstract

A female athlete who identifies as lesbian possesses multiple identities that exist within a heterosexist and homonegative climate. The primary objective of this research was to provide a voice to a marginalized group by describing and to understand the experiences of athletes who identify as lesbian. Phenomenological interviews were conducted with 11 women who identified as athletes and lesbian. An overall thematic structure containing a ground and three figural themes, supported by participant quotations, was developed to represent the lesbian athletes’ experiences. The ground was my own process. The three figural themes that emerged were support, homophobia, and emotions. Further research on athletes who identify as lesbian, and each theme presented in the present study, is necessary to combat the heterosexist and homonegative climate of sport. Furthermore, psychologists, coaches, athletic trainers, sport psychology consultants, and others working with athletes who identify as lesbian may utilize this information to enhance their understanding of the experiences of lesbian athletes. Continued professional and personal dialogue, research, and practical recommendations regarding lesbian athletes are encouraged to promote change.

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