Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Leslee A. Fisher

Committee Members

Handel K. Wright, Joy T. DeSensi, Christine Holmlund


Heteronormativity, the ideology that heterosexuality is the only “normal” or natural sexuality, is insidious within the sub-culture of sport. Within this oppressive ideology, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered coaches must negotiate their identities through a continuum of hegemonic or transgresssive discourses. As previous literature indicates, female coaches with nonhegemonic sexualities have been threatened, fired, harassed, and silenced within the context of sport (Griffin, 1998; Krane, 1997; Krane & Barber, 2005; Veri, 1997). Male hegemony in sport perpetuates the production and management of heterosexism and heteronormativity in order to maintain a privileged status in sport.

Queer and feminist poststructuralist theories posit that identity cannot be reduced to an essential core, and that subjectivity is fragmented, fluid, and contextual (Butler, 1990). Further, such frameworks elicit an interrogation of compulsory heterosexuality and the deconstruction of oppositional binary systems of gender and sexuality that are inherently hierarchical (Sykes, 1998). The present study is designed to explore the ways in which “out” lesbian coaches transgress the heteronormative boundaries of sport. Further, this study explores the notion of political agency of “out” lesbian coaches and how they effect social change.

Eight collegiate level coaches who self-identified as “out” lesbians were interviewed with a semi-structured protocol. Qualitative inductive analysis guided by a queer-feminist framework (Sykes, 1998) revealed five emergent processes: (a) Identity Performance, (b) Discourse, (c) Coach/Athlete relationships, (d) Sociopolitical Climate, and (e) Psychosocial Impact. These processes and their supporting themes and subprocess are presented and deconstructed.

The coaches in this study challenged and transgressed the heteronormative environment of sport and, therefore, disrupted heteronormativity in sport and engaged in social change. They also upheld the qualities associated with effective leadership in sport (Chelladuri, 2000; Murray & Mann, 2000). Further, the coaches’ behaviors were impacted by the heteronormative and homophobic climate, such that they perpetuated hegemonic norms and practices of sport.

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