Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Homosexuality 65:2 (2017), pp. 197–223.

doi: 10.1080/00918369.2017.1314162


Copyright © 2017 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and other sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ+) young adults face unique identity-related experiences based on their immersion in distinctive social contexts. The predominant framework of performing separate analyses on samples of LGBTQ+ young people by their primary social status obfuscates more holistic understandings of the role of social context. Using 46 in-depth interviews with LGBTQ+ college students and LGBTQ+ homeless young adults, we ask: How are LGBTQ+ young adults’ capacities for “doing” their gender and sexual identities shaped by their distinctive social contexts? In developing their identities, both groups of LGBTQ+ young adults navigated their social environments to seek out resources and support. Most college students described their educational contexts as conducive to helping them develop their identities, or “undo” rigid norms of gender and sexuality. Homeless young adults’ social environments, meanwhile, imposed complex barriers to self-expression that reinforced more normative expectations of “doing” gender and sexual identities.