THE LIVED EXPERIENCES OF OPENLY GAY UNDERGRADUATE MEN INVOLVED IN ELECTED STUDENT GOVERNMENT: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL QUEERING
Goodman, Michael Anthony
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This is a study at the intersection of sexuality and student involvement in higher education. Exploring the lived experiences of openly gay undergraduate men involved in elected student government, this study enlists a phenomenological queering that unconceals and reveals that which is otherwise hidden in elected student leadership. Eight men were selected for participation in this study, and all identified as openly gay before and after their election to undergraduate student government. These men come from varying U.S. geographies and positions, and conversations and themes were rendered through the methodological approach of hermeneutic phenomenology. Four major themes came from multiple participant conversations and journals. First, these men understood coming out and being out as deeply related to visibility and their work as leaders. They are more than just gay, and at the same time, they just so happen to be gay. Additionally, participants displayed independent ways of being within their outness. For example, some represented a palatable kind of being gay, and some navigated deep religious dissonance and other tensions within the (queer) margins. Re(-)presentation was also a major theme, as participants were advocates for their peers, and were “called” to this work of leadership. Finally, these men were leaders through their identities, and engaged in undergraduate student government as something that was bigger than them, but better because of them. This includes their call to leadership and student government, the political nature of this work, and a desire for things to be better. From this study, insights were gleaned that capture the nuances of this intersection of sexuality and student involvement in higher education. Specifically, this study is a calling to better understand what it means to live and work alongside students who hold these dual identities (out and elected in student government, and within student affairs). This includes a queering of student government and phenomenology, as well as a queering of van Manen’s (1997) existentials of lived space (spatiality), lived body (corporeality), lived time (temporality), and lived relationship to others (sociality).