Date of Award

Spring 1999

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Ann Diller


This dissertation presents a picture of the complexities and contradictions in the daily lives of people in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire who identify as, or are identified as, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and allied people (LGBTQQA). The focus of this study is the "Create Our Destiny" conference, a social change project. Philosophically, I viewed this project through a Postmodern feminist lens, and methodologically I used a grounded theory approach.

This dissertation is divided into three sections. Within section one, I present more detailed descriptions of my philosophical and methodological approaches, a description of the geographical and political context in which the study was set, and definitions of terms. There were three distinct stages to this research project---the planning process, the conference, and the follow-up interviews---and my role varied, from participant, to observer, to interviewer. Recognition of the challenges and ethical dilemmas inherent in conducting qualitative research, especially when one is working with participants who are marginalized, is an important part of this study.

Along with a detailed description of the "Create Our Destiny" conference (chapter 4), section two contains the bulk of the participants' experiences and insights presented in my dissertation. Clear patterns emerged from the participants' stories about coming out (chapter 5), labels (chapter 6), and gender identity issues (chapter 7), particularly the underlying tension between seeking a sense of belonging while maintaining one's personal sense of integrity.

The third and final section is where I present my research findings. Ultimately, this study shows that people in the Seacoast want to be "fully and wholly" themselves, or as I re-present their interests in chapter eight, to strive toward singularity. In this dissertation, I argue that striving towards singularity requires grappling with unexamined codes and principles, such as compulsory heterosexuality and gender duality, through self-awareness and reflexivity. In chapter nine, I present practical suggestions that can be used to operationalize the theoretical suggestions developed and/or supported by my work.