Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Rehabilitation and Counselor Education

First Advisor

Duys, David K

Second Advisor

Wood, Susannah M

First Committee Member

Portman, Tarrell A A

Second Committee Member

Johnson, Susan R

Third Committee Member

Smith, Carol M


Historically non-heterosexual individuals have faced prejudice and discrimination in daily life. Non-heterosexuals experience oppression and discrimination that affect personal development on all levels. An increased awareness of sexual identity development could create more inclusive sexual identity models, better understanding for counselor educators, and better training for counselors on issues of sexual identity.

The purpose of this study was to explore the life experiences that influence sexual identity in women who love women. This study required that subjects attach meaning to sexual identity formation. Qualitative research methodologies were used in the study. Participants were selected for this study in a thoughtful and purposeful manner and within specified parameters. Data were collected through two face-to-face interviews with the participants; member checking and peer debriefing offered consistency through the use of a semi-structured interview guide. Phenomenological approach and constant comparison was used for data analysis.

From the data collected, four themes emerged: I was Just Different, Information Seeking, View of Self as a Woman Within the Context of Culture, and Contextual Relationships. Findings of this study did not support a stage model of sexual identity development. Instead, this study supported the view that sexual identity is fluid and strongly related to relationships with peer groups. All participants reported that sexual identity formation was a painful process.


Homosexuality, Lesbian, Sexual identity, Sexuality, Women


vii, 123 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 119-123).


Copyright 2012 Nashae Yvonne Julian