Authenticity and Lesbian Health Educators

Open Access
Weiler-Timmins, Rebecca A.
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 13, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Patricia Angelica Cranton, Dissertation Advisor
  • Patricia Angelica Cranton, Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Member
  • Raffy Reinaldo Luquis, Committee Member
  • Jo Tyler, Committee Member
  • adult education
  • health education
  • lesbian
  • authenticity
  • self-disclosure
  • teachers
Abstract This qualitative study used narrative inquiry to explore how lesbian health educators navigate authenticity in a heteronormative higher education setting. The study was grounded in a lesbian standpoint pedagogical viewpoint, which provided a lens with which to view the nine participants’ experiences. Of particular interest was how the educators in light of the grand narrative of heteronormativity and heterosexism negotiated their identities as teachers and lesbians in the classroom setting. Data collection included semi-structured interviews, which were co-constructed by the researcher and the participants as well as field notes and journal entries completed by the researcher. The nine participants provided a sense of their careers, an understanding of the context in which they work, the visibility of their sexual orientation on campus and thoughts on how they journey towards authenticity. The stories were powerful and provided a window into their perceptions and experiences of teaching towards authenticity. The findings of this study were grouped into four primary areas. First, the health educators’ overall role on campus was intertwined with the visibility of sexual orientation in the classroom and on campus. Second, assessing the geographical and campus political context surfaced in how the educators were able to maneuver on campus and in the classroom in terms of their sexual orientation. Third, coming out in the classroom was determined by contextual factors. Fourth, moving towards authenticity then for lesbian health educators became a contextual phenomenon. The findings have implications for adult education theory and health education.