"Am I Queer Enough?" (White) Queer Identity Verification and the Costs of Inclusion
This research is an investigation into how queer students at the University of California, Santa Barbara constructed and reinforced solidarity among variously identified members of the queer community. More specifically, this research examines the significance of inclusion as a core ideological component of queer group and social identities on this campus and the racialized frames through which students conceived of inclusive queer politics. I incorporate social movement theories of collective identity, social psychological structural identity theories, and critical race theories to examine how students whose multiple sexual, racial, and gender identities were submerged within the broad category of the "queer community" engaged in identity verification among their peers. Through interviews with 53 queer students and over 100 hours of participant observation at community events, I examined the identity-based processes that students used to define and enact queerness at the individual and group levels, and found that white normative standards pervaded queer ideologies and practices in this site. Commitment to inclusion was a central component of queer identity among students but the methods of inclusion valued and promoted in this community often resulted in the re-marginalization of queer of color students for whom a queer person of color (QPOC) identity marked them as a distinct subset of the queer student population. This research contributes to our understanding of identity processes and conflict within diverse social movements through incorporation of social movement, structural identity, and critical race theories to understand the complex identity-based investments of individuals who are members of diverse social justice communities. With special attention to students' articulations of diversity, inclusion, and solidarity this research also provides an empirical study of how identity management processes can reinforce structural inequalities and how those processes reproduce white-hegemonic norms that impact people through their everyday interactions.