The Art of Being Unseen: A Phenomenological Study Exploring Alienation as Told through the Lived Experiences of LGBTQ U.S. Military Service Members Who Served before and during the DADT Repeal


Walker, Shnecia Lenise. 2019. “The Art of Being Unseen: A Phenomenological Study Exploring Alienation as Told through the Lived Experiences of LGBTQ U.S. Military Service Members Who Served before and during the DADT Repeal.” EdD diss., Drexel University.

Author: Shnecia Lenise Walker


For many years, mastering the art of being unseen been a practice for countless LGBTQ military personnel in order to avoid harassment, violence, and expulsion from the U.S. Armed Forces. Prior research on LGBTQ military personnel who served both before and after the repeal of DADT has documented their multifaceted experiences (Alford & Lee, 2016; Allsep, 2013; Gatson, 2015; Goldbach & Castro, 2016; Mondragon, 2013; Parco, Levy, & Spears, 2014; Quam, 2015; Spinks, 2015; Vaughn, 2014). While several studies identified the participants’ experiences of alienation, these studies were largely exploratory and did not investigate or interrogate alienation with any depth or rigor. Drawing on Seeman’s (1975) six variants of alienation, this dissertation explores the phenomenon of alienation as experienced by LGBTQ military personnel. Understanding their experiences of alienation may help to inform and improve military policies and procedures intended to ensure their full integration into the U.S. Armed Forces. This research study utilized a phenomenological approach to explore alienation as lived and experienced by five LGBTQ military personnel during both the enactment and repeal of DADT. Participants were recruited from private and closed military and veteran LGBTQ partnering support groups and organizations located online. Of the five participants, three identified as lesbian, one identified as gay and/or homosexual and the fifth participant identified as queer. Analysis of the data resulted in three themes: 1) experiences with coming out; 2) a climate of oppression; and 3) alienation. This research study includes four major findings: 1) three of the five participants identified themselves as being in the identity acceptance stage the first time that they disclosed their sexual orientation; 2) participants described military culture as oppressive to LGBTQ military personnel both before and after the repeal of DADT; 3) of Seeman’s six variants of alienation, cultural estrangement was the most prominent variant described by the participants; and 4) in addition to Seeman’s six variants of alienation, participants exhibited a resilient variant of alienation in the form of self-preservation. Findings from this study inform both practice and future research. In addition, the study identifies the need for further exploration of the lived experiences of transgender military persons.

Keywords: alienation, diversity, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), isolation, LGBTQ, military

Topics: Gender, LGBTQ, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Sexuality, Violence Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2019

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