Prospectus Presentation – Michael D. Bartone

April 10, 2014 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
College of Education, room 409
30 Pryor Street Southwest
Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303

Navigating and Negotiating Identity in the Black Gay Mecca: Educational and Institutional Influences that Positively Impact the Life Histories of Black Male Youth in Atlanta
by Michael D. Bartone

Sexual minority people face a heterosexist society in which they are legally and socially marginalized. Additionally, Black people face a society where racist attitudes and laws persist, one in which they are dehumanized as “other” in relation to Whites. Furthermore, being a Black male means confronting a system where, beginning in elementmy school, one is frequently marginalized as deficient or deviant and penalized by racist practices and policies. Very few studies have examined how Black gay males come to understand their intersecting racial and sexual identities or how they navigate and negotiate life in a White heterosexist society.

This prospectus outlines the current state of sexual minority youth with a focus on Black gay males and suggests that more must be done to understand the lived experiences of this community within and beyond the schoolhouse, especially in a city such as Atlanta, which is known as a Black gay mecca and where the Black sexual minority community is visible. It is important to examine how a range of institutional forces, working in tandem with and sometimes against racism and heterosexism, challenge as well as assist Black gay males in forming their identities.

The purpose of the proposed dissertation study is to gather the life histories of five young Black sexual minority males aged 18-24 in metro-Atlanta. I will utilize critical race theory and quare theory, which critique endemic racism and heteronormativity, as a lens to understand their life histories within a larger societal context. By probing how numerous social institutions have impacted young Black male identity formation, including schools, peers, family, church, community-based LGBTQ organizations, and social media, this study aims to present life histories in a way that provides a more holistic picture of this community.

Due to the paucity of research focused on how young Black gay males are productively navigating through life, this study offers a distinct contribution by placing their histories front and center in an attempt to provide a counterstory to deficit-based perspectives that characterize a racist and heterosexist society. Findings will be useful to educators as well as policymakers.