Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Pensoneau-Conway, Sandra


As a historically and currently marginalized population, members of LGBTQ+ communities have traditionally needed to find one another and build relationships without their queer identities being discovered. This need has resulted in the development of codes and signals used by queer people to identify one another while remaining hidden, causing a unique culture of covert, in-group communication to form. In this study, I explore the modern culture of codes being used by LGBTQ+ communities through 14 interviews with LGBTQ+ people. From these interviews, I developed two broad themes: conveying and concealing identity. When discussing how they convey their identity, participants discuss not only the behaviors they use themselves but also those used by others. Some of these behaviors are general associations they hold between various cultural phenomena and queer identity, but often they are factors that allow them to make inferences about the identities of others despite the simultaneous importance they place on disclosure when it comes to truly knowing another’s queer identity. When on the topic of concealing identity, participants generally focused on themselves, discussing where, why, and how they concealed their identity. From these results, it is clear that developing the ability to convey or conceal one’s identity is an important skill within queer communities, as it allows individuals to live authentically and safely. However, these abilities are not without negative side effects, as the balancing act between conveying and concealing one’s identity requires queer individuals to live in a state of constant identity-based behavioral micro-management. In the end, these behaviors are not just culture – they are a form of survival when it has been, is, and will continue to be dangerous on some level to be queer.




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