Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

In this project, I argue that gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) students majoring in liberal arts have a higher likelihood of being out and of feeling confident in their identity and manner of self-expression. On the other hand, GLB students majoring in business-related fields are more likely to either be closeted or to fit a very defined, stereotyped gay identity. I test my hypothesis by conducting a semiotic analysis of sexual identity and by looking to the history of sexual identity categories. I also survey and interview various students, both liberal arts and business majors, to determine their perceptions about sexuality. Semiotics is the study of signs. Signs are the building blocks of communication and include words, body movements, and clothing. We have constructed "a web of significance" in order to communicate with one and other and to understand the world (Salzman). Semiotics teaches us that the meaning of signs is arbitrary, historical, and contextual. The business world tends to be conservative and by and large run by heterosexual males. I argue that this social group ultimately benefits from the signs that have come to characterize a person as GLB. These signs constrain homosexuals within very limited categories of self-identity and expression and stem from a history of suppression and inferiority. In the context of the business world, and perhaps American society at large, these signs are perceived to be indicative of both a person’s essence and of his/her capabilities. As a result, students at a school with a strong business focus adopt these signs. By doing so, they express themselves in ways that are acceptable to the business world, but not necessarily beneficial to themselves. On the other hand, the more open-minded environment of a liberal arts program nurtures not only a more confident, but also a more varied and diverse group of GLB students.

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