Being a Queer and/or Trans Person of Colour in the UK: Psychology, Intersectionality and Subjectivity

  • Stephanie Davis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research looks at the emergence of queer and trans people of colour (QTPOC) activist groups in the UK, considering the tensions around inclusion and belonging across lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) and of colour communities for these individuals. The research sought to explore what QTPOC activism means in the UK context, how it operates and for what purpose; the ways QTPOC activisms support the negotiation and affirmation of marginalised sexual, gender, racial identities and/or help navigate racism, queerphobia and transphobia; and in what ways personal involvement with QTPOC activisms impact subjectivity. The research was grounded in a critical psychology approach, firmly situating QTPOC within wider social, political and historical contexts to understand how subjectivities were formed and shaped. Drawing on postcolonial and black feminist theory, the research emphasised coloniality and the postcolonial context of the UK as well as utilising an intersectional lens to explore the intersections of race, gender and sexuality at the macro and micro levels. Inspired by Johnson’s (2015) psychosocial manifesto, the research also focused on ontology and the feeling, embodied experience of being-in-the-world. Knitting together postcolonial, black feminist and queer theory alongside critical psychology a novel phenomenological interpretative framework was developed which attended to both the wider contexts and the everyday lived experience of being a queer and trans person of colour involved in QTPOC activism. Utilising interventions into phenomenology by Fanon (1986) and Ahmed (2006) a queerly raced hermeneutic phenomenological analysis was developed. This was used to analyse the data from focus group and photo elicitation interviews with participants from three different QTPOC groups across the UK. The research highlighted QTPOC experiences of exclusion from mainstream LGBTQ communities and of non-belonging as a racialized, gendered, sexualized Other within the postcolonial British context. Participants shared the difficulties of finding the language to understand their own lived experiences within a society orientated around and towards white (hetero)normativity. QTPOC activist groups were experienced as spaces of belonging; in which to disidentify from white heteronormativity; of affirmation; and in which one could begin to decolonise gender and sexuality. The difficulties of activist organising were also considered; the privileging of paranoid reading and how to manage conflict and abuse, the possibilities of reparative reading (Sedgwick, 2003) and how to relate to histories of politically Black struggle. This is the first research of its kind to explore QTPOC activism in the UK. It will be of interest to critical psychology, psychosocial and gender and sexuality scholars to explore intersectionality and coloniality and the postcolonial further. The development of an original and creative phenomenological interpretative framework will be of interest to researchers exploring the lived experiences of those racialized, and of minoritized gender and sexuality. It provides recommendations for further research and interventions into practice for counsellors, third sector organisations and activists.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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