Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Beatriz Padilla, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chris Ponticelli, Ph.D.

Committee Member

S.L. Crawley, Ph.D.


Embodied Knowledge, Friendships, Health


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and Others (LGBTQIA+) college students continue to face discrimination in seeking healthcare, having to navigate lack of access, heteronormative practices and protocols, and biased attitudes, even when accessing university health services. Moreover, LGBTQIA+ college students are unlikely to be able to rely on traditional sources of support such as family, and have a need to create a sense of home, by making friends. In this thesis, I explore friendships as an avenue through which these students seek health information and knowledge. I argue that health and friendship intersect in the lives of LGBTQIA+ college students in two ways. First, I find that LGBTQIA+ college students build emotional intimacy with friends to create networks of care, with different friends providing them various kinds of support around health. I argue that this care fills a gap left by institutions and other social relationships, which are not able to provide LGBTQIA+ college students with emotional support around their health. Moreover, it is because friendships are such voluntary and intimate relationships that they are able to fulfill LGBTQIA+ students unique needs for support regarding their health. This care also enables these students to maintain their health and well-being in an environment of limited access to adequate healthcare services. Second, I argue that health discussions between friends are a site of production and sharing of experiential and embodied knowledge, and that the sharing of this knowledge is itself a form of care. Experiential and embodied knowledge is shared within and through LGBTQIA+ college students’ networks of care. There is healthcare, and then there is care around health. It is the former which is provided by friends through health conversation. Hence, health conversations with friends are an extension of these students’ health. The sharing of such knowledge allows LGBTQIA+ students to cope with their circumstances, as well as to increase emotional intimacy with their friends. These health-related discussions thus play a significant role in these students’ understandings of health, as well as the maintenance of their well-being.

Included in

Sociology Commons