Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Lisa Melonçon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

J. Blake Scott, Ph.D.

Committee Member

José Ángel Maldonado, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey A. Bennett, Ph.D.


rhetorical theory, HIV disclosure laws, LGBTQ+ communities, mētis, rhetoric of health and medicine research methodologies


This LGBTQ+ rhetoric of health and medicine (RHM) community-based research explores the ways community members and queer community participants communicate about potential intimate partner selection in Central Florida. The dissertation introduces the theoretical framework of “collective mētis” as a way to analyze and discuss community communication against Florida’s required HIV disclosure laws that attempt to medicalize this and control this community’s intimate partner selection. Research questions include: 1) How do people in counterpublic enclaves (Chávez, 2011) communicate their potential intimate partner desires to others in the community including the types of disclosures they express and negotiate, and how? 2) How do the dynamics of potential intimate partner selection (online or in person) affect one another and in what ways? 3) Starting from the premise that disclosure is communicated in various ways, how does this community employ individual and collective rhetorical and discursive practices that disrupt the medicalization and policing of their HIV disclosure practices? More particularly, how are HIV disclosure laws circumvented? 4) To what extent are folks in the community aware of the collective agentive power of language practices within the community? This qualitative research study answers these research questions and argues that laws such as HIV disclosure laws in Florida attempt to regulate bodies, particularly queer ones in Central Florida. Participants use the practice of collective mētis to resist these laws and empower the community. Members of the community create a trickster-body that allows them to circumvent these laws when selecting a potential intimate partner. The trickster, or the discursive formation created collectively by community members, oscillates through publics and counterpublics in order to best serve community values, norms, and expectations that often include not disclosing a positive HIV status because of discursive and preventative ways around law language. This study then argues for a closer examination of theory-building as an effective community-based research methodology in rhetorical studies and RHM. Future research includes ethical implications of community-based research and comparing state laws, as technical documents, to HIV disclosure requirements for LGBTQ+ communities. Additionally, this research sets up future examinations of the trickster-body in rhetorical studies, the role of researcher positionality in RHM, testing the theory of collective mētis in other nonacademic contexts and connecting theory to practice, and the role of modalities reflected in marginalized community customs.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons