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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Keisha L. Green

Second Advisor

Kysa Nygreen

Third Advisor

Claudio Moreira

Subject Categories

Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching | Curriculum and Social Inquiry


Within the US context, there is a considerable misunderstanding of what love is. Normative discourse on love within our society is almost exclusively relegated to romance, familial relations, and or sexual connections. However, many scholars (Fromm, 1956, 1976; hooks, 2000, 2001; Tillich, 1952, 1954) have explored love within a critical theoretical construction, which has linked contemporary discourse on love to power, privilege, and oppression. In that sense, normative discourses on love are not innocuous but instead are hegemonic and serve as an ideology to perpetuate individualism and oppression. This qualitative study explores the impact of normative discourses of love at the intersection of race and sexuality within contemporary US context. Drawing on the experiences of 14 Black Queer Cultural Workers (BQCWs), I gathered their narratives through a 60 to 90-minute, semi-structured interview protocol. The protocol was designed to elicit their conceptualizations of normative discourses of love, their own personal conceptualizations of love, and the impact of love on their everyday lived experiences. The findings of the research reveal that the impact of normative discourses of love on BQCWs was devastating and traumatic. Normative discourses of love perpetuated the belief that love was for white heterosexual cisgender people and not Black queer people. This resulted in individual level and community level impacts. However, trauma was not their complete story. The data also revealed that they engaged in self-work and reconceptualized love. Their reconceptualized love is one that resisted erasure and dehumanization. The final finding, I call Deep Mirror Pedagogy, or the culminating journey from trauma to healing, consists of five components: 1) Recognizing Critical Incidents and Impact of Trauma, 2) Engaging, Investigating, and Interrogating Impacts of Trauma, 3) Resisting, Redefining, and Re-conceptualizing Love, 4) Getting to Unapologetic Wholeness and Completeness, and 5) Becoming and Doing “The Work” for self and community. These findings suggest that love must be redefined, and it must be stripped of heterosexism and racism and formed into a love that does not perpetuate violence but cultivates healing. This has implications for teachers and educators specifically working with historically marginalized populations and effectively meeting their needs.