Thesis Project

I Can’t Figure Out Who I Am… Could I Be Queer?

The Problem

Many LGBT people express that they wish they could’ve been more educated on LGBT topics growing up and that they would’ve felt more comfortable questioning their identity earlier if the topic was more represented/ talked about.

How can I help young queer people (age 18-30) with their own personal education and self discovery of intersectional identities that might apply to themselves (Gender & Sexuality)?

Success Statement

I wanted people in the early stages of questioning their identity to have a resource that is:

♥ Educational on identity

♥ Supportive of the reader’s journey

♥ Emotionally unique to viewer

♥ Casual & friendly in tone

♥ Visually representative of breaking norms

Target Audience

18 to 30 year olds at Miami University who may be questioning their sexual and/ or gender identity.


First, I started with a literature review to learn more about my subject and figure out where the holes in educational materials are as well as what other think are issues that the LGBT community has to face. I found a major deficit in early education, including terminology & sexual education as well as history. A lot of sources also mentioned hardships that young queer people have to face that their cisgender heterosexual colleagues did not due to their identity. With this information, I went to go do research of my own.

I took a top down approach to research. I started with a broad audience and simple questions to gauge interest in the topic of identity at Miami University with a Graffiti Wall. I had three graffiti walls in total, one in Hiestand Hall, one in Art Building, and one in Armstrong Student Center. On the graffiti walls I had in Hiestand & Art Building I asked two questions, “Have you ever questioned your gender identity?” & “Have you ever questioned your sexual identity?” In Armstrong, I asked more more specific questions due to the larger population in that building, “What is your current gender identity?” & “What is your current sexuality?” From this, the main thing I learned is that there is a decently large population of LGBT people at Miami University, meaning that my target audience is valid (over 100 responses!). One thing I did notice was heavy response bias. If I went off my findings, over half of the students at Miami University would be queer, which is not true. So more than anything, it proves my audience exists & is interested in my thesis.

I then interviews 3 people with three different identities to learn about their experiences & compare how they perceive & talk about identity. I interviewed a heterosexual transgender man, a heterosexual cisgender woman, & a bisexual person who is currently questioning their gender identity. During these interviews, they all expressed similar ideas on identity & queer culture based on different life experiences & they all expressed little to no LGBT sex education in school.

Finally, I conducted a focus group with 8 Miami University students who are all in different stages of discovery of self identity. We held a discussion on social perception & norms as well as sense of self. In this session, all 8 participants expressed questions & concerns they had & still have about identity.

Some general takeaways are:

♥ Learning through talking & experience

♥ Gender & Sexual Identity are fluid & ever-changing, no concrete answer

♥ Problems with self doubt & feeling unsupported

♥ More education & representation earlier on would be helpful

Design Process + Testing

Based on my findings, I knew I wanted to create something that was:

♥ Educational on identity

♥ Supportive of the reader’s journey

♥ Emotionally unique to viewer

♥ Casual & friendly in tone

♥ Visually representative of breaking norms

For my design solution I decided to make a zine. Zines by nature share a lot of similar traits with these listed traits; more natural feeling & being imagery dominant, which I can visually portray unique emotion through. Using the less firmly structured style of zine culture from the 90’s (specifically being inspired by Riot Grrrl) I felt like I had the freedom to create a visually interesting piece that utilized the non-official “do it yourself” attitude of queer culture.

Based on that, I decided that following in zine culture, I would test this zine in the same way that zines were dispersed in the height of zine culture, by putting them places and not asking. So instead of getting permission from the school to show this to people, I just put it in highly trafficked areas to see if anyone would get curious & check it out. And they did! I placed a QR code on the back of the zine for people to offer feedback & I had about a dozen people scan that QR code. So I would call my zine a success.

On a more technical end, I had a senior english major read over my body copy to make sure my grammar is correct & to give me pointers on how to make my writing more engaging. I also had a Miami University student who is currently questioning both their gender & sexual identity read it over & give me their reactions to it. Based on these suggestions, I made a few changes and I was done!

Design Solution

Use this link to see the entirety of the zine!

This is my finished design solution, a zine titled “I Can’t Figure Out Who I Am… Could I Be Queer?” I feel like my design solution is an appropriate solution to the problem because it offers an open-ended, supportive, informational, emotionally & creative resource to Miami University students who may be questioning their gender & sexual identity. This zine is helpful factually & emotionally to the reader and very visually engaging in order to get people interested in what I have to say. This zine is also very successful in my opinion for personal reasons. I got to create something on a topic that I am very interested in and affected by daily as someone with a queer identity. As well as design wise, I was able to take everything I learned from the past four years, turn it on its head, & then bring it back in a visually alternative/ artistic manner. I hope that while looking through my zine, you can gain some insights on the hardships of questioning identity & having a queer identity.

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