Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Sociology, Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies


Jennie Woodard, Amber Tierney

Committee Members

Mark Haggerty, Samantha Jones, Nancy Lewis

Graduation Year

May 2021

Publication Date

Spring 5-2021


“Identifying the Advocate in ME: An Undergraduate Autoethnography Exploring the Personal Identity of Activist Versus Advocate” explores and redefines the social definition of “activists” and “advocates” through an autoethnographic lens of personal growth and identity formation. Stemming from my previous research into the University of Maine 1974 Gay Symposium,I reflect on my undergraduate academic ecology composed of leadership roles, course work, and extracurricular involvement in order to understand my identity development as a queer advocate. I incorporate previous scholarship around social movements, emotion work, and the role of activists in social change to develop a “Social Movement Identification” typology that allows individuals to identify themselves within a social movement. Additionally, I argue that autoethnography is a critical research technique that should be further utilized by queer scholars, as society seeks to accurately understand the experiences of marginalized communities.

I conclude this thesis by discussing a more sustainable model for maintaining social movement membership and engagement. Specifically, I look at the ways that burnout, emotion work, and the COVID-19 global pandemic have contributed to the decline in activism and advocacy seen amongst several communities. Furthermore, I discuss the ways that the typology presented can allow people to find their place in any social movement and call on social movement actors to value all contributions made by their fellow activists and advocates.