Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Sarah Gilman

Reader 2

Dianna Graves


In the United States and abroad, the LGBTQ+ population has both historically and currently, suffered from a higher likelihood of poorer health outcomes than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts due to stigma and discrimination (Alencar Albuquerque et al., 2016). While these health disparities have been well studied for the United States LGBTQ+ community as a whole, there is less understanding of what subgroups within this population may be disproportionately more susceptible to poorer health outcomes and risky behaviors, as well as, less understanding for the reasons behind such health outcomes and behaviors. One such subgroup is that of sexual minority women (SMW), or women who are sexually and/or romantically attracted to other women or who identify outside of heterosexual norms (Youatt, Harris, Harper, Janz, & Bauermeister, 2017). Preliminary studies have found that SMW are less likely than their sexual minority male and heterosexual female peers to have regular access to healthcare providers and are more likely to have negative experiences in healthcare settings, specifically in regards to sexual and reproductive healthcare (Riskind, Tornello, Younger, & Patterson, 2014). For these reasons, coupled with discrimination and risky sexual and health behaviors, SMW are a vulnerable population in need of social, political, and medical attention. This thesis aims to understand the causes and barriers SMW face when accessing sexual and reproductive health resources, as well as, provide direction for navigating such barriers on a multifactorial level. This research analyzes how hegemonic heteronormativity and sexism take root in (a) economic and political barriers in obtaining health insurance and health knowledge for SMW, (b) SMW patient ignorance of health risks and needs, (c) minimal to no medical provider training and understanding for SMW health risks, behaviors, and needs. Each barrier is addressed holistically; a novel approach necessary for the initial alleviation of such barriers to sexual and reproductive care and knowledge for SMW.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.