Post-Lesbian Tensions: A Qualitative Inquiry of Lesbian Identity

Anastasja Giacomuzzi, Hadas Tal

Abstract


This paper explores how lesbians aged 18 to 25 negotiate their sexual identity in relation to post-lesbian discourse. Post-lesbian discourse refers to the postmodern conceptualisation of lesbian identity as irrelevant, unnecessary, and minor because of increased acceptance of homosexuality and the popularity of queer theory and its deconstruction of identity categories. In three small focus groups with a total of 10 participants, we explored the themes of word usage, meanings, and associations, as well as exclusion, boundaries, and stigma. We found that our participants’ disdain and discomfort with the word “lesbian” does not result, as post-lesbian discourse would suggest, from its irrelevance but rather due to the old yet persisting stigmas towards lesbian sexuality. To mitigate these stigmas, most of our participants use gender-neutral terms, most notably the word “gay,” to describe themselves. Using relevant literature, we contextualise the usage of gender-neutral terms and analyse their often-overlooked negative impact on female and lesbian visibility. Moreover, we found that while participants wished to avoid the exclusion and specificity of lesbian spaces, they desired these spaces all the same, which had a positive effect on their identity formation, confidence, and sense of community.


Keywords


Lesbian identities; queer identities; post-lesbian identi- ties; sexuality

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/jue.v12i1.11313

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The JUE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes original ethnographic research by undergraduates working in a variety of disciplines. Submissions are welcomed. Contact the Editor, Karen McGarry.

ISSN 2369-8721