Lesbian and Bisexual Identities: Constructing Communities, Constructing Selves

Lesbian and Bisexual Identities: Constructing Communities, Constructing Selves

Lesbian and Bisexual Identities: Constructing Communities, Constructing Selves

Lesbian and Bisexual Identities: Constructing Communities, Constructing Selves

Synopsis

This book examines the stories of lesbian and bisexual women in a Northeast community who share who they are, how they have come to see themselves as lesbian or bisexual, and what those identities mean to them. Drawing on social constructionist approaches to identity, Kristin G. Esterberg argues that identities are multiple and contingent. Created within the context of specific communities and within specific relationships, lesbian and bisexual identities are ways of sorting through experiences of desires and attractions, relationships and politics. Their meanings change over time as women grow older and have more varied experiences, as the communities and sociopolitical worlds in which they live change, and as their life circumstances alter.

Excerpt

Kate Foster, a white woman in her forties who grew up in the South, came out as a lesbian in the late 1960s, before the Stonewall Rebellion marked the birth of the gay liberation movement in 1969. She first suspected that she might be a lesbian in the late 1950s, when at age twelve she "had a mad crush on a woman who was thirteen years older than [she] was." As Kate recalled, "It seemed to be out of proportion to what I was supposed to be feeling about anybody other than boys my age."

Despite the persistence of these strong feelings for women, Kate did not consider herself a lesbian until much later. "I made a pact with Jesus at the time," she said. "I was from a very religious family, and we went to church three times a week, and this woman happened to be in the church choir. So this one particular day when I was very obsessed with my potential perversion, I was waiting until the church service began. And I started praying, and I said, 'Dear God. If I'm queer, give me a sign.' Of course, I picked the sign, and that sign was that G. would not appear in the choir that Sunday morning. Well, it was pretty easy to get my wish, my confirmation . . .

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