Beyond coming out : lesbians' stories of sexual identity in the context of a historically white university

Gibson, Alexandra Farren (2010) Beyond coming out : lesbians' stories of sexual identity in the context of a historically white university. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




Substantial contributions have been made by lesbian and gay developmental theorists in understanding the development of lesbian and gay sexual identities, or what has come to be known as the coming out process. “Coming out of the closet” has become a central metaphor, in western contexts, for the recognisable process gay men and lesbians undergo in order to claim a relatively stable and enduring sexual identity, while overcoming obstacles such as heterosexism. Lesbians’ sexual identities are examined in this thesis through a Foucauldian lens which is fused with a narrative-discursive perspective. The aim of this study is not to trace a progressive development of identity, but rather to consider how lesbians in this study are located within a specific context, namely, a historically white university in post-apartheid South Africa, and how their identities are dynamic products of ever-shifting socio-historical spaces. Eight lesbians’ stories are analysed using the narrative-discursive method, which allows for a consideration for how the construction and negotiation of identities is shaped and constrained by social and discursive conditions. The women in this study do utilise the concept of coming out to some extent in their stories, but this narrative does not entirely account for their experiences. Instead, these women’s accounts reflect the way in which they personally experience heterosexism, and how they constantly negotiate their sexual identities within certain social and geographical spaces. When the nuances of lesbians’ contexts are taken into account, it becomes clear that claiming a lesbian identity is more than just about “coming out”, and rather about an on-going process of identity management.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Lesbianism, Homosexuality, South Africa, Coming out, Sexual orientation College students, Rhodes University
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Psychology
ID Code:2228
Deposited By: Ms Chantel Clack
Deposited On:23 Nov 2011 08:22
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:22
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