Sapphic experience : lesbian gender identity development and diversity

Crowley, Michelle Laureen (2001) Sapphic experience : lesbian gender identity development and diversity. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.




This dissertation explores lesbian experience, or the psychological meaning of being lesbian from the point of view of women who call themselves lesbian. The researcher suspended the binary paradigm of sex and gender, and argued that lesbians' identity development must be understood against the background of how patriarchy understands the category 'woman' through history. Towards this purpose the pOSition of women in the West, as well as contemporary images and literature about lesbians, was reviewed. On the basis of this review questions about lesbian gender construction, lesbian identity development and lesbian individuation were identified. In order to access the psychological meaning of being lesbian, or lesbian experience from the inside out, the dream-series of three lesbians constituted an empirical basis for further exploration. These dream-series were amplified with intensive face-to-face interviews, transcribed, and subjected to a hermeneutic-phenomenological inductive method. Common inter-case concerns were identified and synthesized. In dialogue with the literature reviewed, twenty-two statements of meaning about being lesbian were distilled. These revealed two possible constructions of gender for primary lesbians. In addition, primary lesbians involved in the research demonstrated remarkable flexibility with respect to their gender orientations and gender identifications, were in the process of integrating with and differentiating from different aspects of their masculine and feminine potentials, and developed and negotiated their gender identities in relationship to both their lovers and friends. The explication also revealed that participants identified with archetypal aspects of the father that their fathers' did not express, and desired archetypal aspects of the mother that their mother's did not express. Finally, in so much as the method distinguished ~ sex, sexual identity and sexual orientation from gender, gender identity, gender identification and gender orientation, it may prove useful for exploring gender in heterosexual relating.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Lesbians, Gender identity, Sexual orientation, Feminism
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Psychology
ID Code:2358
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:13 Jan 2012 13:06
Last Modified:13 Jan 2012 13:06
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