Author(s): McCarthy L
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Abstract Many believe that lesbian identity is predicated upon the availability of opportunities in urban life to find information, support, and like others (Bell and Valentine 1995a). Indeed, exploring one's lesbian sense of self often involves identifying with a visible reference group, seeking out social arenas where there are other gays and lesbians, connecting with a local community, and taking part in gay and lesbian oriented activities. For rural residents, these opportunities are mostly unavailable, and the lack of access to information, to a public meeting space, and to connections with other lesbians further hinders the development of social group identity. Given that gay and lesbian identity has as its basis a social reference group, how might rural lesbians develop and sustain their sense of personal and group lesbian identity? With few exceptions (D'Augelli 1989; D'Augelli et al. 1987; Kramer 1995; Krieger 1982) the empirical research conducted on the lives of gays and lesbians has utilized urban and suburban samples. Likewise, research on rural life has omitted the experiences of gay and lesbian residents. Either way, information about rural lesbian life remains mostly uncovered. This pilot study attempts to provide new information about the experiences of rural lesbians. Utilizing focus group interviews, the challenges of sustaining lesbian identity in a rural setting are explored. The data show that for this sample, although rural lesbians initially felt isolated and unsure of how to develop a sense of group identity, the opportunity to connect with a small informal network of friends and acquaintances helped alleviate these problems. Further, because these women have little access to information, public gathering space, or to local gay culture, this network was said to be crucial. Without it, the women feel invisible and isolated, that is, their identity remains unseen.
This article was published in J Homosex
and referenced in Journal of Child and Adolescent Behavior