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AUTHOR: Kristin G. Esterberg
PUBLISHER: Temple University Press
DATE: 1997
PAGES: 216

Lesbian & Bisexual Identities: Constructing Communities, Constructing Selves

by Kristin G. Esterberg

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 an 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.

In interviews conducted over a four-year time period, women described the lesbian community they lived in, how they saw its structure, its social groups, its informal rules and norms for behavior, and their places inside — or on the margins of — the community. Lesbian and Bisexual Identities reveals how women fall in and out of love, how they “perform” lesbian or bisexual identity through clothing, hairstyle, body language, and talk, and many other aspects typically not considered. Some women consider themselves “lesbians from birth” and have constructed their lives accordingly, while others have experiences gradual shifts in their identities, depending on the influences of feminism, progressive politics, the visibility of the lesbian community, and other factors.

Esterberg not only presents women’s stories in their own words, she moves beyond storytelling to understand how these accounts resonate with social science theories of identity and community.

  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • 1. Theorizing Identity: Lesbian and Bisexual Accounts
  • 2. Cover Stories
  • 3. Changing Selves
  • 4. Essentially Lesbian? Performing Lesbian Identity
  • 5. Race, Class, Identity
  • 6. Twelve Steppers, Feminists, and Softball Dykes
  • 7. Rule Making and Rule Breaking
  • 8. Bisexual Accounts and the Limits of Lesbian Community
  • 9. Beyond Identity and Community?
  • Appendix: Methodology
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index


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