The appearance and gender expressions of sexual-minority women, and lesbians in particular, has been of academic interest for a considerable time (Clarke & Spence, 2013; Esterberg, 1996; Hutson, 2012; Huxley, Clarke, & Halliwell, 2013). Are there noticeable differences between heterosexual and homosexual female expression? And if so, what are the explanations and functions for deviant expressions among lesbians? By analyzing an inter-disciplinary collection of studies on lesbian gender expressions, I hope to begin to draw some patterns and new insight into what makes a lesbian “look like” a lesbian, and why she may (or may not) adopt such an expression.
Social dichotomies are constructed binaries used to categorize groups in opposition to one another, typically due to believed mutually exclusive behaviors or characteristics. Two of the more pronounced dichotomies of our society are related to gender and sexuality: Male/Female and Heterosexual/Homosexual.
Although gender and sexuality are not directly related, both of these dichotomies share similar uses and histories in our society. For example, both dichotomies have a privileged/deviant model in terms of one group having the majority of sociopolitical power. Because the privileged groups, Men and Heterosexuals, have more to lose by being seen as members of the deviant groups, Women and Homosexuals, they are frequently defined in direct opposition to the deviant. In other words, one of Heterosexuality’s key characteristics is not being homosexual (Seidman, 2015). The same can be said for Maleness not being female or feminine. In this way, deviant groups tend to have more freedom of expression than their dominant counterparts, if only because they have no social power to lose if their identity is not validated. A straight man has much more to lose if his identities are not validated compared to a lesbian being mistakenly viewed as male or straight, for example (Seidman, 2015; Epstein, 2002). Continue reading Dichotomous Deviants: Relationships Between Gender and Sexuality Binaries
The Stonewall Riots of 1969 and their annual commemoration, in the form of Pride Parades, are arguably the most well-known queer rights events of the 20th century. But what makes Stonewall unique compared to similar demonstrations of the same decade, and what factors combined to ensure its commemoration continued over 40 years later?
I would argue the unique combination of an oppressive environment, a memorable resistance to that oppression, and community access to resources for future commemoration of the event, all worked together for the Stonewall Riots in a way that had not been replicated before. Two previous events demonstrate the importance of an environment oppressive enough to spark a memorable resistance from deviant minorities. Continue reading Underdogs Hijacked: Stonewall Riots’ Commemorability