Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


This thesis examines the issue ofleshian identity presentation in the rural upper Midwest. The study focuses on how women in this area present themselves as lesbians. This was not expected to be a static process. On the contrary, recent developments in the sociological research of this topic have revealed (hat it is fluidic. Moreover, when applying the most recent models of expression, different lesbian identities are discernabie. Further, this process may be highly affected by symbolic interaction.

The data for this project were collected as two snapshots in time: 1995-97 and 2008. Women were recruited through a snowball sample technique to report on their activities, feelings, outness, and other topics. There were 74 total respondents.

The data analysis revealed important relationships between outness, specific LGBT activities, personal feelings about being lesbian, and commitment to the lesbian label. Further, a pattern emerged that suggests a pub''c versus private dichotomy* in respondents" expressions of lesbianism. Some of the most significant correlations emerged between outness, feelings about being lesbian, and commitment to the lesbian label. Additionally, attending a gay/lesbian event and feelings were also significantly correlated.

As a result of the findings, a new model oflesbian identities made up of three ideal types, the super symbol, the shape shifter, and the secret sister, is proposed.

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