“It’s like, ‘I’ve never met a lesbian before!’”: Personal narratives and the construction of diverse female identities in a lesbian counterpublic
This paper uses membership categorization analysis to illustrate how five women invoke multiple female gender and sexuality identity categories in personal narratives to construct the device of womanhood. The five racially diverse women include four self-identified lesbians and one heterosexual and range in age from mid-twenties to early forties. Analysis of their two hour audio recorded interaction illustrates that gender and sexuality cannot be understood as a binary difference between men and women. These women use revolutionary categories, defined on their own terms rather than by outsiders, to characterize women they encounter in their personal experience (lesbian and otherwise). The revolutionary categories exemplify a diversity of female gender and sexuality identities and ultimately challenge heteronormative conceptions of female identity while simultaneously constructing a lesbian counterpublic. Thus, the personal experiences of these women, as related through everyday narratives, turn out to be highly political.