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date: 25 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the relevance of cultural discourses to speakers’ indexing of recognizable “lesbian” identities. It begins with a discussion of the ideological discourses that lesbian women have been found to draw upon in their interactions, explaining key aspects of lesbian culture and experience. It then provides a survey of linguistic research into lesbian discourse, offering an account of the mostly Western studies conducted to date. A critical discussion of the prevalence of “butch” and “femme” identities is provided, with the inclusion of data from the author’s ethnographic fieldwork with a lesbian community of practice. The chapter demonstrates that these normative notions carry symbolic value in the construction of some lesbian identities, but also argues—through an account of studies looking at same-sex-identified women who identify with categories other than lesbian—for research that looks beyond the white, middle-class, Western women who so far dominate work in this area.

Keywords: lesbian identities, butch, femme, discourse, community of practice, intersectionality

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