Lesbian and Other Gay Issues Research Paper
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44). On a final note, Decamps' reporting of the NLHCS indicates that "more than half" of the 1,925 lesbians in the survey reported having been victim of a "hate crime" and roughly one in twenty of the 1,925 lesbians had been "physically assaulted" due to her sexual orientation (Decamps, p. 49).
Consequences of child sexual abuse for adult lesbians. Batya Hyman is a professor of social science at Salisbury University in Maryland; she also has published an article that investigates the ramifications of childhood sexual abuse on lesbians as they get up in years. Hyman goes somewhat deeper into the issue than Decamps had gone, noting that there are several health concerns in adult lesbian women who had experienced abuse as children. Among health concerns: pelvic pain; gynecological problems; migraine headaches; asthma; epileptic seizures; digestive system problems; and an "increased lifetime risk of surgery" (Hyman, 2000, p. 200).
The author also reports that lesbians who had been criminally assaulted as children were more likely "to engage in behaviors that would put them at risk" for health problems such as HIV (p. 200). When it comes to childhood sexual abuse, the first question was, "Did any of your relatives have sex with you while you were growing up?" The lesbian participants were also asked seven other related question in the American Couples study "in the hopes that a series of questions" would help stimulate memories of those long-ago events. The findings reflect the fact that lesbians who had experienced "intrafamilial childhood sexual abuse" (CSA) without coercion -- meaning, a family member had unforced sex with them when they were either too young to resist or to know better -- as well as lesbians who had experienced "extrafamilial CSA" were more likely to report health problems than lesbians who did not experience sexual abuse (Hyman, p. 204).
As to mental health issues, interestingly, lesbians who had experienced incest, "with or without coercion," and women who were sexually abused by a stranger were more likely to report mental health problems" than women who were abused sexually by someone outside the family (Hyman, p. 205).
On the topic of education, lesbians who had endured sexual abuse (any of the three forms mentioned above) were less likely to have completed a college diploma than other women. And regarding economic concerns, Hyman's article references The American Couples Study (performed by Blumstein and Schwartz in 1983), a survey involving 1,568 lesbians. In the couples survey, the 132 women who experienced "extrafamilial CSA by a stranger" were likely to have suffered the most significantly "adverse effect" on their earning potential. Lesbians in that category earned on average 11.5% less than women who had not been violated as children. Also, lesbians view themselves not as "providers" or as "dependents," Hyman writes (p. 202). Rather, lesbians see themselves as workers, and they place a "high value on self-sufficiency" (p. 202).
Lesbian stories and lesbian lifestyles. Kelly J. Hall, associate professor of Sociology at the University of Akron (Ohio), has published reviews of two books relating to lesbians. The first, Sex and Sensibility: Stories of a Lesbian Generation (Stein, 1997) presents interviews with 31 women who were born between 1945 and 1961. These particular women came out as lesbians "in the context of radical feminist ideology" and hence their lesbianism emerged as both "a political stance" and as a "challenge to patriarchal domination" (Hall, 1998, p. 359). For some of the 31 women the way they came to understand their lesbianism was through "…an immutable orientation, fixed at birth or in early childhood"; for others, it was not a matter of "being a lesbian" but rather it was "living as one" (Hall, p. 359).
The latter group discovered their lesbianism and then had to "fashion a new self through self-conscious identity work"; the struggles these women endured related to their commitment to a lesbian identity within a lesbian community; this brought about differing views of their sexuality. Those divergent views of being a lesbian within a community of lesbians created "tension among the women of this cohort" (Hall, p. 359). Meanwhile author Stein also provided in her book an analysis of the "decentering of lesbian feminism during the 1980s," Hall continues. In fact baby boom lesbians entering their 30s and 40s tended to view their lesbianism as just one among several identities -- unlike the group alluded to earlier that was motivated by radical political dynamics.
These females transitioned from being part of a "unified lesbian community" into thoughts of family, having children, "seeking more profitable careers and fulfilling their therapeutic needs" (Hall, p. 359). In this section of her book, Stein interviewed 10 women who "went straight" in order to also present the fact that sexual identity has "complexity and fluidity" and indeed also has some serious contradictions.
In her review of Gillian A. Dunne's Lesbian Lifestyles effort Hall explains that this book presents two distinct themes: a) for some women conditions exist that open the door to "the evaluation, questioning, and challenging of heterosexual outcomes" such as marriage, motherhood, and gender-related employment; and b) for women, "non-heterosexuality may be linked to empowerment in a world where institutional heterosexuality is central to men's ability to control and exploit women" (Hall, p. 360). In other words, their leanings toward lesbianism provided a sense of satisfaction and strength in a world controlled by men.
Research involving the sixty women also revealed several dynamics that played a part in the eventual "gender-stereotyped sense of self" (Hall, p. 360). Those dynamics include: a) the prevalence of maternal labor; b) "encouragement by adult male caregivers"; and c) being a tomboy as an adolescent. Approaching young adulthood, many of these sixty women found that their aspirations (for female companionship) put them "in conflict with the mandates of femininity and romantic heterosexuality" and hence, education became a path "of escape from these mandates" (Hall, p. 360).
Lesbians encounter negativity in the medical field -- the viewpoint of a doctor. Once a woman has come out as a lesbian, there are challenges she must face -- and come to terms with -- due to society's bias against gays and lesbians. Dr. Cathy Risdon is the Medical Director of the North Hamilton Community Health Centre in Ontario, Canada, and assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University. She has written an editorial urging healthcare professions to become educated about gays and lesbians. Many lesbian and bisexual women are "apprehensive about seeking primary medical care" she explains because they are afraid they will come into contact with healthcare providers "who are, at worst, abusive, and at best, indifferent to or ignorant of their health needs and concerns" (Risdon, 1998, p. 1567). She references a study of 98 "self-identified lesbian and bisexual women" published in the Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. In this extensive research (peer-reviewed) project the evidence verifies that being a lesbian or being gay is not "inherently (genetically, biologically) hazardous" but risk factors "are conferred through societal, familial and medical homophobia" (Risdon, p. 1567).
Risdon defines homophobia as "hateful" and "overtly negative" reactions towards gays and lesbians "purely on the basis of their sexual orientation" (p. 1567). The doctor defines "heterosexism" as "a more subtle form of discrimination" that "assumes the superiority of heterosexuality" and seeks to "undervalue" or make "invisible" the lives of lesbians and gays (Risdon, p. 1567).
A lesbian professor discusses coming out. Coming out is never an easy thing to do, as any gay and lesbian person can testify to. But when the lesbian is also a college professor, things can get dicey in a different say. Suzanne M. Johnson is professor of Psychology at Dowling College on Long Island, New York. She has a sense of humor for sure, and it shows in her narrative as she mentions that albeit she is on the cover of lesbian magazines, she has a "cornucopia of gay rights" material on his office door, and a bumper sticker that reads, "Hate is not a family value" (Johnson, 2008, p. 60), many of her students apparently don't realize she is a lesbian. She has a web site in which she clearly indicates her sexual identity and in her office (in conspicuous places) there are advertisements supporting same sex marriage. Some of the subjects that come up in her classroom -- even though she is openly gay and has a partner she makes no attempt to hide -- require her to use diplomacy and tact. For example a student in her class will ask her what she thinks of gay parenting. If she flat out explains that she in fact is a gay parent, "That will end any conversation or discussion," she explains (p. 60).
The students simply won't offer their honest views on gay marriage or gay parenting if she openly announces that she is one. They wouldn't want to say anything that would "hurt my feelings," she…
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Works Cited (Annotated)
Decamps, Monica J., Rothblum, Ester, Bradford, Judith, and Ryan, Caitlin. (2000). Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 11(1), 27-55.
This article presents a great volume of information regarding the mental health impacts of lesbians who had been abused as children, or raped or otherwise assaulted as adults.
Decamps uses precise breakdowns of data that reflect on these issues. It is an informative and helpful research work.
Hall, Kelley J. (1998). Lesbian Lifestyles: Women's Work and the Politics of Sexuality; and Sex and Sensibility: Stories of a Lesbian Generation. Gender and Society, 12(3), 359-360.
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