Margaret Cooper

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Stephen Groce, Joan Krenzin, A.M. Podolefsky

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Fifteen women who identify themselves as lesbians were located through snowball sampling. These women participated in confidential taped interviews and assigned pseudonyms. They were questioned on topics which included growing up gay, family, work relations and friendship associations.

It was assumed that life experiences may differ on the basis of social environments. This study focused on the unique experiences of rural lesbians.

Erving Goofman’s book, Stigma, provided the theoretical framework utilized in the analysis of lesbian identity management. It also allowed for a discussion of stigma and its effect on lesbians.

The women in the study experiencing homosexual feelings during prior to adolescence. Their reactions to these feelings related directly to the amount of stigma that they had internalized. All women in the study developed maintenance strategies that prevented disclosure of their lesbianism. It was found that lesbians often suffer great consequences when their sexuality is disclosed.


Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology