Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Studying LesBians: the Journal of Lesbian studies looks into lesbian youth

Studying LesBians is a monthly column that discusses current and not so current research about lesbians and bisexual women. This month I want to talk about the Journal of Lesbian studies.

Did you have any idea such a scientific journal existed? Neither did I, but when Saskia pointed it out to me a while back it got me really excited. Yes, I'm a research geek, so finding out there's actually an entire journal devoted only to research on lesbians is pretty much a highlight for me.

Not only that, but the lazy part of me also loves the fact that now all kinds of research about lesbians can be found in one place. This also means there's enough research being done on us that it's worth it to devote an entire journal to it, which I think is great.

If you are curious just what exactly researchers around the world are busy spending their hard earned research funding on these days, let me take you through some of the articles from the January issue of the Journal of Lesbian studies.

Don't worry, I will just give you the highlights without getting too much into boring research talk, but hopefully with enough detail to keep you fellow geeks happy as well.

The January issue was a special issue, meaning it focused on one specific theme, namely lesbian youth. I think it's a great topic to devote attention to, as it is often when we are young and are just finding out we are into women, the most troubling but also the most interesting developments take place.

In addition, the fact that they even chose this topic means that these days there are enough lesbian youngsters to research and question, which of course is a great development.

So what kind of topics are researchers looking at when it comes to being young and lesBian? One article focused on the formation of a lesbian identity in adolescence, their main point being that this process is different from that of straight or gay male peers and cannot quite be explained by current models of sexual identity development.

The latter finding is not very surprising, as for a long time research into lesbian sexual identity just wasn't a high priority for researchers. I am happy to see this is starting to change.

Another article focused on career and work choices of lesbian youth in Australia, especially the impact of young women coming out. Their main finding, which I thought was rather obvious, was that the climate at work and especially how positive/negative your social interactions are, affects how open you are at work and to the world at large about being gay.

Of course, a journal issue about lesbian youth wouldn't be complete with at least one study about the health risks of young women who have sex with other women.

They asked 137 young women about their sexual behaviours and substance use and found high prevalence numbers of just about everything (un-safe sex, pregnancy, smoking, binge drinking), but numbers are misleading as they only looked at women who were sexually active at the time.

Finally, they included a funny article about what lesbians and bisexual girls get up to on MySpace. I say funny, because they actually seriously analysed different MySpace groups to see what exactly is being discussed.

It reads like the researcher isn't really up to date with social media sites, especially when you think about the fact that no one really uses MySpace anymore. Right?

They do make some good points about the role and importance of social media sites for queer women these days. It makes it so much easier to meet like minded women and to explore one's identity than it was in the olden pre-internet age.

In sum, I think some really interesting research is being conducted on lesBian youth that will hopefully provide enough knowledge, so that in the future health professionals, teachers, councillors etcetera will better know what it means to be a young lesBian and to provide the help and support needed.

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What do you make of the research on lesbian youth? Do you think it's useful or not at all?

This post was first published on eurout.

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