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Gendered (s)explorations among same-sex attracted young people in Australia
journal contributionposted on 2001-01-01, 00:00 authored by D Dempsey, L Hillier, Lyn Harrison
This paper seeks to import a more complex understanding of gendered subjectivity into discussions of young people and homosexuality, and is based on an Australian national survey (n=749) of same-sex attracted youth (SSAY) aged between 14 and 21. Results revealed significant gender differences with regard to patterns of sexual attraction, behaviour and identity labels among participants. For the young men in the study, there was more congruence between feelings of gender a-typicality, same-sex attractions and same-sex behaviours. Overall, young women displayed more fluidity with regard to their sexual feelings, behaviours and identities. Young women were more likely to be engaged in private explorations of lesbianism, concurrent with participation in heterosexual sex and relationships. Young women were also grappling with more limited and emotionally risky opportunities for sex with other girls who were already known to them as friends. The invisibility of lesbianism as an identity or practice led to confusion about what feelings meant for the future in the arena of lived experience. The paper concludes that more research is needed into the impact of gender on the development of young people's experiences of homosexuality, particularly the manner in which invisibility and lack of social acceptance of a full spectrum of sexual diversity may disadvantage young women's emotional health and well-being.