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Health ‘in queer street’: constituting sickness, sexualities and bodies in the spaces of lesbian health

This thesis explores lesbian health. The appeal of this project is its attention to the constitutions, resistances, and reproductions involved in the construction of ‘lesbian health’. ‘Lesbian health’ provides the context for exploring the meanings of health, sickness, sexuality, and bodies. The analysis takes place in three stages. It begins with a review of gay-positive studies of lesbian health. Second, is a discourse analysis of constructions of ‘health’, ‘illness’, and ‘sexuality’. It concludes with a critical analysis of the fluid and leaky constitutions of gendered sexualities and bodies. I conduct a study with 17 self-identified lesbians, using open-ended interviews that cover a variety of topics in the areas of health practices and concerns. Feminist Foucauldian approaches inform the critical discourse analysis of the interviewee’s accounts. An examination of the co-constitution of discourses about ‘health’ and ‘sickness’ in relation to ‘lesbian’ sexualities reveals a binary relationship. That is, health for lesbians is constituted as overcoming the societal pressures and exclusions related to ‘being gay’, avoiding the implication that lesbian ‘health’ or ‘sickness’ may be inherent. I draw on Elizabeth Grosz's critical analysis of the corporeal as I examine lesbian bodies in the contexts of cervical screening and dental dams. In these health promotion contexts, ‘lesbian’ bodies are brought into being, but their presence is potentially threatening. Lesbian bodies are constituted, materially and discursively, as liminal, fluid, and abject. The consequence is that disclosure as ‘lesbian’ is self-regulated. Other consequences for cervical screening and safe sex promotion are explained by the leaky fluidity of bodies and places, which reinsert ‘lesbian’ into the hegemonic space and simultaneously render ‘lesbian’ external to such space. I suggest that health practices, concerns, and promotion are ‘in queer street’, literally troubled by the unsettling of hegemonic assumptions. Focusing on the lived, sexed body in health research, using discursive and critical theoretical tools, may offer one more way of challenging assumptions about sexuality and gender, and raise questions in the practice and analysis of health that address diversity and difference.
Type of thesis
MacBride-Stewart, S. (2001). Health ‘in queer street’: constituting sickness, sexualities and bodies in the spaces of lesbian health (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14353
The University of Waikato
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