Year of Publication

2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department/School/Program

Gender and Women's Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Melissa Stein

Abstract

During 2016, the same year news of lesbian bar closures hit mainstream media, a small cluster of Tumblr users began to discuss a new gender and sexual identity, nonbinary lesbian, to describe those who identify both as nonbinary and as lesbian. Nonbinary lesbians stand at the crossroads of modern and postmodern identity constructs, engaging in contradictions and ambiguities for the sake of authentic self-expression. What does this demonstrate about the evolution of lesbian identity, particularly as lesbian bars continue to close around the United States? This dissertation explores this question by comparing and contrasting the discursive practices and strategies of nonbinary lesbians on Tumblr with those of women who once converged at The Country, a women’s bar that closed during the early 1980s in Lexington, Kentucky. How are community boundaries delineated in material lesbian space versus digital lesbian space? What discursive strategies are relied upon to legitimate lesbian identity? In order to answer these questions, this dissertation engages in computer-mediated discourse analysis of over 1,600 Tumblr posts made to the nonbinary lesbian tag from 2016-2020, and places those posts in conversation with the oral history accounts of 14 women who used to frequent The Country. Overall, this dissertation particularly focuses on themes of desire, safety, authenticity, and validity. Ultimately, this dissertation concludes that nonbinary lesbian identity represents a lesbian post-gender that allows individuals to express specificity of desire in spaces that emphasize queer ambiguity.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2021.481

Available for download on Thursday, June 23, 2022

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