Tomboyism or Lesbianism? Beyond Gender/Sexual Conflation
Sex Roles, 53, 119- 131, July 2005
C Lynn Carr, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work
To illuminate questions of sex/gender/sexual conflation the researcher focused on the relationship between reported tomboyism and lesbianism. Narratives of childhood and adolescence were collected from 32 women who were grouped into four gender/sexual status combinations: “lesbian/bisexual butch,” “straight butch,” “lesbian/bisexual femme,” and “straight femme.” The effects of participants’ sexual and gendered statuses on their retrospective accounts of two aspects of tomboyism—“choosing masculinity” and “rejecting femininity”— were examined. Chi square and qualitative analyses suggest that stage in the life cycle, gender, and sexual status influence distinctmergings and separations of sex, gender, and sexuality in women’s retrospective reports. The researcher concludes that attention to sex, gender, and sexuality as both distinct and connected clarifies the relationship between tomboyism and lesbianism.