Making lesbians visible in our research

This week is lesbian visibility week. In previous posts we have talked about how, in this project, we have been particularly keen to speak to trans people. This has been to address a gap in the data we are using for our secondary analysis, as surveys still only ask a sexual identity question, as well as to account for the criticism that much research on LGBT+ people is dominated by the stories of gay men.

This criticism was led for decades by lesbians and bisexual women who highlighted the disparity in who was being heard in LGBT+ research, and associated activism.

We are acutely aware of this criticism in the design of this project. Within our statistical analysis, we ensure that we do not merely lump together lesbians, gay and bisexual women and men. Rather, we carry out separate analyses of each gender, or we add a derived control variable into our models to capture the different experience of lesbians and bisexual women.

You might have read in previous posts that this has already produced some interesting findings for us. For example, we have found that home-owning lesbians own property worth less than their heterosexual counterparts. This could have a major impact on their welfare later in life when they might have to use such an asset to support their care.

Across the interviews, we have struggled to speak to lesbians, though. Across around 110 interviews undertaken so far, only seven have said they are lesbian. This is despite us noticing this under-representation quite early-on and changing our recruitment strategies to try and speak to more lesbians.

Statistical analysis does suggest this might reflect broader patterns among the lesbian population, however. Lesbians earn more, on average, than heterosexual or bisexual women – so might be less likely to be in receipt of welfare benefits. Our own statistical analysis shows that fewer lesbians claim welfare benefits than heterosexual women, predominantly because they are less likely to claim Child Benefit and other benefits associated with parenthood.

Although we have nearly finished participant recruitment, we still have some interviews to carry-out, so if you are interested – please get in touch if you:

  • Identify as a lesbian
  • Identify as a lesbian, are in a same-gender relationship with children, and claim child-related benefits or tax credits
  • Are a person of colour who identifies as lesbian.

You can get in touch by completing the form on this page. Thanks! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Eleanor (also a lesbian!).

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