Hidden in the small ads: researching working-class lesbians

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This article will consider strategies and difficulties in attempting to conduct research on a 'hard to reach' group, working-class lesbians, in the United Kingdom. It is based upon my PhD research which reports on the life biographies, identities and everyday experiences of women who identify themselves as working-class and lesbian, achieved through fifty-three interviews with women living in a range of localities: the Highlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow in Scotland and Yorkshire and Manchester, England. The particular difficulties of researching lesbian lives have been outlined by many (John and Patrick,1999; Kitzinger, 1987) but I would argue that problems of exclusion are compounded by class, given that working-class women are often absent from support networks and scene space, as well as research agendas. I illustrate the difficulties, and pleasures, both practically and theoretically and include quotes from interviewees as a way of demonstrating these issues. I end with a discussion on reciprocity or irrelevance to those 'excluded' participants, the 'usefulness' of my research, and the in/competence of the 'authoritative', 'reflexive' researcher. While my research is situated within Sociology/Women's studies, I believe that the questions raised, in terms of conducting
qualitative research, finding a sample and establishing rapport (or otherwise) with interviewees, are more broadly applicable across disciplinary boundaries. Issues of class inequality and sexuality are relevant across the social sciences and indeed across society as everyone occupies these categories, although only some are 'marked' by them
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-277
Number of pages25
JournalGraduate Journal of Social Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • contact
  • research
  • working-class
  • lesbian
  • class
  • interviews

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