Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Benford, Robert

Abstract

In this study, I interviewed twenty-seven women who possessed same-sex desires and lived in rural areas in Kentucky, Tennessee and Southern Illinois. The women in the study had constructed these desires with various labels including "gay," "lesbian," "queer," "bisexual," or preferred no label. Each of the participants talked about growing up rural areas of the Midsouth in communities which often were based on traditional, patriarchal families, fundamentalist Christianity, and conservative politics. The women told stories of how they not only realized their same-sex feelings within this social context, but how they acknowledged, managed and negotiated their feelings within the setting. In this study, I examine the women's concepts of sexual identity and gender identity constructions within the context of their regional identities. Religion, socioeconomic status and race and ethnicity also influenced these perceptions and are included in their discussions. Finally, this study focuses on the sociological concepts of cognitive dissonance and its resolution, identity salience and master status.

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