Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Forest, Kay

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Sociology


Lesbians--Psychology; Self-esteem in women; Homophobia; Gender identity


This thesis examines how various factors influence lesbian self-esteem, including a woman's sex-type, her level of involvement in a lesbian subculture, her level of family support, and her perception of homophobia in society. Survey data were collected from a non-random snowball sample of 77 lesbians. I hypothesized that perceiving lower levels of homophobia, having a masculine sex-type, being connected to a strong subculture, and having a high level of family support would lead to higher levels of self-esteem. I also proposed that masculine sex-typed traits and external support would greatly reduce the negative impact of societal homophobia on self-esteem. The initial analysis showed that the measure of perceived homophobia could actually be divided into two subscales. "Prejudice is defined as negative attitudes about the individual. "Discrimination" is defined as actions taken against an individual. Final results indicated that perceived discrimination but not perceived prejudice negatively affected a lesbian's self-esteem. Lesbians with a higher masculine sex-type, particularly psychological independence, had higher levels of self-esteem. Masculine sex-type was also the only factor that buffered the negative effects of perceived discrimination. Findings also show that informal, but not formal subculture involvement increased self-esteem. Of the family support variables, only the father's acceptance of his daughter's lesbianism had an influence on her level of selfesteem. This study suggests that, despite the potentially damaging effects of living in a homophobic society, a lesbian may well be able to achieve a high level of self-esteem through both internal and external factors.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [72]-77)


viii, 81 pages




Northern Illinois University

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