Journal of Professional Nursing

Shadow Dancing in the Wings: Lesbian Women Talk About Health Care     

Geraldine M Clear, RGN, BN, MA (Hons), MCNA (NZ) Nursing lecturer, Universal College of Learning, Palmerston North
Jenny Carryer, RGON, PhD, FCNA (NZ), MNZM Professor of Nursing School of Health Sciences, Massey University and MidCentral Health, Palmerston North

Reference:  Clear, G. M. & Carryer, J. (2001), Shadow dancing in the wings: Lesbian women talk about health care. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, (17)3, 27-39.


To date, relatively little health-related research has been conducted with lesbian women, either internationally or in New Zealand. The limited research which has been done, rather than viewing lesbian identity as just one component of the whole individual, has sought predominantly to pathologise lesbian existence. A participatory approach, grounded in both critical social and feminist research, was used in this study of seven women who claim being lesbian as part of their identity. With the objective of providing information to enhance safe care provision for this marginalised group, the study explored with these women factors which hindered or facilitated their sense of safety related to health care. The findings indicate that barriers to receiving health care exist for these women. This work offers a starting place for future New Zealand nursing research involving lesbian women. The hope is that other nurses will also share a passion for exploring previously ignored sections of our society in order to strive for safety for all those whom nursing serves.   

Lesbian, cultural safety, nursing, research   

It is difficult to determine exact numbers, but estimates suggest that ten percent of women in Western society are lesbian (Brooks, 1981; Heart, 1994; MacEwan & Kinder, 1992). Lesbian women are therefore a cultural minority whose differing needs may not be obvious to those belonging to the cultural majority. Their different needs may stem from living in a world where silence and invisibility are tools necessary to get by in a world geared to the cultural majority. Continued   

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