9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN23 Sexuality

BUTTERFLY┬┤S WINGS: THE LESBIAN COMMUNITY BETWEEN SEXUAL IDENTITY AND GENDER SYMBOLISM

Stemming from a theoretical framework that views gender and sexuality not as something that we are individually, but as the result of social and interactive practices, a collective "doing", the paper will focus on the symbolic representation of the lesbian community in Italy.
The paper will take in consideration the case of "ArciLesbica", the biggest Italian lesbian association. Through the analysis and interpretation of the symbolic communication promoted by the association in various years (through images, flyers and posters) and semi-structured interviews with its founders and main activists, we will show the articulated interplay of sexuality and gender in the production of a collective identity and imaginary. In particular, the discussion will concentrate on the ways in which the representation of a lesbian community seems to be rooted in the belonging to a particular model of desire and, thus, to a sexual identity. But at the same time, the symbolic construction of this identity deeply implies gender symbolism, evoking masculine and feminine versions of "being lesbian", sometimes celebrating gender stereotypes and, some other times, subverting them.
The conclusions, thus, will concentrate on the relationships between sexual identity and gender symbolism, highlighting how they intertwine with each other in the images and symbols implied by the association to communicate itself and perform a public imagination of the lesbian community. The final claim of the paper will be that of deepening the conceptual framing and understanding of the categories of sexuality and gender, focusing on their mutual construction, action and performance (as well as on their clashes) at a symbolic level.