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Resisting and Reframing Explanations for “Lesbian Obesity”: LBTQA+ Young Women's Narratives of Sexual Identity as a Protective Factor

Sexual and Gender Minority Health

ISBN: 978-1-83867-147-1, eISBN: 978-1-83867-146-4

Publication date: 15 January 2021


Purpose: To understand how lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and asexual (LBTQA+) young women interpret the social construction of “lesbian obesity” in the context of their lived experiences and membership in the LGBTQ+ community.

Methodology: Individual, in-depth interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 25 LBTQA+ women, ages 18–24, to explore how participants perceive and experience dominant discourses about gender, sexuality, and weight. Interviews were analyzed using a combination of deductive and inductive coding approaches.

Findings: Participants resisted public health discourse that frames obesity as a disease and the implication that their sexual identities put their health at risk. Many participants viewed their sexual identities and membership in the LGBTQ+ community as protective factors for their health statuses in general and their body image in particular.

Implications: Our findings suggest a need to reconsider the utility of the concept of “lesbian obesity” to characterize the significance of elevated rates of overweight and obesity in this population. Public health and clinical interventions guided by body positive approaches may be of greater relevance for sexual minority women.

Originality: This study centers the perceptions and experiences of LBTQA+ young women in order to examine how the intersections of sexual minority identity, dominant cultural ideals about weight, and obesity discourse inform their health.




This research was supported by grants from the Office of Undergraduate Research and the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina.


Sheppard, A. and Mann, E.S. (2021), "Resisting and Reframing Explanations for “Lesbian Obesity”: LBTQA+ Young Women's Narratives of Sexual Identity as a Protective Factor", LeBlanc, A.J. and Perry, B.L. (Ed.) Sexual and Gender Minority Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 21), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 207-228.



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