Deconstructing the otherness of queer identity in contemporary lesbian fiction
Calitz, Martha Lydia (Talita)
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This dissertation explores queer identity construction using theories of gender fluidity and performance. The research suggests that binary structures such as masculine/feminine, male/female, and heterosexual/homosexual, restrict the expansion of queer gender identities. A deconstructive theoretical framework based predominantly on the philosophy of Judith Butler is applied to a selection of contemporary lesbian novels. The textual analysis of lesbian, transgender and transsexual characters focuses on the ways in which binary structures are challenged by the multiplicity of gender expressions depicted within a variety of sociopolitical contexts. The reality of gender-based violence is investigated as a significant consequence of hegemonic power structures. The charge against butch/femme identity as imitative of heterosexual norms is challenged by demonstrating how such a category functions as a parodic subversion of heteronormative ideals. Female masculinity is also presented as a powerful identity category that inverts expectations of dominant masculinity, while allowing for an interrogation of the connection between sex and gender. From the arguments presented in this dissertation, what emerges very clearly is that queer gender identities empower the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex) community when identity is freed from the constraints of heteronormative discourse.