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Encyclopedia of Human Development

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Encyclopedia of Human Development

Neil J. Salkind

Pub. date: 2005 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412952484 | Print ISBN: 9781412904759 | Online ISBN: 9781412952484 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.

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Lesbians

Patricia R. Cardozo & Anna Letitia Marsden & Rebecca S. Klinger & Esther D. Rothblum

A lesbian is a woman or girl who is sexually or romantically attracted to females, or who engages in same-sex behavior or relationships. The word lesbian was coined in the 17th century based on the Greek island of Lesbos, where the female poet Sappho wrote erotic poetry about love between women in the 7th century BC. In the late 18th and early to mid-19th century, lesbianism was considered sexually deviant by notable psychiatrists such as Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and Helene Deutsch (1884–1982), who viewed lesbians as manly or having penis envy. Even today, it is difficult to estimate the prevalence of lesbianism due to continuing negative stigma. Although some lesbians are “out” or openly identified as lesbian, many more are “closeted,” hiding their sexual orientation. The 20th century broke new ground for lesbians because of the emerging urban subcultures such as Harlem in New York City and Berlin, Germany, where ...

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