Wherever I Lay My Girlfriend, That’s My Home: The Performance and Surveillance of Lesbian Identities in Domestic Environments
Home is a word that positively drips with associations-according to various academic literatures it’s a private, secure location, a sanctuary, a locus of identity and a place where inhabitants can escape the disciplinary practices that regulate our bodies in everyday life (Allan and Crow 1989; Saunders 1989). Above all the home is often presented as being synonymous with the heterosexual ‘family’ and the ideal of family life (Allan 1989; Madigan et al. 1990; Oakley 1976; Saunders 1989). But not all homes are exclusively occupied by heterosexuals. ‘Home’ can take on very different and contradictory meanings for sexual dissidents who share a house with heterosexual family members (Bell 1991; Valentine 1993a) and for those, like the lesbians who placed the advertisements above, who create their own domestic space. ‘At home’ sexual identities are both performed and come under surveillance. Whilst ‘the home’ may be taken for granted or appropriated as the terrain of heterosexual family life and therefore be regarded as normative, it is also a possible site of challenge and subversion. This chapter draws on research carried out in New Zealand and the UK1 to explore the experiences of lesbians in the parental home; and to examine how lesbians create and manage their own domestic environments.2 The chapter does not seek to reify the idea of ‘lesbian identity’ or ‘lesbian homes’ in a universal sense. Rather, it suggests that lesbians’ experiences from different cultures be part of the wider debate of geographies of difference. The local politics of lesbians in NZ and the UK are brought together to highlight the fragmented nature of difference.