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The lesbian continuum is a term coined by Adrienne Rich (1986) in “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” By constructing sexual identity along a gradient, it offers an alternative to traditional binary classifications of sexual identity. This concept was formulated with the intent of including women who do not ordinarily think of themselves as lesbians, specifically women who identify as heterosexuals. One rationale for this concept was to find similarities among heterosexually identified feminists and lesbian-identified feminists in building women-centered community. The notion of a lesbian continuum is used primarily in feminist studies, women studies, lesbian studies, and queer theory.

This continuum conceptualizes lesbian identity as more than desire for particular sorts of sexual intimacies and relationships. In the spirit of the “personal is political,” sexual orientation ...

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