While coming out or the telling of sexual selves for LGBTQ+ people is often seen as the final step toward living a free and healthy life, lesbians who also identify as feminists embark on a life-long journey in which the plot ebbs and flows around activism and mobilization. Their goal is not only to come out, but to be out. Both cisgender radical-lesbian feminists and trans feminists consider coming out as not only crucial for the realization of self, but also an important tactic for taking up space and intervening in a heteronormative world. But, while the original theories of radical feminism advocated a fierce anti-essentialism, some contemporary radical feminists continue to focus on biology and questions like “what is a woman?” I hope to refocus the question to ask: how are narrative audiences, discursive forms of text, and spaces important for feminists as they realize lesbian or trans identities and communities? Data come from a historical printed newsletter by self-described radical feminists practicing lesbian separatism and two current micro-blogs, one surrounding radical-feminist narratives and the other around trans feminism. Through a textual analysis, I show how self-proclaimed radical feminists and trans feminists use poetic and emotive writing to produce different kinds of narratives about coming out and being out in different spaces and for unique audiences. Ultimately, these discursive forms are important for communities as members’ stories challenge and are impacted by public narratives of gender, essentialism, and cis- and hetero-normativity.
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