Home Institution

Occidental College

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


This independent study project investigates the status of lesbian health care in Valparaíso, Chile. Over the course of three weeks, I conducted interviews with six women who engage in non-heterosexual intimate relationships. These individuals identify on a spectrum of sexual orientation that includes lesbian, bisexual and hetero-dissident. I also participated in a political demonstration organized by Acción Gay supporting a proposed Anti-Discrimination law. Finally, I attended a meeting of the recently formed lesbian health group Colectivo Ropa Tendida to gain insight into an organization working towards visibilizing lesbian realities. To contextualize my investigation, I worked with theories regarding essentialist and social-constructivist views of lesbian identity, heteronormativity, heterosexism, patriarchy, and Latin American machismo.

Through various conversations and two participant-observation experiences, I gained insight into how lesbianism is viewed within Chilean culture, how social factors shape these perceptions, how lesbians perceive their own sexual health, levels of ignorance and discrimination that exist within the health care system, what political organizing is currently taking place in Valparaíso, and what could be done to improve the depth and breadth of knowledge of lesbian health within Chile.

In this work, I discuss the findings of these research objectives through the subcategories of Chilean cultural context, formation of lesbian identity, health risks, the current situation in Valparaíso, and suggestions to improve the status of lesbian health. This research concludes that there is an immense lack of knowledge surrounding lesbian health that extends from health care providers to non-heterosexual women on the forefront of socio-political organizing. False notions that lesbians cannot transmit sexually transmitted diseases and lack of accessibility to methods of protection continue to perpetuate this culture of ignorance. Absence of discussion of lesbian sexuality within schools, families, and media create a norm of silence in which the concept of “lesbian health” is non-existent. Based on my findings, I discuss several suggestions for positive change which include: challenging heterosexist health care policies and protocol, holding lesbian sexual health workshops, and distributing a culturally-sensitive lesbian sexual health pamphlet.


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies


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