Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 312-325

First online:

When Black + Lesbian + Woman ≠ Black Lesbian Woman: The Methodological Challenges of Qualitative and Quantitative Intersectionality Research

  • Lisa BowlegAffiliated withDepartment of Community Health and Prevention Program, School of Public Health, Drexel University Email author 

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The notion that social identities and social inequality based on ethnicity, sexual orientation, and sex/gender are intersectional rather than additive poses a variety of thorny methodological challenges. Using research with Black lesbians (Bowleg, manuscripts in preparation; Bowleg et al., Journal of Lesbian Studies, 2008; Bowleg et al., Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology 10:229–240, 2004; Bowleg et al., Journal of Lesbian Studies, 7:87–108, 2003) as a foundation, I examine how these challenges shape measurement, analysis, and interpretation. I argue that a key dilemma for intersectionality researchers is that the additive (e.g., Black + Lesbian + Woman) versus intersectional (e.g., Black Lesbian Woman) assumption inherent in measurement and qualitative and quantitative data analyses contradicts the central tenet of intersectionality: social identities and inequality are interdependent for groups such as Black lesbians, not mutually exclusive. In light of this, interpretation becomes one of the most substantial tools in the intersectionality researcher’s methodological toolbox.


Intersectionality research methods Black lesbians