Sussex researcher to discuss lives of older lesbians on Radio 4

Dr Jane Traies, Research Associate in the School of Media, Film and Music

A University of Sussex researcher will be appearing on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ this Friday (16 January) to discuss the ‘invisibility’ of older lesbians in both academic research and popular culture.

Dr Jane Traies, a Research Associate in the School of Media, Film and Music (MFM), spoke to nearly fifty lesbians between the ages of 60 and 90 about their lives and experience as part of her recently concluded PhD at Sussex.

Her study was based on the first comprehensive survey of older lesbian life to be undertaken in the UK, analysing data from an unprecedentedly large sample of some 400 lesbians over 60.

She found that, although these women led “very varied lifestyles”, they recognised a common bond and a strong sense of shared identity based on the experience of having been a stigmatised minority.

Dr Traies also conducted a media survey and perceptions questionnaire, finding that older lesbians were under-represented in academic research, popular culture and the media.

Friday’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ programme, starting at 10am, will include not only an interview with Dr Traies but also audio clips from her conversations with older lesbians.

Dr Traies said of her upcoming radio appearance: “I’m particularly excited about this chance to talk about my research to a wider audience, because one of my original intentions in doing this work was to make older lesbians more culturally visible. So the opportunity for their voices to be heard on national radio is just wonderful!”

She added: “The subject is deeply personal to me, of course, since I am an ‘older lesbian’ myself (I was 70 last week), and essentially I’ve been an ethnographer of my own tribe.

“I believe this shared identity was one of the things that made it possible for my respondents to trust me with their stories. It also makes me feel very responsible to them – some of the women had not told their story to anyone before.”

Dr Traies returned to university after a long career as a teacher and head teacher in state schools.

She commented: “Going back to university in my sixties was one of the best things I’ve ever done. More people should be encouraged to do it!

“Sussex was a particularly welcoming place to be, and it’s been really stimulating to make younger friends and meet new ideas.”

She plans to use her research findings to campaign for more service provision for older LGBT people.

Notes for editors

University of Sussex Press Office contacts: Ben Steele, James Hakner and Jacqui Bealing. 01273 678888 /

By: James Hakner
Last updated: Wednesday, 14 January 2015