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Personal but Not Private

Queer Women, Sexuality, and Identity Modulation on Digital Platforms

Author Stefanie Duguay

Publication Date - 01 April 2022

ISBN: 9780190076191

192 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


Privacy has become a pressing concern for many users of digital platforms who fear legal or social liability for sharing personal details online. Yet for queer women and others, an emphasis on privacy fails to reflect the creativity and struggles of everyday people seeking to represent themselves and form meaningful connections through social media.

Personal but Not Private explores how queer women share and maintain their identities through digital technologies despite overlapping technological, social, economic, and political concerns. Focusing on representations of sexual identity through Tinder, Instagram, and Vine, this volume uncovers how queer women are continuously engaging in identity modulation, or the process through which people and platforms adjust or modify personal information, to form relationships, increase their social and economic participation, and counter intersecting forms of oppression. While queer women's representations of sexual identity give rise to publics and counterpublics through intimate and collective self-representation, platform-specific elements like design and governance place limitations on queer women's agency and often make them targets of censorship, harassment, and discrimination. This book also considers how identity modulation can be applied to a range of people negotiating digital contexts and promotes tangible changes to digital platforms and their broader social, economic, and political structures to empower individuals and their personal sharing on social media.

Bringing together personal interviews and empirical research, Personal but Not Private offers a new lens for examining digitally mediated identities and highlights how platforms act as complicated sites of transformation.


  • Explores how queer women share and maintain their identities across Tinder, Instagram, and Vine despite overlapping technological, social, economic, and political concerns
  • Introduces the term "identity modulation" to describe how queer women and other individuals adjust or modify their personal information on digital platforms
  • Combines personal interviews with novel empirical research, including the walkthrough method

About the Author(s)

Stefanie Duguay is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Her research focuses on the influence of digital media technologies in everyday life, with attention to sexual identity, gender, and social media. This has included studies of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people's social media use, dating apps, and digital self-representation. She teaches in the areas of digital communication, youth, identity, gender, sexuality, and digital research methods. Stefanie earned her PhD in Media and Communication from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia where she received an Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award. During this time, she spent a summer as a PhD Intern at Microsoft Research's Social Media Collective. Prior to her PhD, Stefanie graduated with distinction from the Oxford Internet Institute's MSc program. In addition to her scholarly pursuits, Stefanie has worked for the Canadian federal government, specializing in the areas of client services and digital strategy. Her roots are in Southern Alberta with its inspirational prairie skies.


"Duguay's compelling and original framework of identity modulation brings a critical lens to the everyday creative choices that LGBTQ+ women make as they assert their rights to visibility, safety, and playfulness on digital platforms. Her incisive analyses are supported by careful and generous empirical investigation. This book will be welcomed by undergraduate and postgraduate scholars interested in gender and sexualities, media studies, contemporary queer cultures, and digital intimacies." -- Kath Albury, Swinburne University of Technology

"Focusing specifically on queer women, Personal but not Private fills an important gap in the literature on LGBTQ+ issues in the media. It expertly addresses the ways technologies facilitate self-making and the complicated relationship queer women have with self-disclosure and social media. Rooted in the lived experiences of her study participants, Duguay offers a timely, lively, and intimate portrait of queer media experiences." -- Andre Cavalcante, University of Virginia

"Digital platforms can quickly shift from de facto public squares to places for intimate exchange. Duguay's narratively powerful and analytically rigorous book breaks new ground by showing us what this kaleidoscopic jumble of private, public, and self-identity feels like. By drawing on the lived experiences of queer women coming out and connecting online, Personal but Not Private lays out what is at stake when digital platforms further rupture the possibility of crafting a sense of self 'in private.' In doing so, Duguay makes one of the strongest cases yet that determining where and how our personal identities 'travel' is foundational to creating who we are and connecting with others." -- Mary L. Gray, Microsoft Research and Indiana University

"Personal but not Private is essential reading for anyone invested in discussions at the intersection of technology, gender, and sexuality. Duguay offers a nuanced analysis of the contemporary digital lives of queer women with an approachable and engaging style that belies the depth of research and critical thinking behind this book." -- Sharif Mowlabocus, Fordham University

Table of Contents


    1. Digital Mediations of Sexual Identity and Personal Disclosure

    2. Queering Tinderella: Personal Identifiability in Platform-Generated Identities

    3. #Lesbehonest: Reach through Self-Branding

    4. Beyond the Gated Community: Salience in Publics and Counterpublics

    5. Conclusion: Identity Modulation as Integral to Digital Citizenship

    Appendix: Methods of the Study

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