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odological grounds. Studies have been limited by a lack of consensus on definitions of suicide attempt and sexual orientation, nonrepresentative samples, and lack of appropriate comparison groups (Muehrer, 1995). In a study of Minnesota adolescents in grades 7 through 12, which used a population-based sample, bisexual or homosexual sexual orientation was not found to be associated with increased suicide risk in girls although it was in boys (Remafedi et al., 1998). An oft-cited reference for this supposition is a background essay included in the 1989 report of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide, which suggested that gay and lesbian youth "may comprise up to thirty percent of completed youth suicides annually" (Muehrer, 1995). However, as Muehrer (1995) points out, the essay did not actually cite any published research on completed suicides. Further, there are no nationwide or statewide data on the frequency and causes of completed suicide for gays or lesbians or for the general population. Well-designed research that uses representative samples and appropriate comparison groups and considers a range of contributory factors is needed to better understand the relationships that might exist between suicide and sexual orientation.
Many of the developmental issues that adult lesbians face are the same as those faced by other women: entering the workforce, finding a loving partner and developing a satisfying sexual life, deciding whether to have children, being a parent, and negotiating the aging process with its attendant declines in health and, for some, the death of a life partner. Little information is available, however, about how lesbians face these challenges through adulthood or about the unique challenges they may face. For example, there is a dearth of research on the practice and meaning of sexuality for lesbians throughout their life course. There is evidence that most lesbians have been heterosexually active, and this complicates retrospective and prospective analyses.
There is now a large cohort of lesbians who have lived a decade or two as "out-of-the-closet" lesbians. Midlife issues for this group are likely to be different from previous cohorts, who were less likely to publicly