Women in homosexual relationships responded to this designation either by hiding their personal lives or accepting the label of outcast and creating a subculture and identity that developed in Europe and the United States.
Following World War II, during a period of social repression when governments actively persecuted homosexuals, women developed networks to socialize with and educate each other.
The varied meanings of lesbian since the early 20th century have prompted some historians to revisit historic relationships between women before the wide usage of the word was defined by erotic proclivities.
Discussion from historians caused further questioning of what qualifies as a lesbian relationship.
Because of society's reluctance to admit that lesbians exist, a high degree of certainty is expected before historians or biographers are allowed to use the label.