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Please don't call me that.

21st Mar, 2011 | 05:08 pm

I'm not a lesbian.

I've been thinking about this a lot, recently, and I've worked out quite a lot of reasons why.

Let me introduce you to some fictional people.

This is Taylor.
Taylor is straight.
Taylor is white.
Taylor is English.
Taylor is dark-haired.
Taylor is a Christian.
Taylor is a teacher.

This is Bob.
Bob is gay.
Bob is white.
Bob is English.
Bob is dark-haired.
Bob is a Christian.
Bob is a teacher.

This is Alex.
Alex is bisexual.
Alex is white.
Alex is English.
Alex is dark-haired.
Alex is a Christian.
Alex is a teacher.

This is Lucy.
Lucy is a lesbian.
Lucy is white.
Lucy is English.
Lucy is dark-haired.
Lucy is a Christian.
Lucy is a teacher.

Did you see it?

If not, try this: He's straight, she's straight, he's bisexual, she's bisexual, he's gay, she's A lesbian.

For some reason, generally speaking (I have heard people say, "he's a gay" or "s/he's a bisexual", but not frequently - though "bisexuals" is the more common plural, to be fair) everybody else gets their orientation referred to as if it's just another part of the description, something that just-so-happens-to-be, like skin colour, nationality etc etc etc.

But when it comes to gay women, suddenly She is A lesbian. Like she is A Christian, or A teacher. There's so much wrong I can read into that. Are you saying it's a choice? It's a temporary, controllable thing? I get days off? Or that it defines my current state of being more than my nationality? Does it change who I am?

I've heard people say, "Oh, before she became a lesbian..."

Now, maybe it's just me, but if someone tries to say, "Oh, before he became gay..." it just sounds ludicrous. And people tend to laugh at it, because most people these days (at least where I'm at) are used to the concept of your orientation not being a choice, but with you from birth. But the lesbian version? People nod sagely and carry on. Apparently you realise you're gay, but you become a lesbian.

It's description versus label. And I don't like the label.


Let's try some little reasons, too:

Say "lesbian". Put as much hatred, bile and vitriol into it as you can. Hiss that s, spit the b, drag it out and curl your lip in disgust.

Now say, "gay". Try and do the same. The most you can do is drawl the a, right?

For that alone, I dislike the word lesbian. I've been called it, with the hiss and the spit and the curled lip.

And how about this:

Gay. Try and shorten this. Belittle the imaginary person you're talking to. Take it out on Bob, who's just told you, "I'm gay." What can you say? And going for, "Oh, you're a gay?" doesn't count, by the way, because you extended it by adding another word, and just made my point about "a lesbian" as opposed to all the others.

Lesbian. Try this one instead. Belittle poor Lucy, who's also just told you, "I'm gay." What do you say, "Urgh, you're a lesbo?" Or, "Ugh, you lezza." Or, "Oh, gross, you're a lezzie."

For. Example. (Yes, I've had all of these. Among others. From strangers, acquaintances, and family.)


And then there's just the plain and simple little one I skirted by earlier.

How come gay women have a different word, when nobody else does?

Straight men and women, bisexual men and women, gay men, and lesbians.

Seriously, what?

Why?


Edit to add: I got an email today about the whole Apple removing the Gay Cure app thing. These are two consecutive sentences, bold is mine:

"After more than 150,000 petition signatures from Change.org members and saturation media coverage, news outlets worldwide are reporting that Apple has pulled an iPhone application launched by Exodus International that claimed to help "cure" gay and lesbian people.

This is a huge, public victory against the dangerous myth that gay young people can and should be "turned straight"."


I find this somewhat bizarre. It's like, "Oh, we can't just say gay, because that excludes women. Never mind the rest of the queer spectrum, but we'll add lesbians" closely followed by, "You know what? We've clarified we mean both guys and girls at one particular end of the sexuality spectrum, gay'll do just fine on its own now."

I mean, make up your minds... Personally, as per the rest of this post, I kind of think the first one should be "gay and bisexual people" perhaps... Since it specifies people, rather than one gender or another.

I don't know. Right now, I can't work out how to say quite what I mean. I'm just hyper-aware of LGBT phraseology as it crosses my path at the moment, and I needed to stick this one somewhere to check back on when my brain is functioning better.


Also: Just filled in a form that required gender early on, then Sexual Orientation later. Your options are:

Heterosexual/Straight
Gay Man
Bisexual
Lesbian

WAIT WHAT?

So the question of "Attracted to Same Sex/Attracted to Opposite Sex/Attracted to Both Sexes" needs four answers?

Gender was clarified earlier, remember. So why do we need to separate homosexual orientation by men/women?

This makes me angry. Please explain why this is necessary?

Let the original post resume!


I've been trying to think of how things would work if the word lesbian just disappeared into the ether. Currently, all I can see is a lot of porn titles with a blank space, and "Lesbian Vampire Killers" having to be retitled. And let's face it, when "lesbian" is used in that context, who's it for? Who's it meant to titillate and draw in?

It's not me, is it.


Now I know, this is a... small issue, particularly in comparison to everything else going on in the LGBT community (there it is again, lurking...) at the moment, let alone the rest of the world.

And I know some lovely gay women who are perfectly at ease with the word lesbian.

But it's been winding me up for ages, and every time I hear it, it's getting so that all I can hear is every hiss-and-spit and every shortened slur.

Which is a shame, because even my friends have called me it at points (and I know you love me and would never, ever use the vitriolic versions, and didn't even know it makes me flinch. I'm not angry, I'm just clarifying my stance on it).

"Lesbian wife" is the only funny one I've had, hishsticks, and I can understand that you wouldn't want to say "gay wife" in case people think it's a vaguely homophobic take on effeminate gay men. Which is a shame. And partly my point.

Anyway, the short version is:

I'm not a lesbian. And though I'm still not 100% sure of my placement on that lovely sliding scale of sexuality, I'm around 85% sure, so I can say this instead:

I'm a gay woman.

Please call me that.
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Comments {34}

helygen

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from: helygen
date: 21st Mar, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
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I completely get where you're coming from, but you may have overlooked the term 'homosexual' which is also used to reference a gay man. I know it means 'same sex' and applies to men and women, but it's used more often than not in relation to men, and it's also used, and shortened, to belittle gay men in the same way that you've shown the word lesbian can be used.

I've no point to make, as I agree with your viewpoint; I just want to redress the balance in my quiet little pedantic way ;)

x

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Laligin Tashika

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from: laligin
date: 21st Mar, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
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This is perfectly true. Particularly in America. And I have a degree of dislike for "homosexual" outside of legal jargon for exactly the same reasons.

:/ It's tricky, though. I mean, even in gay circles, lesbians are still lesbians. LGBT and all that. But gay men get to leave "homosexual" at the door, as it were.

*hugs* Thank you for pointing it out.

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twincityhacker

(no subject)

from: msp_hacker
date: 21st Mar, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC)
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I have totally heard people use "Oh, before he became gay...".

Also, when hear the word gay ( when it's not using negatively ) it's mostly referring to homosexual men, or rarely everybody. Like how "he" also swallows up neutral gender in English.

Either way, I just like the word "lesbian" period. ( I'm also one of those weird people that wish that Urarian would come back. ) BUT, you should call yourself whatever you want.

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Laligin Tashika

(no subject)

from: laligin
date: 21st Mar, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
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(: That's fair. I know some people like it, prefer it, or just don't mind either way. This is totally just from my point of view. I am in no way empowered to speak for a group of people. XD

(Also, yes, I've heard people say that, too. But I've heard others call them on it.)

Whenever I hear stuff like "the gay community" it does tend to be aimed at men, you're quite right. Sometimes it's more inclusive, though, and I tend to think to myself, "Oh, yeah, that's for me..." If I see something that's "aimed at lesbians" or similar, though, something in it just repels me. >_< ("He" for gender neutral also annoys me, though "they" as a singular is slipping into common usage, so...)

This post, I admit, partly came about because I was chatting to someone and mentioned, "Oh, I'm gay," and got told, "You mean you're a lesbo." Like I'd got it wrong.

Also, Urarian - tell me more?

(:

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(no subject)

from: crystalshard
date: 21st Mar, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
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I don't have much to say here, except *hugs*. Lots and lots of *hugs*.

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Laligin Tashika

(no subject)

from: laligin
date: 21st Mar, 2011 06:42 pm (UTC)
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Which is always a welcome response, whatever I post. (: Thank you!

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Vera S.

(no subject)

from: verasteine
date: 21st Mar, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
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I can completely understand this, the way you explain this. I'm trying to find some positive, non-condescending way to say, I think it's cool you've figured this out... and not finding it, so I'm sticking with, I think it's cool you've figured this out.

On a side note, and this is not criticism of anything you said, but this is a problem that's not necessarily true for all languages. In my language, you'd say, he's gay (actually, literally you say, he's homo, but it's non-pejorative) and she's lesbian. The 'a' that English uses doesn't exist; lesbian is not a noun. It's gender-specific. Gay is becoming a common term now, borrowed from English, but didn't exist before.

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Laligin Tashika

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from: laligin
date: 21st Mar, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
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(: Your language is doing it right, in my opinion.

And you're entirely correct, of course. I have an innate English bias that I forget about. >_< Oops. I apologise.

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tripartite

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from: tripartite
date: 21st Mar, 2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I've had all of these. Among others. From strangers, acquaintances, and family.
I am sorry people are douche bags.

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Laligin Tashika

(no subject)

from: laligin
date: 21st Mar, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
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Most people are quite nice, really. Some of those instances were people trying to be funny and missing by quite a long way. But yes, some of them were nasty too.

Thank you, though.

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Laligin Tashika

(no subject)

from: laligin
date: 26th Mar, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC)
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Heh. I'm sort of tempted, actually. I keep finding new examples...

I long for the day when it's regarded as unimportant and not necessary to tell people on forms and things, and people find out you're dating someone of the same gender or whatever, and just go, "Oh, yeah, I met him/her, s/he's nice. Cool."

*patpat* I am mildly bemused by that sort of attitude, but I have come across it before. Much sympathy.

Blah blah blah, thank you very much. ;)

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Vera S.

(no subject)

from: verasteine
date: 26th Mar, 2011 06:37 pm (UTC)
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You know, considering your updates... I'm wondering if there's a touch (or more than a) of sexism involved in this. The visibility of gay men vs. gay women in media is profound, and spending a lot of time in fandom, I notice a tendency by its straight female contigent to "defend" gay men, but ignore other gay issues that might require their voice.

As for the forms: wow, poorly written. I can see the benefit on a form of including several categories, since this is something in which people self-identify and like you might prefer 'gay' over 'lesbian', but 'gay man' is not an option that should be available if gender has already been asked. Fail.

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Laligin Tashika

(no subject)

from: laligin
date: 26th Mar, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
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I'm thinking that myself now. The lack of gay women in media has always bothered me. Particularly when the few things that try and redress the balance (Lip Service, most recently, about gay girls in Glasgow) aren't always that great. Lip Service was rather spectacularly panned by pretty much everyone. >_<

And YES on fandom. Before I finally realised I wasn't straight myself I was also quite guilty of the whole, "Oh, two guys! So cuuute/so hoooot!" fetishisation thing, but because I had a lot of gay female friends, when it came to the issues I was fairly all-encompassing. But even then the issues tended to focus oddly on men.

*sigh*

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tripartite

(no subject)

from: tripartite
date: 26th Mar, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
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So the question of "Attracted to Same Sex/Attracted to Opposite Sex/Attracted to Both Sexes" needs four answers?
No, it only needs 3:
Homosexual
Heterosexual
Bisexual
That, combined with sex from early on in the questionnaire, is enough to determine the rest. Think about it, they are designing forms for a living. How bright can they really be?

So why do we need to separate homosexual orientation by men/women?
You don't.

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Laligin Tashika

(no subject)

from: laligin
date: 26th Mar, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
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Indeed. Any idea why this is a usual and accepted thing for forms?

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