Change Your World-NOT your Body

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Lesbian: What it Means-What it Is

In regard to numerous confused and angry responses to recent posts regarding Straightbians, it's become abundantly clear that few know and/or understand (besides lesbians) what a lesbian is, or what the term lesbian means.
 
 The primary confusion seems to be putting behavior over biology.  Just a few examples of statements (both online and in person) exemplifying this confusion/misunderstanding are as follows:
  •  If someone says they are a lesbian, then they are a lesbian, regardless of behavior.
  • A straight woman can decide to be a lesbian because she is sick of men/abused by men/femalecentric politics etc, and POOF! it is magically so.  
  •  "I knew a woman who was married to a man and had children and later came out as a lesbian, so that PROVES that any woman can be a lesbian."
This thinking is problematic for a plethora of reasons. Some of the main reasons being:
  • It implies that being a lesbian is a choice. Such thinking would also conversely imply that a lesbian could simply sleep with a man and POOF! she would be straight, and that is a very dangerous and incorrect assumption that leads to the harassment, stalking, and corrective rape of lesbians
  • It naively ignores the myriad of reasons why actual lesbians may initially partner with a man when they are young:  family pressures, societal expectations, religious guilt/fear, the need for acceptance, temperament, thinking that they can fake being straight to have a so-called "easier" life (which turns out not to be "easier" after all because they are denying their true selves which leads to distress, depression, anxiety, or even suicide unless they become strong enough to come out).  If the world suddenly magically lost all of its lesbophobia, lesbians of all temperaments/familial backgrounds/religions etc would simply date other lesbians from grade school dances on up, never feeling pressure to date men. But for Straightbians, nothing would change-unhappy/abusive relationships with men whereby they would still seek greener pastures with lesbians.
  •  To even think like this reeks of straight privilege. It is heterosexual privilege to think you know more about lesbian life than actual lesbians.  It is straight privilege to assume you can know what it is like to be a lesbian.   
  • As mentioned earlier, this thinking focuses on behavior rather than biology; on what you DO versus who you ARE. In other words, this simplistic thinking assumes that if a women sleeps with a woman, she is automatically a lesbian. 
There is only ONE way to become a lesbian, and that is genetically engineered as a lesbian in utero.
 
When born a lesbian:
  • You know from a few years of age you are different.
  • You know from kindergarten or 1st grade you are attracted to other girls "that way". Even if you do not have the language for which to describe your feelings.
  • You may be in a family/religion/society etc that makes it very clear as a girl you will one day be expected to be married with children. These pressures do cause some lesbians to behave as heterosexually expected. They may marry men and have children with men. Doing so however does NOT alter their biology. It is no different than a black woman marrying and having children with a white man, the black woman STILL remains a black woman.
  • You may do all of the above; marry a man/have children with a man etc and come out when you are older and more secure with yourself. Regardless, closet lesbians KNOW they are in the closet. 
  • You may have such an intense fear of coming out, you may behave as a heterosexual woman your entire life. You may NEVER have a romantic relationship with another lesbian your whole life long. BUT regardless of this behaviour, you are still a lesbian.
  • You could fuck 10,000 men, but the entire time you are doing it, you would still remain a lesbian.
Between my wife and I we comprise a century of lesbianism, neither of us are prudes and neither of us believe all lesbians are Gold Star dykes like us. But as lesbians, who know and have known tons of other lesbians, we know no matter how or when you come out and taste life itself-you NEVER go back. 

dirt
 
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37 comments:

  1. It should be mentioned one can become gay, but not by their own volition. Shit can change.-A Bisexual

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    1. You've missed the point. One cannot "become" gay; and certainly no one can make someone else gay. You either are, or you aren't. If, say, one is abused and thereafter eschews opposite sex relationships in favour of same sex relationships because of said abuse, they have not become gay, they are either bisexual or straight and in need of therapy to deal with their abuse.

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    2. So by your logic, if a lesbian was sexually abused as a child by a man and still rejects men, she should be in therapy to "correct" her lesbianism.

      Wow. Just wow.

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    3. Anon at 11:47 a.m.: No, that is not what is being said. If she is a LESBIAN, then no, of course, she shouldn't "correct her lesbianism". But: if she is a STRAIGHT woman who was sexually abused as a child which has led to her having problems with her STRAIGHT sexuality (including pretending to be a lesbian to avoid men), then yes, she should deal with whatever issues are affecting her. In that case...SHE WOULD NOT BE A LESBIAN.

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  2. God Bless this entire series of posts.

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  3. Thank you for saying what every real lesbian knows is true.

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  4. Once again, you would never apply this to gay men so your point is moot.

    A man who says he is gay would be accepted as gay, period.

    A man who says he is gay after twenty years of hetero marriage would be accepted as gay.

    People would say that the act of sleeping with other men qualifies him as gay.

    People would say that a gay man being married and having kids doesn't change the fact that he is gay, because homophobia is an immense social pressure under which he could not cope in the earlier years of his life.

    People would say that being bi and preferring to sleep with men would qualify him to take up the label as gay.

    Yet here you are, a lesbian devaluing later in life lesbians because you don't think their lived experiences match up with your own. You are also engaging in some heavy duty misogyny applying a standard which men would never be expected to live up to.

    You are also saying that straight women are so stupid that they would not know their husband is gay if she walked in on him having sex with another man. Eh... durrr. Your version of logic fails, once again.

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    1. **Beating head on desk** What is your obsession with gay men? Your assertion is both incorrect AND off-topic. As already said before, the same principles would apply for gay men as for lesbians, BUT Dirt is NOT talking about gay men. SHE IS A LESBIAN WHO IS TALKING ABOUT LESBIANS. What part of that is so confusing to you?

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    2. If you cannot comment on the topic at hand (LESBIANS in this case) your comment will be removed.

      dirt

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  5. "on what you DO versus who you ARE"

    Nobody calls someone a criminal (or a pedo or a rapist) unless they actually DO something to warrant that label.

    I suppose we should stop calling people criminals even if they have a rap sheet ten miles long.

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    1. Guess you rode the short bus to school.

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    2. Equating lesbianism to criminals illustrates you heterosexually, your privilege and your fucking ignorance.

      dirt

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  6. FYI genetic engineering is something agriculture does. Not women's wombs.

    So much to lol in this article I can't even.

    Especially the part about "straight privilege" where late in life lesbians are somehow exempt from having an opinion about lesbianism, because their life experiences don't perfectly match up to Dirt's.

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    1. Seriously, your reading comprehension skills are worrisome.

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    2. If you cannot comment on whats been written, your comment WILL be removed.

      dirt

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  7. Some is Nature, some is Nurture. Initially I made a choice to come out because it wasnt working between myself and men. In fact their anatomy(penises)repelled me. Once I DID come out and have sex with my first woman..it all began to make sense. And all along I was tomboy who as she came out could claim an adult Butch Dyke way of Being. Backthen some of us were lucky to have Butch Mentors. It all began to make sense.

    I think sexuality is far more fluid than anyone cares to admit,and when I got around the Feminist Alliance and Lesbian Caucus on campus that brought me out..along with the more dreary gay bar scene...but back then the Lesbin community was STRONG and Dykes snd Butch Dykes were PROUD to be Female!!!A different kind of Amazonian Female or as some called us "strong women"!!

    But there is some aspect of essrntial Dyke nature which wlmost EVRRY lifelong Butch feels..not fitting into girly games and roles, rejecting dresses and preferring boys toys and games, not ever wanting to marry men, I KNEW this at age 12 and step announced it to my grandfather and having a bestest bestest bestest friend that I would be jealous if she wanted to be best friends with anybody else I didn't see it in sexual terms at all I wouldn't have understood that and getting involved in sports like ice hockey and martial arts the girls weren't doing back then breaking out of the mold I think that for many Butch lesbians at least we always question those gender roles and limitations new or did we really want to be with men but we may not have seen our way out of it especially back then when homosexuality was still quite taboo. So I do think there is an aspect of Nature and an aspect of nurture. I want women to feel they have a choice to become lesbian and leave men behind completely but it is not a frivolous Choice by any means.

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    1. In other words, you were not then and you are not now a lesbian. Period.

      dirt

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  8. A lesbian has lesbian hands, lesbian eyes, lesbian bones.
    A lesbian would be a lesbian even if she didn't have a word for it.
    Let them steal our words, we know who we are. We recognize each other just like animals do.

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    1. Well said, Anon 3/27 @ 4:33 p.m.

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  9. I certainly i appreciate this post and is a very important very unaddressed topic. I think most people aren't articulating their discomfort properly and attacking lesbian space,which has become some kind of open ground for people.

    I am bothered by some aspects of this though and namely that is if you are a lesbian you knew immediatly as a child. There are a number of factors that could seriosly impede a little girls self understanding. Most obvious as number 1 is compulsory heterosexuality, she may feel different, she may crave attention from girls and discomfort around boys when a hetero dynamic becomes apparent. But how would she know how to name this? Compulsory heterosexuality basically renders homosexuality nonexistant and invisible, so how could she necessarily name and understand her feelings? That's not even factoring in internalized homophobia? Young gays and lesbians who may know something about themselves as fundamentally different but act out against themselves hatefully and heterosexually. I basically mean being in the closet to yourself. I think that is real.

    Another aspect i wanted to mention is yes sexual abuse and assault. Considering girls and women are heavily abused and violated. I saw in another post that when you are sexually abused you might act out sexually but within your own sexual orientation. I dont think that's entirely correct either. I think you will act out in ways that closely mirror your trauma which most likely will be with the sex of your abuser. I think this a very important topic. Its not to say lesbianism is for women who have been abused as an escape. The likelihood of this type of assault and at what age is majorly impacted by race and class circumstances. So for lesbians that have been unfortunately attacked this can be very difficult to go through? Can a woman NOT be a lesbian because shes been violated? What if this happened before she could fully understand her sexuality and she acts out? Will she be forced into heterosexuality the rest of her life. It in effect actualizes corrective rape. Considering how heavily this happens to young girls(a portion of which are lesbian right?) and how this affects already marginalized little girls often.

    These things feed the idea if you arent sure of yourself of your sexuality for whatever reason you are defaulted to straight. If you dont KNOW(by when exactly?) you cant be gay or lesbian, but what if you arent sure(but you are gay or lesbian), this is the breeding ground for compulsory heterosexuality isn't? Or considering heterosexuality is the default thinking your a "normal" heterosexual despite dissatisfaction until something happens for you to understand you are not like them?... until you have your first same sex experience(with someone or even internally, conceptually)?

    I remember when i was struggling to make sense of my experiences i was looking at tons and tons of coming out and awakening stories. I came across this poll(an online poll so take it as you will) asked how old you were when you understood/came out to yourself? Most people either where around puberty or young adulthood but also some later in life. The smallest category was people who knew since they were born/or very young children. Are known since birth gays and lesbians the only valid gays and lesbians?

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    1. Anon March 27, 2016 at 5:24 PM: "There are a number of factors that could seriosly impede a little girls self understanding. Most obvious as number 1 is compulsory heterosexuality"...heterosexuality has never impeded on homosexuality in males or females. Homosexuality is biological, because some women are attracted to males, doesnt stop me from being attracted to females AT ANY AGE. And as was said in this post, you dont need names to feel and know.

      Compulsory heterosexuality is a theory dreamed up by academic STRAIGHTBIAN Adrienne Rich.

      Lesbians dont need polls or Kinsey studies, we KNOW we're romantically/sexually/soulfully attracted to females.

      dirt



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    2. I agree with Dirt that lesbians do KNOW early on that we are lesbians, even if we don't have the words to explain our feelings of being different than peers & our feelings of orientation toward other females. There are indeed numerous pressures from family/society/religion to be straight, and some lesbians do initially attempt to be someone they are not by marrying men. But the ones I have known who did that say they always KNEW that they were just marrying a man to please their parents/community/church; and that they did not feel "right" in the fake lives they were living. Regarding the topic of sexual abuse: it is a very complex topic that is outside the scope of a reply to a comment. But, basically, what we are saying is that if someone has been sexually abused, the feelings/issues generated because of the sexual abuse need to be acknowledged & dealt with by the survivor. Simply defaulting to "I'm a lesbian" (in other words, saying they are a lesbian to avoid men when they are not ACTUALLY a lesbian) is not the correct response although it is understandable. Of course, as you mentioned, both straight girls and lesbian girls are subjected to sexual abuse, and again, the abuse issues need to be sorted out and the person's true orientation acknowledged, whichever it is. We have both personally known women who did not deal with their own abuse-related issues, and defaulted to (alleged) "lesbian" because they did not want to be with men, and sadly ended up hurting their lesbian partners because those particular women were NEVER lesbian to begin with. That is what we are saying. We are NOT bashing survivors, as others have incorrectly said. We are NOT saying that all "straightbians" are abuse survivors. We are simply saying that everyone, no matter who they are, needs to be honest with ourselves and our partners about what our true sexual/emotional/romantic orientation is. We are either naturally attracted to other women in EVERY way...or not. To say "I am sick of men, I am jumping teams" or "I realize that we are all oppressed by patriarchy and I want to devote my energies to women" or "Hey! It would be fun to be with a woman" does not make someone a lesbian. If someone is honest and says any of those things or variations thereof to a lesbian, and the lesbian still wants to enter into a relationship on those honest terms...we say that's fine & we wish them all the best if that works for both of them. Everybody should be responsible for their own lives, and if a lesbian is duly informed, then the choice is clearly hers to do as she pleases. What we are saying though, is if the "straightbian" is not honest with herself and/or her partner about her true inherent heterosexual orientation, then the lesbian partner is being misled and not truly consenting to the relationship as-is. Everybody deserves to know what they are sleeping with and to give consent under the true terms.

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  10. By 2nd or 3rd grade I was acting out(compulsively)with little boys, but felt disgusted doing so(I was not sexually abused in childhood). I felt disgusted as a little girl about people joking that I would be with a man but I still thought I was supposed to like boys, they just stayed an abstract concept. When a lesbian is struggling with compulsory heterosexuality/internalized homophobia its like how much is she supposed suffering/unwanted sex or dating/rape is she supposed to go through to realize shes not like others? she wont ever like it? If she has not found a love of women or a woman *yet* is she supposed to keep forcing herself into heterosexuality?

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  11. Or a woman who didnt know how dissatisfied she was with men, how much they werent filling her needs until she did find herself with a *special* woman more fulfilled then ever before? That's why my favorite part of your post is "we know no matter how or when you come out and taste life itself-you NEVER go back."

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  12. Also I think a discussion of bisexuality is relevant to this post and compulsory heterosexuality as a distraction and insertion. A little girl could see she is attracted and cares for little girls, but with how the bisexual movement has been pushed accepted is a non threatening secondary space to lesbianism, this little [lesbian] girl could still try to insert men into her life assuming she must be bisexual if not hetero because hetero until proven otherwise? if she thinks she is bisexual(if based on nothing more than compulsory heterosexuality) it would make discovering her real self. Her lesbian self that much more difficult, more obscured. maybe. just some of my thoughts. thank you for your contributions dirt and mrs. dirt

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    1. Compulsory heterosexuality is a theory dreamed up by academic STRAIGHTBIAN Adrienne Rich. Next!

      dirt

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    2. To Anon above ~ Thanks for your comments & questions. It is good to discuss all of this. I am too tired to focus well enough to address your points right now, but will think about it and we'll answer soon, either in a reply or another post. Mrs. D

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    3. I always felt different. I was a tomboy and I thought I wanted to be "a boy" because I hated the role that society had assigned to me due to the fact that I was a girl (and no, wanting to wear blue and hating Barbies does not make you a boy as I realized a lot later). I had no clue what me trying to impress girls and being excited when they pretended that I (short hair and all) was their boyfriend to ward off guys who hit on them meant. But then, when I was around twelve years old, I shared a small camping mattress with another girl during a birthday party. I was awake, because there was so little space, she was sleeping and I just knew. It was not earth-shattering, nothing happened, I was absolutely calm, I didn't even need a word for it, we were just lying next to one another and I knew with absolute clarity "oh, I LIKE girls. Like that." It all made sense. I still needed years to come out though, or to talk to someone about it. I even tried some stuff with guys because that's what everyone else did and I was so scared to actually assign myself a label, because I felt "How can I explain to people that I am gay, if I've never even kissed a girl. They will say that I can't know, they will say that I haven't found the right guy yet." And when I started out labelling myself I used "bisexual" at first. Not because I had ever felt attracted to men (though I like them as people) but because a) the word didn't sound a scary and threatening and stigmatized and b) a part of me had internalized the "you can't know until you tried" and c) I thought "can I really know that I don't feel attracted to ALL men, just because I haven't felt attracted to the ones so far?". Looking back, it feels ridiculous. I knew from that night. I never seriously considered that I might be into men afterwards, I was just scared to tell society to f*** off and that no straight person would ever be asked if they were really sure that they were straight because they had not even kissed a boy yet.

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    4. Anonymous March 29, 2016 at 9:12 AM: Great example of just "knowing" you're a lesbian without having the words to explain how you know, and how it is difficult to explain to straight society how you do just "know" without having had the experience to prove it...but lesbians do know, and we are right to begin with. I have heard so many other lesbians say they had a similar experience; called themselves "bisexual" at first b/c it felt less stigmatizing, and/or experimented with men b/c they felt they "had to give it a try", etc., realizing later that they had really known the truth the whole time.

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    5. AnonymousMarch 29, 2016 at 9:12 AM: I totally agree with the above commenter (Anon @ 9:31). Thanks for sharing your experience. I really like your ending comment: "I was just scared to tell society to f*** off and that no straight person would ever be asked if they were really sure that they were straight because they had not even kissed a boy yet." So true! Mrs. D :-)

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  13. This is anon from 3/27, Mrs. Dirt thank you for your thoughtful response. After writing the comment I realized I had been talking about knowing of your attraction primarily referencing heterosexuality but I guess i meant bisexuality. I agree about knowing and feeling you are attracted to other girls, wanting to be with them, and not necessarily being attracted to males...but because of the rule is always to erase lesbian from existence something like bisexual becomes the new psuedo hetero conversion mechanism. Where you may know for sure how you feel about women? But how do you really know you are gay/lesbian with a capital G/L. I think thats a hard thing for a lot of young people in figuring out their identities. They may push opposite sex encounters via bisexuality because its more confortable...but this can become a problem in of itself. Sometimes it is behind serious internalized homophobia. Especially closer in todays social climate where gay and lesbian is very ostracized but bisexual is like not a big deal. Or because of appropriation of hetero women in a male centered gaze of "being attracted to women", at least superficially it's somewhat normalized for a young adolescent girl who is actually lesbian this might be confusing because these women involved with mimicry but she might think they do.

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    1. Thanks for your reply! Some lesbians may initially say that they are "bisexual" to "ease in" to saying/accepting that they are lesbians. As you said, saying you are "bisexual" doesn't sound as ostracizing. Plus, some may feel the need to try encounters with the opposite sex, due to a variety of reasons (such as pressure from others/society and/or internalized homophobia, etc.). So yes, all of the above makes it all SEEM like it confusing, but when lesbians are able to cut through all the BS that society throws at us, and when we can really be honest with ourselves, even when it is difficult, the truth is obvious. Lesbians have existed, and have found each other, since the beginning of time, through gaydar & perseverance, despite persecution, rejection, discrimination, and outright denial of our existence.

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  14. I came across this blog and found it all very interesting. Thanks for the eye-opening blog.

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  15. I don't agree with you on trans issues but this you are a 100% right on. Radical feminists today think being a lesbian is a hobby for straight bored housewives with nothing better to do than go around on the internet saying being gay is choice and straight women do it so much better and are the "real" lesbians and the rest of us are delusional and perverts. They support the religious right whenever they can and all their crap and they won't even speak out against the religious right even when it comes to their misogynistic policies against women, siding with the righties over women's rights (this is not feminism). Being gay is not a choice, lesbians and gay men are born not made. We know this, the Straightbians (I love that word) do not because they ain't lesbians they are confused right wing sympathizer straight women that hate lesbians and gay rights (with the goal of shutting us down for their religious right menfolks or maybe talk us into a threesome with them, whichever their mood is at the time and they support right wing men over women. You will notice on their pages on Facebook and Twitter accounts, they share articles that they pretend are against the trans community but if you read through the articles, its all anti-gay crap. They hide homophobia behind all their fake outrage about the trans community. But we know where they stand, don't we? Lesbianism is their porn fetish.

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  16. Hi Dirt and Saye. I wanted to share my experience with you. I am femme. But my journey from childhood to that realisation was a very long and winding one. I did not realise as child that I was femme. As I grew older I was not attracted to other women - because I did not know any butches. There was no butch energy to be ignited by. So I assumed I was (the word of the day) "frigid". At 25 I married a man and had children, because there seemed no other option. Then one day, at the age of 36, I found myself in the presence of a true butch woman ~ the first I had encountered in my life! I came alive ~ so much so that I did not come down to earth for days. I left my marriage and owned who I was and had been all along. I had a brief fling with that woman but she was not looking for a relationship. I then began a search for a butch woman I could spend the rest of my life with. I have found her thankfully, but it was quite a search. Nothing less would do. No other woman would do.
    I hope this is not off topic. I just wanted to share that as a child/young woman I did not know I was a lesbian because I was femme and had not yet met a butch. I did not know butch women even existed until I was in my 30s - and therefore I thought I was straight but not into sex until I was 36. There are few butch women in the country I come from. My butch is American.
    This is a huge topic - the butch/femme dynamic. I have not discussed it for years because true butch/femme couples are few and far between. I have not had the opportunity.

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    1. Hi Jo, Thanks for your comment & for sharing your story! It is good to be able to discuss and compare experiences. Everybody's story is indeed going to be different based on our families, culture, religion, experience, personality, etc. Even though Butches are very rare (so it's difficult to find one!), my experience was different than yours in that I grew up knowing I was "different" (& unlike many Lesbians, I actually knew the word "Lesbian" to describe it). Even before I was old enough to experience/understand sexual attraction, and even before I met a Butch, I just somehow "knew" it. (It is difficult to put this feeling in words so I hope I am making sense). Anyway, I am not saying that my experience will be the same as every other Femme, of course; just trying to explain how it was for me. Had you ever been around any other Lesbians, even just in passing, before you met your first Butch at 36? I was just curious, because often there will be some sort of "recognition" even if no attraction. Thanks again for sharing, and we should have more conversations like this. :-)

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  17. Yes, I loved this blog as well. Thank you

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