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Monday, March 28, 2016

Straightbian: An Ongoing Discussion

While I am leaving these responses intact, the comment made by Anonymous March 27, 2016 at 5:24 PM on the post Lesbian: What it Means-What it Is, my wife, Dr A, wanted to address this comment also in a separate post and add to the reply, given its importance.

  • Anon: "I certainly 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.
Reply: Thanks for your comment and I appreciate the respectful discussion.  I will try to address all of your points, but please let us know if you have any questions or want to discuss further. 

I think your point about lesbian space is a great one, and I agree it can make it difficult to hear each other when everyone feels attacked and invaded.  Our posts about "straightbians" have certainly generated much animosity, misunderstandings, and false accusations. 

Of course, I don't intend to speak for all lesbians, but both of us have been out for a long time and have known many, many lesbians both online and offline, so our assertions are based on much real-life experience, conversations, and observations, as well as extensive reading and thought into the matter by both of us.

Dirt addressed the term "compulsory heterosexuality" in her replies, so I won't reiterate that information here. 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 and 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 so say they always KNEW that they were just marrying a man to please their parents/community/church; and that they did not feel "right"/"normal" in the fake lives they were presentingInternalized homophobia, as you mentioned, is also a very real thing that can lead to many consequences.

We are not saying that any of this is easy.  It is often very difficult for lesbians to come out of the closet: so difficult, in fact, that many of us do try to deny it or try to hide it for many years (or even, in some sad cases, a lifetime).

  • Anon: "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."
ReplyRegarding the topic of sexual abuse: it is a very complex topic that is way outside the scope of a single post. Actually, several books would not even begin to adequately cover the topic.

Basically, what we are saying is that if someone has been sexually abused (and having residual issues as an adult), the feelings/issues generated because of the sexual abuse do need to be acknowledged and dealt with by the survivor with safe and affirming means.

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 fair to either the survivor herself or a lesbian partner (although that reaction 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.  Again, those are not healthy situations for either party. 

We are NOT bashing abuse survivors, as others have incorrectly said. Also, we are NOT saying that all "straightbians" are abuse survivors. 

We are simply saying that everyone, no matter who they are or what their background is, needs to do whatever it takes to be honest with themselves and with their partners about what their true sexual/emotional/romantic orientation is. 
  • Anon: "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?"

Reply:  The age at which a lesbian would report that she "understood/came out to herself" would indeed likely be different than the age when she first noticed that she was "different". So the way a survey is worded would make a difference on the reported age.  

Given the lack of lesbian visibility, and the lack of language to adequately describe our childhood feelings, it would make sense that many do not actually understand or come out to themselves until later, when language, maturity, and experience has grown to be able to articulate being a lesbian. So those findings don't contradict the lived experience of lesbians who sensed from an early age that we are different and oriented toward females.

Again, though, behavior may (or may not) be different than orientation.  Some lesbians may come out immediately, while others may first try to fit in with society by pretending to be straight to please others. This obviously really varies from person to person for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, personality/temperament, family, culture, religion, degree of desire to assimilate, etc.  

Bottom line: What we are saying is that women 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" or "My boyfriend likes to watch" 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 and we wish them all the best if that works for both of them. 

Everybody is ultimately 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 who/what they are sleeping with and to give consent under true terms.

Mrs. Dirt


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2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for the thoughtful response Mrs. Dirt. These are important sensitive topics and I wish there was more of a space to discuss this amongst ourselves or relevant. Especially regarding abuse, especially sexual abuse/violence is extremely heterosexually oriented in what resources there are.

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  2. Brilliant! And I agree. If I ever dated a lesbian, I would make sure she knew that I was bi. I may be a bi that strongly prefers females. I may be a bi that finds PIV gross, but I'm still a bi that is capable of romantic interest in males. My partner has a right to know that. My partner has a right to know if I was divorced, or treated for an STD, whether or not I wanted kids, practiced the same religion, or whether I identified as trans. It's called honesty. And as Dirt says, if being a lesbian is a choice, then so is being straight, which legitimizes corrective rape and forced marriage. It's about respect for your partner and the English language. Since I'm not totally exclusive to women, I am bi, not lesbian. If I want to reflect my preference for women, I call myself homoflexible (something I am doing more often, as bisexual seems to be a favorite label among straight girls that identify as "queer.")

    As for coming out, I also agree. I came out in my late teens, but I knew since I was four that I was different. Gender nonconforming, playing football with my male friends in my lacy party dress and Mary Janes, fantasized about marrying a woman in kindergarten, being hopelessly infatuated with a woman at 11, while the other girls were drooling over the boys...there is a real difference.

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