Lesbian is a difficult word. It has too many syllables. It’s a word full of aggressive buzzes and ugly bumps.
Most same-sex-attracted women my age prefer the word “queer.” It has one syllable, it’s vague enough to include all of the little doubts and details that don’t fit into “gay,” and most importantly, it’s sex-positive. And who doesn’t want to be positive about sex?
“Queer” is a word that means, “yes.” Yes! I could meet the right one someday. Yes! I am open to things I haven’t tried yet. Yes! I would consider doing that, in the right place with the right person. That’s sex positivity.
“Lesbian” is a word that means “yes, but only if,” and to the 50% who don’t clear the “only if,” it means “no.” No. Not even once. No. The right one is NOT out there. No. Stop asking. No, the complete sentence, the explosive little syllable that’s so hard for women to say.
I think that’s the real reason “lesbian” has fallen out of use.
Women fear the word “no” more than any other word in the English language. Women are supposed to be kind and nurturing and take responsibility for other people’s feelings and never, ever say no. Women who say no are “bitches.”
Worse, women who say no are sex-negative. Right?
No. If you support sex positivity, you know it’s about power, and “no” is the most powerful thing a woman can say. I love to say yes, but if I don’t have the power to say no, my yes is just empty, disconnected noise.
Sometimes my no will disappoint someone. That’s okay. Power is never having to giggle and say “I dunno” while desperately searching for an exit. Power is the ability to recognize someone else’s shame and disappointment and understand that it doesn’t belong to you.
I fought hard for my power. I’m proud of it. I embrace every ugly difficult buzzing bumpy syllable of what I am, and I am honored to be counted with the generations of women who came before me and discovered the power of their own “no,” back when women could be arrested or beaten or thrown out of their homes for saying “no.”
Trust me when I say that I know my own mind. I’m not queer, I’m a lesbian– and no, you can’t watch.
Having visited the comment section of a popular website for “queer women” quite recently, I think it’s safe to say that certain people feel excluded or upset whenever lesbians decide to create anything for ourselves or whenever we talk about our specific experiences as women who are solely attracted to other women and who have no interest in being with men.
Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans people, and even certain heterosexuals are deemed “queer.” It is the favored term because it removes most of the distinctions between members of each group and as such, people in the “queer community” who hold privilege over others are spared from having to acknowledge it.
Talking about the struggles that you face as a lesbian is strongly frowned upon in queer spaces. “You’re just being mean and divisive.” Pointing out the fact that gay men can have misogynistic attitudes towards women in the community is bad and can earn you the label of “man-hating dyke.” Pointing out the fact that a bisexual person who is dating someone of the opposite sex has access to certain benefits that lesbians and gay men don’t have is even worse. And insisting that lesbians have a right to bodily autonomy, that our level of “progressiveness” cannot be measured by whether or not we would potentially have sex with members of certain groups might as well be blasphemy.
The combined levels of misogyny, erasure, and lesbophobia that are present in queer/ LGBT spaces tend to make some lesbians feel uncomfortable using the right word to describe themselves. They switch to the more acceptable term. The one that won’t get them a lecture on how to be more “enlightened.”
But there is nothing wrong with the word lesbian. Unlike “queer,” it is not a slur that has been reclaimed by some and forced on the rest of us. There is no uncertainty in its name. It is clear. It is concise. It is here to stay.
April 18, 2016 at 9:46 pm
I really needed this today.
April 23, 2016 at 6:05 pm
I really needed this too!! Deeply.
May 6, 2018 at 7:57 am
April 18, 2016 at 10:35 pm
Thank you for this. I am a proud lesbian. I have only been out for 5 years but I love the word lesbian and proudly wear it. You summed up a lot of my feelings regarding “queer”.
April 18, 2016 at 11:03 pm
This. All of this. Exactly.
April 18, 2016 at 11:16 pm
It’s amazing how more “enlightened” and “progressive” sexuality labels all involve leaving room for men. Everyone is so concerned that we leave space for men in our lives.
April 23, 2016 at 6:30 pm
Right. Exactly what you are saying.
May 6, 2018 at 7:58 am
April 19, 2016 at 1:43 am
April 19, 2016 at 1:44 am
Contented sigh. So needed to read this tonight. Thanks to Bit and Ashley- wherever you are.
April 19, 2016 at 3:48 am
Reading this reaffirms that I’m not the only crazy woman out there who shudders are the word queer. Logically, I know I’m not the only one. But reading someone else’s same thoughts takes a weight off my shoulders.
April 23, 2016 at 6:31 pm
It takes a weight off my shoulder too. I also feel frequently that I am the only one.
April 19, 2016 at 8:23 am
Yes I am a lesbian nothing queer about me I’m also a dyke that is what I came out too and I was proud. At times i have been fed up with society’s crap but that’s cos they think they have my number and most don’t .
April 19, 2016 at 8:29 am
I couldn’t agree more.
Identifying as a lesbian means there is a whole community who I can identify with, we share similar experiences. I stand on the shoulders of others who fought for the right to own the words, dyke, butch, femme, lesbian, but some see these as pejoratives, like the word feminist. I love my sister’s and recognize their struggles even still.
Don’t let the L in LGBT be silent!
April 19, 2016 at 1:38 pm
Two days ago another lesbian told me I was ‘old-fashioned’ because I said I found the word ‘queer’ so inclusive as to be meaningless.
Since I am an older woman, I read this to mean also that ‘lesbian’ is for the old butches, the dykes – not for the young and swinging LGBTQI crowd…
I’m a lesbian and a dyke. I will never be queer.
October 11, 2016 at 11:02 pm
I’m 27 and I’m not “queer” either. Instead I’m a lesbian. It baffles me that it’s considered old-fashioned to be a lesbian. Talk about a mindscrew.
I should email this to my friend because she is another lesbian who calls herself a lesbian.
May 6, 2018 at 8:08 am
Yes, the patriarchy wants to convince us that lesbians under age 35 don’t exist.
I call BS.
Not evey woman is ‘fluid’ and ‘open’.
Sexual orientation is about desire, not duty of obligation.
Some women only desire sex with other women. We are not obligated to have sex with men, be open to sex eith men, or to consider sex with men.
April 19, 2016 at 5:33 pm
I am Lesbian, not queer, sis something, or bi. Thank you for this post.. I like butch Lesbians as well as fem Lesbians. I don’t like others naming who I am. Thank you again.
April 19, 2016 at 7:06 pm
Thank you. I never say queer, I always say lesbian. It sounds much more powerful than queer. Great article.
April 20, 2016 at 5:40 am
My first badge was “Lesbians Ignite” and we do!!!
April 20, 2016 at 11:57 pm
We need to free the L
April 24, 2016 at 10:06 pm
That was excitingly fantastic! I am going to share this on my Facebook wall and wait for you the whining. This is amazing! I am a proud lesbian who also calls herself a dyke! Thank you so so much for writing this!
May 9, 2016 at 1:22 am
I could not love this more. I can’t stand the word q*eer or all the identity politics the “q*eer community” is inundated with.
May 28, 2016 at 8:38 pm
Note that gay men are never hassled for being gay. Indeed, gay men love to celebrate how repulsed they are by women, in the most misogynist and hateful ways possible. Sadly, many straight and even bisexual women join in the near universal hate-fest that is misogyny.
Gay men and straight men, I’ve found, differ only in how they express their misogyny. Straight men hate women, and they want to express their contempt sexually. Gay men hate women, and they DON’T want to use their contempt sexually. Instead, they express their contempt by expressing disgust towards women’s primary and secondary sex characteristics. It is not a coincidence that gay men run the fashion and beauty industry.
Meanwhile, gay bars are filled with gay men, straight women who endure their “teasing”, and a few opportunistic straight doods who not only prey on the much-abused het girl BFFs of gay boys, but also try to hit on those of us who’d sooner castrate them than let them buy us a drink.
Us? I think I just meant myself, at least in this town.
July 2, 2017 at 11:05 am
^ THANK YOU, Killjoy. Your words are like a soothing balm to my soul. I’m completely alone in my town for my urge to castrate, too. It is out of a foolish and futile love for humanity that I haven’t yet grabbed a handfull, twisted, and pulled. Lucky them.
I’m a Drag King on the gay bar scene and the air is ripe with misogyny from gay men, which everyone just ignores or says is “a joke.” I’ve been molested more on the scene by gay men than by the str8 doods, which is REALLY saying something. Also, the drag queens get called she/her/ma’am but the Drag Kings get called she/her/miss when that’s obviously not what we’re trying to portray. There’s also this assumption that every Drag King is actually a wanna-be transgender man, which is even more lesbian erasure, and that opens the flood gates for gay men to try and f*** us. And while I perform for the Women in the gay bar (hey gurl hey), the gay guys think the entire show is just for them and come crotch-grab me every second chance they get. I’m not sure how we got to this point.
…and yes I do think those gay men get turned on by groping the dirty sock I stick down my drawers, exemplifying the level of intelligence for all men across the board.
July 23, 2016 at 11:39 am
Thank you so much for this. I went to a very “queer-friendly” college and learning to embrace myself as a lesbian was a very isolating experience. I’m glad that I was still able to succeed and I now proudly call myself a lesbian. Lesbian is not a dirty word.
October 7, 2016 at 1:52 am
And many gay, lesbian , and transgender individuals do not identify as queer . In fact, it’s an important question for queerness , too, which is why gay and queer are compatible. It just isn’t the only or central question.
December 17, 2016 at 4:46 pm
This is so important.
June 17, 2017 at 6:30 pm
Agreed! Thank you so much.
July 25, 2017 at 7:37 pm
So we’ll put.
Yes. I am a lesbian.
August 30, 2017 at 5:35 pm
The letters of LGBTQ should be separated. This “community” has no respect for Lesbians.
Q is meaningless, and therefore allows straight people in. Bs complain of “biphobia” from Gs and Ls when it is pointed out that they have a privilege over Gs and Ls when they date someone of the opposite sex (not that they don’t have issues, but theirs are not the same as Gs and Ls). They keep adding more letters all the time, and most people don’t even know what they mean, even within the “community”. What a shithole.
We should have our own community of Lesbians, separate from the “queer”. We should be proud of who we are: Lesbians.
May 6, 2018 at 9:38 am
January 10, 2018 at 7:53 pm
Thank you very much. This is near and dear to me. I hope the young lesbians who are struggling as part of the queer community can see the truth being told here. Do not let anyone ever put you down or bully you for being exclusively same BIO sex attracted. Find your own kind, find your own way. Then help each other. Community.
January 24, 2018 at 1:47 pm
People need to gather in affinity groups to grow strong. That includes lesbians. It isn’t about exclusion, it’s about our own cultural development. I think it is very sad that we are infighting about this.
January 24, 2018 at 10:32 pm
I just found this site and holy shit it has been missing from my life and I fucking love this particular articulation. Bless you xx
May 6, 2018 at 9:39 am
April 27, 2018 at 6:55 am
This was a real lift this morning. Thank you. I have been a proud out lesbian since 1972. The current denigration including verbal and physical violence toward lesbians needs to be stopped. Our visionary work which has grown out of our celebration of lesbian culture needs to continue. It is so good to read here from lesbians of all ages who respect what it means to be a lesbian.
May 6, 2018 at 10:00 am
Great point about ‘lesbians of all ages’!
Lesbians are seeing through the games men play to keep us isolated from one another.
I went to a small cross generational lesbian conference last year. It’s purpose is to facilitate lesbians making friends across generational lines.
It was awesome to be in a room full of lesbians aged 22-80…yet, to maintain the group as lesbian only, the organizers had to hold it underground, and by invitation only.
June 25, 2018 at 9:55 am
That lesbian only conference for lesbians of all ages sounds like an achieved dream. I’d love to attend the next one! Too bad I’m all the way in Europe.. maybe one day.
June 21, 2018 at 6:17 am
Thank you for this! Lesbians will not be erased and we are here and we are powerful <3
July 11, 2018 at 3:01 pm
Personally…It had been a personal journey to come out proud and be back as an ‘Authentic’ Lesbian all over again after thinking I had to be ‘Straight’ as a born again Believer In Christ & The Bible…Am proud to say Am A Christian and A Lesbian…That I can be both without hesitation and self doubt anymore….Though I have my personal preferences as a lesbian and my own self definition as a softbutch into femmes but that is secondary under the umbrella ‘LESBIAN’
March 1, 2019 at 8:07 pm
This article needs to be shouted from the rooftops!…
I will forever be a proud lesbian, attracted solely and exclusively to other women and female bodies. I will not be ashamed or apologetic for my love of the female body. My sexuality was set in stone long before it was okay to shame lesbians for being… LESBIANS??
April 26, 2019 at 7:19 am
This is a breath of fresh air. As a 21 year old lesbian, I cannot even bring myself to approach this topic seriously yet with my friends. Some I’ve mentioned it to have averted the topic. It’s so isolating to belong to a community that doesn’t see you as you are; as you fought to be. I long to meet other lesbians who think like I do. Hold strong, everyone. There are still some of us younger lesbians who see the wrongs against us.
December 6, 2019 at 12:55 am
Found this site recently and am glad it exists. I used to call myself queer but my eyes are opening to the misogyny and homophobia/lesbophobia in the queer community. I’m finding the strength to call myself what I am: a lesbian. I’m 35. To younger lesbians: with the pressure, coercion and invisibility you face, it’s important for you to know you’re not alone. Know your boundaries and connect with what your heart and mind desire.