Last night, I found and was reading a post on Facebook from several days ago that was a discussion between several women who identified either as political lesbians or born this way lesbians.
First, some quick definitions so we all know where we’re at on this:
A lesbian is an adult female who is attracted to other women physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, and intimately. There are no penises on lesbians or in lesbian relationships (so no men or males).
A born this way lesbian is a lesbian who feels she was born gay, that being a lesbian was not a choice for her.
A political lesbian is a little trickier, because there is more than one definition. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a political lesbian was a heterosexual woman who was tired of men personally and politically, so she became celibate and called herself a lesbian. But she was a lesbian in name only for political reasons.
A few years ago, the definition morphed into a woman who came to her lesbianism through her politics, but she was a lesbian in every way.
Now, the definition of a political lesbian is that a woman chooses to be gay because of her politics. Through her work in politics and activism, she realized that heterosexuality was a learned behavior to further oppress women and instead of continuing in that, she decided to make the conscious decision to become a lesbian, but she is a lesbian in every way. Quite a few political lesbians under this definition are late in life lesbians, becoming so after one or several relationships with men and maybe even some children.
I think that covers it. I am sure that if I am wrong on any point that someone will come along and correct me (well, except for the definition of a lesbian)!
Anyway, on to my post. As I was saying, I observed a post between some born this way and political lesbians and almost all of them were being respectful of each other and not arguing against each other’s beliefs, simply arguing for their own beliefs. It was a nice discussion. At first.
Then came a couple of political lesbians who so strongly believed that both heterosexuality and homosexuality are choices that women make, they were convinced that they were right, they were convinced that born this way lesbians were not only wrong, but ignorant for holding their beliefs.
Of course, what I failed to talk about when I was laying out definitions of both born this way lesbians and political lesbians is that neither can prove that they are right or that the other is wrong. These are feelings, you see, beliefs based on how women feel. So while one can believe strongly that they are right, they cannot prove that they are right because, well, it’s kind of like religion: they have faith that they are who they are based on their internal feelings as women and lesbians.
So I was kind of shocked to be reading this, not only the part about the political lesbians thinking they were right and born this way lesbians were ignorant, but the blatant disrespect from these couple of political lesbians toward the born this way lesbians was something I have seen, but that I had hoped we were passed by now.
It was like watching the bad parts of religion, the “my religion is the only right religion and you all are going to hell!” kind of thing; and it was very, very sad to watch.
It made me wonder why we battle so much over this. Why aren’t we just a bunch of lesbians who believe that we arrived at lesbianism in different ways, but that we were all here now and working together?
Based on some of what the one or two disrespectful political lesbians said in that thread, I suppose they would say that by believing one is born a lesbian, one must also submit that others are born straight women and if a woman is born straight then she is born into a life of sub servitude and sex, whether she likes it or not, whether it is painful or not, whether she wants it or not. So by believing one is born a lesbian instead of it being a choice that one makes, one is then buying into and supporting women’s oppression.
That seems kind of harsh, doesn’t it? That because a woman believes she was born a lesbian, she is supporting, ignorantly, women’s oppression?
I don’t believe that for one second. As you may remember from the last post that I did on this subject, I a one of the lesbians who considers herself born a lesbian. I didn’t make the choice to become a lesbian, it was not my choice. It was not my choice to be bullied, bashed, and harassed for being who I am. It was not my choice to be left out in the civil rights department simply because I love women. It was not my choice to not be able to get married simply because I was born a lesbian. Knowing all that we know, I find it difficult that ANY woman would choose this. Even later in life lesbians. I believe they were born lesbians, but they were just in denial for a while and now they are realizing their true selves.
BUT, even though I believe all of that, I still respect political lesbians enough to support them as lesbians, as sisters. I am of the “live and let live” model when it comes to other lesbians. So, I support political lesbian’s right to not only believe whatever they wish, but to also express those beliefs. I support their fight against women’s oppression in any way they can fight it; because, after all, isn’t that what we are ALL fighting for here?
Remember that, sisters. Because yes, we may have come to lesbianism in different ways, on different paths, but we are both discriminated against. We are both denied rights. We are both harassed. We are both bashed. We are both beaten. We are both killed. For being lesbian women. And as lesbian women, we are both fighting for the same thing: to end women’s oppression by liberating women from men and this patriarchy.
Let’s end this battle, sisters!
I no longer identify with political lesbianism. For me, political lesbianism was a process through which i came to realise my lesbianism. I previously identified myself as bisexual but came to realise that I’d never actually been attracted to me, I could just have sex with them without feeling sick so I didn’t think I could be a lesbian.
I do think the converse of “lesbians are born that way” is “heterosexuals are born that way.” Do you not think that’s the case? Howcome? I’m not trying to be disrespectful, just trying to understand your point better. Also I’m really glad to see you blogging again! This is one of my favourite blogs.
I think there’s room for both political lesbians and born this way lesbians in the movement.
Reblogged this on FeistyAmazon and commented:
Yes yes yes! Another brilliant post I totally agree with BBB!!!
One thing – bisexuals are left out of this entirely. It makes far more sense, in my mind, that women who become political lesbians are really bisexuals to begin with who at some point decide they are going to join the lesbian community and commit themselves to a woman centered lifestyle. People who have the potential for attraction to women and men can believe they are straight because of the profound heteronormativity of our culture and then come to realizations later on about their orientation. Self-identified Bisexuals make up over 50% of the LGBT community and there are many more who do not identify that way because they never thought it was a real option (it’s not really accepted by the queer community) and straight dating is so much easier due to its social acceptability. I question the idea that someone who really has no attraction to their own sex can just create one through force of will (but I’m open to hearing people’s experiences).
What a trip…everybody’s talking about realesbians or politicalesbians. Also read your Feb 6th post. Why does it not surprise me that into this conversation someone’s got to bring up transsexuals? Makes me wanna spit. I knew at six years old that I was different-lesbian, even though I didn’t have the words to express it. I DO NOT get up and choose to b a lesbian in the morning. I AM a lesbian in my soul – EVERY MOMENT OF MY LIFE. No tired-ass, political, hetero women – tired of men and their BS, Girls deciding they’s gonna freak-on-women-now – is gonna define me. IT AIN’T ABOUT MEN. Important posts, Big Boo, many thanks. You know they may be “Political Lesbians”…but we all know the proving ground is whether or not they love the pussy. Eventually, nearly all the straight girls finally head on back to the penis and the powerstructure, dildo’s not withstanding. The last thing is – we all know how most of the girls gotta bitch about something, even if it means tearing each others’ hair out and when all the hair an’ expletives an’ shit an’ mud stops flying, we’ll see who’s left standing…I’ll see you there, when it’s all over, Boo. peace – Ashe
See, here’s my thing: I don’t care how they came to be lesbians as long as they are actually lesbians, then they are my sisters, just like you. 😉
While I COMPLETELY disagree with your 50% of the LGB are bisexual statistic, I think the rest of your comment is interesting. I’d be interested to hear if some of the lesbians who identify as political lesbians may have been bisexual and not heterosexual. It’s an interesting thought.
I completely agree with you. 🙂
Interesting that you don’t identify as a political lesbian anymore, I based my second definition of political lesbian on what I saw you write a couple of years ago! lol 🙂
And yes, I believe we all were either born gay or born straight. I know this flies in the face of what political lesbians believe about choosing one over the other for the sake of battling women’s oppression, but it’s what I believe, what I have always believed; and I see and understand their point, I really do, I just feel differently. I don’t believe my siblings and their wives and husbands chose to be straight any more than I chose to be gay; and my friend who came out as a lesbian after being married and having several kids…I truly believe she was born gay and just denied it to herself for years and years like you did; but now she is incredibly happy, friends with her ex, raising her kids, it’s great!
I still believe I chose lesbianism. I could have gone on being with men but I would have been miserable. I chose happiness. I’m not sure why it takes some lesbians longer to realise their lesbianism than others. I wish I’d realised when I was a girl but in the grand scheme of things, I was only in my late 20s when I came out. I’m now in my early thirties so I have (hopefully) many years of lesbian-ing ahead of me.
I also now believe many women did not choose their lesbianism. Indeed, some lesbians even wish they were straight, which is very sad. I think it’s possible for two women to hold completely contradictory truths and for both those truths to be true. My truth is that I chose lesbianism. Yours is that you did not. I love that there’s room for us all and I love that we’re having these difficult conversations with each other with care and respect.
I’ve been meaning to write something on this topic for a while now but life keeps getting in the way. I have some time today and I’m inspired by this so I might try to write something later.
No offense but I reckon bisexuals are left out of this entirely because it’s about lesbians, not bisexuals.
Most of the political lesbians I know/am aware of have previously been bisexual and not het. I actually can’t think of a single one who’s previously been totally straight and just decided one day to be a lesbian.
I completely agree that we can both believe two different contradictory things and still be able to communicate about this and other things that affect us with respect to each other.
You know when I began questioning whether I was gay or straight, I tried to “pray the gay away.” I wanted to be what my family, peers, church, and society wanted me to be: straight. I didn’t want to be gay, I really didn’t. So my coming out was a huge struggle filled with angst as I tried to accept myself as different, as someone who would never marry a man and have kids. It was a long, difficult struggle to accept myself. But I still know that this wasn’t a choice. The only choice I had was to stop struggling and accept myself or have this internal struggle for the rest of my life as I continued to try to make it work with men. Tbh, it never would have. I could never bring myself to have sex with any of them. Anytime we came close to that, I would walk away from them with no explanation.
When I tried to tell a bisexual this the last time I wrote about lesbians, they got all upset. Like men, straight women cannot believe everything isn’t always about them. How narcissistic do you have to be to read a post about lesbians and think: “what about me? why doesn’t this post include me??” I’m surprised I haven’t been accosted by male transgenders wondering the same thing: “what about us? why aren’t you talking about us??” lol
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That’s really very interesting. It really hadn’t occurred to me that they all might be bi first and then make the conscious decision to be gay, not straight and not continuing as bi.
Maybe what everybody believes is that their case is the general case. So, if you are a born this way, you think every body else is really born some way or another. And if you recognize there was at some point a choice, then you believe every body has a choice to some degree.
This is a question of ‘qualia’, subjective conscious experience. We can’t actually be other people and feel what they feel, we can only describe it to each other. There is no way we can say other people are wrong about what they feel, there is no way to prove something like that. Speculating about this is valid, but it is only speculation.
So, I just listen and observe and try to figure it out. I change my mind pretty frequently. It seems to me there is a spectrum, some people really do seem “born this way”, but I think they are a minority. Most people are just somewhere along the line with as few people dead center –a true bisexual– as at either extremity (totally born this way homo or hetero). I think it’s a matter of how you grow up and who you meet. I believe most people could go either way depending on factors too numerous to even begin to list.
I must admit though, that that’s what my mother told me, that most people are bi. When I was 12 she asked me if I was mostly attracted to other girls or to boys. I didn’t know, hadn’t thought about it. So she told me to be aware of how my body reacted, how it felt to be close to girls vs. boys. I did and it was very obvious I was attracted to one girl in particular, had my first sexual rush. That was 1969.
“That because a woman believes she was born a lesbian, she is supporting, ignorantly, women’s oppression?”
I’ve encountered the above argument about born-lesbians (me), also. It’s actually quite pervasive in some political-lesbian circles, especially neo-RFist ones. I’ve always read that argument as both defensive and elitist.
Defensive in the sense that it sounds like a rebuttal to the “gold star lesbian” meme…. Elitist, because folded into the oppression argument is a claim to political superiority. If one can claim to have come to lesbianism via a personal and political evolution, one’s lesbianism is some how more virtuous and perfected. By implication, “we”, born-lesbians, are not seen as having done that same depth of personal and political “unpacking” as they. After all, they have been sleeping with patriarchy while we’ve been taking a stroll in the park.
The political-lesbian argument at issue is a divisive form of oppression Olympics. — Chazz
I actually meant to touch on the fact that some born this way lesbians sometimes throw out there that political lesbians are not “real” lesbians, as well as the whole “gold star” lesbian crap, but I honestly forgot because all I could think about at the time of writing this was what you talked about in your comment, re: that we born this way lesbians are somehow less of a lesbian because our lesbianism was not a choice. And they make these ridiculous arguments while at the same time, they are swearing that ALL lesbians choose to be lesbians. So if we ALL choose to be lesbians, then how can one lesbian be worse of a lesbian than another? The logic of the more hateful among them makes very little sense.
Actually making change – as in – forcing patriarchy to change or stopping-war-changes – is really really hard. Arguing amongst ourselves about who is/isn’t-the-best-kind-of-lesbian is a whole lot easier. We can spend time tearing each other down, or at least compete for BEST LESBIAN – kinda like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic – and make brownie points with our neighborhood cliques and special friends. Goddess forbid we should unite to maintain our womyn-born-womyn space against “male-lesbians”. Can’t make the last 2015 festival, but will be doing ceremony all summer, praying for you, my sisters and holding you in our hearts. Blessed be…thanks and praises to the goddess.
I grew into being a lesbian. In my college days I did the obligatory exploration that many women do when they’re away from their patriarchal families and see all the possibilities laid out in front of them like a delicious banquet.
The problem with my first lesbian relationship was it was surrounded by men who wanted to exploit it. I went to a very worldly music college that was so diverse but again, it was hard to get away from the male gaze.
I remember the deep feelings I had for my girlfriend and how desperately trapped I felt with all the men at parties who would glare at us when we danced together. We had our private moments but they were few and far between. I’m a firm believer in woman only communities and wish to high hell I could find one that would take a disabled woman who’s poor.
My first lesbian relationship failed for many reasons but mostly it was impossible to get away from men.
I did enter into a hetero relationship that I regret from day one. I knew it wouldn’t last but rode the train anyway. I wasted precious years of my life.
Now that I’m approaching 50 I don’t truly know what to call myself. I stopped having intercourse with men over a decade ago and started going back to lesbian hangouts. The only lesbian bar in my city closed. I was devastated.
I am now committed to women, full time. I regret the wasting of my years on a man. I am now even more passionate about women than ever before and I’m finally truly happy in my sexual skin.
Becoming woman-focused in my experience was a long journey. You have to uncondition yourself, even if a woman can totally do that in our society. That male voice that tells you how to behave as a woman is hard to get off your shoulder.
Thank you so much for sharing yourself here! I wonder if maybe you can find some women only groups online as a start. I belong to a few on Facebook. They are women only gender critical groups. You might find some sisterhood in groups like that since finding them off line is proving difficult. Good luck! 🙂
“Based on some of what the one or two disrespectful political lesbians said in that thread, I suppose they would say that by believing one is born a lesbian, one must also submit that others are born straight women and if a woman is born straight then she is born into a life of sub servitude and sex, whether she likes it or not, whether it is painful or not, whether she wants it or not. So by believing one is born a lesbian instead of it being a choice that one makes, one is then buying into and supporting women’s oppression.”
Yes … that always seems a bit strange to me, because it leaves out the option of being celibate. Just because a woman happens to be attracted to males, that doesn’t mean she has to submit to PIV, or even any way of sexual activity with men.
I don’t think everyone can choose their sexual orientation (though much more people may be actually bisexual than is currently known) but we sure can choose whether to have sex with a certain kind of person or not.
[…] Of course, what I failed to talk about when I was laying out definitions of both born this way lesbians and political lesbians is that neither can prove that they are right or that the other is wrong. These are feelings, you see, beliefs based on how women feel. So while one can believe strongly that they are right, they cannot prove that they are right because, well, it’s kind of like religion: they have faith that they are who they are based on their internal feelings as women and lesbians. — BigBooButch […]