On Lesbianism and the treachery of description

I’ll state it at the top here, because many have not understood my stance. The purpose of this essay is not to say that Lesbian cannot mean “Female homosexual.” Rather, my objective is to show that Lesbian means more than that single definition suggests. Female Homosexuals are lesbians, unless they personally do not want to use that label.

Now, on with the show:

Lesbianism is not about gatekeeping, and I don’t want to have to keep convincing people that the movement popularized by someone who wrote a book full of lies and hate speech then immediately worked with Ronald Reagan is a bad movement.

TERFs have only been around since somewhere in the 1970's.
Lesbian, in contrast, comes from the island where the Greek poet Sappho resided, some 2591 years ago.
Still, the damage that TERFs have done, especially when AIDS killed off many who would be able to fight back, cannot be understated.

In the early ’70s, groups of what would now be called “gender critical” feminists threatened violence against many trans women who dared exist in women’s and lesbian spaces.
For example, trans woman Beth Elliott, who was at the 1973 West Coast Lesbian Feminist Conference to perform with her lesbian band, was
ridiculed onstage and had her existence protested.

In 1979, radical feminist Janice Raymond, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, wrote the defining work of the TERF movement, “Transsexual Empire: The Making of the Shemale,” in which she argued that “transsexualism” should be “morally mandating it out of existence” — mainly by restricting access to transition care (a political position shared by the Trump administration). Soon after she wrote another paper, published for the government-funded, National Center for Healthcare Technology — and the Reagan administration cut off Medicare and private health insurance coverage for transition-related care.

Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism is a fundamentally unsustainable ideology. It’s… Not even Radical, nor is it Feminism.

Lesbianism is, A fundamentally sustainable existence.

There used to be a lesbian bar or queer bar or gay bar in practically every small town — sometimes one of each. Now many don’t even realize, but we once had not just lesbian night at the local gay/queer bar, but entire lesbian and dyke establishments.

After surviving constant police raids, these queer spaces began closing even Before the AIDS epidemic.
Because TERFs would take them over, kick out transfems and their friends. Suddenly, there weren’t enough local patrons to keep the bars open, because the majority had been kicked out. With America’s lack of public transportation, not enough people were coming from out of town either.

TERFs, even beyond that, were a fundamental part of the state apparatus that let AIDS kill millions.

For those who don’t know, Lesbian, from the time of Sappho of Lesbos to the about 1970′s, referred to someone who rejects the patriarchal hierarchy. It was not only a sexuality, but almost akin to a gender spectrum.

That changed in the 1970′s when TERFs co-opted 2nd Wave feminism, working with Ronald fucking Reagan to ban insurance for trans healthcare.

TERFs took over the narrative, the bars, the movement, and changed Lesbian from the most revolutionary and integral queer communal identity of 2 fucking THOUSAND years, from “Someone who rejects the patriarchal hierarchy” to “A woman with a vagina who’s sexually attracted to other women with vaginas”

How does this fit into the bi lesbian debate? Well, as you may guess, the term Bi Lesbian does not mean “A lesbian who likes men,” rather it refers to “a lesbian who is attracted to women/nonbinary/two-spirit people”, and is often used by people whom are attracted to women and nonbinary/two-spirit people whom have a form of feminine identity. Take, for instance, two demi-girls dating eachother, they should certainly be able to use the term “Lesbian,” but the definition that TERFs use may exclude them from it. As I said, Lesbian is more of a Gender Spectrum than anything else, and historically it was used much in the same way that we use queer or genderqueer today.

You’ll see I mentioned two-spirit people in that last paragraph, and that leads me into my next point, that Lesbianism, especially historically, is fundamentally intersectional.

See, if you were to try to ascribe a rigid, biological, or localized model of an identity across multiple cultures, it will fail. It will exclude people who should not be excluded, especially Intersex people. That’s why “Two Spirit” isn’t something rigid- it is an umbrella term for the identities within over a dozen different cultures.

In the next two sections, I have excerpts on Two-Spirit and Butch identity, to give a better idea of the linguistics of queer culture:

This section on Two-Spirit comes from wikipedia, as it has the most links to further sources,
I have linked all sources directly, though you can also access them from the Wikipedia page’s bibliography:

Two-Spirit is a pan-Indian, umbrella term used by some Indigenous North Americans to describe Native people who fulfill a traditional ceremonial and social role that does not correlate to the western binary. [1] [2] [3]
Created at the 1990 Indigenous lesbian and gay international gathering in Winnipeg, it was “specifically chosen to distinguish and distance Native American/First Nations people from non-Native peoples.” [4]

Criticism of Two-Spirit arises from 2 major points,
1. That it can exasperate the erasure of the traditional terms and identities of specific cultures.
a. Notice how this parallels criticisms of Gay being used as the umbrella term for queer culture in general.
2. That it implies adherence to the Western binary; that Natives believe these individuals are “both male and female” [4]
a. Again, you’ll notice that this parallels my criticisms of the TERF definition of Lesbian, that tying LGBT+ identities to a rigid western gender binary does a disservice to LGBT+ people, — especially across cultures.

“Two Spirit” wasn’t intended to be interchangeable with “LGBT Native American” or “Gay Indian”; [2] nor was it meant to replace traditional terms in Indigenous languages.
Rather, it was created to serve as a pan-Indian unifier. [1] [2] [4]
— The term and identity of two-spirit “does not make sense” unless it is contextualized within a Native American or First Nations framework and traditional cultural understanding. [3] [10] [11]

The ceremonial roles intended to be under the modern umbrella of two-spirit can vary widely, even among the Indigenous people who accept the English-language term. No one Native American/First Nations’ culture’s gender or sexuality categories apply to all, or even a majority of, these cultures. [4] [8]

Butch:

At the turn of the 20th century, the word “butch” meant “tough kid” or referred to a men’s haircut. It surfaced as a term used among women who identified as lesbians in the 1940s, but historians and scholars have struggled to identify exactly how or when it entered the queer lexicon.
However it happened, “Butch” has come to mean a “lesbian of masculine appearance or behavior.”

(I have heard that, though the words originate from French, Femme & Butch came into Lesbian culture from Latina lesbian culture, and if I find a good source for that I will share. If I had to guess, there may be some wonderful history to find of it in New Orleans — or somewhere similar.)

Before “butch” became a term used by lesbians, there were other terms in the 1920s that described masculinity among queer women. According to the historian Lillian Faderman,“bull dagger” and “bull dyke” came out of the Black lesbian subculture of Harlem, where there were “mama” and “papa” relationships that looked like butch-femme partnerships. Performer Gladys Bentley epitomized this style with her men’s hats, ties and jackets. Women in same-sex relationships at this time didn’t yet use the word “lesbian” to describe themselves.
Prison slang introduced the terms “daddy,” “husband,” and “top sargeant” into the working class lesbian subculture of the 1930s.

This lesbian history happened alongside Trans history, and often intersected, just as the Harlem renaissance had music at the forefront of black and lesbian (and trans!) culture, so too can trans musicians, actresses, and more be found all across history, and all across the US.
Some of the earliest known trans musicians are Billy Tipton and Willmer “Little Ax” Broadnax — Both transmasculine musicians who hold an important place in not just queer history, but music history.

Lesbian isn’t rigid & biological, it’s social and personal, built up of community and self-determination.

And it has been for millennia.

So when people say that nonbinary lesbians aren’t lesbian, or asexual lesboromantics aren’t lesbian, or bisexual lesbians aren’t lesbian, it’s not if those things are technically true within the framework — It’s that those statements are working off a fundamentally claustrophobic, regressive, reductionist, Incorrect definition

You’ll notice that whilst I have been able to give citations for TERFs, for Butch, and especially for Two-Spirit, there is little to say for Lesbianism. The chief reason for this is that lesbian history has been quite effectively erased-but it is not forgotten, and the anthropological work to recover what was lost is still ongoing.
One of the primary issues is that so many who know or remember the history have so much trauma connected to “Lesbian” that they feel unable to reclaim it. Despite this trauma, just like the anthropological work, reclamation is ongoing.

Since Sappho, lesbian was someone who rejects the patriarchal hierarchy. For centuries, it was more than a sexuality, it was intersectional community, a spectrum as broad as today’s “queer”.
When TERFs co-opted 2nd Wave feminism, they redefined Lesbian from “Whom rejects the patriarchal hierarchy” — A grand generalization for a specific culture that has lasted for over 2 thousand years, but generally the one that is most correct — to “A woman with a vagina who is attracted to other women with vaginas”.
I hope the pitfalls of the latter definition become clearer when it’s pointed out that even the former definition is limiting to the point of being potentially reductionist.
When you say “bi lesbians aren’t lesbian” it’s not whether that’s true within the framework, it’s that you’re working off a claustrophobic, regressive, and reductionist definition. Argument like that just isn’t productive — and fracturing marginalized peoples that could otherwise work together, well, let me remind you that the Reagan Administration was the one who codified TERF ideology into law.
Words develop and change, the identities and cultures that labels apply to evolve. Lesbian is such a deeply historical identity that when we ask ourselves what it means, that often means asking our ancestors, our fellow lesbians cities and cultures and centuries away, what lesbian means to them.
For the past half century, it has meant a lot of pain. But hey, it’s been around 11 times longer than the US constitution, and as the Persian adage goes, “This too shall pass”

I want Feminism, Queerness, Lesbianism, to be fucking sustainable.

I wanna see happy trans and lesbian and queer kids in a green and blue fucking world some day.

I want them to be able to grow old in a world we made good.

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