Evolution of Identity, Part 1: Coming Out Again

My identity, like that of most folks, is a complex, multi-faceted thing. It is never static and is often confusing. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never truly find myself. And sometimes I never want to. I have learned so much about myself in the past couple of years, and about love and community and solidarity and letting go and moving on. Every time I think I finally know my truth, I learn something new. It’s scary and exciting.

I thought I was pretty settled on queer as the best identifier for myself. Queer femme to be specific. But after some really insightful, thoughtful and often volatile discussions on Tumblr regarding the queer community, labels and misogyny, I realized I had some deeper digging to do. I was ‘queer’ but why? Why ‘queer’ and not something else? Was that really the best fit or was I avoiding deeper introspection?

It took a while to get to this place but I had to finally admit that having a romantic and/or sexual relationship with a man (cis or trans) held no interest for me. I wanted my relationships to be with female-identified people. And yet, I shied away from using ‘lesbian’ as an identifier. I’m not sure if I did it consciously, certainly not in the early stages of my evolution. But when those discussions appeared on Tumblr, I realized that I, too, was guilty of shunning ‘lesbian’ in favor of ‘queer.’

Queer just seemed so much more radical and as is pointed out in the links above, lesbian tends to be seen as passé and associated with more mainstream politics or less politically aware in general and therefore lesser in the radical queer crowd. But where did this idea of queer as a monolith come from? Why has the larger queer community decided that there’s a specific set of rules to follow in order to be The Best Radical Queer. Why do we keep setting up these hierarchies amongst ourselves? These are important discussions we need to be having.

Lesbian identity also has been marred with the existence of a transphobic radfem history that obviously cannot and should not be glossed over. However, radical lesbian feminists were certainly not all MichFest loving transphobes so the damnation of an entire identity based on a small subset is truly unfair. Those who choose lesbian as an identifier are also frequently accused of propping up the gender binary. I disagree. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to want to center your relationships around female-identified people while still supporting those outside the gender binary. Some people are binary-identified and some are not. One does not negate the presence of the other.

I agree that, as others have more eloquently asserted, telling women that centering their relationships around women is somehow less radical is straight up misogyny.  But in a culture so entrenched in misogyny , I think the most radical thing I can do is to reclaim ‘lesbian.’ I want to rescue it from the unfortunate parts of its history and honor the important, groundbreaking parts. I refuse to let the insecurities of others in the queer community keep me owning an important part of myself. Because this is about me and my desires and those desires do not include men and I’m done caring about their feelings being hurt over it.

I’m a lesbian. A dyke. A femme dyke to be specific. Deal with it.

6 responses to “Evolution of Identity, Part 1: Coming Out Again

  1. Or, perhaps it is less important to occupy the most “radical” identity, and instead occupy the one that is your truth, with all its complexity. This is not advocacy for individual solutions. It’s just acknowledgement that this middle aged lesbian is old enough to have seen so many edgy but ill-conceived self-indulgent fashions call themselves “radical” that it makes her blush.

    • I agree. It’s not that I want to make ‘lesbian’ the Most Radical but that radical means different things for different people within our community and one type of activism isn’t better than another inherently. We do what we can. We should all be able to identify however we wish without so much outside pressure. It was astounding to me in the conversations on Tumblr how many other women had felt pressure to choose ‘queer’ over ‘lesbian.’ There is so much history in the lesbian community and I don’t think we should lose that.

  2. A friend of mine asked me, what category I fit in and I had no clue. So I went to look online to find a label to stick to my forehead. I knew I was a homosexual (just a genius word) but I had no clue if I was a femme or a butch or a dyke. For my own sake, I had no idea what dyke meant. Funny? i think so.
    The society we live in likes black and white, it likes labels as that makes somebody’s life easier. You do not have to guess, you are categorized for a benefit of others.
    What I mean by all this is – we are just human beings. Some of us are men, some are females, some transgenders, some undefined. Some fall in love with same sex people, some fall in love with opposite sex, some don’t fall in love at all, and some can love both genders. Identifying a term that you can use doesn’t identify who you are as a person. Do we really need to label people by what they do in their bedrooms.

    Then maybe we need to identify people by what cars they drive, what they smoke or what alcohol or drugs they use…then come up with labels and make T-Shirts.

    I am not saying this because I am uncomfortable with who I am or I have a problem telling people that I am a lesbian. Quiet the opposite. But I honestly believe that using certain terms do not make me a better person, it definitely doesn’t define me as a human being, and it doesn’t make the earth rotate the opposite direction

    • But the thing is, there are so many more variations than just femme, butch and dyke. And none of them have clear definitions. (I will also point out that there are not just two genders.) I absolutely do not believe that any of the labels you mentioned simply define what people do “in their bedrooms” as you say.

      Bully for you and anyone else who prefers not to use labels. I know many folks like that. But there are many more of us who choose to name ourselves because there is a power in that.

  3. I just found your blog through Rachel Levy’s tumblr and I love it! I’m another queer vegan femme and I thought this post was fantastic. I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

    • Thanks! (I love Rachel!) I’m glad you like what you’ve read thus far. It’s kind of growing very organically and unexpected things are coming up so we’ll see where it goes! And yay for another queer vegan femme!

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