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.