Lezbehonest, Opposing Same-Sex Attraction is Homophobic

In a world where conversion therapy and corrective rape continue to be weaponized against lesbians, who benefits from same-sex attraction being delegitimized? This is the question we must ask ourselves whenever lesbian sexuality is problematized in the queer* community.

Queer* politics are often framed as the solution to widespread social problems experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. But – when it comes to the lives of lesbians – queer discourse*serves only to prop up the status quo.

Too often, lesbians are met with outrage when we declare our hard-wired, immutable sexual orientation (lesbian sexual orientation is exclusively same-sex attraction), as well as our preferences. We are branded “vagina fetishists” or “gynephiles” for experiencing same-sex attraction. Photographer Sophia Banks took to Twitter claiming that “terms like gay and lesbian to imply same-sex/gender attraction are actually really transphobic.” Comedian Avery Edison posits that “eventually we’ll probably say goodbye to terms like ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’”.

Traditionally, the hope for a society free from the labels of lesbian and gay has belonged to the religious right. But now elements of the queer left are carrying the thread of this argument forward.

Writing for Buzzfeed, Shannon Keating suggests that the ‘solution’ to lesbian sexuality is to deconstruct the desires and boundaries at its core:

“So maybe we can simply continue to challenge the traditional definition of lesbianism, which assumes there are only two binary genders, and that lesbians can or should only be cis women attracted to cis women. Some lesbians who don’t go full-out TERF are still all too eager to write off dating trans people because of ‘genital preferences’, which means they have incredibly reductive ideas about gender and bodies.”

And in an article for Slate, Christina Cauterucci goes so far as to argue that “lesbian, in its implication of a cisgender woman to cisgender woman arrangement, is both inaccurate and gauche.” Therein lies the crux of the issue.

Women experiencing same-sex attraction are actively problematized by members of the LGBT community. Incidentally, gay male sexuality escapes the same scrutiny. This sexist double-standard is never clearer than when we look at dating sites.

Grindr – where gay men go to find romance, hook-ups, and everything in between – offers ample proof. Countless men’s profiles contain specifications that would make a eugenicist proud: “No Blacks, fats, femmes, or Asians!!!”, “Sorry, not into Blacks”, “Not big enough.” These strict criteria and the biases underpinning them are an open secret in the community – often joked about, but rarely objected to on social media.

No acronyms have been made to describe these gay men. Nobody doxes them or contacts their employers. Nobody subjects them to campaigns of targeted harassment. Nobody questions which Tweets they like, or polices who they follow on social media. Nobody suggests they are legitimate targets of violence. Nobody makes ‘jokes’ about punching, burning, or shooting them. Nobody attacks them at Pride Marches or public meetings. All of that treatment tends to be reserved for women.

The reality is that gay male desire doesn’t meet with a fraction of the same criticism lesbians experience. Misogyny is the driving force behind this push to deconstruct lesbian sexuality out of existence.

This problematizing of lesbian sexuality has negative, real-life consequences for women. For example, the majority of respondents to Angela Wild’s survey on lesbian experiences reported indirect sexual pressure to accept a transwoman as a sexual partner. Her research concludes that “Most respondents reported being subjected to such rhetoric directly or indirectly, and have experienced it as a form of ‘psychological coercion’ with the general feeling that it is ‘online everywhere’ and ‘relentless’.”

Is lesbian sexuality exclusionary? Yes. But so is every other sexuality. And that is not a product of bigotry. Sexual orientation is shaped by a specific set of characteristics which set the parameters of an individual’s capacity to experience physical and mental attraction. This in itself is not inherently bigoted. And even if those criteria are met, attraction is not guaranteed. Only in the imagination of homophobes and porn-sick men are lesbians overcome with desire at the sight of every single woman we meet.

Self-definition continues to be a struggle for us in a society that treats lesbians more like a porn category than people with feelings, boundaries, and political interests. Even LGBT spaces – which should be a refuge for lesbians – have become a minefield for many of us. Gay men are free to pursue and prioritize their own pleasure. And lesbians are left to pick up the tab of inclusivity within the LGBT community.

*AfterEllen does not use the word queer to describe lesbians. This term is being used here only and specifically to reference self-described queer people and their community.