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May 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 11:18 am

So it doesn’t get lost this time. A friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:

QUEER FRIENDS – an older straight guy asked me to tell him the difference between ‘lesbian’ and ‘queer.’ I’d love input on my response. I hate to dismiss teaching moments by saying ‘it’s too complicated’ so having a few key examples of difference would be great. tell me what you think:


in brief, ‘lesbians’ are just like heterosexual women except that they have relationships with women and not men. they have a lot of rigid rules in their heads about gender roles, and put a lot of stock into appearance (like, ‘workboots + jeans = butch = the aggressor in bed’ and ‘floral skirt + jewelry = femme = passive in bed’). they go on gay cruises and send money to democrats and spend a lot of time trying to prove that they are ‘just like everyone else’. on the other hand, ‘queers’ are more politically radical and believe that sexuality is fluid, gender roles are inherently fucked up, and that anyone can dress ‘butch’ or ‘femme’ or a combination thereof and it doesn’t signal that they are confused or weird, just that each of us has a myriad of personality traits and rigid boxes that don’t let us ‘play’ are soul-crushing. we don’t get all pissy if one of our friends comes out as transgender and asks to be called he instead of she, because how other people live is not a threat to our selves. we don’t send money to democrats because we see them as being just as terrible on issues of war and poverty as republicans. in short, queers are awesome and lesbians are boring 😉

This kicked off a huge thread, as you can imagine, mostly with people defending lesbians with an “I know some and they’re not all THAT bad!” I wrote a whole long response talking about how, even though the ways that a “lesbian” identity is complicated are worth exploring, I think it’s problematic to caricaturize lesbian-identified people as a mix between RadFems and white middle-class monogamous homonormative couples who want to get married because of ways that erases the identities of a diversity of lesbian-identified people with far less privilege than we have as mostly white middle-class queers — or, at the very least, makes some fairly privileged assumptions about peoples’ politics and degree of “radical”ness (dude). But whatever, Facebook ate it. So, I’m posting my hastily re-typed and less long-winded response here, so that I don’t lose it again:

Argh. I wrote a whole long reply to this (before I posted that link) and for some reason Facebook ate it. 😦 I really don’t want to re-type the whole thing, but basically I just felt like it was important for me to put in a word for some of the incredibly radical lesbian-identified trans women in my life, for many of whom their lesbian and even “lesbian separatist” identity is part of a radical gender politics — even though, at the same time, acknowledging that transphobia, biphobia and queerphobia continue to be problems in many (perhaps all) lesbian communities.

I feel like there’s a little bit of trans misogyny in the suggestion that lesbians are always all about rigid gender roles, because it seems to imply (although I know you didn’t actually say it) either that lesbians are also always cis women or that trans lesbians are always doing gender (or have gender politics) in some way that’s automatically less radical than queer-identified folks. I also felt sad for some of my badass radical working class lesbian friends who, when they have the money to do it, certainly aren’t spending it on gay cruises and the Democratic party. (And many of whom often have their shit together around, for example, issues of race and class and disability in ways that many of us white middle-class queer-identified folks don’t.) None of them are “just like heterosexual women” by a long-shot.

I agree that lesbian is, in some ways, a privileged identity and one that relies on the existence of a gender-binary. As a queer person who’s committed to deconstructing that binary, I totally think it’s worth exploring that issue and its intersections with various feminisms. I also think (as the author of that Tumblr post points out) that queerness is often kind of a scene and, as anyone who’s spent time in that scene knows, there can be just as many “right” and “wrong” ways to be queer as there are ways to be a lesbian. 😉

That’s all.

And here’s a link to the Tumblr post in question: Fuck Queer, I’m a Lesbian?

Worth noting: Nobody who actually identifies as a lesbian has posted on the thread.

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