Always a Lesbian

ALWAYS A LESBIAN

Yes, I’m a Lesbian. I’ve always been a Lesbian from my earliest memories. When I told my mother what I felt about another girl, at three, she said “You’re in love with that girl!”  And I was. I also knew it was a choice, as Lesbian Feminists also said in the early Seventies. We didn’t plead with the patriarchal power structure, as so many do now – “Please give us equal rights because we can’t help it that we were born queer. We would change to be like you if only we could. Pity us.” Our choice to be Lesbians was and is a choice of pride. Why would we want to be anything else when we are the best and love the best? Of course we aren’t going extinct. Lesbians can never go extinct. We exist even in countries where we are killed just for being who we are. If patriarchy didn’t prevent us before, they sure can’t stop us now! 

As I wrote in our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics for Lesbians Only, 

     “The story of Lesbianism is the story of magic and survival.  In almost every part      of the world, we’re said not to exist, or we’re hated and lied about. Yet we persist in        surviving.  Lesbians come from every culture and country. We appear where there are no others of us, coming from people who try their hardest to make us committed man-lovers. We create ourselves out of nothing, appearing like weeds that  cannot be destroyed. We crack open the foundations of the enormous structures of male supremacy.”

I found my first lover when I was 17 and I began searching for others like us. I went to DOB (Daughters of Bilitis) and the bars in 1969, but I was underage. In 1970, when I was 19, I found a vibrant and exciting Lesbian Feminist community in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was like falling in love again. So many Lesbians and so many events. I joined A Woman’s Place bookstore collective, worked on one of the first Lesbian Feminist Conferences ever in 1972 in Berkeley, worked on the first issue of Amazon Quarterly, became a Dyke Separatist in 1972, and 1973 co-wrote and published one of the first Separatist newspapers, Dykes and Gorgons. I also worked on the Lesbian Coffeehouse collective, went to an all female dojo, taught self defense to women and girls, wrote articles about radical Lesbianism, worked on Dyke Separatist Gatherings, made connections with Separatists in other countries, lived for a while in some of those countries, and co-wrote our book.

Of course Lesbian Separatists are still visionaries.  Everything we said and wrote almost 40 years ago is still true. What we wrote in our book over 20 years ago is even more obvious now about how males are destroying the earth by marking territory with over-population and pollution.  Our description of the harm lesbophobia and Lesbian-hating among Lesbians does to us individually and as communities is even more evident now.  That betrayal, along with classism, racism, anti-Semitism, ableism, and ageism continues to damage Lesbians.

 Yes, it’s upsetting to have been part of such a powerful movement and to now witness what has appeared to be its ending, with even our recent history wiped out. But no matter how we are undermined, it will never go back to how it was before Lesbian Feminism.

It can never be as bad as it was when I was a girl and there was not one book that could be found in a library or one film that was not Lesbian-hating (usually with the “perverted” Lesbian dying at the end and her lover going het). We will not return to the time when Lesbians were categorized as mentally ill by psychologists. No longer can anyone say they don’t know we exist or that we are only a hateful male-defined stereotype. Now, even in the most rural parts of our country, famous, beloved Lesbians can be seen on television.

It does feel like a tragedy when we’ve lost so much. “Women Studies” at universities and colleges have almost all been destroyed and replaced by “Gender Studies” or “Queer Studies” that are hostile to even basic Feminism. The term LGBT includes us with our oppressors and obscures the fact that most Lesbians I’ve known were never in a community with gay men, and that Lesbian communities have often operated with basic Separatist principles. However, we still do have an international radical Lesbian culture and community. And I am meeting young Lesbian Separatists whose politics are as strong or stronger than any I’ve met in the last 40 years and who are absolutely clear-thinking.

In many ways, it feels like a new beginning. As one of my new friends has said, all the anti-Feminism, gender-queer crap, trans-posturing, porn, and sado-masochism is becoming boring, mainstream, and old-fashioned.  Now is time for a change. And I’m seeing that on a grassroots level, with Lesbians who don’t seem to have ever been directly aware of Feminism, just being fed up with anti-Lesbian attitudes in our communities. The best of the early Lesbian Feminist writing were grassroots also, before it became a career for Lesbians in academia. A few academics wrote brilliant books that could reach all Lesbians, but mostly it was an elitist and classist system by its exclusionary nature. So many tedious books were written in the academic style, which obscured how empty they were, and made it appear that Lesbian Feminism was only for the most privileged.  It broke my heart to hear even middle class Lesbians say they were stupid because they could not understand or finish reading some of these lauded books.  I pushed through and usually found nothing there that hadn’t been said before in more direct and better-written ways.  Too many academic Lesbian Feminist books were like The Emperor’s New Clothes. Unfortunately, the least radical or interesting books are the most likely to have survived in libraries, while the truly revolutionary writing is hard to find.

We need to take back full awareness of who we are, and with pride. Being a Lesbian is far more that a “sexuality” or “sexual preference” or “sexual orientation.” Notice how those are always the terms used to describe us?  It trivializes and demeans us. Sexuality is males’ primary focus. When I was a girl, the only definition of Lesbian that I found was about “sexual” feelings, which made me wonder if perhaps I wasn’t a Lesbian since my feelings were about love. I don’t feel sexual attraction to Lesbians without a strong love or in love connection. “Lesbian” striptease and burlesque has become popular, but I find it male, repulsive, and incredibly boring. It simply doesn’t feel Lesbian to me. I didn’t go through the hell of oppression I suffered as a young Lesbian to have this crap represent me or my community.

Males’ obsession is to mark territory, whether by rape, by ownership of females or of other cultures, by war, and by genocide. Being a Lesbian is about love, loving another female deeply enough to risk the hatred and danger that comes from such a revolutionary act. Lesbians threaten patriarchy at its tedious, evil core. When Lesbians agree with male rules that we’re only about sex, it reveals how linked they are to male ways of thinking. And in spite of anti-Lesbian lies from the male-identified in the old Lesbian “sex wars,” true Lesbian love is far more exciting and passionate than the boring, disconnected sex which imitates hets and male objectification. The irony is that Lesbian “sex radicals” are in reality pathetically mainstream and submissive to male rules and restrictions. But the damage done to individual Lesbians and our communities is real.

And no, I don’t believe any female is naturally heterosexual. We are relentlessly pressured to be heterosexual and to believe that that is natural, but it isn’t. We are bombarded with heterosexuality shoved down our throats in patriarchy and its media. The truth is hard to find. How many of us were told the real story about “the birds and the bees?” We’re not told that you never see a heterosexual honeybee because almost all bees are female, and the very few who are het (the “queens”), are het only for a moment in their lives. Children are indoctrinated with animated movies about bees and ants (ants also almost all female and never heterosexual), with the main characters male, including one voiced by a famous child molester). Finding the truth in the maze of lies makes it much harder to internalize the Lesbian-hating they teach us to have about ourselves. Many species of animals live in female communities and they keep the males out because they know that males are rapists and the murderers of their babies.

So if being het isn’t natural, why do so many women choose it?  Notice how many people will betray their own beliefs when the alternative is to be unpopular, not fit in, be criticized and ridiculed.  Being het means being accepted by society, family, and strangers in a way that Lesbians are never fully, deeply accepted.  Things are easier for some of us now, but are we truly represented in society?  With few exceptions, we are excluded from almost any media (magazines to films) representation of love or relationships.  Harassment and ridicule in schools is constant. I’ve known women who hated the idea of having children decide to do it in a desperate attempt to finally be accepted and loved by their Lesbian-hating families. Never underestimate the desire to be “normal.” And never underestimate the deep shame many feel for being Lesbians. That alone, explains so much.

I saw my friends in high school working very hard to make themselves feel attracted to boys. It didn’t come naturally, like their attractions to other girls did. Of course, most females today say they love being het, but notice how focused the media is on training them what to feel so they can fit in. Just a few decades ago, it was common knowledge that most women made a reluctant deal to be fucked by their husbands in exchange for having security and heterosexual privilege. Today, males have had to learn some tricks to keep females entertained, but they still can’t love the way another female can. 

When I’ve talked with a het woman friend about the idea of being a Lesbian, she said she tried it once when her ex-husband had brought home another woman for a three-way. An actor, asked if she’d ever tried Lesbianism, responded the she had once, but when the other woman put on a dildo, it repulsed her. These descriptions have nothing to do with Lesbianism, but show how male fantasies and male ideas define us.

Another proof that being het is a choice is when Lesbians choose to go back to being het.

(I haven’t yet heard of a never-het Lesbian going het, and I know thousands of Lesbians.) That is something I will never understand, but I have heard Lesbians say that it’s easier being het because they want to feel less and be less intense. I’ve also heard Lesbians say that because their father, husband or another male abused them, they’ve never given their hearts fully to another female. And then there’s the higher standard of living that males can provide. But choosing to be intimate with men seems like choosing death over life. And what better way to control women?  What other group chooses to be so intimately involved with their oppressor?  The result is that most women then become heavily invested in the continuation of patriarchy. When anti-Separatists say that women can be as cruel as men, they forget to notice that those are usually the women who’ve chosen to be dedicated to males – sometimes to the extent that they will protect their rapist husband, boyfriend, or son over their victim daughter.

For years, most Lesbian Feminists agreed with the mainstream media that males were not intrinsically evil, and that their misogyny was a result of socialization – “He raped and killed all those women because he was sexually abused in childhood.”  If that was the case, wouldn’t most women be serial killers?  Male animals aren’t socialized to rape and kill, but they do. The evidence is there. Men know it. They know they are biologically different than females. Ask them if you doubt it. Even progressive Michael Moore admitted (on Bill Maher’s HBO show) “We want to fuck anything in front of us.” It’s only females who argue on male’s behalf that we are all really the same.  And no matter how nice a man seems, I always say, we never know what they’re doing when alone with animals or babies. And you can see it in most young boys’ violence.

Writing about what it means to be a Lesbian today could take a book, so I’m going to concentrate on two topics which I hear friends talking about with anguish and which are preventing us from having female-only space.

In 1979, I saw some disturbing trends that seemed to be a resurgence of Lesbian-hatred in our communities. Patriarchal influences had always been there, with male worshipping and admiration of male-created “femininity,” but now it began to be more open and bragged about. Instead of pride in looking like visible Dykes, more Lesbians reverted to passing as het. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that sado-masochism and porn began to be trendy. The first three books I know of that were about “Lesbian” sexuality were actually written by bisexuals, and were Lesbian-hating in their het-minded focus. Instead of being proud to be Lesbians, and looking and acting like a Lesbians, too many imitated and valued male and het women’s male ideas more. This supported the return to male-identified “femininity,” as well as directly leading to the trend of Lesbians wanting to become “men. 

“Male to Female Transsexuals” (or as many radical Lesbians call them — “castrated men”) had been invading our communities from the early days.  When I was 17, a man relentlessly pressured me to be with him and had no understanding of or respect for the fact that I was in love with my best friend, Marg. Elliott kept going after Lesbians and then decided HE was a Lesbian. He picked a name as close to mine as he could (“Beth”) and dyes his hair a similar red that I had when I was young. Almost immediately, he got into power positions, becoming vice president of DOB (causing a split and ultimately the end of the early Lesbian organization). Elliott played his “Lesbian” music at the LA Lesbian Feminist Conference in 1973, became the “Lesbian” columnist for a local Gay publication, and got an article called “Lesbian Sex” printed in off our backs by telling the collective that he was female-born when they questioned him.  To add to the insult, Elliott is often racist in his public writings as a “Lesbian.”  (I always say, “When you read something oppressive and cruel by a ‘Lesbian,’ don’t assume a Lesbian or even a woman wrote it.)

There is no getting away from this man. He continuesinging his Lesbian-hating songs. (The one I had the misfortune to have to hear in my community recently was about how he prefers long hair on Lesbians, ridiculing Lesbians who look like Dykes.)  His arrogance is astounding and his mentality seems to still be that of a prurient adolescent boy.

I’ve watched as other castrated men have tried to destroy female-only space, here and in other countries. Very little is left, yet they continue. They fight to be on rape crisis center hotlines (one sued in Vancouver, Canada). (Imagine a woman who was just raped calling up and having to talk with a man?) They and their “gender queer” Lesbian and bisexual women allies destroyed the last women’s center in Sweden. It’s their dream to destroy the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. But they could not do any of this if Lesbians didn’t help them. I don’t know of any other group who so welcomes our oppressors than Lesbians. Is it because they’re flattered that men want to be us?  Is it because they pity them?  How could anyone believe that male surgeons and male pharmaceutical companies could turn men into Lesbians?  (No coincidence that this is an enormous profitable business.)

And no, don’t repeat their lie that they always felt like they were female from when they were young. Elliott had told me about his life when we were friends so I know he lies when he says he always felt like he was female. It never crossed his mind, and my being a Lesbian was incomprehensible to him, just as he is oblivious about why he has no right to invade our female-only space. I can imagine that if he became obsessed with African-American culture, he might try to alter himself physically and attempt to get into public positions in that community — which would be as wrong and outrageous as his claiming to be female and a Lesbian. I’m in a unique position to be able to warn Lesbians to just not believe castrated men. Many were married het men for decades before they decided to invade our communities. The ones I’ve met are far more sexist and predatory and male (groping Lesbians in public they don’t even know) than many het men I’ve met. Their idea of being a woman seems to be primarily based on fetishism.

Anyone who protests is told that we have no right to not accept meone’s definition of themselves. But would we agree with a European-descent man who demands to be accepted as Native American because he played being an Indian when a boy?  Would it be acceptable for such a person to then get into power positions in that community?  If not, why are these men accepted as Lesbians?  I don’t want any female in “women’s space” be forced to see a man who has sexually harassed her.

Recently, a friend who posted online on a large Lesbian list for a Separatist meeting was attacked in print by castrated men and their supporters. But there was a larger response from Lesbians who are just fed up with having men in our rare, small amount of Lesbian space. That takes courage, considering the level of hostility from Lesbians who protect these men.

It’s outrageous that Lesbians who don’t know what our Lesbian Feminist communities were like, which means they have no understanding of their own history, call us “ignorant” for objecting to men being in our communities (whether male-born, or female-born and now identifying as men). It’s classist and arrogant, as well as deeply self-hating.  Lesbians’ desire to protect “transsexuals” is also about how kind and loving Lesbians can be to anyone they think is suffering. Lesbians are involved in far larger numbers than our percentage of the population in organizations fighting for people and animals and forests and every cause imaginable. Of course these are important issues, but it’s time for Lesbians to also fight for Lesbians.

Thirteen years ago, I wrote an article called “Better to Be Anything than a Lesbian” after seeing a TV show in England about adolescent girls going to Amsterdam to have surgery and hormones to become “men,” and after hearing a radio interview with a woman who decided her three-year-old girl must be a transsexual because the little girl said she wanted to be a boy (she’d been told she had to wear dresses because she was a girl and she hated dresses). Again, I don’t understand why this issue isn’t completely clear. When young Lesbians have been asked why they want to become men, a common response is “I’ll be better looking, more popular, get more women, get better jobs, my father always wanted a son, etc.” Men have much more privilege than Lesbians. Loren Cameron, who wrote one of the early books about FTMs, said how she went into a clothing store in San Francisco and was treated with respect (now that she appeared to be a man) by the gay men and het women working there – but when a Butch appeared, they made fun of her. Sometimes Lesbians want to please their lovers. In a documentary, a Lesbian’s father was thrilled his daughter’s girlfriend was “transitioning” because now his daughter wouldn’t be a Lesbian.

It might not be such a problem in Lesbian communities except that FTMs usually insist on still going to female-only events. They want it both ways. When I’ve heard them speak about being FTM, they usually complain about how hard it is, not about their increased privilege. I also haven’t heard them say anything about the effect on their lover, friends, or community. Like with castrated men, the focus seems to be very narcissistic and selfish. They don’t want to be us anymore, but they want access to us. They even claim to be oppressed by us. For Separatists who consider men to be the people who are raping and destroying the earth, becoming a FTM really is like joining the Klan or another openly evil organization. For Lesbians who call themselves “bois,” don’t they remember how boys were when they were girls?  Boys were the dirty-minded small men who tortured and killed animals, and tormented and sometimes raped girls. (Even if you know some gentler boys, this is still how boys as a group operate.)

I have friends who lament “all the Butches who are becoming men,” but I want every Lesbian and Butch to question this idea, which I believe is partly a myth. By my definition of Butch (and I am not alone in this), many, if not most, of who I’ve seen “transition” are Fem.  In Loren Cameron’s book, Body Alchemy, the “before” photos of those who’ve become FTMs look Fem – not drag queen-style Fems, but certainly not Butch. Some who have identified as Butch are actually bisexual, as well as Fem, like “Patrick” Califia. This is an attempt to define us out of existence by defining non-Lesbians as Lesbians. When women choose to relate sexually to men, they are bisexuals, not Lesbians. Some of these women are doing a mind-fuck on gay men too, by identifying as gay men. A lot of FTMs are a new, trendy version of fag hags — het or bisexual women who want to be fucked by gay men (which I’ve heard that gay men describe as having a “bonus hole.”) The result has been some FTMs becoming pregnant and/or getting AIDs. 

Some do seem like men in one way, though – what part of “no” don’t they understand?  Many Lesbians want female-only (Lesbian-only even better) space, without castrated men, or women who call themselves men or bois or any of the bizarre variations they come up with.

Of course you are not allowed to say any of this without punishment. It’s like arguing with a religious fanatic – no thinking allowed. As I said at the Butch Voices conference when I was accused of being transphobic – “We’re not “transphobic – ‘transsexuals’ oppress us!”  I was told to be quiet.

As Katinka Strom, my old Swedish Dyke Separatist friend says: “The word phobia means ‘irrational fear.’  My fear of MTF transsexuals is not irrational – it’s well-founded and justified. That fear is political (they destroy Lesbian Feminist politics and community), and physical (like other men, they are physically violent and can be sexually abusive and intimidating). I also have a Feminist critique of them and the transsexual movement (a conservative, anti-feminist movement).  Having a Lesbian and Feminist critique and analysis of castrated men and their movement is not the same as being ‘phobic.’”

Don’t assume this attempted destruction of Lesbian community is just coincidental.  Sometimes I forget how deep a threat we are to the mainstream culture and government which represents patriarchy in our immediate lives. What better way to wipe us out than to make the definition of Lesbian become meaningless and to support the introduction of our enemies into our last remaining spaces as a Trojan horse strategy? African American Lesbian friends have been the most vocal about saying to not forget that the government still has agents in our community. Some European-descent friends scoff, saying, “I don’t want to hear conspiracy theories,” but it’s not a theory – it is reality. African American Lesbians witnessed how the government worked to destroy the Black Panther Party and even christian civil rights organizations with the Cointel program. This is well-documented, and the damage continues, with drugs brought into African American communities. If you have any doubts, look it up. One website says “Cointel-Pro created or instigated several intra-and inter-group disruptions for the Black Panther Party.”  I remember seeing a documentary showing interviews with several of Malcolm X’s bodyguards who were FBI agents. They were there when he was assassinated. Although they reported on him to the government, they were crying because they could not stop the assassins (sent by Louis Farrakhan and the Black Muslims). These agents loved Malcolm and didn’t want him to die, but it was amazing that he didn’t know several of his closest bodyguards were agents. 

A friend says, “Why would they bother with Lesbians?” Well, there were Lesbians in the Weather Underground, and the FBI went through another embarrassment when they had no idea who the SLA were when the SLA kidnapped Patty Hearst, I would think they’d rather not be caught like that again.  At least two SLA members had been in our Lesbian community. A friend of mine had briefly been lovers with Camilla Hall. (Another good reason to not join male-run organizations – what a way to die – burned alive.) 

Government agents in our Lesbian communities report back, but also work to disrupt any kind of strong movement we create.  Just one determined individual can do tremendous damage with lying and doing other kinds of sabotage. One “LGBT” publication funded by the government to make trouble for us can also do a lot of damage.

What further proof that transsexualism is more privileged than being Lesbian or even gay men is that it is welcomed and encouraged in such a fundamentally religious country as Iran, where being a Lesbian or gay man is a crime punished by death.  The method of eliminating all Lesbians and gay men in Iran is to force them to change their sex (or to appear to.)  More sex change surgeries are performed in Iran than any country other than Thailand, and they are actually partially paid by the government.

Re-writing our past is also hurting us. I know a Butch who was two years old in 1970, yet she angrily repeats the myth that Butches were badly treated in the Lesbian Feminist community in the Bay Area. It doesn’t matter that I was here and she wasn’t. It’s true that Lesbian Feminists mostly are against role playing, but that isn’t the same as being anti-Butch. I’m also against role-playing. (For me, identifying as Butch is like identifying my class background, and is about fighting role playing.)  What I saw in my old community was that Butches like Pat Parker and Judy Grahn and Willyce Kim were loved and respected, and that the now ridiculed and vilified tradition of wearing flannel shirts and jeans was wonderful support to all of us who had grown up being humiliated by being forced into wearing dresses and other revealing and uncomfortable “feminine” clothing by our families or even just to be allowed to go to school.  It was such a relief being in a community where most Lesbians looked like Lesbians – unlike now where Lesbians will say even about Dykey Fems, “She’s so ugly.” The reclaiming of the worship of male-defined “femininity” and the accompanying role-playing and sado-masochism was not liberating for many of us. Equally frustrating is hearing Fems from that era saying how oppressed they were by the pressure to look like Lesbians. They had the whole world supporting them in following male rules, but they wanted to impose their patriarchal values on our beleaguered communities.  And those values are so entrenched that many Lesbians think Lesbians who look like drag queens are more attractive than Lesbians who look like Dykes. Personally, I loved seeing all those short-haired Dykes in flannel shirts and jeans.  I still do.

I am not meaning to insult Fem Lesbians or criticize how someone wants to look – many of my friends are very Fem – but I’m asking Lesbians to be aware of standards of beauty and who sets those standards. Please don’t participate in the increasing Butch-hatred in our communities where those who fit in with male and het rules of the most “feminine” are considered the most beautiful. A friend was saying how much better she thinks life is for women now, yet there’s been an increase of violence against females being shown in films and on TV. She also said she knows she has to wear her hear long if she wants to get work. As long as women in any positions of power appear in the media in high heels, slathered in make-up, and dressed ways that a man looking like that would be laughed at, we know things have not improved very much. Notice how males in the media are allowed to look relaxed and natural, and how even the ugliest men are considered attractive, while women are expected to be in pain and look like caricatures in order to not be ridiculed.

Sometimes Lesbians will say, “Well, how does a Lesbian look anyway?”  It’s true that many Lesbians look no different from het women, but there is clearly a recognizable Lesbian look, which means looking more Butch and which means you’re more likely to get harassed on the street or be unable to get a job. But it’s also a way to identify a stranger as one of our own, and is the way we’ve been able to find each other through the ages and across all cultural lines. If we all looked like Lesbians, it would have a huge impact on hets realizing how many of us there are, and it would be easier on all of us to not be so singled out in Lesbian-hating ways. Every Lesbian who is out benefits all Lesbians, as a culture and individually.

Anyway, in the midst of the sadness about what we have lost, I’m seeing what we have gained. Perhaps too many of the old activists have walled themselves off from present Lesbian communities. I’d also mourned the early Seventies, but the community I’m in now is much larger and friendlier. There’s an incredible amount of Lesbian singer/songwriter/musicians creating exquisite music. I meet new Lesbians every week, and there are so many Lesbian events that I sometimes have to choose between five in one night. (If possible, I’ll try to get to three.)  I have to ignore that very little is female-only and very few of the Lesbians are Feminists or even know basic Feminism. Yet, like in the early days, many of these Lesbians came out because of their love for other females and not because they thought the politics were trendy. There is a love, and warmth, and camaraderie that is beautiful, with an age range from the twenties to eighties.

So I say, let’s bask in the warmth of all the Lesbians and keep our struggle going

Bev Jo

January, 2010

Endnote:  From a BBC News story by Vanessa Barford, “Iran’s Diagnosed Transsexuals,” and “Transsexual in Iran,” from the original film, “Be Like Others,” directed by Tanaz Eshaghian, that was broadcast on BBC television in 2008.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

“Homosexual relationships are banned in Iran, but the country allows sex change operations and hundreds of men have elected for surgery to change their lives.”

“Diagnosed transsexuals”

“Sex changes have been legal in Iran since Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, passed a fatwa – a religious edict – authorising them for “diagnosed transsexuals” 25 years ago.

Today, Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other nation in the world except for Thailand.

The government even provides up to half the cost for those needing financial assistance and a sex change is recognised on your birth certificate.

‘Islam has a cure for people suffering from this problem. If they want to change their gender, the path is open,’ says Hojatol Islam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, the religious cleric responsible for gender reassignment.

He says an operation is no more a sin than ‘changing wheat to flour to bread,’

Yet homosexuality is still punishable by death.

‘The discussion is fundamentally separate from a discussion regarding homosexuals. Absolutely not related. Homosexuals are doing something unnatural and against religion,’ says Kariminia. ‘It is clearly stated in our Islamic law that such behaviour is not allowed because it disrupts the social order.’”

 

About Bev Jo

I've been a Lesbian from my earliest memories and am proud to be a Lesbian. My life's work is defending Lesbian culture and existence against those who oppress us. Working-class, ex-catholic, mostly European-descent (with some Native American ancestry), from poverty class culture. Lifelong Lesbian, born near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1950. Became lovers with my first lover in 1968, became part of a Lesbian community in 1970, and became a Dyke Separatist in 1972. Worked on some of the earliest Lesbian Feminist projects, such as the Lesbian Feminist Conference in Berkeley in 1972, the newspaper “Dykes and Gorgons” in 1973, the women’s bookstore and Lesbian coffeehouse, and taught self defense to women and girls. Have published in several journals and anthologies, including “For Lesbians Only,” “Finding the Lesbians,” “Lesbian Friendships,” "Amazones d'Hier, Lesbiennes Aujourd'hui," “Mehr als das Herz Gebrochen,” the Journal for Lesbian Studies, Lesbian Ethics, and Sinister Wisdom. With Linda Strega and Ruston, co-wrote our book, “Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics for Lesbians Only” in 1990. Have been disabled since 1981 with ME/CFIDS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome) or perhaps Lyme disease (who the hell knows) and MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.) I love nature and plants and animals -- and especially the animals who are feared and hated and killed by people who don't even know them, just as Lesbians are. I've learned to love rats especially, who I do not consider inferior to humans. I'm a spiritual atheist, but I've found out that there is definitely life after death because a little rat returned from the dead for three days to comfort us. These hated little animals are so kind and loving, and willing to die for someone they love. I say, in our fight to protect the earth -- distrust all "truths" we are taught by patriarchy. The true truth is often the opposite.
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64 Responses to Always a Lesbian

  1. Cizzir says:

    I love your blog! Seriously it’s interesting to read and it’s great that you are not afraid when people call you “tranzphobe…and so on.” Keep going! :-D
    But there is one thing I don’t understand. You wrote: “, I don’t believe any female is naturally heterosexual.” What are they instead? I don’t think that they all are lesbians.

    • Bev Jo says:

      Thank you!

      We explain in detail about how most women go against their natures to fit in and not be punished in our article/chapter (from our book), “Heterosexuality/Selling Out Is Not Compulsory.” Many choose later in life to be Lesbians, but the punishment can be severe. It’s what keeps patriarchy going.

      • Feuerwerferin says:

        For example: German feminist has argued that all human beings love women because we are raised and cared for by women in early childhood and especially after birth. Whereas the desire for men is brainwashed into us (and it is a bit complicated with gay men who feel rejected by females and therefore turn to men). Don’t you think that for all women (or men) to be homosexual would be a bit strange with a species (you yourself did use examples of animals) which needs two sexes for procreation, we are not ants and bees after all? If this is offensive, I’m sorry. It is your thesis that not even one female is naturally heterosexual that is difficult to believe. I can rather see that most human beings are bisexual and some females are disgusted with men and therefore just don’t go after them (anymore) or have to put effort in liking them wheareas the majority buys into worshiping males and misogyny. Although there should be a genuine homosexuality und heterosexuality among women (and men), too, but to a lesser extent. Therefore all the male worshiping and sexist lesbians I’ve met. – Yes, fems. And none of them was a feminist. I’ve met a lot of them, sorry.
        This is not about sexual acts or desire without emotions or even someone’s libido. But as to individuals of which sex you fall in love with. There are apparently straight asexual women.

        Aside from that I really enjoy reading your blog. And I have learned a lot, thank you. I wish your text about how supporting Butches helps all lesbians was published all over the internet.

  2. m Andrea says:

    Bravo! And very impressed with your list of accomplishments!

  3. Bev Jo says:

    I’m confused about how the recent comment is further up, but that’s what I’m responding to.

    Thanks for you support.

    I believe our natural feelings go way beyond how we were raised. I know many Separatists who felt much closer to their fathers growing up, for instance. I think it makes sense for gay men to be attracted to each other for many reasons. Nothing unnatural about that, and it certainly is the case with many animals.

    About reproduction, no, it’s not strange at all for female animals to not be interested in pairing with males, including humans. Males are dangerous and violent. It’s quite rare for female mammals to be bonded with males. Many animal groups choose to have female-only communities with the young ones because they know the males will kill any babies they can get to, including their own. For many species, the males are a bigger danger to young ones than predators. And they are also a danger to the female adults.

    Much of reproduction appears to be rape. Large female animals kept in zoos often have to be chained for the males to be able to rape them. I personally saw (and read about) the fox squirrels fighting against being raped as males chased the females until exhaustion, leaving them bloody and scarred, and sometimes killing them when they chased them until they fell. It was terrible to watch this happen to my squirrel friends and not be able to help them. Bedbug rape/reproduction involves the male literally stabbing the female in the abdomen. In other insects, the males fight each other to the death over access to rape the females, and sometimes kill the females in the process. Bees, ants, and spiders have worked out some of the best methods of survival and reproduction. Spiders often don’t have to worry about protecting their babies from their fathers because they’ve eaten the males.

    I know the line is that all humans are naturally bisexual, and I believe that is ridiculous. The bisexuals I’ve known were so clearly trying to be open to men because of intense pressure from their families and shame. (Just today, I read how the media star Jane Lynch was still ashamed of being a Lesbian until 2009! That is beyond tragic.)

    We are subjected to so much propaganda about animals being heterosexual, but it’s as real as ridiculous male-invented femininity. So why are women so invested in believing that myth? We must never underestimate females’ desire to fit in and belong, and we trendy. It’s not strange at all to believe that not one female would be interested in males if it wasn’t for the intense rewards and punishments. Just look at males, watch their behavior over time, especially when they are only with other males. They are not appealing at all. Separate the propaganda about how wonderful they are from reality, and they are simply repulsive compared to females. Certainly young girls know this, which is why the brainwashing done to them is so intense. It’s quite easy to believe that no female would ever want to be intimate with males.

    The asexual feminists I know about clearly suffered horrific sexual abuse in girlhood and have completely blocked off their feelings of passion, and so can’t understand what it could be to be a Lesbian. That separation is clear in most females, including feminists, when you see them obeying male rules about how to think about Lesbianism — they focus exactly where males want them to focus, describing Lesbianism as “sexual orientation,” which is so trivializing and demeaning. Lesbianism is about love and passion, but that is too much of a threat to patriarchy. So girls and women are taught to separate themselves, which makes them much easier to control and manipulate into being sexual victims of men. (How many girls’ first sexual experience with males is voluntary? That damage is lifelong, affecting later Lesbian relationships. Conscious or not, I believe this is a worldwide male plot to damage all females.)

    Yes, it IS all about falling in love, and it’s about heart, soul, and mind, as well as body. The con and lie told to females is that there is not difference in those between females and males, but males themselves know that that is ridiculous, just as they know their violence and rape-orientation is biologically, non socially, based. Males are just nothing like females, and so no female in her right mind would naturally be attracted to males.

  4. SheilaG says:

    Thanks for this post Bev JO, you always “raise me up!!” to quote a favorite old Irish song.
    Just watch males as a group, who would want to be part of that!
    I notice that so many het women love being with women friends, and being a part of women only organizations. So they might marry men for the social validation, the big house, the prestige, but who are they really closest to? Men are not capable very often of forming deeply warm friendships with each other, and they steal women’s energy to have us do the social heavy lifting all the time. It what is so draining about men in general, that and their pornified selves run rampant.
    Sexual orientation is such a stupid phrase when you use it in a woman loving lesbian context, because we lesbians feel so much passionate power amongst each other. We are always falling in love with each other, always having that incredibly powerful gaze that no het women seem to have.
    So lesbian love, passion, intellectual virtuosity, and conversation sharing…. their is a dynamic power of lesbians together that is nothing like the dull and dulling het world, with it’s boring body sold out women… and all the women who were forced by the het propaganda machine into not being lesbian.
    Why would there be such a big propaganda machine out there if women where so “naturally” attarcked to men? Come on! And Jane Lynch being lesbian self hating until 2009… my goddess that is painful to read. Thank goddess I never felt self hating, never wasted one minute trying to be het…. I sing the song of the never het free dyke, who was proud of that inner power, who stayed the course long enough to see the huge growth of lesbian out nation worldwide. We are a-mazing amazons!! Bev, I LOVE YOU!!!

  5. Bev Jo says:

    I love you too, Sheila!!! You are always such a relief to read!

  6. SheilaG says:

    Relief Bev Jo is such an appropriate word. I often feel alone in my belief in lesbian nation, in butch nation… the world becomes so accomodating and lesbian erasing. Even lesbians don’t kick the peen packers out, and support MtTrans over lesbians.

    Relief that somebody has unshakeable politics in a very compromised world. Thank goddess for the lifelong butch arrow carriers :-)

  7. Bev Jo says:

    There are more of us than you realize. It’s just that we’re all around the world, and those trying to destroy what little we have left are increasing.

    But you are a relief for me too, with your courage and strength.

  8. KatieS says:

    Beautiful dialogue, Bev Jo and SheilaG. Much appreciated.

  9. Bev Jo says:

    Thank you so much, Katie!

  10. Lesley says:

    Thank you for this article Bev Jo. I am an ex-het female in search of her long lost inner lesbian. I am learning a lot from your writings and even though I am finding them all inspirational, it is this article that grabs me the most (so far, anyway – haven’t read them all yet – lol). There is one thing you said that particularly got my attention and actually brought tears:
    “I don’t feel sexual attraction to Lesbians without a strong love or in love connection.”
    You see, I am in love with a lesbian and since this is my first homosexual relationship, she feels I need to get out there and gain some experience. I can see her point… really I can, but it’s hard to meet other females and start a relationship with them, even a casual one, when I’m in love with her.
    I am an optimistic soul… so I will keep reading and keep learning and keep hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel to show itself. I just hope my eyes can handle the light when it comes – I’ve been in the dark for so long…

    • Bev Jo says:

      Thank you so much, Lesley.

      I’m wondering if the Lesbian you’re in love with is nervous because you’re just coming out, but really, most Lesbians have been het. How old are you both and how long has she been out?

      I understand that it’s really important for women who have been het to get rid of whatever was not natural to them that might be affecting them badly, for themselves and for other Lesbians. But telling someone to have casual affairs to get experience is very male and het, and not Lesbian at all — at least not to me.

      It is never about getting “experience.” Some even recommend reading “Lesbian” sex books, which have been mostly by bisexuals and sado-masochists, and are heterosexist. All you need to do is to get rid of any remaining heterosexism or lesbophobia and any of the training patriarchy tells you is being a woman. It is LESBIAN to follow your heart and to want to be lovers with the one you love. You don’t have to learn anything specific about love-making. In fact, you might be taught things that are not Lesbian since that is so common now.

      I would say to let yourself feel your love and attraction for her and other women, and let her know that being a Lesbian does not mean forcing yourself into being sexual if you don’t feel in love. But find out what she really means. Does she feel the same, but is worried about being hurt by you, or is this a way of her saying she isn’t interested in you? If so, then find someone who will feel the same. But let it flow naturally.

      Are you isolated or in a community?

      • Lesley says:

        Thank you Bev Jo for the quick response!
        I’m not sure if she’s nervous, but she has expressed her concern about being hurt. We are both the same age – and in our 30’s. She’s known her whole life that she is a lesbian but I don’t know exactly when she officially came out.
        Now I’m confused… she is very lesbian and I’m sure she would fight you tooth and nail if you suggested to her that she said something male oriented… maybe I misunderstood her reason(s) for wanting me to find other lovers. I probably won’t be able to find out any time soon what she meant since she wants me to keep my distance – there is still too much heterosexism in my life and it is wearing her down. I understand this and I am in the process of correcting that issue – but unfortunately, time is not something I can control and correcting this issue may take more time than I’d like. She has also said that I sometimes sound lesbophobic. I don’t believe I am – is it even possible to be a lesbophobe if one is so willing to be lesbian? I am trying hard to get rid of the patriarchal training, but it’s no easy task. How can you stop doing something when you aren’t even aware that it’s heterosexual or patriarchal? I have been reading your blog and a lot of it rings true, but I find when I walk away I’ve forgotten a lot of what I’ve read. Is this something that will come in time? I know it would help me if I had more people around me who share these views and who I can discuss these things with, but what I’m finding is a lot of the younger lesbians of today don’t share these same views.
        I am so relieved to hear you say that it is Lesbian to follow my heart. I have never loved anyone so much and with so much intensity in my whole life and I miss her terribly… I could write pages on how I miss her. Love-making is something we never had a problem with – in the beginning of our relationship, she had to ask me a few times “Are you sure you’re not lesbian?!?” – lol. I wanted to be lesbian as soon as I realized my feelings for her. I feel she is the piece that has been missing from me my whole life – and all it takes is to touch her hand or look into her beautiful eyes for me to know – to really know – I’m home, and nothing else matters in the world…everything else just fades away. I know she used to feel the same way about me as I do her, but I’m afraid that all the het that is still present in my life has turned her off me… I don’t know for sure. I try to keep it away from her, but she still senses it. I can’t even think about the possibility that she may not be interested in me anymore…that’s the only thing keeping me going, is hoping we’ll be together again someday.
        I am pretty much isolated but a gay community has just started getting together in my area – men and women.
        I really appreciate your time Bev Jo. Your words make a world of difference. :)

  11. SheilaG says:

    I too think that is a rather odd response… go out and get experience and then get back to me later. That makes no sense to me whatsoever, because lesbians are in love with a specific woman, not all women.
    I think gay men have this idea of go have sex with any man, but this is not true lesbian culture.
    I agree that the lesbian sex books probably have been written by bi-women, because I found them ridiculous. Love between women means just that, LOVE. What inspires me most is to read the great love stories of lesbians from herstory… Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Romaine Brooks and Natalie Clifford Barney, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickock. Many of the women who taught or were presidents of women’s colleges in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were lesbians!
    As for me, I think ex-het newly out lesbians need to be mindful that they lived with men, and thus bring male supremacy with them. I have yet to meet many ex-het women who actually take the time to really get to know the lesbian community, before they begin a love relationship with a lesbian. And ex-het women have a lot of really oppressive baggage, so this is a huge issue with me.

    • Lesley says:

      Thank you Sheila. I have often told her that I’m only in love with her – I’ve tried looking at other women but they still look the same to me. She finds this odd.
      And I agree with you… about the baggage women like me bring. And this is something I’m trying to correct – I’m trying to acknowledge the male oriented crap that I must reek of so I can get rid of it. I have apologized this to her because the last thing I want to do is hurt her but I know what’s done is done – my baggage has hurt her and I wish I could take it back… but I can’t. She doesn’t believe me when I say it hurts me to know I hurt her…and rightly so – she’s too hurt to care how I feel, and I’m ok with that. I would have preferred taking the time to understand the lesbian community before falling in love with her, but it was her that exposed me to it. I’m sure it would have saved us a lot of the anguish we are going through now.
      I’ll have to look into some of those love stories you speak of – they sound rather interesting!! If you can recommend any favourites – I’ll start with those first. :)

  12. Bev Jo says:

    It does seem clear then that she is afraid of being hurt and oppressed. Who knows what she’s already experienced from ex-het lovers and friends, and if some have gone het again or bisexual. Maybe she even wanted to see your reaction to her suggestion.

    But you have made love? It being good sounds very hopeful. So why then is she backing off?

    Yes, most Lesbians are lesbophobic and self-hating. It’s worse when someone is Lesbian-hating and ex-het. This is typical of all oppressed groups unless someone works very hard on themselves, to counter patriarchal propaganda. And, yes, you can get rid of a lot of it, just as you would try to get rid of any ways that you are oppressive.

    If you forget what you read, then I’d say to keep reading it over until you don’t. There’s a lot more detail in the chapter I haven’t put at my blog yet, about Lesbian-hatred among Lesbians.

    What is it that’s happened when you say “there is still too much heterosexism in my life and it is wearing her down?” And what specifically has she said is lesbophobic that you’ve said? I would try to think about all the specifics.

    Yes, reading and watching films, if they’re not male or heterosexist can be good. Some used book stores here have a lot of good Lesbian books from the past, and some can be gotten new.

    It sounds very hopeful because of your love for her. Does she realize how much you feel for her? I would think that would be very reassuring. But I know that from past bad treatment, I’ve been very suspicious and distrusting of ex-het lovers. I felt very badly about how upset I got at the thought of my lover having been het when she seemed so completely trustworthy and was a Separatist. Then she left me for a man. I’m sure she would have stayed with me, but she had to go back to her country and couldn’t take the loneliness. Still, that was in her, and was very different from how she said she hated men.

    Sheila’s suggestions were very good, although I would suggest some other books. When I think about it, I realize how bad it is, in terms of books or movies about Lesbians. Lesbians are still being killed or committing suicide at the end of some. I can’t think of many books about Lesbian relationships that I’ve liked. There was a beautiful short story from Seventies that was reprinted in an anthology called “The Lesbian Reader.” The story is “The Sender of Dreams.” I really liked the book and TV film “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.” I like some of Lee Lynch’s books, and “The Original Coming Out Stories” and “Finding the Lesbians.” I know there are more, but a lot of awful ones too. In terms of films, “The True Life Adventures of Two Girls in Love” is nice. The popular ones, like “Desert Hearts” and “Personal Best” I absolutely hate.

    I’m not sure if the Lesbian community could have helped if it’s as bad as mine is now.

    Good luck….

    • Lesley says:

      I have felt (and have expressed to her) that the more I show her I want no one but her, the more she pushes me away. But at the same time she says it does not make sense to be afraid of love.
      Yes, we have made love, many times… and it is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced…. but yes, she still wants me to keep my distance.
      What is still too heterosexual in my life? I am trying to sell my matrimonial home – by myself of course, with absolutly no help from my soon to be exhusband (surprise surprise). Even though I would love to sell it as quickly as possible, I have to be realistic in thinking that if I don’t make the house presentable, no one is even going to look at the house never mind make an offer. The only person helping me with renovations and maintenance is my father – so obviously, we’ve been spending some time together. (I have always had a good relationship with dad.) And in conversation with my girlfriend, when talking about how much I thought the house would be worth (and I should mention that it’s a conversation she started – almost as if she is testing me, to see what my answer would be), I told her that I’d talk it over with dad. The renovations on my house have become half his project too, but she feels I’m looking for male acceptance. She doesn’t know why I didn’t ask a female their opinion on what my house is worth. I would, if one were involved… and actually, I did ask a woman – the real estate agent is female and she gave her opinion about what it was worth and that is what I went with… but she (the realestate agent) is a straight woman anyway, so what does having her opinion matter anyway? And there are some things that I cannot change – like the fact that I have children – but considering the type of relationship we said we wanted together, me having children shouldn’t be too much of a strain. She wants her own place and I need to have mine for a while. So it’s not like having her live with me and my children would even have been an option. Also, I have told her that if she needed me to move in with her to help her financially, I would live without my kids and have him take them… however, one of my children is a daughter and I know I should keep her with me.
      What did I specifically say that sounded lesbophobic? She said I refuse to acknowledge that there is a difference between our communities. She said I wasn’t giving lesbians any credit – which makes me lesbophobic. I can’t remember her reasons for saying these things – there are pages of text on my phone and I’ve gotten lost in all the arguing. But I do remember one thing – I recognized that there is a growing number of young homosexual women out there calling themselves lesbians who want to do more male oriented things – like raise children. I’m not saying this is right, I’m just saying that is what is happening today – sadly. I admit, I am still learning what is good politics and what is bad. I am trying to differentiate what is true and what is happening just to make it easier for women to come out.
      Bev Jo, I really don’t think I’m Lesbian-hating or a lesbophobe. I want to be with her so much!! I want to show the public the Dyke I feel I am inside – I have started wearing different clothes – I have cut my hair short. I am confident in what I want for myself – to be a Dyke. My mother isn’t speaking to me since I’ve come out, and to be honest, I couldn’t care less! This isn’t an issue for me at all! I *know* this is who I am inside – I don’t care if there are people, who are supposed to accept me for who I am, who aren’t going to support me on it. What I care about is her and having her love…I want and I need her presence. She also says that what I call coming out, isn’t coming out at all. I have told my whole family that I love her – immediate family and aunts and uncles, I have told the people closest to me at work – including my boss – that I’m in love with a lesbian, I have told all my friends, and I am still telling friends – the ones who I’m not as close with. I think she says I haven’t come out yet because it’s only her I love. She says I have to love more women in order to come out properly. I do have respect for women but I don’t love all of them – not like I love her. I don’t understand why this is a problem for her.
      She knows how I feel for her – I have told her many times. I have written her poetry (some I have given her, some I haven’t). When you explain how badly you felt about a previous lover of yours leaving you for a man, it makes me realize that that is probably the reason she wants me to have more female lovers – so she can be reassured that I’m not going to leave her for a man. I can’t blame her for this fear – I understand what you and Sheila have expressed – that a lot of ex-het women go back to men. But I cannot show anyone the honesty in me that I do not want another man lover in my life. It is something that only time can prove, I guess. I have never knowingly taken the easy road – I may have been taking it the whole time I was a het-woman, but I didn’t know it – I didn’t know lesbianism was a choice, an option. But now that I know, I know there is a hard road to travel and I’m not afraid of it. I want to travel it – I have to! It is in me to do so. I just hope she will find it in her to still love me and want to be with me as much as I want to be with her.
      I will look for these books/movies you suggest – I can’t wait!!
      I’m sorry to hear your community is not a good one right now. That is the type of thing that weighs heavy on ones heart.

      • Lesley says:

        Eewww… just had a terrible thought – I forgot to mention that I’m no longer living with my husband. We aren’t officially divorced yet (give me strength, everyone knows how long a process they stretch that out to be) but we are definitely separated.

  13. SheilaG says:

    Any woman who is still married to a man has no business with lesbians.

  14. Bev Jo says:

    I agree with Sheila. That really could be part of her fear or worry. Can you get her here, to write with us and share what she thinks? Perhaps she’s thinking it makes sense for you to be lovers with someone in your same position or she’s testing you? What does she say about how she feels about you and why she got involved with you?

  15. Bev Jo says:

    I forgot to add that women who identify as Lesbians and having kids is not new in our community at all. It’s part of what destroyed female-only space.

    • Lesley says:

      Yes, I admit… you both are right. I should have no business with her… but I can’t help that I fell in love with her when I did. I did not go out looking for love. Divorces take years to finalize – I can’t help that either. And Bev Jo, you are right again – she has said that I would be better of with someone in the same position as me. She won’t admit how she feels about me now – she’s trying to stop loving me I guess. She knew my history before she got involved with me but says she must have gotten involved with me because what she thought was a Dyke-y fibe must have been a bisexual vibe. I do not identify myself as lesbian – I would not disrespect a life long lesbian that way – and she has helped me see that, and she is not a life long lesbian either. She is ex-het too, the difference between me and her is she knew her whole life she was a lesbian but went through a denial period where I’m just finding out now…WAIT!! OMG – I just remembered something – something crucial. You say a married woman has no business with lesbians…. hold one, let me look something over…

      • Lesley says:

        … I would love to get her here, but I have a feeling she’d be really upset with me for bringing this to your attention – I don’t know how she’d react. Let me ponder some more about my realization. Thank you both for your words.

  16. SheilaG says:

    Lesbians bringing boy children into sacred lesbian spaces has been a very long standing problem. It’s nothing new.

  17. Valerie M says:

    Are you sure, ‘Lesley’, that she said to go out and get sexual experience, or even relationship experience, and then come back to her? That sounds pretty weird. Are you sure she didn’t just say that you would be better off with someone more like-minded, like a bisexual woman, instead of insisting on constantly hurting her? And that if you chose to continue this path that you would gain more experience with Lesbianism? Because none of that means ‘go have a string of casual affairs and then come back to me’.

    Also, are you sure she would be okay with you quoting something she said to you during such an intimate moment for the whole internet to see? Maybe the problem is that you don’t really respect Lesbians or the relationships Lesbians forge together. I mean, if she is ex-het and you are hurting *her* with your heterosexuality, why do you think it is okay to come and burn up the time and energy of even *more* Lesbionic women like Bev and Sheila, for things they have already taken the trouble to type out?

    I think the reason you forget everything you read about Lesbianism the minute you walk away is because it doesn’t really matter to you. All you want to do is learn enough of the language to tell her what you think she wants to hear.

    Are you sure she hasn’t taken the time to point out carefully what the problems are? Are you sure she hasn’t spent weeks and months trying to discuss this with you, only to have you repeatedly ignore every single thing she says and just come back with something like ‘I know what this is *really* about! It all started around the time when you gave me your spare key, that must be the *real* problem!’ Well, no. Maybe she has tried until she was blue in the face to tell you the real problem and you just don’t listen/take it in/give a shit.

    Are you sure you don’t rub your marriage in her face and say things like (paraphrasing) ‘At least my marriage was a real one, not a sexless sham like yours’? I mean, being proud of yourself for spending years and years and years *happily* doing the things you did, ahem, I mean, may have done with your husband is not going to make her feel attracted to you, that’s repulsive actually.

    Are you sure you don’t ignore her requests for space and time to recover from the way you drain her emotionally? Are you sure you don’t go behind her back, pose as a stranger, and have a public conversation with her friends, unbeknownst to them, where you misrepresent what has taken place between you in order to gain support from Lesbians whose time you are not entitled to, when you constantly deny your het privilege and behaviour in real life, in a community you have *never* contributed to?

    But, you don’t want to be a typical problematic het woman, right?

    • Lesley says:

      I have no difficulty whatsoever admitting when I am wrong, but Valerie M, her exact words to me were “There has got to be more women out there to have sex with than just your cousin.” So yes, to me that means to go out and get sexual/relationship experience elsewhere. However, you are correct, she also did say that I would be better off with a more like-minded woman.
      In regards to quoting something she said over the internet, I have apologized for this. I am not used to making comments on the internet and simply forgot I was doing so. I realize it was a terrible thing for me to have done, but I honestly felt I was trusting my words with Bev Jo. I respect Lesbians, especially Lesbionic women like Bev Jo and Sheila. I came here to Bev Jo’s blog because *she* wanted me to. She even suggested that I comment unanimously. Yes, I wanted help but I didn’t want to bother Bev Jo. It wasn’t until she said she was going blue in the face with trying to get me to read Bev Jo’s blog that I finally took her suggestion from weeks ago to leave a unanimous comment…and please, she isn’t the only one who is hurting.
      I have learned a lot in the past 4 months… and I’ve been told that very few ex-het women would take the time to learn such radical politics in such a short period of time. And what she, you, and Bev Jo consider a waste of energy and time, I consider it a show of how much I love her… my continuous efforts to try to learn should not be taken as a way to hurt her, but as proof that I have not given up. Even if it’s in argument – I am still there, caring enough to continue communication. If I didn’t care, didn’t love her, then I wouldn’t find it worth my time or effort. And the reason I often forget what I have read is because it wasn’t instilled in me throughout my life like heterosexuality was. It does *not* mean I don’t care – if I didn’t care, I would have left long ago.
      No, I did not rub my marriage in her face. The only time I spoke of my marriage was when she asked me a question about my het life. I tried to keep that separate from her, or at least I did when she first mentioned I still had too much het-ness in my life. You mention that she gave me a spare key – but did you also know I *returned* that key without her having to ask me for it? I was always willing to give her space… it’s just she was so quick to forget how good our relationship was. She always was quick to latch onto our arguments, our bad times. However, you are also correct – she has asked for a break and I had a hard time with that. It’s hard to give up something that is so right, but I have.
      I have not misrepresented what has taken place. This is what happened as I see it.

  18. Bev Jo says:

    I’m not sure where to start. Lesley, I do feel like you’ve been playing games here and conning us. You didn’t tell us who you were and you know we’re friends with Val. The image you painted of her is not the Val I know at all. Could it be that you are furious with her and this is your way of trying to hurt her? How is this being loving to her at all?

    You misrepresented what she said to you so you could have the pleasure of seeing me say what she supposedly says to you is male-identified. Your coming across as so innocent and well-meaning, but basically lying, feels like a sado-masochistic game to me. They often will try to provoke and toy with Lesbians. Drawing us in to spend so much time caring about you and giving you advice is an elaborate non-consensual game. You kept back important information until later, and first presented Val as if she was a Lifelong Lesbian, which is part of why it took me so long to figure out who you are.

    Saying “I do not identify myself as lesbian – I would not disrespect a life long lesbian that way – and she has helped me see that, and she is not a life long lesbian either” is dishonest also. How does identifying as a bisexual “respect” Lifelong Lesbians? Most Lesbians are ex-het and of course identify as Lesbians, including Val. Identifying as a bisexual means you are saying you are open to being intimate with men. That doesn’t respect us at all!

    Being still open to men and het privilege, as well as misrepresenting what Val has said to you would of course make her not want to stay lovers. It’s very clear, which is probably why you kept her leaving you vague at first. You must know that. So, really, why did you come here except to try to expose and hurt Val? Why else the dishonesty?

  19. Valerie M says:

    The image you painted of her is not the Val I know at all.

    Well I don’t think she does know me at all. Up thread she says I would fight you tooth and nail if you ever told me anything I said is male or het. That is just not true; I have never been defensive when a lifelong Lesbian points out residual hetness in me. She’s projecting because that’s what she does – refuses to acknowledge her hetness. She can’t comprehend treating a Lesbian like she might know what she’s talking about.

  20. Bev Jo says:

    It’s very painful when you feel like a lover never knew you.

    I agree, I have NEVER found you defensive — not that I’ve found residual hetness in you, but in bringing something else up. That’s very unusual, in my experience, and part of why I trust you as a dear friend and ally.

  21. Valerie M says:

    Thanks, Bev.

    Well at least I have learned some important lessons. No more straight/bi women. No more mothers, unless their situation is like mine (which I don’t really expect to find). It’s just too painful.

  22. Valerie M says:

    Also, I know I have said this privately, but I meant to post as well that I’m sorry you and Sheila were dragged into this. That wasn’t fair on either of you.

    • Bev Jo says:

      You didn’t drag us in. It wasn’t your fault. I hope what Sheila and I said would be helpful for other Lesbians. Anyway, you’re a dear friend! Yes, It’s much better being intimate with real Lesbians, committed to Lesbians.

  23. SheilaG says:

    Val I wouldn’t worry about dragging anyone into anything. The Internet is weird, women on it who are Het or ex-het can be weird. What can you do? Just move on. Usually, the fake lesbians who come on here….well… not worth worrying about… And I most certainly not call you defensive, you seem sensible in you blog commentary, and I certainly enjoy reading what you have to say.

  24. Valerie M says:

    Thanks, Sheila. I always like what you have to say too!

  25. lesley213 says:

    Hi, just to be clear I am not the Lesley who posted above.

    Thanks for this and I agree I chose to be lesbian. I hate the apologetic nature of lesbians saying we can’t help who we are, we were born this way, please accept us. But one thing I have noticed where I live is the increasing number of older women who have been het all their lives and now becoming lesbians. I am 47 and these women are largely in their 40’s, often with grown up or teenage children, although not always.

    On the one hand I think great that these women have finally got the courage to be lesbians and come out. But a disturbing pattern I have observed is how a lot of these women still act like het women and push their female lovers to act like het men. For example, one lesbian I spoke to who is with a woman in her early 50’s who was het until 5 years ago, was jokingly complaining to me that her lover tries to push her into doing all the traditional male jobs like emptying the bin or carrying heavy stuff. Another lesbian friend in the same situation found her lover pushing her in to doing the traditional male rituals for Valentine’s Day – and nothing reciprocal.

    It feels very much like previously Het women bringing into the lesbian community the ways men and women relate to each other and trying to push this onto the lesbian community. I have never read about this phenomenon online or in print and would love to know if it is a more general issue and what other feminist lesbians think of it – particularly those who are older.

  26. SheilaG says:

    Yes Lesley, this is a problem in the lesbian community, and always will be a problem. I’m kind of hard line on this, but I really think the hetero conditioning of newly out lesbians in their 40s is highly annoying.
    And they exhaust me with their thoughtless hetero privilege. I get the feeling that they wanted the money and social status and house, and ALL the women I’ve ever met with VERY BIG houses used to be married to men. So in that sense they aren’t really culturally lesbians at all.
    I hate all this “I was born this way” co-out too. I made a choice to love women, and I found men so repulsive physically and mentally that it there was no way in hell I was going to ever live with them.
    Women were so engaging, so powerful, so intelligent, and I love this in lesbians. Het women strike me as fake, colonized and cut off from their real selves… hetero marriage is just legal prostitution that’s all it has ever been.
    We have found lesbian groups of never het lesbians, and I don’t much deal with newly out women at all, unless they are young women who really want my support. Culturally, hetero norms just exhaust me, and I don’t want to have to deal with the vestiges of heteronormativity in women who “suddenly” come out at age 40, for example. I come from a very radical lesbian feminist perspective, none of us had ever married men, we had a real community, and I find a lot of lesbian feminists in their 50s and 60s are just magic because we share a culture, a herstory, a time and a place.
    Women who have grown children are just a pain to deal with— I don’t want to hear their yapping about “my son is a doctor” yap yap yap, I just don’t give a damn about hetero family units, so these women irritate me. They are still oppressed by heteronormative ways of being, still trying to free load off of butch dykes and it doesn’t work with me. If I meet a lesbian who wants me to buy her a drink, I can tell an ex-het a mile away!!!

  27. SheilaG says:

    I don’t do “lesbian 101″ with women who married men!

  28. lesley213 says:

    I totally understand not wanting to sleep with women who have been married and come out later in life. Personally I wouldn’t go as far as not wanting to engage or be friends with these women. Its true what you say about how women who have been married are much more likely to have big/more expensive houses and be in a better financial situation. Yes they have benefitted totally from het privilege, but rarely acknowledge it. Instead many talk about how jealous they are that they didn’t become lesbians at a younger age. This is a valid regret, but I have never heard it expressed by a woman who also acknowledges her het privilege.

  29. SheilaG says:

    Perhaps I should clarify a bit. I don’t place any limitations on women and friendship. Whether women are lifelong lesbians or formerly het lesbians, I find I am compelled by the women not a particular background. However, what I have noticed is that formerly het women often don’t get me, have no idea of the struggles I’ve been through, and don’t share my profound love of radical lesbian culture, women’s herstory, our great revolutions…. in many ways, they just don’t have a special education that was our struggle for freedom from male domination. They often have no idea of what horrifying bores they are, how they talk about kids or ex-husbands…. no recognition of hetero privilege at all… a kind of clueless existence. No self-reflection. Now Bev and I believe that women CHOOSE to be lesbian or not, they consciously make a choice to date nightmare teenage boys, for example. They adapt to hetero normative worlds to fit in, and because they are moral cowards, they are the Jews who are the Capos of the death camps, they give aid and comfort to my enemies, and yet they feel they are fully entitled to be honored by the lesbian revolutionaries, the women who never once bowed down to men. They make fun of us, they say we don’t exist, they believe all women have sex with men or had sex with them at one time… they actually assume at lesbian groups that ALL the women in the room would have sex with men, and that it is impossible to lead a life free from sexual colonization. And their assumptions are dead wrong.
    Bev and I get mad at being erased by women who sold their bodies to men! So ex-het women need to own up to the past, own up to the privilege, although I think they paid a price for the cowardly sell out to men life.
    Perhaps they regret this. Although I hate the hetero world deeply and all it’s male supremacist trappings, I do feel very powerful in my absolute stance on women being supreme, superior, and in fighting for that liberation with no compromise. For this special generation of lesbians, we have much to be proud of.
    And it is on these VERY rare blogs like Bev Jo’s that we fully express ourselves. I know Bev has my back and I have hers, we know lifelong butch dyke solidarity, we know that any woman who willingly has sex with men loses something forever, and can never get it back. Just one contaminating sexual experience with men and its over. Women who have been owned by men show it, you can feel it, you can sense it energetically. And all those het girls who made fun of us, who were cowards and sell outs now howl in despair because now they know. And this truth needs to be told, and there really has to be some place that lifelong lesbians can gather and share this incredible life experience, this powerful sense of integrity.
    It’s why we hate the trans invasion, it’s why we get sick of women and their damn children, and their hetero past. And the very thought of a sexual relationship with a woman who had sex with a man is horrifying to me on a level that can’t be understood by women who think this is no big deal. Why would I want the energetic connection to that? There is no beauty in that, no compelling self-respect.

    If this were put out there bluntly, how many young girls would wake up soon enough, and choose not to sell their bodies to boys just because “all women do it.” No all women do not, and in fact, Bev and I had no lesbian role models, no lesbian culture none of it…. but we did have an inner vision of women freedom, of our deep love for women, of the eccstatic passion that is two women… equals… alive in sexual love, spiritual love, and intellectual love. This is the mind, heart and soul of lesbian nation from the women who lived it for decades and decades.

    When I met Bev Jo, it was like a huge homecoming, a meeting of long lost family, a deep knowing.

  30. Bev Jo says:

    Hi Lesley, nice to see you here!

    I agree completely. We wrote our book to support Lesbians to understand what undermines and hurts us as individuals and as communities. “Heterosexism Among Lesbians is Lesbian-Hating” is our third chapter, where we talk exactly what you are mentioning. I think that this is part of what destroyed our radical Lesbian Feminist movement of the Seventies. I saw it happening as we made it easier for women to come out. They are still undermining us by bringing in so many Lesbian-hating values, including scapegoating Lesbians for men. I remember an ex-het Fem Lesbian telling me how she had beaten her Lifelong Lesbian working class Butch lover because she had so much anger at her ex-husband and father.

    I really want to get our entire chapter at this blog, but that means re-typing it all.

    I really agree with Sheila too! She’s been incredible support. Most Lesbians are ex-hets and I’m close friends with many, and those with Radical Lesbian Feminist politics have been among my best support, but that’s because they have explored all of this and are as upset with the Lesbian-hating values and politics of the more arrogant ex-hets. They are also hurt by the weakening of our communities.

    We do get viciously attacked for saying any of this. It really is forbidden among feminists. I hesitate to say “contaminated” because I don’t want any woman who chose heterosexuality to feel badly, but I am regularly bombarded in my community by putdowns if I ever say I haven’t been het in response to the ex-het bragging that is common.

    We aren’t to speak of it, but why? Women are most likely killed by men they know, and some who have come out have been stalked into the Lesbian community by men who go after not only their ex wives or girlfriends, but the Lesbians they are with. If we talk about his danger for Lesbians, we are name-called. Contact with men also brings disease into our communities, some of which kills. Why is this never talked about in feminist groups? I’ve been told by so many Lesbians that they are afraid to say their politics because of repercussions, yet in facebutt feminist groups het women still wield their privilege, bragging how much they love to be fucked.

    Another aspect is how het women change their feelings and even their bodies to please men. This also is brought into our communities. I had no idea how common it was for women to pay to have their vulvas waxed. When these women come out and continue this grotesque practice and then humiliate and pressure Lesbians to do the same they are truly “contaminating” our communities. The intrusion of dildos and other aspects of sado-masochism are other forms of contamination that come from male worship and contact with men, and which are pushed on Lesbians. And then there is the disconnect between heart, mind and body. I see non-Lesbian feminists online have no understanding of what being a Lesbian is. They try to discuss us as being about sex, without understanding we are Lesbians because we love women. And when they do come out, what is their way of making love? I have been hurt by ex-hets who just try to mimic what men did to them. Or they lay there, assuming they will be serviced, with no desire to reciprocate. There are so many ways that women who chose men over women first and sometimes for decades can harm us. Yet almost no Lesbians or feminists talk about this.

    • sanddunesandcastles says:

      From the outset, I’ll say that for me life is forever a learning experience, and I speak from my experience in saying that there is a great deal of political correctness and wanting to avoid offending people even in communities that have experienced grievous offenses to say the least. And I believe that even in feminist communities, some of which I have been so fortunate to have been a part of, there is palpable reserve when it comes to fully addressing issues of ex-het lesbians hurting non-ex-het lesbians by bringing many of the behaviors you mentioned above, such as their expecting to be serviced without reciprocating, or their viewing and treating butches in the same way that they do the men in their lives.

      Not too long ago, when I used to attend undergrad feminist meetings, I felt such great community with them. Their voices spoke so much truth as you all do here. They opened their hearts to all that would hear. They spoke of love and hate, of coming out, going back in, and coming out again. And in all that they said, there was great paucity in speaking of the grief we suffer as a result of internalized heterosexism from former heterosexual lesbians.

      I think that lesbians know how hard and painful it can be to come out and try to find a sense of peace in oneself, so some lesbian feminists I’ve known do try to avoid hurting or offending ex-het lesbians by not calling them out on some of the things that they do to hurt the lesbian community. There are many examples of this, but one that is so recurrent is that of expecting butches to be “handy-men”. I know this personally, because I am always expected to know how to fix the tire or to be the one who carries another over a puddle in the rain (which I don’t mind doing). And whether we like it or not, many of us don’t vocally address heterosexist values and prejudices amongst lesbians. We fear losing any more women. This world is already too harsh to women.

    • sanddunesandcastles says:

      From the outset, I’ll say that for me life is forever a learning experience, and I speak from my experience in saying that there is a great deal of political correctness and wanting to avoid offending people even in communities that have experienced countless grievous offenses to say the least. And I believe that even in feminist communities, some of which I have been so fortunate to have been a part of, there is palpable reserve when it comes to fully addressing issues of ex-het lesbians hurting non-ex-het lesbians by bringing many of the behaviors you mentioned above, such as their expecting to be serviced without reciprocating, or their viewing and treating butches in the same way that they do the men in their lives.

      Not too long ago, when I used to attend undergrad feminist meetings, I felt such great community with them. Their voices spoke so much truth as you all do here. They opened their hearts to all that would hear. They spoke of love and hate, of coming out, going back in, and coming out again. And in all that they said, there was great paucity in speaking of the grief we suffer as a result of internalized heterosexism from former heterosexual lesbians.
      I think that lesbians know how hard and painful it can be to come out and try to find a sense of peace in oneself, so some lesbian feminists I’ve known do try to avoid hurting or offending ex-het lesbians by not calling them out on some of the things that they do to hurt the lesbian community. There are many examples of this, but one that is so recurrent is that of expecting butches to be “handy-men”. I know this personally, because I am always expected to know how to fix the tire or to be the one who carries another over a puddle in the rain (which I don’t mind doing).

      And whether we like it or not, many of us don’t vocally address heterosexist values and prejudices amongst lesbians. We fear losing any more women. This world is already too harsh to women. And with very few us at the heart of struggle for justice, some are given to coddling too much or excusing away too much just to have measurable numbers to continue forwards.

  31. SheilaG says:

    Yeah, ex-het women can be a great danger to lesbians because of the ex-husbands. I know of several women who moved in with newly out ex-het women, and the husbands made threatening phones calls, of course took the children away, and many damaged property and threatened the lesbian love. Het women bring the dangerous baggage, or should I say garbage with them…. the sons, the ex-husbands, the boyfriends, the male identification…. They bring a clueless hetero entitled attitude, they tend to be pretty ignorant of lesbian herstory, customs and traditions. However, they do get worshipped and adored because of their ex-het status, and lesbians are supposed to ooo and ahhh over their children.
    Throw a party, and if het women come, they bring men with them, never really getting the concept of female only spaces. So het women and ex-het women do pose threats to lesbian communities, and I have yet to see any ex-het women own up to this or even think about it. But they do this all the time. It slows down lesbian sisterhood to have to deal with these women constantly coming into the community, using it, and saying dumb things like: “Oh I’m still best friends with my ex-husband.” They really get upset at my radical separatist politics, and in fact, have little comprehension of lifelong lesbians and our power base.

  32. Bev Jo says:

    sanddunesandcastles, nice to meet you! Welcome!

    I think the het women are often considered by feminists to have much harder lives than Lesbians, with their privilege ignored, and so ex-het Lesbians are also coddled, as you said. But while ex-het Lesbians are so much more valued, and no one seems to care about how not challenging their Lesbian-hatred and heterosexism might be hurting or driving away the Lesbians they oppress. That’s the problem with those who reflect dominant oppressive cultural values and politics — they dominate. I agree about not wanting to lose numbers, but so many Lifelong Lesbians and Butches have died from oppression and suicide, way out of proportion to their numbers. Even more cruel, we keep being told by lesbophobic Lesbian how male we are, although being Butch is the opposite of male.

    But everyone who speaks out against this makes a difference. It’s so heartening what you’ve said — thank you.

    • sanddunesandcastles says:

      It is a great honor and a great pleasure to be in the presence of a lifelong lesbian because I know I am in the presence of something truly remarkable. And so I’ve greatly enjoyed reading from you, Bev. Your words are so pure and honest.

      Heterosexism is so devastating to our sisters who are lifelong lesbians, I know. Too many of us are being slaughtered by hate and moral cowardice, as Sheila puts it. But you stand strong. More of us need to stand strong in spite of the encroachments into our circles, our homes, our hearts, our thoughts, our lives.

  33. Bev Jo says:

    Thank you SO much. It’s an honor to meet you also. You give me hope for all of us with your Lesbian-loving words.

  34. SheilaG says:

    I think we are getting somewhere on this blog. I can’t think of any spaces now where we discuss the differences of ex-het lesbians and lifelong lesbians. Our numbers always seem so small, our resources so limited, the money always seeming to go to every GBT cause, but lesbians naturally have to scrape together the crumbs. So we do have scarcity, and when you have this to such an extreme degree, it causes standards to be non-existent. It’s why there is such incredible ignornace of butch life and culture, and why when you do bring this up, it’s usually met with incredible incomprehension.
    Ex-het lesbians do have a air about them. I must say, I don’t really get the “handy-man” stuff, because my partner and I don’t have a lot of skills in that department. I do notice that at a dance, for example, I do have to ask most women to dance. But asking a woman to dance is not as difficult as changing the oil in a car.
    Just how much privilege and entitlement do ex-het women bring to our community? I’m not entirely sure here, because I mostly hang out with women who never married men, or if they are younger they were always lesbians. Occasionally, I have met women in their 70s or early 80s, and their life stories are so shocking and horrifying that even with all their privilege, I am sure glad I was never them. They marry men for survival, get the pension and social security, the men drop dead, they then find a new female partner– quite a system ex-hets have going there.

  35. SheilaG says:

    I’m not so sure there is all that much political correctness going on in Los Angeles. Most of the time, I just want a lesbian only event, where we can be together. I will occasionally have run ins with formerly het women who get over sensitive about “my anger”– they get put off by bluntness, and aggressive questions.
    I have a strong mind and very strong opinions, women know it, and when I get some woman chastising me for speaking my mind, I can almost with 100% accuracy guess that they were once married to men, that they had kids… I point this out, they get uncomfortable. “You’ve learned too many bad habits living with the enemy and living off his paycheck,” I sometimes say. There is the fem stuff, the made up faces, the stupid clothing…. I find it so unattractive. Straight women who are very “girly” have weird questions too– “Why do butch women dress like men if they hate men?” “Why do straight women dress like male pleasing slaves?” I countered. I was asked this recently. I told this straight woman that I find women with short hair incredibly attractive and that fem attire really is a sexual / romantic turn off. “Women who dress like the sex toys of men just aren’t sexy to me,” is how I rather cleverly put it. I could see her utter amazement at this, because by implication, what I was saying was she was utterly unattractive to me as a butch. This comes as a shock to well dressed hetero women. Even well intentioned liberal het women somehow think that butch lesbians MUST be sexually attracted to them. And since so few women have short hair, well that speaks volumes….

  36. Bev Jo says:

    I really agree, Sheila. So much of it is about Lesbian-hatred among Lesbians. And yes, the sense of entitlement from some is amazing. where they do assume we will be attracted to them. I really want to get our third chapter typed and here on my blog. It explains so much about heterosexism among Lesbians. Thinking of it in political terms takes away some of the personal pain that many Lesbians experience from being oppressed as Lesbians, by Lesbians. If individual Lesbians and our communities became truly Lesbian-identified, they would be so much stronger and safer for all of us.

    • Thanks for the welcome Jo! I look forward to reading your post with your third chapter about this.

      Where I live would be considered culturally “backward” compared to Los Angeles, so it is different here. The majority of lesbians, at least of my age group – 40’s/50’s – do look like lesbians and have short hair cuts. A lot of younger lesbians have short hair cuts like Shane in the L word. And there are a lot of lesbians who have never been with men.

      I actually don’t find a difference between lesbians who have been with men when they were young, 20 or 30 years ago, and those who have never been with menat all. The difference I see is in those who have spent a lot of their adult life dating/married to men – 15/20/30 years. I think the difference is there because these women have been socialised over many years in how to relate to men as a woman in a patriarchial society and I guess this is very difficult, if not impossible to overcome.

      I know Sheila that you are right that for women in their 80’s plus, it was much much harder to be a lesbian. But I have met 2 women from poorer backgrounds in their 80’s who have been lesbians all their life. So although very difficult, some brave women did still manage this and sometimes their history is erased.

      I do get annoyed that in all the talk about discrimination that of course lesbians experience, that it is rarely mentioned that there are lots of advantages to being a lesbian. I chose to be a lesbian and am glad that I am and there are many advantages to being so. I know saying this upsets some heterosexual women who see it as a personal attack; but I think we should be more open in saying this.

  37. Bev Jo says:

    Where are you? I’m in Oakland, but where you are sounds so much better than here.

    I do say that I love being a Lesbian and would not want to ever be anything else — so of course there are advantages. But pride and happiness in being who we have decided to be and in our culture is sometimes mistaken for privilege. I so often see Lesbians who describe themselves as radical feminists go on about how very hard het women have it, as if we are lucky. It’s so oppressive to call Lesbians “lucky.” We go through hell to be Lesbians and it’s all a choice. That’s a big gap and weakness in liberal feminism — ignoring het women’s privilege, how they oppress Lesbians, and how they make a choice every day.

    Sadly, I have experienced differences with Lesbians who were briefly het even. Not all, of course. But, for some, it’s like they have so identified with men that they don’t make love — they try to fuck their lovers and hurt them. No gentleness or passion. This is Fems I am talking about…

    Het Women who become Lesbians need to unlearn heterosexuality and maleness.

  38. SheilaG says:

    I am definitly from the school of thought that regards the incredible advantages of being a lesbian.
    There is without a doubt the freedom. I have yet to meet a het woman who seems completely free. If she is in a het marriage, her time is just used up in service to men or children. She literally is in an intellectual prison. Lesbians have an excellent powerful herstory to draw on, and to know the joy of never compromising within the hetero coercive society is indeed a joy. With one’s lover, you never have to deal with birth control or accidental pregnancies. There is a kind of wild passionate intellectual connection between lesbians too that is unlike any conversation I have ever had with a straight woman. Het women have shackles on their brains, they are incapable of that powerful love of equals, they will never know sexual equality, never know it.
    A lesbian with a short hair cut walks down the street with amazing confidense. There is nothing more beautiful than to see two butches stroll down a street at sunset with their arms thrown over each other’s shoulders— there simply is no het equivalent of such wreckless abandonment in beautiful friendship.

  39. Sorry Bev I thought you were in Los Angeles. I am in the UK.

    Lesbians are clearly discriminated against, although certainly here in the UK, much less than in the recent past. But I do think there are lots of great things about being a lesbian and I find lesbians rarely talk about this in the presence of Het women and the few times they do that I have witnessed, the Het women have got very upset about this. Because of course being Het has to be best!

    But it is obvious in lesbian relationships that you don’t have to deal with the sexism that Het women get even from “nice” men. I think lesbian sex is far truer and closer to true women’s sexuality than sex between women and men where the woman has to obviously accommodate the man’s sexual needs and desires. Witness the amount of Het woman who don’t have orgasms or who say that sex is over rated. I said that lesbian sex is far truer and closer to true women’s sexuality as I think even lesbians who have always been lesbians are probably slightly influenced by patriarchial messages about what good sex is.

    I see lesbians helping out other lesbians they hardly know and supporting one another. And just the sense of safeness from being in a lesbian space are all clear benefits that as lesbians we get. Why do we not talk about all these benefits more? Why do we let Hets talk about lesbians as – people who already have a hard enough life so really we shouldn’t be making it any harder for them. This is the kind of stuff I hear all the time. And if I suggest, which I have, that actually I think my life is better as a lesbian than it would have been if I had chosen to be Het, nobody except other lesbians ever wants to hear this.

    It is clear that lesbians who have previously been married or Het for a long time usually continue to benefit from Het privilege once they are lesbians. Accumulated money being the most common. And generally the most feminine looking lesbians I know, who do not look anything like a lesbian, are all in this long term previously Het category. But I also know lots of lesbians, of which I am one, who did have relationships when very young with boys or men, but who have been a lesbian for decades and decades. I benefitted from Het privilige whilst in Het relationships, but I was too young at the time to have any long term Het benefits in terms of money or money towards education or other assets. Maybe I just don’t see it, but I really don’t see a difference between the way I am and my long term partner who has always been a lesbian.

    There are other women I occasionally see who come into my lesbian community and claim to be lesbians, but it is quite clear aren’t. These include Het women who have been abused by men and are looking for a safe space. I have seen several women like this come into the community, remain partnerless and then when they meet a man they feel safe with, disappear again. Or others who clearly come across as dabbling and quickly go back to men. Or one I can think of who has never had a female partner and just seems like a creepy voyeur and exhibitionist. I don’t know how, but these women always feel different to women who really are lesbians coming into the community for the first time.

    I hope you don’t mind me posting on your blog such long posts that are kind off the topic. But I have no one I can really talk to about stuff like this. Thanks

  40. SheilaG says:

    I agree completely Leslie. I don’t know why lesbians don’t talk about the benefits of being lesbians around het women. Most het women just aren’t up for these types of conversations, they get easily skittish and threatened. I once faciliatated a young lesbian drop in group, and one of my sessions I had them list all the advantages of being a lesbian, and all the disadvantages. I started with the positive first, and the room went dead silent, as if this had never occured to them. After some priming of the pump they came up with about four advantages. The negatives flowed like a river.
    But really, I see so much more freedom within lesbian contexts, and het women seem blissfully unaware of just how controlled and owned they are by men. One night, we had a late night meeting, and still wanted to hang — me and a couple of het women. I got a ride from one of the other straight women, and she called her husband, and he was angry that she was still having a fun night out. I clearly got the feeling he thought she was having an affair with a man, so I got on the phone and said we’re all going to the wine bar together. He seemed molified. After the phone call ended, I said, “Geez, my partner knows who I’m hanging with, and I don’t need to check in all the time with her.” Silence in the car. “I guess that’s a big difference between lesbians and het women,” I said. She seemed annoyed at my observation.
    But really, who in their right mind would want to have sex with men. Lesbian sexuality is much closer to the true feeling of the woman’s body, and it seems like a lot of het women just put up with the sex with men as a condition of their marriage. Lesbian only spaces are just so much safer to be in, it is such a joy. Men always bring menace, boredom or ownership issues…. even het women like their “girls’ nights out on the town.” So it is natural for women to want to be together, to hang together, to be best friends together, but it seems awkward to try to do this with men. Socially het women actually don’t have the power to have close friendships with other unmarried men, or even with married men… no sexual, just friends. But I can stay out very late with a het woman friend, or I can stay out late with lesbian friends, and can feel a very touching and deep connection to them. Male ownership of women is the price het women pay for “marriage security.” Most lesbians I know are simply not that possessive. Freedom from roles, freedom to have many friends, freedom to deeply love many women…. the joy of lesbian sisterhood is so encompassing, it makes every thing else seem staid and pathetic. But het women don’t know, because they have sold their bodies and now must pretent that this is wonderful.

  41. Bev Jo says:

    It’s fine, Lesley, to post about what ever you like here!

    I do agree with you both that it is absolutely wonderful being a Lesbian. In spite of being hated, threatened, attacked, lied about, etc., I would never choose to be anything else.

    That is part of why I get so upset with Lesbians accepting the gay male line (and Lady Gaga) that we are “born this way” and it isn’t a choice. Of course it’s a choice, and the Lesbians who came out with feminist support used to say it clearly before the propaganda from gay men that was used to beg for equal rights. It’s infuriating when anyone says they would love to be het, but can’t. Of course they can! But why? I could eat dog shit too, but why? As Sheila said, “But really, who in their right mind would want to have sex with men?”

    There is some truth to “born this way” in terms of heterosexuality not being natural or good for women, but then choices are made.

    That is the big open secret that patriarchy does not want women to think about or know. I do not believe any woman or girl would choose heterosexuality if it wasn’t for all the rewards and the punishments for refusing. I have watched this for decades. I’ve heard women talking about it — just wanting to be “taken care of” by men with access to money, be accepted by their families finally, etc.

    I always say that it’s selling yourself, and so cheaply. Yet they feel superior to us, at our expense.

    I also think that all kinds of mind fuck goes on, so, as much as many het women act horrified by our existence, they also call us “lucky.” So I want to make it clear that we are an oppressed people, choosing oppression in order to be true to ourselves and in support of other females, including saying no to men and patriarchy. Meanwhile, het women are oppressing us by choosing males over females, often reproducing more males, and keeping patriarchy going.

    I agree, Sheila, “There is nothing more beautiful than to see two butches stroll down a street at sunset with their arms thrown over each other’s shoulders— there simply is no het equivalent of such wreckless abandonment in beautiful friendship.” We are so reviled, yet so glorious. We just follow our hearts, refuse to be bought, and we threaten patriarchy at its evil core.

    So yes, let’s talk more about it all and het women will have less excuse to be het. I also see Lesbians helping and taking care of everyone and everything, way out of proportion to our numbers. Generosity and kindness, and creating magical energy like what happens nowhere else.

    In terms of women who choose males first, I still think that there has to be some harm done, a disconnect. Maybe that isn’t always the case, but I’ve seen it, with a break between “sex” and “love” that too often carries over into Lesbian relationships. Some ex-hets, having learned sex from men, then unconsciously imitate men and literally hurt their lovers. Or they shut down. Some are overly focused on their vaginas, as opposed to their clitorises, while others, like an ex of mine, adamantly do not want their vaginas touched (as if they have been traumatized), but then do when they go back to being fucked by men.

    Yes, I’ve too seen women coming out to just take from Lesbians or to get a better deal than they could get with men, but they are so Lesbian-hating that they use and traumatize lovers. Lesbians are clearly their second choice. Or they get Lesbians to be in love with them and devoted to them, while refusing to make love. (We wrote about this all in detail in our chapter on heterosexism among Lesbians.)

    By understanding all this and wanting to work it out, ex-het Lesbians can stop oppressing Lifelong Lesbians, which is good for the ex-het Lesbians who love Lesbians.

  42. SheilaG says:

    All of the things Bev wrote about above are wise and reasoned. I think we have to think very seriously about patriarchal structure. Just why are butch lesbians so hated? Juse why is the heteronormative “choice” so all pervasive in media, in schools, everywhere? Just why is any movement by women for the benefit of women so viciously attacked by men? And just why do women really choose men? Just recently, I had a conversation with a het woman who thought it odd that women would not be stay at home wives if they could afford this. I was very mystified by this statement, since I have always loved working, and most certainly would not a man to have economic control over me. “Why would you want your entire economic destiny in the hands of a man?” I asked her. She was so into the ideal of women “being taken care of” by men. It is so engrained in women to be dependent. Let’s look at this realistically, lifelong lesbians are rare in our world, yet why is it that the world so hates and attacks us.
    If we say women consciously choose the best deal, which Andrea Dworkin explains quite clearly in her book Right Wing Women, then we can begin to understand the mind of women who choose to marry men.
    We make all kinds of choices based on desire for social approval, but if we examine the concept of choice itself, how come het women are such slaves to fashion? Are they choosing to plaster their faces with make-up?
    Choice is fake in the midst of overwhelming propaganda and social and legal incentives to have sex with men in order to have “a family” “security” a “protector.” Women give in to this all the time. It’s why 20-somethings marry very rich and famous older men to begin with. The men are rich, they buy the women.
    Lesbians, having very little money, really can’t buy much of anything. We own no vast tracks of land, we don’t own factories, we can’t provide high paying jobs to anyone. We really have so little it is painful. yet we somehow care for the world, when the world doesn’t give a damn about us.

  43. SheilaG says:

    What I somethings ask myself, is what made me so longing for freedom, that I would reject completely all men for the love of women? What made me hate boys from the earliest of ages? What made me so love girls and women? Why was I happy to earn my own living, open my own doors, and be in the world without some man or boy on my arm? Really, what made me feel so bored at the thought of taking care of children? It was the boredom I felt around colonized het women, even as a young girl, I was bored by that life. It is very recognizable when I meet another butch who has never had sex with men. I know this energetically, I can feel a deep love, a very deep connection. Although I love all kinds of women, when I am around women who sell their bodies to men for money and social status, I find it hard to love them at all. They actually look quite repulsive to me — the horrifying clothing, the made up faces, the fake smiles… troubling to watch. I horrifies me when young women are acting all sexy to get the attention of boys; I feel revulsion. I never acted like that, I don’t ever act like this in lesbian worlds. It is virtually impossible to be a fake self in order to attract women, because my love of women is about passion, but it certainly isn’t a role. The depth and difference in my deep friendships with other women is inexplicable.
    So if there is big money in it, big status, is it any mystery that women choose to marry men or have sex with them? If you get a big house, and if you get a huge wedding, and all your relatives LOVE you and celebrate you just because you MARRIED A MAN, what does this say?
    All human beings are tempted, we all face a variety of temptations just because we are human, and just because we all long for some semblance of social acceptance. The butch dyke, for some reason choosing not to go along with this patriarchal charade. It’s why feminist movements throughout the ages are always led by lesbians, and lesbians comprise the bulk of the most passionate radical feminists out there.

  44. SheilaG says:

    Why do you think there is so much social punishment for butch lesbians? Why the overreaction? All I do is wear a well tailored suit, polished shoes, a top hat now and then at formal events. You’d think I’d committed mass murder. I feel no attraction to men whatsoever, they seem like social clods, completely unloveable. How can I ever be at ease with people who rape women? But put me in a roomful of lesbians, and I am ecstatically happy. I fall in love with women so easily. It is a completely natural thing for me to wildly love women. At the same time, I am revolted by how most het women dress these days…. the exposure of breasts, the made up faces, the ugly clinging spandex dresses, the fawning over men and boys…. fawning…. If I am in love with a woman, I don’t fawn, but my smile is deep, my gaze direct, and in this love, I am fully in the moment. Women are under punishment of social ostracism if they choose a woman. When was the last time you visited a lesbian who owned a 5000 square foot home? An actress doesn’t count! When was the last time you moved to a town that was beautiful owned by 1000 lesbians?
    When was the last time you went to your local movie theater and saw a beautiful movie about two butch women falling in love, and about their life, with Hollywood production quality? When was the last time a movie about butch lesbians got an academy award, not some fake the Kids are All Right. When was the last time you went to a 5-star restaurant owned by butch dykes? All of the money, glamour and power is held by men, and women want a part of it. They will marry men to get this, they will reject women because women don’t have the buying power men do. Hetero women choose a life, they endure sex with men, they let men do things sexually to them that they don’t like. No woman has ever forced me to have sex or ever demanded sexually disgusting acts with me. It never ever happens, because my body is not for sale. And I am deeply in love with women, and there is no sex involved at all. The love is deep and expressive and unguarded. I will not hide this love, and sometimes this great affection that I feel for certain women will get misunderstood by all the lesbians out there conditioned by formerly hetero lives.
    They often mistake my relationships with other women as sexual, when they are not. These women used to be het, used to be married with kids, they are still stuck in that idea that if you show great love for a woman, you are “involved” with her. That is so limiting as to be sad in my opinion.
    The one thing the lesbian world suffers from is the hetero imitative coupledom, that then takes women out of the community to hole up with a lover, when having a lover should not limit your love of women, and I do mean in a Platonic sense. It is hetero normative values that limit the depth and breadth of lesbian potential.
    Yes, women do make a choice. They are told everywhere to worship femininity (slave like behavior that looks like how blacks were made to act in 1930s films– remember Sambo? remember step and fetch it?
    Well that’s how women “perform femininity”– it is what men demand. But butch dykes who have never been het somehow choose differently. We don’t sell our bodies to men ever, we don’t sell our great dyke love! We are the most passionate of lovers, the most devoted of friends. We know we have to be careful of fem women, because fem women often take advantage of us. Just as they take advantage of men.
    They think we look like men, but really, we look like women. Go to any butch type event, and all the women have NO make-up, so they are real women. No breast implants, no plastic surgery, no fake anything. It’s what real women look like. It’s how real women love without the male boot on our necks.
    And this freedom is hated, it is condemned, it is taken advantage of by women who used to have sex with men, and then think they want to have sex with us. Well no, I am not interested in women who have had sex with men. I can feel love and compassion for them, but never ecctatic love, because I love women who have never sold out. I love women who chose not to be a part of the patriarchal propaganda machine.

  45. Bev Jo says:

    That is all so beautifully said, Sheila. I agree. This has been my life’s work, really, to describe and define and defend what it means to really be a Lesbian. To fight the lies and stereotypes about us that men push, but which women who support men also enforce. And it continues now with women and Lesbians fighting us on behalf of men claiming our identity. Such a basic obvious issue. Most women will do almost anything for males. So many of us have written about it for decades, but it continues in the same forms (a Lesbian dancing who is afraid to upset the man who insists on dancing with her and then starts to grab and grope her) and newer forms (the man who claims to be a Lesbian who intrudes his prurience and male predatory attitudes into our communities, but this time women defend him). It’s all about loving and protecting females, or putting males first.

    We wrote out book to focus on what goes wrong among us, to help make Lesbian communities and relationships be the best possible. But once again, we are forced to have to think about or deal with males, including their influence through other women. Once, we had basic feminism to analyse and explain what is going wrong. Now, most Lesbians I know have no awareness of it. So without that, our communities are full of heterosexism and heterosexist attitudes where the most het/male identified of women are the most valued.

    Just to make it clear that there is a large variety of Butches though, I do not wear top hats or expensive clothes. I dress the way Lesbians dressed for years in our communities — comfortable and very out. But, like you, I get baited and harassed for it, while Lesbians swoon at those with makeup and dresses. What is more disturbing is in the feminist online groups so few seem to be aware of how false male-defined femininity is and how it is everywhere. If they don’t know, they can’t fight it. I believe fighting it not only strengthens each woman, but also helps all women and Lesbians. It’s like women are as terrified to be real and natural as many are to not be completely identified with men.

    And yes, would it be amazing to see a film about two Butches in love? Films don’t even show Butches at all! And the movies and television series still have to show “Lesbians” who want to be fucked by men. The gay male series “Queer As Folk” didn’t show any men selling out in that way. But we aren’t given that same option.

  46. SheilaG says:

    Very astute comment about Queer As Folk, and how gay men never sold out to sex with women scenes.
    But there are a lot of movies about lesbians who have sex with men, and those sex scenes in the movie are made more powerful than the scenes with women. The Kids Are All Right, comes to mind, but also a lot of the L-Word was all about fem women, bi women, and no butches. Shane doesn’t count, and she was a hairdresser in the TV series anyway.
    Now don’t get me wrong Bev, I do NOT wear a top hat every day, and I am as capable of wearing plain old khakis, very scuzzy tennis shoes, and t-shirts. But I also do have tailored suits which are very well made and last for a very long time. I pay less for clothing than almost all women I know. Again, it is quality and not quantity. I do own a top hat, and a pirate hat and a court jester hat too!
    Now where were we…. oh yes, trying to get women to stop fawning over male issues and pay attention to lesbian issues. Wow, what a concept. And we really do need to address heteronormative women who keep coming into the lesbian community and bringing sex with males energy with them. All the sex toys, BDSM nonsense comes out of this. Women get badly sexually corrupted having sex with the enemy, living with the enemy for decades, expecting us to accomodate their MALE children, at the expense and safety of female children. And we have a hard time building a solid movement by defining spaces for lifelong lesbians to be out and proud. I have to endure lesbian groups where some dim witted fem idiot will say something like: “100% of lesbians have been the victims of incest.” What she is really saying, is that incest causes women to be lesbians, or she can only speak for herself. I had to directly challenge her and say NO this is not my life experience, no you are wrong about 100% of anything. And still I have to deal with fems and formerly het women who just don’t want to hear that lifelong lesbians made a choice to love women ages ago, and we were not swayed by culture, by the fact that there was no visibile lesbian culture at all when we were girls. How is it that we can choose, while ALL women “couldn’t help” but have sex with men. Now dumb bells out there are going to jump on me for this comment, I am NOT talking about rape or incest. I am talking about women who willingly CHOOSE to have sex with men, and then somehow later “discover at age 48″ that they are lesbians! It’s these heavily male identified lesbians who are such a drain to be around at times, such a drag on the revolution, and they refuse to work on there hetness, they make endless ignorant comments about butches. They stupidly believe that butches act like men, which is really absurd. I can’t imagine acting like a man even if I really wanted to. I have to deal with insults like “sold out to the man” “I am lucky” I somehow am “lucky to be in a lifelong partnership, when I know I choose to do this.
    And now we have all this f to trans stuff going on which confuses the issue of butch dykes even more.
    I do believe we are rising up yet again, as we always do.

  47. SheilaG says:

    Is there truly a difference between women who have had sex with men, and women who have not. Well hell yes!!! I can tell this almost all the time. Women who have not had sex with men have a long and noble herstory, and it is very powerful when I connect with other butch women who never had sex with men as well. For one thing, they just are amazingly wonderful, the energy profound, and I deeply love them. It is such a relief to meet women who have not sold their bodies to men, because I know they CHOSE, and they were not forced by society. They are stronger, more focused, and I think there actually might have been a lot more of these healthy lesbian communities in the 19th and early 20th centuries than now, and that’s an irony.
    Strength, passion, power— to feel a woman who is this powerful can be an intoxicating experience.
    It is always the women who have had sex with men who say there is no difference. They point to the fact that these lesbians have been lesbians for a very very long time. That is true, but if that is true, how is it that I can feel so passionately that there is something special about women who have never had sex with men. Catholic nuns exude this, butch dykes exude this. We don’t pass as fem, we have no interest in that fake fem persona. There is nothing uglier to me than women with plucked eye brows, lipstick, high heels, tight dresses. I find they look like halloween costumes rather than real live women. It is the slave clothing and demeanor of the male pleasers. You have to ask yourself, why are women so afraid to be without make-up? They think they are choosing to look like all the women in the magazines?
    They were forced to date men? In America, where there are plenty of jobs for women? Are you kidding me? What is the difference between a prostitute and a married hetero woman? Really, what is the difference?

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