Introduction to Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics, 25 years update


Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics

Bev Jo, Linda Strega, Ruston

1990 – 2015

Why We Wrote This Book

I’ve put our entire updated book at the heading of my blog, so all the chapters can easily be seen and linked to, in order.  Each chapter is meant to build from the previous chapter, but most also stand alone, for reading and sharing.

2015 – We have re-positioned the chapters, so our original Chapter One, which was Lesbians for Lesbians, is now Chapter Five. Our new first chapter, The Crimes of Mankind, had been the beginning section of Chapter Two, Heterosexuality/Selling Out Is Not Compulsory, but we are now starting our book with it as a separate chapter, since the rest of our book flows from knowing that males are destroying the earth and that women do have the ability to stop them.

We originally had 13 chapters, but are not posting our three personal stories or our brief ending.

So here are the current chapters:

2015 Update, 25 Years Later — 2015 Update, 25 Years Later —    

Chapter One:  The Crimes of Mankind

Chapter Two:  Heterosexuality/Selling Out Is Not Compulsory

Chapter Three: Heterosexism Among Lesbians Is Lesbian-Hating

Chapter Four:  Supporting Butches Supports All Lesbians

Chapter Five:  Lesbians for Lesbians — Dyke Separatism

Chapter Six: Leather = S/M = Sadism and Masochism

Chapter Seven: Motherhood: The Ultimate Feminine Role

Chapter Eight: Patriarchy Is One Big Unhappy Family

Chapter Nine:  Hidden Disability by Bev Jo and Linda Strega

Chapter Ten:  If Looks Could Kill:  The Most Personal Oppression

In 1990, we published our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes, in order to share our understanding about what goes wrong in our Lesbian communities, friendships, and relationships, and about how that damage has undermined Lesbian Feminism, Radical Lesbian Feminism, Separatism, and Radical Feminism in general. Everything we described or predicted has proven true. (For example, men claiming to be Lesbians and destroying our last women only space is almost beyond belief, but they are now supported by most pretend feminists as well as liberal Lesbians.)

So twenty five years later, I (Bev) am updating our book with our new information and additional chapters with input from Linda Strega.

I’ve also continued posting new articles at my blog, which would theoretically become a second or third book if we had the money and means to publish them.  They are:

Please, If You Love Lesbians and other Women, Think about this:

Defining Lesbians Out of Existence — the Pretenders:
Part One — “Transwomen” Are Still Merely Men.

Part Two – Better to be Anything than a Lesbian: “Transmen” Are Still Women


AGEISM – A Radical Lesbian Feminist Perspective

LIFELONG LESBIAN – Always a Lesbian




The story of Lesbianism is a story of magic and survival.1 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.

Our passion to survive and find each other over great barriers of distance and time is like the crashing of ocean waves. Unstoppable. Like witches, we are a horror story that chills the heartlessness of mankind. We’re said to be figments of the imagination. Like ghosts, we’re simply not supposed to be. Like witches, we are murdered and lied about. And like the ghosts of millions of murdered witches,2 we haunt all of mankind.

Lesbians are part of nature. Like witchcraft, rats, spiders and snakes, we horrify, because man is so deeply afraid of nature. We remind everyone that patriarchy and heterosexuality are not inevitable.

We dare to be Dykes. That’s our crime against mankind. We dare to love other Dykes. That’s unforgivable in patriarchy. But we won’t be stopped. We want the best possible world for Dykes and all females, and that also means an unpolluted, wild world, safe for the other creatures on earth. The only way to save the Earth is to end patriarchy. The only way for male supremacy to end is for heterosexual women to stop choosing and supporting men and being heterosexual. We can’t prevent men and het women from making their life-hating choices, but, as Dykes, we can choose to stop supporting them, and instead choose to love our own kind and create truly Dyke-identified Dyke communities.

This book is about loving Lesbians, which means fighting male rule and heterosexism. That’s Dyke SeparatismOnly by devoting our lives to ourselves and each other as Lesbians, as a people, will we begin to build truly Dyke-identified Lesbian Movements.  Dykes deserve the very best — other Dykes.

                                                    Valuing Dyke Ways

Why do we often feel that we’re still struggling against familiar pain that wrecked so many of our relationships with other girls when we were younger — betrayals, malice, slander, manipulations, exclusion from cliques? We already know some of the reasons: racism, classism, ethnicism, ableism, looksism, ageism, and fat oppression. There’s another reason that’s seldom discussed, but which explains the many presently “mysterious” disasters among Lesbians: heterosexism or Lesbian-hating among Lesbians.

To have strong Dyke cultures, we need to also return to our true Dyke/female natures. That means recognizing and eliminating the indoctrination of male and het identification that’s imposed on us, which many Lesbians once chose to embrace and which some still actively pursue. Rejecting male definitions of females is central to Dyke Separatism. Because we’re raised in a Lesbian-hating world, we’re all taught Lesbian-hatred. That doesn’t automatically disappear when we come out. This book is about understanding and fighting all forms of lesbophobia and Lesbian-hatred among ourselves as Lesbians, which also means recognizing and fighting female-hating.

Although some of us have had glimpses, none of us knows what it would be like to be part of a truly Dyke-centered, Dyke-loving community. It would be Separatist, with no men or boys welcome, and with het women only as occasional guests. We’d love, protect, care for and value each other as Dykes. We would have one place in the world where we’d be safer, happier, more hopeful, and strong. We would be genuinely committed to eradicating all inequality among us because no oppressiveness is acceptable to true Dyke Separatists and because we want to have the most diverse and welcoming communities possible.

Dykes as a people are incredibly strong and courageous. Otherwise we wouldn’t have survived. But too often that Lesbian strength is spent caring for our oppressors. Too many Lesbians give energy to men and boys. Too many also give their hearts to het women. Even when Lesbians are only with Lesbians, too many maintain and use men’s standards and rules, and police those of us who want to be fully Lesbian in our minds, hearts, and spirits. Het women are revered as the essence of femaleness, beauty, and kindness, while Dyke-identified Dykes are reviled. It’s all a mindfuck that hurts us individually and as a people.

We won’t take care of ourselves if we don’t value ourselves. The Lesbian-only space we need is almost non-existent in the world. “Women’s” space usually includes boys and often even men. Meanwhile, Lesbians are sick and dying from Lesbian oppression.

In the early 1970’s, we felt a sense of hope, excitement, and possibilities for a new beginning. Many of us were finding other Lesbians for the first time in our lives. Dyke communities were growing bigger and stronger, and new ones were forming. There was caring, love, and self-love among us as Lesbians.

Now it’s the era of selfishness. “Lesbian culture” became “women’s culture,” which then became meaningless. Everyone but Lesbians were prioritized by Lesbians. (By 2011, the Berkeley Women’s Health Collective had become the business called the Berkeley Women’s Health Center, which then morphed into the extremely Lesbian-hating Berkeley Clinic for Women and Men.) Theoretically Lesbian organizations, like the National Center for Lesbian Rights3 legally support men against Lesbians, even while still asking for Lesbian money and promoting segregation in our community by having fundraisers that only the richest Lesbians can afford.

Much feminist writing became anti-feminist. Dynamic and exciting Lesbian music became “womyn’s” music, with the politics and culture gutted, and is often even more boring than mainstream het women’s music. The newer musicians played to Lesbian audiences while being closeted enough to attract het and het women. Lesbians idolized Lesbian “stars,” whose goal was to grow in fame and fortune through taking Lesbian energy and diluting it for the consumption of men and het women. The fire, passion, and realness of Lesbian Feminist politics is almost gone.

Some Lesbians say they’re not “political,” as if that means they have no responsibility for what’s happening. But we’re all political. Choosing to passively accept things as they are is as much a political decision as fighting back, because it affects every other Lesbian’s life. Politics are far more than male electoral power plays, or abstract theories — politics means how we decide to live, in a world where every action or inaction affects others.

Instead of working to build Lesbian communities, many women who identify as Lesbians decided to create their own nuclear families by getting pregnant. With “artificial insemination,” they produce over 85% boys, a patriarch’s dream come true. They also formed an enormous, self-righteous, privilege-bonded pressure group, demanding that Lesbians look after their sons and that their sons be welcomed everywhere, teaching their boys that girls and women saying “no” means nothing. They and the men posing as women destroyed our last remaining female-only spaces.

Three events that completely altered our Lesbian Feminists communities were the “feminist” invasions of porn and sado-masochism, along with the arrival of academics (in a culture and movement that previously distrusted academia and had the ideology of no leaders.) The class divisions widened with all three also.

The most influential women who wrote about “Lesbians sex” in the early Eighties were actually choosing to be bisexual while lying and misrepresenting themselves as Lesbian to promote their male-worshipping in our communities, and to make money off Lesbians: Pat Califia (who now pretends to be a man to get sexual access to gay men), JoAnn Loulan, and Susie Bright. (Similarly, the few books supposedly about Butches have usually been by bisexual Fems and are full of porn and Butch-hating stereotypes.)

These het/bisexual pornographers were part of the reason that Lesbians have falsely been identified with sado-masochism, although that history can be traced directly back to het and Gay male organizations.

So a new “women’s” industry appeared, with porn magazines and videos, telephone-sex lines, and strip shows “for womyn, by womyn.” This was even more of a capitalist money-maker than “women’s” music. It’s also directly tied in with the male pornography industry and with sado-masochists.

Some Lesbians and pretend feminists write dramatically about why we shouldn’t have “censorship” in our Lesbian communities. But “Lesbian” porn is male fantasy with Lesbian-hating books and magazines full of male-style pornography –“Lesbians” saying they wished they had penises, and Lesbians wanting to be “fucked” in the vagina and in the rectum by imitation penises. Anyone who protests this and objects to being exposed to it against our will is accused of being like the right-wing, fascist men who outlawed Lesbianism. This is a mind-fuck.

The few of us who dare to speak out against this can’t censor anyone. We can’t stop men or male “Lesbian” pornography. All we can do is protest it and say that we won’t buy it, we won’t support it, and we won’t welcome it into our lives or our homes any more than we welcome men. And when we create rare Lesbian-only space, we have the right to keep porn out so there will be a few small places that are safe for us in this world filled with rape, male-supremacy, and female-hatred (which is what fucking and sado-masochism is all about). In reality, it’s those who dare to protest porn and sado-masochism who are censored. Dyke Separatists are always censored anyway — especially those who dare to write against the heterosexist power structure among Lesbians.

For the Lesbians who are ridiculed and ostracized because you hate porn and sado-masochism and know they are Lesbian-hating, we want you to know you are not alone. There are many of us who agree.

We have been slandered and censored because we dare to fight the lies and speak out against all other male influences in our communities, like pregnancy being promoted, heterosexism, male-identified femininity, and the oppression of Butches, Lifelong Dykes, and Never-het Dykes. If the daily dangers of living in patriarchy haven’t stopped us, then neither will slander by pretend “radfems” or the rape and death threats by the trans cult. Through our work, we continue to meet deeply committed Dyke-loving Separatists and Radical Lesbian Feminists and Radical Feminists of all ages across the world.

                                      Innocents in the Publishing World

Two working-class US Dyke Separatists and one Lesbian Separatist from Aotearoa wrote this book. We aren’t going to name and praise Lesbian stars as many Lesbian writers do. We wrote our book in spite of that network in which shared privilege determines who’s published and who isn’t. We do want to thank our dear friends and the ordinary Dyke Separatists from all over the world who don’t have fame and fortune but whose blood and sweat have kept Separatism and Dyke politics alive.

We did our own writing, typing, word processing, and editing. We don’t claim to be professional writers, and we don’t think Lesbians should have to fit those standards in order to write about our own lives. The most important thing is to be clear and to not be oppressive. Our style is as political as our ideas, and reflects our working class (Linda and Bev) and national (Ruston, Aotearoa) cultures.

It’s important to not change our ways in order to imitate the trend of increasingly unemotional and abstract Lesbian writing. It’s become fashionable for Lesbian political writing to be so academic as to be unreadable, and so vague as to be meaningless. That way no one’s offended, but then no changes in our lives are possible. Lesbians’ communication goals used to be honest, unpretentious writing, easily understood by all.

Too often Lesbian writers, especially the class-privileged, take an entire book to say what could be said in one chapter. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what a writer thinks about a subject even after reading her entire book, because her language and ideas are so muddled by following male academic writing standards. Meanwhile, we had to pack a book into each of our chapters, and a chapter into each paragraph, because of our lack of money and resources.

It serves patriarchy if Lesbians choose to remain permanently confused in a psycho-therapized muddle. It’s frightening to make definite statements and decisions since strong opinions lead to action. Confused liberalness enables you to be “friends” with everyone, while clear political commitment “limits” you to equally committed friends.  There’s plenty of support for the privileged.  We prefer to ally with those who are wronged, knowing that working to stop oppression is the best support we can give each other.

Asking Dyke Separatists or Radical Feminists to explain ourselves in minute detail, sometimes with demands of “scientific” proof, is often a way of evading the truth, as well as a troll technique to divert us, dissipating our energy for political work. This is a common male tactic, but feminists also play “logic” games, distorting our words and meaning in order to evade real issues. (We see this regularly in online discussions where the goal is simply to stop the Radical Feminist discussion by derailing and exhausting everyone. Some of these trolls are very likely to be paid agents.)

Some issues we’re writing about have rarely or never, as far as we know, been written about before. Women who are upset at what we say in this book should remember that learning the truth isn’t always easy. Facing heterosexism in ourselves and other Lesbians is even more painful than recognizing it in men and het women. But the only way to stop heterosexism among Lesbians is to acknowledge and deal with it. It’s far more important for us to support Dykes who are getting support nowhere else than for us to live with comforting illusions and a conspiracy of silence about Lesbian-hating among Lesbians injuring and, in some cases, killing Dykes who are the most oppressed as Dykes.

Intensity and passion have always been the basis of Lesbian cultures. By our very nature, Dykes, particularly Separatists, question and challenge the status quo lies, seeking out not-always-popular truths. That’s how we grow and find our true selves, and begin to heal from the damage that patriarchy inflicts on us.

We write for those who recognize the truth in what we’re saying, and to overcome the barriers of isolation among us. We write to express Lesbian reality in a male and heterosexual world. We write to assert that it’s vital for Lesbians to be clear-thinking, decisive, and politically active for our own Lesbian selves.

                               The Power of Names — Our Definitions

Dyke: We use this term for the most Lesbian-identified of Lesbians. It’s important to remember that it was originally used only for Butches.

Lesbian: A female who loves and falls in love with other females, makes love only with females, and never relates sexually to males or injects semen into herself. When Lesbians are single and celibate, we’re very different from celibate het women, who are still sexually, emotionally, socially, and culturally focused on men.

Lesbianism is far more than a “sexual preference” or “sexual orientation.” It is a choice of women loving women. Everything we feel and do in our lives we do as Lesbians. Our political and creative work is Lesbian. Our friendships are Lesbian relationships.

No male can become a Lesbian. “Transwomen” are simply men perving, fetishizing, and caricaturing women and Lesbians.

Female: The term we use for our sex, since it’s not age-specific and is less identified with heterosexuality than “woman.” Also, it’s a reminder of our link with other female animals on earth, who are generally called “female,” rather than “women.” And, as Julia Penelope said in The Mystery of Lesbians, “female” is derived from the French “femelle,” with no connection to the word “male,” while (crediting the writings of Monique Wittig and ideas of Ariane Brunet and Louise Turcotte) “woman” comes from “wif” (wife) and “man.”

Woman, Womyn, Wimmin, etc.: For many of us, “woman” has meant heterosexual — a “real” woman by men’s standards. It’s a male definition imposed on females and isn’t our natural state. The many feminist variations are closet terms for “Lesbian,” and we refuse to support that trend. When we say “Lesbian,” we mean it. It’s understandable that Lesbians in unsafe situations use a code name like “womyn” to make contact with other Lesbians, but when Lesbians use those terms instead of “Dyke” or “Lesbian” among ourselves, it weakens Lesbian identity. “The womyn’s community” is het-identified, not Lesbian-identified.

Some Lesbians embraced “woman” because that term is denied to many females, especially Lesbians. Men call us “girls” to demean us. However, some Lesbians prefer the term “girl” to “woman” for other reasons. For some African-descent females, poor and working-class females, Lesbians who came out before the Women’s Liberation Movement, and young females, “girl” is a familiar, affectionate term. After all, we’ve all been girls for a long time, while “woman” is a term laden with images of “adult” females who are heterosexually active, wifely, and motherly. For many of us, girlhood was the time when many girls we knew were most clear about loving other girls and rejecting boys. We support girls who call themselves “girls” as a statement of pride, and we support adult females who call themselves “girls” as part of their culture and heritage.

We also don’t call ourselves Gay women since that associates us with Gay men. That term has been a dividing line between Lesbian Feminists and non-feminists or Lesbians who felt afraid to use the term Lesbian.

Lifelong Lesbian: A Lesbian who’s been a Lesbian her entire life (whether or not she made love as a girl) and was never heterosexual.

Never-het Lesbian: A Lesbian who was never heterosexual but who didn’t necessarily identify as a Lesbian from girlhood. Not being heterosexual in mind or practice doesn’t mean that someone is necessarily a Lesbian.

Old Dyke: This is a term used by some Lesbians for Lesbians who came out before the Women’s Liberation Movement. “Old Gay” was sometimes used in the U.S.

Butch and Fem: These terms are defined throughout our chapter “Supporting Butches Supports All Lesbians.” They aren’t “roles” that Lesbians play at or switch, but are choices made at an early age. These ways of being are as much a part of who we are as our class backgrounds. Butches rejected male rules to feminize as little girls, while Fems accepted it. Butches always felt like unnatural outsiders in patriarchy, while Fems always fit in on some level with male and het standards of femininity. Whether we’re Butch or Fem is clearly recognizable from how we look, talk, and act.

We prefer “Fem” to “Femme,” which is the French word for woman. We consider it insulting to call any Lesbian a “woman,” and “Fem” will hopefully be less jarring to French-speaking readers.

Hard Fem: “Hard Fem” is the term I (Bev) coined to describe what has previously been called “High Femme,” which is a complimentary term as well as a goal for too many Fems. Fem is considered the norm, so Butches are scrutinized and divided from each other by Butch-hating stereotypes. Butches who are more acceptable — most often those who are class privileged — are sometimes called “Soft Butches” by Fems, implying that full Butches are the hateful stereotype of hard, cold, mean, insensitive, predatory, etc., which actually is more applicable to Hard Fems. Yet no one criticizes the norm of Fem. Hard Fems also usually wear the extreme male uniform of the feminine drag queen ideal, passing as het as much as possible, slathered in clown-like makeup, wearing exposing dresses and high heels. Hard Fems are often the most oppressive to Butches and Dyke Fems because they are the most invested in obeying and proselytizing male rules for females. Hard Fems also objectify and use Butches as well as Dyke Fems, yet this is never mentioned.

New Lesbian/Women’s Liberation Lesbians: A Lesbian who came out in or after the WLM. In the U.S. and Aotearoa, and many other countries, this is since about 1970.

Queer: We wrote our book before “queer” and “genderqueer” were trendy terms used by and for the “queer” community to avoid saying “Lesbian,” in order to erase and exclude Lesbians. We used “queer” in our book only for Lesbians, since it brings up name-calling,  shame, secrecy, loathing, and fear hets have directed at Lesbians, and expresses the pride and the depth of love we feel for ourselves and each other when we’ve healed that damage. Since the Seventies, “queer” had been a term of Dyke/Lesbian pride as we reclaimed a traditional anti-Lesbian insult that for some of us was the only name we knew for ourselves as girls without support, without any positive image of Lesbians in any media. But it’s not really a term that proud Dykes and Lesbians now can use because it includes our oppressors, as the popular descriptor of Gay men, women who identify with Gay men, bisexual women and men, men posing as women, etc. It’s also become a closet, less Lesbian word that implies Lesbian, for women who are too afraid to call themselves “Lesbian” or “Dyke.”

Het: Heterosexual. This is more specific than “straight,” which also implies correct, honest, non-criminal, and chemical-free. A het woman is a female who is sexual with men, or who, if celibate, still thinks of herself as heterosexual.

A bisexual is a woman who is sexual with men while being sexual with females as well. This includes women who aren’t currently sexual with men but are open to it in the future.

When we talk about “het women” in this book, we’re also generally including bisexuals. Even though they get some degree of Lesbian oppression, bisexuals still get privilege from their allegiance to men, and are in a position to do more intimate harm to us than they could if they were simply het. They have more access to Lesbians physically, emotionally, psychically, and politically. Their men also have access to us: men involved with bisexuals have threatened, attacked, and murdered their girlfriends’ Lesbian lovers. Lesbians involved with bisexuals are exposed to STDs, including AIDS. The personal and community damage that involvement with a bisexual brings is immeasurable. And the existence of bisexual women proves clearly that some women keep as much het privilege as possible while being aware of their option to be Lesbians.

Heterosexual Privilege: The power and privilege of “normality” that women get from being fucked by men, marrying, reproducing, and raising families. Het privilege is everything women get by belonging to men and the het world, and everything Lesbians lose by being Lesbians. But Lesbians who were heterosexual in the past still have some degree of het privilege, particularly when they continue to identify with het women and have het and male values.

Heterosexism: The dogma that all people are or should be het, and that heterosexuality is superior to being a Lesbian. Heterosexism is the most universal institution, and Lesbianism is the most universal oppression. Heterosexism also means Lesbian-hating.

Patriarchy and Sexism: The social system in which males have power over females, and the male belief that males are superior to females. Techniques used to enforce male power include mass murder or genocide (such as the European witch burnings), mass mutilation (such as Female Vulval Mutilation, unnecessary mastectomies and hysterectomies), enforced dieting, murder, beatings and torture, rape (including family rape), stereotyping, insults, and all other female-hatred.

Lesbian oppression is the extreme of female oppression. If females are hated, then females together are doubly hated.

Women-only/Female-only: Is what we used to have before men appropriating our identity demanded access to our last spaces. This space is essential for our survival, community, and culture. We still try to gather together, but are forced to be subjected to men perving on us and to het women openly hating us since we can usually meet only in public places.

Trans cult: I (Bev) coined this term to describe the phenomenon of the most female-hating men demanding we accept them as women, and for some of them, as Lesbians. None of it makes sense since this myth can easily be exposed in one sentence: men can never be women, and women can never be men. The surgery is a joke and does not begin to alter the mind, spirit, soul. Yet men have figured out a clever way to get access to Lesbians previously denied them except through rape. Now they mind-rape and get women to help them.

Since it’s impossible to say no to these men or any of this bizarre ideology without threats, including rape and death, it’s clearly a cult.

“Transsexuals,” “transgender,” “transwomen,” and “transmen” simply do not exist in reality.

Male-Identified: This term is wrongly used against Dykes, and Butches in particular, who refuse to conform to male standards of femininity. Male-identification is actually a measure of how personally devoted a female is to males, and how much of her reality is bound up with the male versions of “reality.” Internalized male culture, which all females in patriarchy inevitably have, shouldn’t be confused with “male identification.” We use the term “male-identified” to describe het women and the most extreme examples of het identification and femininity among Lesbians.

Lesbian- or Dyke-Identified: Dyke-identified Dykes identify with and as Dykes, not with het women or men. While many Lesbians are het-identified, no het woman can be Lesbian-identified unless she becomes a Lesbian. Dyke-identified Dykes look and act like Dykes. The more Dyke-identified we are, the greater our Dyke oppression.

Female-Identified: Lesbians are the most female-identified females, because hetness involves rejecting and betraying females. The more dyke-identified we are, the more female-identified we are.

Aotearoa: The Māori and therefore rightful name for New Zealand. Whanganui-a-Tara is one of the names for Wellington, as is Tamaki-Makaurau for Auckland.

Racial and Ethnic Background: We try to specify the continent of geographical region of origin instead of referring to color to describe someone’s ethnic background. The use of “Red,” “Black,” “Brown,” “Yellow,” or “White” doesn’t accurately reflect the enormous variety of racial and ethnic groups who exist on earth. No person’s skin is literally those colors, and “black” and “white” have been historically used in racist ways to mean negative/positive, inferior/superior, evil/good, etc. We recognize that some Dykes do use “Red,” “Black,” “Brown,” and “Yellow” with pride in their heritage, and, as Dykes, we know well how a term of insult can be transformed into a term of pride. But we agree with and greatly appreciate the work of African-descent US Dyke Separatists who’ve stated their reasons for choosing to name their continent of origin.4 It’s a strong, self-loving identification of the descendants of peoples forcibly taken from their homes by European slavers, separated from those of their own country, placed with others who spoke different languages, and cruelly tortured for daring to speak their languages and pass on their cultures — all in an effort to subdue kidnapped African peoples and deny their heritages. Because of this, most descendants of the survivors of this genocide (estimates are that 20 to 70 million died) are denied knowledge of their countries and cultures of origin.

Identifying one’s ethnic background with region of origin rather than just approximate shades of dark and light skin among us helps every Dyke become more aware of the beautiful variety and complexities of peoples and cultures on this planet. Naming a Dyke’s ancestral homeland — the Pacific, Africa, South, Central or North America,5 the Caribbean, Asia, Western Asia (“Middle East” is not the middle of anything), Atlantic and Indian Ocean island nations, Australia, and Europe, etc. is a beginning, although it’s not adequate. In each area of each region or continent there are many, often hundreds, of individual racial and ethnic groups, each with its own unique past, culture, and language.

Within the Pacific Islands, for instance, there are many nations with cultural, historical, and racial differences, more numerous and complex than the nations of Europe — yet European national differences are far more acknowledged and respected by the dominant, racist European-descent cultures. Calling regions of the Pacific by the European-designated terms “Melanesia,” “Polynesia,” and “Micronesia” is also inadequate. For instance, the original peoples of the enormous area from Aotearoa to Hawai’i to Te Pito O Te Henua (“Easter Island”) are called “Polynesian” because they have some cultural similarities, but they actually represent many distinct peoples and cultures. The same is true for the other peoples of the Pacific.

Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of South and Central America, México, and the Caribbean aren’t just peopled by descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese invaders — they’re also peopled  by the descendants of African slaves and many people of mixed races, as well as the original inhabitants, who are lumped together as “Indians” or other group names that don’t begin to describe the many different original peoples. The original peoples of México alone represent many distinctly different cultures, and the borders set by the European invaders and their ruling-class descendants don’t recognize these different nations. For instance, the Maya live in parts of what are now México, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. In the Andes, the Quechua live throughout what was once Tahuantinsuyo (the Inca lands), in parts of Perú, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina. With their population of over 9 to 14 million, the Quechua are more numerous than many other peoples who are regularly reported on in the media of European-descent dominated countries.

In Africa, there are many ancient traditional nations within each current official nation based on the borders arbitrarily set by European invaders. The people of India and other Asian countries are also many different peoples. The Indigenous people of Australia are also many peoples with many languages. In Canada and the U.S., the hundreds of original nations with their distinct ethnic groups and cultures are simply called “Native Americans” or “American Indians,” if they’re acknowledged at all.

So, though we recognize that it isn’t adequate to simply name the region of the world or continent of one’s ancestors as one’s ethnic identification, it’s at least a respectful beginning.

As an example of the diversity of original peoples in North America, we include in our Endnotes a list of some of the original peoples of just what is now California,6 many of whom still live in California as nations within a nation. (The list is only approximate since it’s based on information gathered and recorded by European invaders in the early years of colonization.) Within California, genocide against American Indian peoples reduced their numbers dramatically.7

The tangata whenua (people of the land; traditional and rightful inhabitants) of Aotearoa identify both as Maori and also with their iwi (nation or tribe)8 and, often, hapu (sub-tribe). It was the English invasion, wars, and colonization, beginning in the 18th Century, that forced the tangata whenua to identify as one group, Maori, in order to make unified resistance.

Aotearoa is Maori land. The iwi of Aotearoa9 traditionally organize themselves according to their turanga-waewae (traditional lands) and the canoe they arrived in from Hawaiki, the ancestral Pacific land.

Rape by Male Family: We say “family rape” or “rape by male family” because the popular feminist term “incest” implies consent, and doesn’t differentiate attacker from victim. Men also use other euphemisms for girl-rape: “pedophilia” (literally “child-love”), or “sexual orientation to children,” “seduction,” “sleeping with,” “having sex with,” “sexual intercourse,” “sexual acts,” 10 and “too much affection.” We encourage you to read Father-Daughter Rape, an excellent book by Australian author Elizabeth Ward. She says, “…I believe that the sexual use of a child’s body/being is the same as the phenomenon of adult rape. Terms like ‘sexual abuse,’ ‘molestation’ and ‘interference’ are diminutions of ‘rape’:  they imply that something less than rape occurred.” 11 They’re also ageist terms because they imply that crimes against girls are less serious than crimes against women.

We also prefer saying “family rape” because the crime and trauma of girl-rape goes even further than the pain of being raped by your father or other male relatives. Girl-rape is part of normal family life, and older female relatives, especially most mothers, add greatly to the trauma by denying the attack and failing to support the girl. The girl’s intense pain and sense of conflict is endured against the backdrop of everyday family life that mostly continues as if nothing happened to her. Later she must recover from that as much as from the actual rape, not to mention coping with her family’s reactions if she exposes the rapist.

Victim: We call a female raped as a girl a family rape victim, not a family rape “survivor.” “Survivor” is a US psychotherapy term that glosses over the fact that many females don’t survive the attack — they’re either killed as girls or kill themselves later. While it aims to praise female resilience, it actually compounds the secrecy and shame of family rape by suggesting that there’s something inherently shameful and dirty about being attacked or victimized. The fact that “survivor” is attached to “incest” makes it particularly suspect — not only was there no rape and no rapist, there was also no victim!

If there’s nothing shameful about being victimized, why not say it? Considering that no girl is in any way to blame for being sexually assaulted, why not use “victim”? After all, it has traditionally meant someone who was subjected to harm against their will. Transactional psycho-therapy co-opted the word “victim” to describe someone that they claimed “asked” to be hurt, and they included in their arrogant definition oppressed people who never wanted to be harmed. Someone who truly wants pain is a masochist, not a victim. Identifying as family rape victims supports the victim, and those who love her, in their natural desire for justice and revenge. It helps us assert our power. If we’re victims, then we have the right to bring our attackers to justice.

Lesbophobia: We partly agree with Celia Kitzinger’s article “Heteropatriarchal Language, The Case Against ‘Homophobia’” 12 in which she criticizes the word “lesbophobia” because it originated as a psychological diagnosis that generally defined fear of Lesbians as an irrational phobia — when in reality patriarchy has good reason to fear us. So we describe men’s, boys,’ and het women’s usual reactions to Lesbians by the more accurate term “Lesbian-hatred.” However, we think it’s important to have another word to describe many het women’s reactions as well as some Lesbians’ revulsion at and terror of their own and others’ Lesbianism, because Lesbians and het women don’t have a reasonable reason to fear Lesbian. “Lesbophobia” just seems the best term for this particularly extreme kind of fear. It’s come into general use and no longer feels like a psychological term for many of us, and it clearly portrays the terror that’s as irrational as a phobia towards spiders or other harmless and beautiful wild animals.

“Homophobia” was one of the first terms that made it clear queerness wasn’t Lesbians’ “mental problem.” If anyone had a “problem,” it was the hets who hate us. That made a great difference to many Lesbians’ lives.

Disabled: We (Linda and Bev) prefer this term for ourselves instead of “physically challenged” (although we’re not criticizing anyone who uses “physically challenged”), because we find that most well and able-bodied Lesbians want to deny hidden disabilities and assume that if we just try hard enough we’ll be able to be as physically functional as they are. Chronic illness severely limits our ability to function, and no amount of effort will make us as physically able as well Lesbians. Some well and able-bodied Lesbians seem to have taken the term “physically challenged” to mean that disabled Lesbians can overcome any and all physical limitations if we try hard enough to “meet the challenge.” We also prefer the word “disabled” because it includes developmental disabilities while “physically challenged” doesn’t.

WASP: A US term for “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.” It includes culture as well as ethnicity.

History: This word comes from the Greek “histör” and “istör,” meaning “knowing,” “learned.”13 It doesn’t mean “his story,” although the documented history females have access to is the history of patriarchy because men have systematically destroyed records of the time before patriarchy. No amount of calling the past “herstory” will change that. As for what we call female history, why allow men the exclusive use of a perfectly adequate word such as “history”?


We don’t want to compare oppressions, because every experience is unique, but unfortunately, only certain oppressions are acknowledged as existing. Specifically Lesbian oppressions are ignored by almost everyone, including Lesbians. There’s so little understanding of them that they’re sometimes considered to be privileges. Even Lesbianism itself is said to be privileged by some “radical” Lesbians. Usually only issues of oppression that are experienced, written, and talked about by men and het women are considered valid by Lesbians. They may not always be fought, but at least they’re recognized as existing, which is a beginning.

For this reason, in this book, we often give classism as an example to explain the pain and damage caused by the various forms of Lesbian oppression. The comparison isn’t exact, because our class backgrounds aren’t chosen, while the heterosexist privilege that some Lesbians use to wield power over other Lesbians is chosen. We decided to focus only on class as an example because two of us are class-oppressed and it seemed more appropriate to talk from our experiences than to refer to others’ oppressions.

(Ruston: We use the English spelling and punctuation style of Aotearoa in sections I alone wrote, and the US style in the rest of the book. We found this to be the best way of expressing my national identity while not denying our class differences, and it also made the enormous job of typing the book more manageable.)

                                                          Authors’ Notes

Bev: I was born in 1950, in a catholic working-class family of German, English, Scottish, American Indian, and I’m not sure what else ancestry. (My parents and grandparents were all born in the US). I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, was in love with other girls from my earliest memories, identified with the word “Lesbian” and rejected male-defined femininity from an early age (which is why I now identify as Butch). I never was heterosexual, and became lovers with my first lover when I was 17 (in 1968), before the support of the Women’s Liberation Movement. I found a Lesbian community in Berkeley, California in 1971, and became a Dyke Separatist in 1972. I’ve been disabled since 1981 with a chronic illness.

I was one of the three members of the Gutter Dyke Collective who co-wrote and published Dykes and Gorgons in 1973, which was the first Dyke Separatist writing we knew of. (Much of that work was reprinted in the Separatist anthology, For Lesbians Only.) It’s been my goal since first becoming a Separatist to work towards building a Dyke Separatist community. I’ve written Separatist articles published in The Lesbian Insider/Insighter/Inciter; For Lesbians Only; and Lesbian Ethics (USA), Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d’Aujourd’hui; Lesbian Fury/Furie Lesbienne; Voices for Lesbian Survival  (Canada); and Gossip (England), among others.

I taught free self-defense classes for females only for 10 years, did Lesbian-only self-defense workshops and Separatist workshops at “Womyn’s” Festivals, and was in several Separatist action groups. I was part of the collectives that planned the first Lesbian Feminist Conference in the San Francisco Bay area in 1972, the first San Francisco Dyke Separatist Gathering in 1983, and the Lesbian Forum on Separatism in Oakland in 1984. The most recent workshop I did was on Radical Lesbian Feminism at the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change in Oakland in 2014, where I protested our losing one more Lesbian group to male membership.

I moderate three Radical Feminist groups on facebook and one Lesbian-only group.

I regularly party, dance, and cavort with the Lesbians, in spite of our having no women only space left. I lead local nature hikes to see plants, animals, etc. I think the animals that men tell us to hate and fear, like rats, spiders, snakes, lizards, frogs, bats, and Lesbians (among others) are particularly beautiful.

Linda: I’m a working-class, catholic-raised, Italian-descent Lesbian, born in 1941 in a USA factory town. I’ve been chronically ill since 1981. An ex-het Dyke-identified Fem who never married or had children, I was a het feminist activist from 1968 until 1972, when I followed my deepest desires and became a Lesbian. In 1973, I moved to Oakland, California, into a vibrant, intensely political Lesbian community. I found that it was Dyke Separatists who were living by the truths I’d come to consider self-evident, with the most real love for Lesbians, and I’ve been a Separatist ever since.

I taught female-only self-defense classes for seven years, helped organize the Dyke Separatist Gathering in San Francisco in 1983 and the Lesbian Forum on Separatism in Oakland in 1984. I’ve written Separatist articles published in The Lesbian Inciter and Lesbian Ethics (U.S.A.); Lesbian Fury/Furie Lesbienne; Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d’Aujourd’hui, and Voices for Lesbian Survival  (Canada); and Gossip (England).

Ruston: I’m from Aotearoa, born in 1952 and raised in Tamaki-Makaurau. I joined the Women’s Liberation Movement there in 1975 because I’d been falling in love with females for years and very much wanted to become a Lesbian. I’m pakeha (European-descent), of Welsh-Irish-English descent, middle-class, raised protestant, and an ex-het Dyke-identified Fem who never married or had children. I’m educationally privileged through having a degree in medicine, but for many reasons I’ve never worked as a doctor. After working on anti-rape and other feminist issues for about a year I became a Separatist in 1976. I helped organize a Lesbian conference in Tamaki-Makaurau in 1977 and created Lesbian theatre with other Lesbians in Hamilton in 1978.

I moved to Whanganui-a-Tara in 1979 where I got involved in setting up the Lesbian Centre and in running many Lesbian-only political and social events. I’ve written articles published in Circle, the Wellington Lesbian Newsletter, Lesbian Lip, and Lesbians In Print (LIP), among others, in Aotearoa. I met Bev and Linda through our political work in our respective countries, in 1983, and since 1984 have been writing articles and letters with them, printed in the Lesbian Insider/Inciter/Insighter; Lesbian Ethics; and Hag Rag (USA); and Voices for Lesbian Survival; Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d’Aujourd’hui; and Lesbian Fury/Furie Lesbienne (Canada).

Next to Lesbians and Separatism, my greatest love is the forests, wild creatures and wild places of my home, Aotearoa. My favourite creature is the kea (alpine parrot of Aotearoa). It’s a very stroppy bird that survived terrible slaughter. I’d like to spend all my time at Lesbian parties, listening to music, learning homeopathy, drawing, reading murder mysteries, and being outside in beautiful places away from everyone but Lesbians.


  1. Julia Penelope described this beautifully in “Mystery of Lesbians,” printed in Lesbian Ethics, Vol.1, Nos. 1,2,3 (Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A.) and Gossip, Nos. 1,2,3, and in an edited version in For Lesbians Only: A Separatist Anthology, p. 506 (Onlywomen Press Ltd., 38 Mount Pleasant, London, WC1X 0AP, England).
  2. An estimated nine million females were accused of being witches and murdered by Christian male authorities in Europe, mostly from the 14th to the 18th Centuries. That was an enormous part of the population — in some villages only one or two females were left alive.
  3. From Gallus Mag:

The NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights) now donates nearly all their (plummeting) resources to non-lesbian (predominantly heterosexual and male) activism, much of it anti-gay. Their legal director is “ex-lesbian” attorney Shannon Minter, who injects testosterone and now “identifies as” a heterosexual male.

Here is a list of all active pending cases on the NCLR case docket posted on their website, as I understand them:

-an amicus brief submitted in a lesbian case challenging Florida’s ban on adoption by lesbians and gays. (The case was represented by pro-bono attorneys, not NCLR, so here the NCLR submitted a brief in a case relating to an actual lesbian, not a case they represented however.)

-Lawsuit filed to force prisons to provide incarcerated trans criminals taxpayer funded hormones and surgery. Free sex changes for incarcerated transgender people who “come out” after incarceration. As wards of the state, convicted criminals should be entitled to taxpayer funded hormones and surgeries that are not provided for law abiding citizens.

-Lawsuit filed claiming heterosexuals are being discriminated against, by being excluded from gay men’s softball leagues. Seriously. This is who the NCLR is representing. Can’t make this shit up.

-amicus brief filed in case of Egyptian gay man seeking asylum from anti-gay mistreatment in a country where gay men can be arrested for homosexuality.

-asylum case for Mexican transgender identified person who received alleged harassment because of claiming to be a sex incongruent with that on birth certificate.

-asylum case for gay Pakistani male.

-amicus brief filed in case of Pakistani hetero male who alleges he was detained by the FBI due to religious profiling of muslims in terrorism investigations.

-assisting a pro bono attorney who is representing an asylum case for Bosnian lesbian.

-lawsuit against Cherokee Nation representing lesbian married couple.

-asylum for another Mexican transgender person.

That’s it. As I understand it those are the open pending cases represented by the NCLR.

Well what else do they do?

NCLR Sports Project issued a report in 2010 warning that women’s sports teams discriminate against males and that failure to permit males to compete against females in female sports may result in “costly litigation”. The NCLR press report was issued in October when a 57 year-old male who beat out all the female competitors (average age 30) to win the women’s world championship for long-drive golf sued the LPGA for his “right” to compete against women. The NCLR supported this action and does so by misrepresenting themselves as being a lesbian WOMEN organization. The NCLR appears to believe that women’s sports leagues infringe on the CIVIL RIGHTS of males. The 57 year-old male may be the first competitor in history to embark on a new professional sports career at such an advanced age.

It’s hard to IMAGINE that a lesbian rights organization would make the rights of males to play women’s sports their highest priority, much less the “rights” of male criminals to receive taxpayer funded sex changes, or the “rights” of heterosexuals to play on gay softball leagues, but this is what the NCLR is concerned with. Only three of the ten active pending lawsuits listed on the NCLR website concern lesbians, and two of them are not actually being represented by the NCLR. So, one out of ten.  Three transgender cases (two male one female), two gay male, two hetero male.

  1. Conversations with Monifa J. Ajanaku; and “Of Color: What’s In a Name?” by Vivienne Louise, Bay Area Women’s News, Vol. 1, No. 6, Jan/Feb 1988, 5.
  2. Although we generally use accepted geographic terms, we disagree with the ones that say there’s a “top” and “bottom” of our planet, with “northern” and “southern” hemispheres, placing Europe, the US, and Canada at the “top” of the world, and southern Africa, South America, and South Pacific nations at the “bottom” or “down under.” “Top” has been made to imply superiority and “bottom” inferiority, so that current maps make northern hemisphere nations appear innately superior to southern hemisphere nations. It may be too much for most male minds to comprehend, but in space there’s no top or bottom. Our planet spins in space, as do other planets, and the stars and moons.

6.  Wikipedia.
List of indigenous peoples of California

Yurok, northwestern California[14]

7.  Russell Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492 (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), 49.

  1. A.W. Reed and T.S. Käretu, Concise Māori Dictionary (New Zealand: Reed, 1984), 13.  Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi (Wellington, New Zealand: Allen and Unwin/Port Nicholson Press, 1987), 267.

9. Wikipedia


Name (“United Tribes” number[2]) Rohe (location) Waka (canoe) People (2001)
Kāi Tahu – (see Ngāi Tahu below)
Kāti Mamoe – or “Ngāti Mamoe South Island
Moriori † (21) Chatham Islands 585
Muaūpoko (31) Levin 1,836
Ngāi Rauru (23) – or Ngāti Rauru Taranaki Aotea-utanganui 3,090
Ngāriki Kaiputahi (44) – or Ngā Ariki Gisborne Te Ikanui-a-Rauru 2,083
Ngā Ruahine (21) Taranaki 3,228
Ngāi Tahu (also Kāi Tahu) South Island Tākitimu 39,180
Ngāi Tai (9) – or Ngāti Tai Hauraki Tainui 177
Ngāi Tai (53) – or Ngāti Tai Bay of Plenty 2,022
Ngāi Takoto Northland 489
Ngāi Tamanuhiri – or Ngāti Tāmanuhiri Gisborne 1,173
Ngaiterangi Matakana Island 9,561
Ngāi Tuhoe (51) Te Urewera Mataatua 29,259
Ngāpuhi (4) Northland Ngatokimatawhaorua 102,981
Ngāpuhi ki Whaingaroa-Ngāti Kahu ki Whaingaroa Northland 1,965
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland 5,892
Ngāti Apa (29) ManawatuSouth Island 3,021
Ngāti Awa (50) KawerauBay of Plenty 13,044
Ngāti Hako Hauraki Gulf 924
Ngāti Hau Wanganui
Ngāti Hauā (26) Waikato ? 6,400
Ngāti Hauiti Rangitikei 1,002
Ngāti Hei Hauraki Gulf 363
Ngāti Huia (15) Waikato
Ngāti Kahu (2) Northland Māmaru 6,957
Ngāti Kahungunu (34, 36, 37) Hawke’s BayWairarapa Tākitimu 51,552
Ngāti Koata South Island 765
Ngāti Kuia South Island Te Hoiere 1,224
Ngāti Kurī Northland 4,647
Ngāti Mahuta (7, 14) Waikato
Ngāti Mamoe South Island 2,262
Ngāti Manawa 1,542
Ngāti Maniapoto (17) King Country Waikato Tainui 27,168
Ngāti Maru (12) Hauraki
Ngāti Maru (Taranaki) (24) Taranaki
Ngāti Mutunga (18) TaranakiChatham Islands 2,652
Ngāti Paoa (10) Hauraki Gulf 2,397
Ngāti Pikiao (Te Arawa) Rotorua 5,022
Ngāti Poneke Wellington
Ngāti Porou (39) East Cape Horouta 61,701
Ngāti Pukenga Tauranga 1,137
Ngāti Pūkenga ki Waiau Hauraki Gulf 273
Ngāti Rāhiri Tumutumu Te Aroha 93
Ngāti Ranginui (48) Tauranga 6,120
Ngāti Rangiteaorere (Te Arawa) 177
Ngāti Rangitihi (Te Arawa) 1,041
Ngāti Rangiwewehi (Te Arawa) 1,551
Ngāti Rārua South Island 699
Ngāti Raukawa (16, 28) WaikatoManawatuKapiti[disambiguation needed] Tainui ? 24,000
Ngāti Rauru – or Nga Rauru Taranaki
Ngāti Rongomaiwahine Mahia Peninsula 4,254
Ngāti Ruanui (22) Taranaki Aotea-utanganui 5,286
Ngāti Ruapani (42, 45) East Cape
Ngāti Tahu (Te Arawa) 1,209
Ngāti Tai (9) – or Nga Tai or Ngai Tai Hauraki Gulf 177
Ngāti Tama (25) King CountryWellingtonSouth IslandChatham Islands 1,764
Ngāti Tāmanuhiri (38) – or Ngāi Tāmanuhiri Gisborne
Ngāti Tamaterā (13) Coromandel Peninsula Tainui 1,866
Ngāti Tara Tokanui Hauraki Gulf 330
Ngāti Te Ata Manukau Harbour 15,652
Ngāti Te Wehi Aotea Harbour Kawhia 5000
Ngāti Toa/Ngāti Toarangatira (32) Porirua Tainui 4,491
Ngāti Tūtekohe (41) East Cape
Ngāti Tuwharetoa (46) Taupo 29,301
Ngāti Wai Northland 3,966
Ngāti Whakaue 5,061
Ngāti Whanaunga (11) Waihi 399
Ngāti Whare 690
Ngāti Whātua (5, 6) Kaipara Harbour 12,105
Pakakohi Taranaki 408
Patukirikiri Hauraki Gulf 60
Poutini West Coast
Rangitane (30, 35) Northern South Island 4,401
Rongowhakaata (44) Gisborne 3,612
Rongomaiwahine Mahia 2,322
Tai Ngahu South Island 1,094
Tainui Waikato 35,781
Tangahoe Taranaki 261
Tapuika (Te Arawa) 1,050
Taranaki (20) Taranaki 5,940
Tarawhai (Te Arawa) 114
Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti (40) East Cape
Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki (43) Wairoa 4,365
Te Arawa (47) Rotorua
Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi (27) 8,820
Te Āti Awa (19, 33) TaranakiWellington Aotea 17,445
Te Aupouri (1) 7,848
Te Kawerau Northland 228
Te Rarawa (3) Hokianga 11,526
Te Roroa Northland 966
Te Uri-o-Hau 732
Te Whakatohea (52) Opotiki 9,948
Te Whanau-a-Apanui (54) East Cape 9,951
Tūhourangi (Te Arawa) 1,617
Uenuku-Kōpako (Te Arawa) 174
Waikato-Tainui see Tainui Waikato Region Tainui 52,000
Waitaha (Te Arawa)
  1. “Suing Ma Bell Over Dirty Language,” Newsweek, 7 Dec. 1987, 47. This article described a 12-year-old boy’s rape of a 4-year-old girl as, “…he persuaded a 4-year-old to perform sexual acts.”
  2. Elizabeth Ward, Father-Daughter Rape (The Women’s Press, Ltd., 124 Shoreditch High St., London E1 6J3, England), 79.
  3. Gossip, No. 5, page 15.
  4. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Massachusetts, USA: Merriam-Webster Inc., 1984).


Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings, Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics, Our book 25 years later with extensive additions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Working Class Radical Feminism: Telling the Truth for a Change

Working Class Radical Feminism:
Telling the Truth for a Change

Bev Jo

This is a new blog I’ve started that has shorter, more condensed and ongoing articles. I’m posting here to spread the word….

This space is for women-born-women only and is about making Radical Feminism and other issues relevant to women be as clear, simple, direct, and honest as possible.

I try to keep things simple. There are many reasons for that. Convolution and academic styles of writing are unnecessarily confusing. They also weaken politics. (Class-privileged styles are usually more about bragging than clarity or honesty.)  I want to reach all females, including those who, because of oppression, haven’t had access to patriarchal “higher” education and those whose first language isn’t English. That was why I co-wrote wrote our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics for Lesbians Only in direct, honest, and clear language. It’s also harder to lie about something that is clearly stated.

This is my second blog. My first has almost our entire book, updated 25 years later, but also has many newer articles that would be enough for another book or two. The articles are long and dense, so I wanted a blog with shorter articles that could be easily written and read, with links to my more complete articles for women who want to read more in depth.

My goal is to answer a lot of the questions I’m seeing Lesbians and other women ask online about Radical Feminism and other issues and to discuss any topics relevant to us.

Plus, with so many Radical Feminists being banned for months on facebook, this can be a way to continue community with articles to talk about. (So let me know if there are any guest posts you’d like to do.)

Posted in Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics, Our book 25 years later with extensive additions | 2 Comments


This gallery contains 1 photo.

A CHANCE TO SURVIVE CANCER Doctors Are Not God                                                       Bev Jo I am … Continue reading

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Defending Our Lesbian Lives and History from Male Erasure

Thanks to Gallus Mag, our champion in defending Lesbian and female identity and history


This is a GUEST POST by Bev Jo.

‘When We Rise’ miniseries logo. [ABC]

Defending Our Lesbian Lives and History from Male Erasure

By Bev Jo

We know about the trans cult appropriating our Lesbian and feminist identity, our organizations, our communities, our lives. Whatever they can’t take over and mark as their territory, they destroy. Throughout this female-hating, Lesbian-hating vendetta, there is also a steady re-writing of Lesbian history by gay men and some women collaborators.

Some rewritings are conscious and aggressive, while others are just lazy erasure, such as the “alternative facts” in the recent gay male-produced and directed television “docu-drama” mini-series on the major US network channel, ABC. “When We Rise,” is set in San Francisco, starting in 1972 and continuing over decades. They combine bad drama with actual videos of the time, and include stories of some of the people who lived then, giving an air…

View original post 4,275 more words

Posted in Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics, Our book 25 years later with extensive additions | 4 Comments

Chapter Four — 2015 Update, 25 Years Later — SUPPORTING BUTCHES SUPPORTS ALL LESBIANS

 Chapter Four

2015 Update, 25 Years Later


 Bev Jo

(My update is the introduction for our edited original chapter on Butch oppression,  BUTCH-HATRED IS LESBIAN-HATRED, published in 1990. That three-part chapter follows this section.)

We know why men hate and fear Butches, but why do so many women and even Lesbians? Seriously, why?

How Butches are treated in patriarchy and in our Lesbian communities is a more severe example of how Lesbians as a group are oppressed. When the existence of Butches is denied or we are treated as freaks, then love and acceptance of Lesbians as a people is missing. Butches are the most obvious, the most out of Lesbians. We are feared and hated. We are ridiculed and scapegoated. We are even told we don’t exist.

The fear and hatred are damaging enough, but why deny our existence?

This is similar to how Lesbians used to be forbidden to be referred to and how none were allowed to be seen in the media except in the most objectified and bigoted ways. Now Lesbians are acknowledged as existing and are even on television, but still no Butches. Yet even while we are not generally shown in any media, including Lesbian media, we are still ridiculed, and the rare representations allowed are the most disgusting male fantasies of Butches. (Loren Cameron, a Fem who now identifies as a Gay man, has said in one of her talks that she saw the het women and Gay men who worked at a clothing store make fun of a Butch, while they treated her, appearing as a short working class man, with respect.)
It’s obvious why men want to hide and distort Butches. But why do women go along with this?  Why feminists?  And why do so many Radical Lesbian Feminists participate in erasing and lying about us?  What are they so afraid of?

Butches are closer to what all females would be without patriarchy. We refused as little girls to obey male rules and accept male-identified femininity as our identity. We never fit in as “normal” girls and usually were completely alone with no one else being like us, during our most vulnerable years of girlhood. (Most oppressed, marginalized people at least grow up with others of their kind in their families, schools, and neighborhoods, reflecting them back to themselves.) Butch girls are also harassed, ridiculed, and physically attacked by men, boys, and even women and other girls. Then when we finally find other Lesbians, we are harassed and oppressed in a whole other way because Lesbian communities are dominated by Butch-hating Fems.

Butches are always visible, recognizable as Lesbians and as Butches, and do not usually pass. We can be identified from a single photograph, by looking at us, hearing our voices. Is that why we are such a threat? Is that why we are to be kept secret and hidden, even while slandered, even in Radical Feminist space?
It’s revealing that many feminists are likely to call Radical Feminists “woman-hating” or “misogynist” as a way to shut down any questioning of some women’s collaboration with men and patriarchy. But has any feminist/woman ever been called “woman-hating” or “misogynist” for slandering and insulting Butches?

Some women pretending to be feminists actually object to Butches ever being mentioned, deny we exist, or wish we were dead. Is this because we are undeniably Lesbians, so the men and het women can’t pretend we aren’t a version of male-identified feminine het women? Is it because we are an embarrassment to the Lesbians who want to be considered “normal?”

Butches are used by men as the scariest representation of a female imaginable, in order to police women into being afraid of Butches, but also to be of afraid to even think about what a Butch is. Part of this is that women are also afraid to be considered Butch or Lesbian because men police women by telling even the most het-looking women that they don’t look like women.

Butches are used as “proof” that Lesbians play roles and emulate hets, but the grotesque role playing that men and het women do are ignored, and being Butch has nothing to do with role-playing. It’s the Hard Fems who make themselves a caricature/drag queen image of woman. And fighting Butch oppression means ending even unconscious role-playing.

“Hard Fem” is the term I coined to describe what has previously been called “High Femme,” which is a complimentary term as well as a goal for too many Fems. Fem is considered the norm, so Butches are scrutinized and divided from each other by Butch-hating stereotypes. Butches who are more acceptable — most often those who are class privileged — are sometimes called “Soft Butches” by Fems, implying that full Butches are the hateful stereotype of hard, cold, mean, insensitive, predatory, etc., which actually is more applicable to Hard Fems. Yet no one criticizes the norm of Fem. Hard Fems also usually wear the male uniform of the extremely feminine drag queen ideal, passing as het as much as possible, slathered in clown-like makeup, wearing exposing dresses and high heels. Hard Fems are often the most oppressive to Butches and Dyke Fems because they are the most invested in obeying and proselytizing male rules for females. Hard Fems also objectify and use Butches as well as Dyke Fems, yet this is never mentioned.

Now that male identified femininity is being challenged again in feminism, I’m seeing feminists online ask why no woman stops being feminine, which continues the erasure those of us who never played the feminine role and of Dyke Fems who stopped years ago. It’s like how most het women just refuse to see Lesbians. Part of this has to be that these feminist deniers of reality do not want to give up their own Fem privilege and the compliments they get. Notice that the avatar facebook photos of most feminists are in grotesque makeup, with their eyebrows unnatural (as no man would ever choose to look unless caricaturing femininity), and basically looking as het/male as possible. (Or if they look like they are pretending to be Butch, check their previous photos.) Also notice how every time such a photo is posted, they are told how beautiful they are, what a great style they have, etc. It’s not just compliments, but policing the women who refuse to play that game and a reminder to those who do obey the male rules of what they will lose if they stop. As soon as a woman refuses to continue even a tiny bit of playing feminine, she gets harassed by friends and family and loses status.

The fact that Butches are scapegoated, ridiculed, hated, and our existence erased, by men, het women, and most Radical Feminists explains exactly what has gone wrong with feminism and why we do not have an increasing proud and strong Radical Feminist movement.

The story of how Butches create ourselves out of nothing, and manage to exist in a patriarchy that forbids us from even being shown in the media, is a lesson for all Lesbians and women.

                            Butch Myths and Objectifications

In spite of Butches being closer to how all females would be without male rule, the common myth about Butches is that Butches are “male” or “masculine.” Refusing to follow male rules does not make someone “masculine,” but the opposite of masculine. Butches are the least male of women because we refuse to obey men. Just because men have declared that the more comfortable, better made, and less humiliating clothing is only for them, does not make it male.

Feminists have always known that it is an insult, not a compliment, to be called “male” or “masculine.” So why use it against the women who most say no to male rules?

In some cultures women aren’t allowed to drive. When a few brave women risk torture and imprisonment by driving, do we call them “male” or “masculine”?

Standing in a natural grounded way also does not make a woman male. Women are told from girlhood to be afraid to look centered and grounded or they will appear “masculine,” which is part of what wearing high heels is all about. If men like how they look, they should wear them!  It’s horrifying to see how women are wearing heels, including women in films who are portrayed as being warriors, and how restricted women competing against men in singing TV contests are. The men can run around the stage and leap dramatically, while the women can barely walk or stand, and certainly must have their attention divided to not just fall over and by the pain in their feet, leaving them at an extreme disadvantage. (There are videos of famous women and models in high heels teetering and then falling.) Notice that film or television shows increasingly depict women with less clothes, tight clothes, and their bodies exposed. Even if the plot is about people trying to survive a terrible disaster, finding clothes wherever they can, the women still look distinctly and unnaturally “feminine.”

Notice the vast difference in images used to denote female versus male. Many public restrooms signs show men taking up space with a wide stance, while the “women’s” sign is like a one-legged top in a dress. Humiliating and demeaning. Every media silhouette I have seen depicting female versus male shows a dignified strong male image and a weak, flimsy female image. None of this is innate, natural, or normal. But this propaganda affects us from girlhood, showing us how to look “proper,” though unnaturally, female.

Some Lesbians’ Butch-hating shows itself in cruel ways, such as obsessing about physical characteristics, which reveals they believe Butches are aberrations with hormonal imbalances. One Lesbian, who had literally run away from a workshop my ex-lover and I did about equal lover relationships and Butch oppression, actually asked, “Why are Butches slim-hipped if it’s not a hormonal problem?” — which is especially bizarre since the Butch stereotype is more likely to be fat, with large hips. This is like how doctors and even alternative healers tell Lesbians they must have a hormonal imbalance.
Lesbians who say such Butches “look like men” ignore large-breasted Butches. Since Butches are less obedient about following male dictates, we are more likely to be bigger and fatter than Fems, many of who starve themselves into being acceptably underweight. (This is not a criticism of naturally thin women, but of those who deliberately deprive themselves of adequate nutrition to fit feminine standards. The male rules for small, weaker women, as well as the women who police on behalf of men, have led to new generations of girls and women who are permanently smaller and weaker than previously.) Of course there are thin Butches, but there are less of them than thin Fems and het women. I have never heard anyone speculate about inadequate female hormones when commenting on malnourished, bony models.

In our Radical Feminist groups, Butches are usually ignored, but once brought up, bizarre Butch-hating comments are made, showing that the women writing them have no idea what a Butch is, but hate us anyway, because we are the scapegoats for Lesbians. One het women said Butches were as oppressive as men because of a woman she knew at work. I of course did not assume she was talking about a real Butch or even knew what a Butch was, and after wasting hours of our time, she finally asked if Butches were recognizable. That’s the entire point of why Butch oppression is inescapable! It then became clear that this woman’s “Butch” was actually a feminine heterosexual woman. Another time, we asked the Radical Feminists if they could find any media images of Butches, and they linked to incredibly pornographic het woman images.

Then some of the women send me photos of themselves to prove they are Butch, while the photos prove the opposite — they are Fem, don’t even look like Lesbians, and clearly heterosexual. I’m still puzzled as to what they think a Butch is.These are usually women who previously were scared to even think about Butches. Some Fem Lesbians who have passed completely as het to escape Lesbian oppression and to be considered attractive to men, also try to say they are Butch, or ask could they be Butch if they change how they look? No. It’s a choice made in girlhood, reflected by body language, mannerism, stance, voice, etc. (Many women pitch their voices unnaturally high as part of following male rules. Men want women to seem weak, while also looking as different from men, and as unnatural, as possible.) Most of these same Radical Feminists are outraged when men appropriate the identity of women, yet don’t consider they are also appropriating an identity that is not theirs. I finally realized that part of this is because women are so used to competing with women for men, so they then see Butch identity as being another competition to win.

Now that most Lesbians are passing as het, many Lesbians believe that any Lesbian who is not a Hard Fem must be a Butch, even though Butches are only about 5% of the Lesbians we commonly see at events. There are a lot of Fem Dykes who are out as Dykes, but who are clearly not Butch. And then there are extreme Fems who say how much they love Butches, yet are unwilling to stop passing as het, which would make life much less difficult and dangerous for Butches, as well as Fem Dykes.

Many Fems who do recognize the existence of Butches objectify us with a similar sense of ownership and objectification towards us that men have towards women – as if we somehow belong to them. If we say that we are more attracted to Butches or are not attracted to Fems, we are told that we can’t possibly mean that, or we just haven’t found the right Fem yet. It’s the same kind of patronizing amusement men have towards Lesbians. I’ve actually been told that two Butches together are missing out. (On what? Unequal, passionless love-making?)  Exactly what men say about two women together. These predatory Fems never even bother to ask about how our experiences with Fem lovers we’ve had over the decades led us to prefer being with Butches. Then there are Lesbians who are so freaked out by the idea of Butches loving each other that they announce that we couldn’t possibly be real Butches (though not if they meet us in person).

I’ve heard Fems ask, “What’s wrong with objectifying Butches?” Well, what’s wrong with sexually objectifying any oppressed groups of women? Some Fems want to be with Butches to get the attention and love they expected to get from men, but didn’t. And for some predatory Fems, Butches make a convenient scapegoat to take out their rage at men. I know two Radical Lesbian Feminist Fems who talked about beating Butch lovers. One was an upper middle class Euro-descent Fem who beat her poverty class, legally blind, racially oppressed Butch lover. The other Fem said she beat her working class Lifelong Lesbian Butch lover because she could not get back at her father or ex-husband. Neither seemed remotely remorseful and were contemptuous of those Butch lovers who had been devoted to them. (When I asked the blind Butch about her lover beating her, the Butch was still trying to protect her abusive ex, and said “there was violence in our relationship,” which actually implicated her. So I asked if she had ever hit her lover, and she said no.).  And these abusers of Butches were Radical Feminists! We can only imagine how often this happens.

It’s true that many Butches are so self-hating that they worship Hard Fems beyond what would make an equal relationship (although others of us find that look repulsive). Butches aren’t unique in this. Other oppressed people often value those who try to assimilate to look more like their oppressor, which is why so many Fems pass as het. I see most Fems where I live also being more attracted to Hard Fems than to Lesbians who look like Dykes, whether Fem or Butch. It feels like the patriarchal media has won out, after all these years of bombarding us with ugly male-defined “beauty.” It’s not just that many/most Lesbians want to be lovers with women who look like movie stars – they want to be seen to be lovers with women who look like movie stars. In my old community, these extremely feminine women would have been looked at warily, as if they might not be truly Lesbians. This isn’t being unfair – Hard Fems who do follow male rules of how women are supposed to look are more likely to have chosen men in the past and to go back to men.

Women, like other colonized people, have been given a caricatured, fetishized representation of how we are not only supposed to dress, but move, gesture, talk, laugh, think, etc. Most women learn unnatural patterns of behaving while being little girls when they are punished for acting naturally and rewarded when obeying male rules. Butch girls, with no support and no role models, refuse to obey the male rules.

What is heart-breaking is how much self-hatred there is among Butches. Some have been encouraged by their Hard Fem lovers to believe and say that Butches have “male privilege” — which of course is not true. Butches are never treated as men. Butches are treated as the most abnormal freaks among Lesbians. Fems usually can make more money, have more status (as “real” women) with family, friends, and in the rest of patriarchy, and are more likely to own houses as a result of having had husbands, careers, and sometimes families who gave them money. (Butches are more likely to be disowned, and more Butches are class-oppressed, and there is a higher percentage of Butches of Color than European-descent.)

Then there is the lesbophobic myth that identifying as Butch means we play roles. Yet Lesbians can be outrageously Fem and not be accused of role-playing. I have never played roles. Daring to discuss differences does not mean we play roles. Identifying as Butch does not mean playing roles — it means identifying with the choice we made as little girls, against all odds, as well as being a marginalized, oppressed, invisibilized minority in Lesbian communities. We get it in the het world for being the most out, obvious Lesbians, and we get it in our own communities. Are working class Lesbians who identify as working class accused of playing roles about class? (This is again about Butches being insultingly categogorized as only a sexual identity, pornifying us.)

It doesn’t help that almost the only books about Butches are in anthologies edited by Fems and bisexual women who further Butch-hating stereotypes. What I have seen in decades of being out as Butch is that it’s Fems who have pushed Butches into role-playing, partly because it makes the Fems feel less scarily Lesbian. Sado-masochism, including using dildos, is part of that and is absolutely mainstream among het women as well as non-feminist Fems. (Yet ridiculous comments are made, like by a Fem who was planning a “sex” workshop and said that she’d have to keep an eye on all of her dildos to stop Butches from stealing them. Why would any Butch want an ugly dildo? At another event, a Fem threw her large collection of dildos out into the Lesbian audience.)

At a Butch Voices conference dinner, I brought up how upset I was that a workshop organizer assumed all Butches used dildos, calling it “Butch cock.” I asked how many of us have been sexually assaulted by pricks and all that they represent, comparing dildos to sado-masochist use of Nazi paraphernalia in scenes. A Hard Fem bisexual patronizingly lectured me about how much better sex was using objects. I answered that something is seriously wrong if a Lesbian prefers silicone in the shape of a prick instead of the feel of her lover’s hands and body, and why would someone want to use such an offensive object on her lover, instead of feeling her? No way was this het-looking woman in full make-up going to bully me into believing that the incredible loving, wild, and passionate love-making I have shared with lovers would be improved with ugly male objects. She finally resorted to telling me that it probably was too late to change at my age – an ageist version of the usual sado-masochist taunt implying I was a prude or had never heard of dildos before. I’d been saying no to repulsive dildos since first being told about them when I was 14.

I have heard other Butches say that although they hate dildos, they have been pressured to use them on ex-het Fem lovers, for obvious reasons. The first Lesbian I knew told me how she had found other Lesbians in a bar community run by bisexual prostitutes in1965. As a teenaged Butch, they were training her in what “real women” want. She felt so disgusted and used by these women that she left and never again tried to find a Lesbian community.

I wonder how many of those women who want their lover to use dildos are fantasizing about being with a man. By using objects, they can disconnect, as opposed to being completely present, loving, feeling, and being felt by another woman, which is a continual reminder that they are Lesbians and are doing things that can still be punished by death in some countries.

A horrific aspect of role-playing that I recently heard about is the so-called “Stone Fem,” who will only be lovers with a Stone Butch. I believe that the Stone Butch is a Hard Fem creation since I have never known of a Butch who willingly, happily said she wanted to not be loved and never wanted to be made love to. What I have heard is Butches talking painfully about Fem “lovers” who refused to make love to them with equal passion, attention, time, and love, or refused to ever touch them, while they were expected to make love to the Fem for hours, whenever she wanted. Once you fall in love with and are committed to a woman, it can be very hard to acknowledge, even to yourself, that she doesn’t love you equally, or at all.

I believe some Butches, and particularly those without support, do sometimes end up as Stone Butches because it can feel less painful to take on that identity than to continually face inequality in love and love-making. After years of bad treatment, some just stop hoping for real love, and shut down. It’s a travesty that some Fems have fetishized such a traumatic aspect of Butch oppression. I can’t imagine how some Fems can justify identifying as “Stone Fems.” It’s like declaring, “I really am an incredibly selfish, misogynist, Lesbian-hating, and Butch-hating woman and am proud of it. I just want to be the complete center of love, attention, and pleasure, and I want to make my lover feel alone, unloved, and worthless. Aren’t I wonderful?”

I believe the “Lesbian Bed Death” myth is usually about the Fem or both Fems (since the majority of Lesbian relationships are two Fems together), stopping wanting to make love. Butches are much less likely to stop, no matter what horrific childhood and other sexual assaults they’ve suffered. Even when a Lesbian otherwise appears as Butch, this intimate detail of wanting to be passionate in love-making and to make love to their lover is a defining characteristic of being Butch.

                                                 25 Years Later….

So how are things for Butches now, since 1990, when we published our chapter on Butch oppression in “Dykes-Loving-Dykes?”

Well, things seem mostly a lot worse – some of which we predicted, based on how mainstream and assimilated and Lesbian-hating many Lesbians were becoming. But some of it has still been a shock. I have never seen or heard such overt hatred of Butches among Lesbians as I’m hearing now.

In my old Lesbian Feminist and Separatist community from the Seventies, there was disapproval about role-playing, (which I still agree with, but not for the reasons said then), sometimes falsely blamed on Butches by the lesbophobic, yet Butches were more respected and appreciated than now. Even without clear politics about what it meant to be Butch, there was an awareness that Butches were the most visible of Lesbians who had kept Lesbian existence known while other Lesbians were passing and hiding. Some of the out Butches were appreciated and acknowledged for having created our Lesbian Feminist community with their brilliant Radical Lesbian Feminist politics, articles, poetry, books, music, etc. Looking like a Dyke was valued, so most Lesbians, even most of the Hard Fems, cut their hair, wore trousers and boots, and the infamous flannel shirts. We didn’t wear “men’s” clothes. We rejected the flimsy, demeaning, and restrictive clothes men ordered us to wear, and we proudly wore our Dyke clothes, which were handsome, practical, comfortable, cheaper, sturdier, and safer (in terms of being able to defend ourselves, do physical work, and not be such a target for male harassment or attack). We were saying yes to being Lesbians and no to men.

The only reason I can think of why Lesbians make fun of that time and of how we looked is that they are embarrassed by so many women being so clearly out and rejecting male rules, and they want to police us into being less threatening and more assimilated. (You would think they invested in the cosmetics and other industries selling male-invented femininity.) Some of Fems from that time talk bitterly about the “pressure” they felt to look like Lesbians, ignoring the punishing and sometimes lethal pressure and harassment in the patriarchal world (from family, het women and male friends, at work, from strangers, etc. to look more het/feminine). They are still furious that there was a brief time in history when they did not dominate Lesbian communities with their Fem supremacist politics. Not enough to have the rest of patriarchy reflecting and rewarding them, they wanted no woman to say no to them. Some of them also still deny being Fem, and yet it is their core identity.

Most of the Lesbians I know now pass as het. The more extremely male-defined feminine a Lesbian is, the more valued she is. Occasionally, there are defensive comments like, “What do you mean? What does a Lesbian look like?” But that’s game-playing since we all really do know exactly what Lesbians look like, especially since so many women are devoted to not looking like a Lesbian. (Some of the same women now pretending to be confused about identifying Lesbians in the past joined with their men in ridiculing and harassing us. Some of the women now glaring or smirking at us at public places where Lesbians are gathered (since we have none of our own places left), proudly having their man on their arm, will later come into our community saying how they were victims of those men they once bragged about, demanding and getting attention and support from the Lesbians they still oppress.)

Looking like a Lesbian means looking the way patriarchy forbids us to look, and it deeply threatens those who support patriarchy. It means looking free and being able to recognize each other in public. It means being proud to not assimilate or succumb to the pressure to feminize, including saying “I don’t want to waste my time and money trying to make myself fit impossible standards that leave most women feeling inadequate.” Looking like a Dyke also means looking far more attractive.

There is a high price to pay for always looking like an out Dyke. It can mean being threatened,  attacked verbally and physically, being harassed by family, being disowned, being hated and ridiculed, being evicted, losing jobs, not getting jobs, etc. Young Lesbians have been locked up in mental hospitals by their families and tortured. Out Lesbians are raped and killed for looking like Dykes, and Butches are even more targeted (as Teena Brandon was.)

Many Lesbians who are not Butch get Lesbian oppression. The more Dyke a Fem looks, the worse she’s treated. But Butches do not or cannot pass as het, even the few who try. That creates a whole other level of oppression. But it’s how Butches are treated in Lesbian communities that I’m focusing on, because if we can’t treat Butches as equals and with respect in our own communities, there isn’t much hope elsewhere.

For the first time, I am hearing Lesbians point out particularly attractive Butches, saying “She’s so ugly. She looks just like a man.” Well, no, she doesn’t look like a man at all. She looks the opposite. The policing is so extreme, that I’m even hearing such insults said about stereotypically “cute” Fems with painted toenails, just because they have short hair and look like Lesbians. It is not a safe time and place to be an Out Lesbian among Lesbians, let alone a Butch.

In just one week recently, I heard three Butch-hating comments from Lesbians. (And I can only imagine how much harder these onslaughts are for Butches with no support.)

On a hike, two Fems began commiserating about how hard it had been for them in college to find Lesbians to identify with because the only Lesbians they’d seen were Butch. (From experience, I’m guessing those “Butches” were probably mostly Dyke Fems since there aren’t that many Butches.) It didn’t occur to these Lesbians that by adhering to mainstream standards of how women are supposed to look, they were making it impossible for other Lesbians to find them. It’s as if they thought it was Lesbians’ responsibility to seek out and rescue them. The “Butches” took risks to be so visible, yet instead of being appreciated, they were criticized. Would it have been better for all the Lesbians to pass as het at those colleges? I think the real issue is that looking so Dykey was and is threatening to those Lesbians. But why? What are they really scared of?

I think it comes back to the fear of being “abnormal” and not fitting in (“what will people think?”) – and daring to challenge rigid male rules of how females are “supposed” to look, which women continue to enforce. I frequently read Lesbian writers being very impressed with women displaying the various trendy feminine styles that pretend to be wild, outrageous, and edgy with piercings, tattoos, elaborate hair styles, shaved heads, high heels, etc. – but these are just variations on how women are expected and demanded to look. It is Butches and Dyke Fems, who are truly showing courage and, by their existence, are threatening patriarchy.

I don’t understand why so many women don’t seem capable or willing to understand basic feminist politics, like that “femininity” is male – male-invented, male-identified, and a caricature of true femaleness. It’s a colonized status, with obvious parallels with other colonized people who are pressured to assimilate. It is a demeaned appearance, demanded of women to display their supposed inferiority, and especially their subservience to men. Yet like other ways that oppressed people assimilate, femininity is greatly rewarded in patriarchy, including by other women. (Some feminists pretend that the women playing feminine are treated terribly by men and are victims, forgetting how other women also reward them and how they then police women who refuse male rules.) That’s part of why it’s such a joke for men to dress in drag – they love to humiliate women. Nothing about “femininity” is female. It’s a con and a trick of patriarchy. Yet, most women wholeheartedly accept and identify with it, and will defend it so rigidly and irrationally that they refuse to even think about the issue. Again, why is this so terrifying to explore?

The flip side of women’s fear of being too “other” is women being extremely concerned about protecting some people who claim to be oppressed for being “Other” — even though those people have far more privilege than Butches. During that same week of the hike, I went to a Lesbian brunch where a Hard Fem was telling us about how terribly difficult it was for F2Ts (Female to Testosterone – women who pretend to be men.)  I answered that they are women who no longer want to be us, and no longer want to be oppressed as women and/or Lesbians. (People can’t change sex any more than they can change species. They are women opting for privilege at our expense. I’ve heard/read some say that they want to be men to get better jobs, more “chicks,” and because they dread becoming “old women.” I do not understand why we are expected to not only support them, but to put their desires above Lesbians,’ other than that usually everyone is considered more important than Lesbians.)

I had just begun to protest the comment, when the het-looking woman began to lecture me with the trans cult line: “You have no idea what it’s like to grow up never feeling like you fit in.” Seriously? Had she not bothered to look at me?  Anyone can tell immediately on seeing me that I grew up exactly like she had described – knowing I never fit in as a “normal,” proper feminine girl. I have always felt like an outsider because I hated and rejected male-identified “femininity” from my earliest memories. I had no politics or support — not one book or film that showed Lesbians in anything other than the most horrible, degrading, terrifying stereotypes. You certainly couldn’t turn on the television like now, and see much-loved public Lesbians. Meanwhile, many F2Ts actually are Fem or het/bisexual women (who want sexual access to Gay men) who grew up fitting in quite well. But here was an example of the experiences of Butches being taken from us – appropriated – by a privileged Fem who was oppressing a less privileged Butch on behalf of F2Ts who had betrayed us both.

Meanwhile, for the feminists wanting to support women to not want to “transition,” they really should think about if they look het and male-identified feminine that their choice makes it much harder for any woman who refuses male rules, making them feel further alone and like freaks. Or: Meanwhile, feminists who want to support women to reject “transitioning” should realize that their own choices to look het and male-identified feminine makes it much harder for any woman to reject male rules,  because that makes them feel more alone, marginalized, and  perceived as “freaks”. Perhaps if they don’t care about how Butches are oppressed, they will care at least for the het, bisexual, and Lesbian Fems who say they are men.

Then another Hard Fem at the brunch told us about how her nineteen year old daughter was a Butch who was lovers with another teenaged Butch. To me, this sounded rare and wonderful. But the mother was very upset because her daughter’s lover was “too Butch” and she preferred her to be with a more “womanly” Lesbian. When I protested, the first woman said confidingly to me, “It’s really more about class.” Meaning the young Butch was just too blatantly poverty class to be good enough for her daughter.

Sometimes I despair about Lesbians and women. But then I remember what all this means politically – it is clearly about the worshipping of patriarchal oppressive standards which too many women have adopted as their own – and that means that these attitudes and ways of hurting other women can be changed, just as some formerly right wing women have changed and now fight for justice. But unlike with other issues of privilege and oppression, specifically Lesbian issues are ignored. Our communities have been inundated with women who were determinedly het, sometimes for decades, often with the privilege and arrogance that that means. Unless they examine and change their lesbophobic and Lesbian-hating attitudes and politics, they undermine and destroy our communities.

The reason we wrote our book was to explain the internal factors among Lesbians and feminists that keep us from fully allying and fighting patriarchy. Recognizing female-hating and Lesbian-hating – which means recognizing all the ways that women who are more allied with, identified with, and committed to patriarchal standards betray Lesbians and women who have rejected those male rules – is the only way we can have truly loving, diverse and egalitarian Lesbians communities. This is in addition to fighting other oppressions among us, such as racism, classism, ableism, ageism, fat oppression, etc. Other feminists have written about these issues, but almost no one has named the oppression of Butches, Lifelong Lesbians, and Never-het Lesbians in Lesbian communities as well as in patriarchy. If anything, growing up as a lone Lesbian or Butch, feeling like you never belonged, being ostracized and put down by other girls, family, neighborhoods, schools, etc. is said to be “lucky” or a “privilege.”

Lesbians who betray other Lesbians on behalf of patriarchy, to make themselves more comfortable, do end up hurting themselves as well. But they still benefit from the power they wield over other Lesbians, sometimes including their own daughters.

I experienced another example of common anti-Lesbian attitudes recently at a Lesbian party in a town known for being right wing and mainstream. A Lesbian I was talking with said that she felt different from the others at the party. Since common introductions at some of these events consist of: “What do you do?” (career talk), “My children…,” “My grandchildren…,” I was very curious how she felt different. But then she said, “I’m more suburban, I don’t like the word Lesbian, and I want to be more normal.” She looked almost startled for a moment when she realized what she’d said. She’s not the only one to feel like that. Self-hatred is sad enough, but it’s worse when it affects other Lesbians as well.

                                           Femininity Is a Choice

I want to talk about how assimilating into men’s rules for how girls and women “should” look hurts Butches, but I also don’t want to upset my friends who do choose to look male-defined feminine. There are many compromises that we all make. I have a Dyke Separatist friend in her twenties who said, “I have to look like this — gesturing to her long, styled hair and feminine clothing — if I want a lover.” It’s not true, but any increase in privilege does give an increase in options. If it’s that difficult for someone who’s prime age, how much harder is it for old Lesbians who are being subjected to ageism as well as disapproval for looking like Dykes?

Looking extremely feminine also improves Lesbians’ and women’s career options. Some women singer/songwriter/musicians know that being respected, with their skill and talent recognized and appreciated, is greatly influenced by how they look. They are expected to look “beautiful” by feminine standards. I don’t criticize them or any woman for this, but I just want to stir awareness for women to support women who will not or cannot fit male dictates for what a woman is supposed to look like.

I don’t mean to make anyone who chooses to look feminine feel bad. But there is no way to talk about the increase in butchphobia and Butch-hatred without talking about enforcement of male-created femininity. We can’t stop societal and male hatred of us, but women can stop policing girls and other women to obey male rules. And since women who fit in with patriarchal standards are more likely to be listened to and taken seriously, het Radical Feminists can be important allies and friends.

Lesbian oppression (for being Lesbians) hits Butches much harder than Fems. That is part of why we all need to be aware of it and acknowledge it. Far too many Butches (particularly those who are also oppressed by classism and racism) have already died far too young. Being hated and scapegoated in mainstream patriarchy, among feminists, and even among our own Lesbian people takes a severe toll. (In one year, three Butch friends died from cancer. One had been horribly humiliated and harassed at her birthday party when her family and Lesbian friends ganged up to tell her she should wear dresses. Another time, her Lesbian friends slathered her in grotesque makeup to go to a Lesbian event, to “make her be more like a girl.” She was more of a girl than they ever could be. Even an extreme Fem friend was horrified by how unnatural she looked. I didn’t live near her, so didn’t see her often, and can only imagine what else they did to her. Our immune systems are definitely affected by stress.)

If all Lesbians made sure they were visibly Lesbians, instead of most now passing, that would dramatically change things for us. When the subject comes up, most Lesbians profess to not understanding at all what it means to be Butch or Fem, other than extreme role-playing caricatures. Yet, each woman does daily make a conscious decision about how she will look in the world. There is even a distinct look that some Fems choose, which seems to be a kind of uniform or signal identifying them as Lesbians but which is still clearly Fem and not any way that a Butch would choose to look.

For those who don’t feel safe being out, do try to help fight Lesbian-hating and Butch-hating when you can. For women choosing femininity, do think about why you make that choice. Is it out of fear of harassment? Is it to look “attractive?” For Fems attracted to Butches, you clearly find that look attractive, so why not choose it for yourself? If your reaction is about wanting to look like a “real woman,” and you recoil at the thought of looking like a Dyke, please explore and change your bigotry. There should be groups for Unlearning Butch-hatred and Unlearning Lesbian-hatred as there are about other issues that divide us. Since some non-Lesbians and het women are also working to fight male-identified femininity inside and outside of themselves, I want to acknowledge these women as WFF – Women Fighting Feminization – which reflects that it is a continual and essential process for fighting patriarchy. (An example is our wonderful friend and ally, Megan Mackin, a non-Lesbian, who, in an effort to be supportive to Butches, explored the issue of rejecting femininity at her blog.)

“Why don’t Lesbians just stop separating and identifying as different? That’s divisive.  I don’t even know what a Butch is anyway.”

Well, I guess that’s because you aren’t one and don’t notice or don’t care how we’re being treated. (Most Butches do understand and know who they are, even those in denial.) We wouldn’t need to identify separately if we weren’t made to feel like we don’t belong — if we weren’t being treated as different, other, inferior (including/especially in lover relationships with Fems). Typically, in patriarchy, the most privileged, especially if they are a majority, dominate. They either drive out those they oppress or they bully and insult. Their dominant position is too often taken for granted. Many Fems, particularly those who identify as “radical feminists” and claim to not be Fem, question why the existence of Butches is even mentioned. This is exactly how most het feminists treat Lesbians.

Because Butches are a barometer of Lesbian oppression and because the more Butches are maligned, the worse it is for all Lesbians, it’s in all Lesbians’ interest to support Butches. But we completely upset the het-identified world of “normal” lesbophobic Lesbians. The same thing also happens when ex-het Lesbians are dominating a conversation with assumptions that we all have been het, and make jokes about “virgins.” Do we object and say we exist, or do we not put ourselves through the inevitable harassment and attempts to humiliate? It is all about the most privileged Lesbians’ experiences and lives being the most recognized and valued. It’s the classic situation that happens with other issues of privilege and oppression, except that those with otherwise radical politics, too often revert to being right wing when it comes to specifically Lesbian oppressions.

For those who just can’t handle their Lesbian-hating bigotry about the existence of Butches, do you really mean to be asking “How dare you exist and how dare you make those of us looking down on you uncomfortable?” Do we not have the right to say we exist and to discuss how and why we are treated differently from other Lesbians and other women?

Whenever a Lesbian says she doesn’t understand why anyone identifies as Butch, that’s because she’s not Butch and it doesn’t affect her. She’s not hurt for being Butch or she would understand. It’s similar to het women not understanding the importance of Lesbians identifying as Lesbians. (Although there is a difference, because het women could choose to be Lesbians. The Butch choice is made in childhood.) We need to define ourselves because we are not represented in the dominant culture or in most Lesbian cultures. We are rarely, if ever, represented in media images of Lesbians or we’re presented as a horrible stereotype or a joke. Sometimes we’re commented on as a prurient interest of Fems who objectify us.

We are treated as Butch whether we want to be or not. Those who profess to not understand what this issue is about, do treat Butches differently. It’s like those who profess to be unaware of class or classism, claiming to be “class-free.” That’s a privileged option for those in the power position because they are not the ones being treated as inferior, which happens to the class-oppressed whether we identify or not – and the oppressiveness is still there because people do know, whether they are honest with themselves or not. Those of us who are aware of these issues can see it clearly even in personal and written interactions.

Those who deny the existence of class or of Lesbian or Butch oppression are more likely to use their privilege to control, intimidate, and hurt others. Those who dominate always insist there is no oppression. This is what men do to women in denying that misogyny and patriarchy exist.

I often wonder what Lesbians who deny the existence of Butches think when they hear men and het women and the media joke about us. Do they cringe and then vow to be more obedient to male rules so no het would ever take them for such a despised creature?  In spite of Butches being a joke in the mainstream and even Lesbian media, there is so much pressure to feminize girls and women that they rarely show a real Butch. When a “Butch” is mentioned, it’s a feminine woman who is less made up and less drag queen-looking, but who is still clearly not Butch. Even The L Word  television series had not one Butch. Orange Is the New Black has a grotesque Butch caricature played by prurient actor Lea DeLaria, who has said she is Fem and has public feminine photos of herself, but she still looks enough like a Butch stereotype to play the travesty of a real Butch.

It’s ironic that the “Bechdel test,” which is used to determine how sexist a film is, came from Alison Bechdel, who never once drew a Butch in her syndicated cartoon series, Dykes to Watch Out For, (now in book form) — even though she drew it over decades and showed an otherwise diverse Lesbian community. Yet Bechdel was capable of drawing a boy pissing on a Lesbian and semen dripping from a condom. Many Lesbians thought her non-monogamous, trannie-supporting, genderqueer sado-masochist Fem character with a crewcut, Lois, was Butch, but her look and behavior were the opposite of Butch. Male money and a television network was behind The L Word, but Bechdel’s work was her own choice. Both of these, like the most public “Lesbian sex” books, which were actually written written by bisexual women, did great harm to our Lesbian culture and communities by normalizing and giving a trendy status to porn and sado-masochism and the trans cult.
Again, what are they so afraid of?

The horror of being called Butch is used to terrorize girls and women into being even more artificial and male-identified feminine. Most women want to placate their oppressors, who, after all, are dangerous. Women then police girls and other women on behalf of men. (Very important to not anger Daddy.) Women who are the most threatening to men are the most policed. This can be subtle – with constant suggestions about “improving appearance,” which just happen to fit in more with male standards – or less subtle, like open ridicule of Butches and Dyke Fems.

Identifying as Butch can bring up self-hatred since “Butch” is a term so used against us with contempt, but it can also give us pride and a way to share support and culture with others. I believe that identifying who we are gives us a means and language to connect with others and defend ourselves against bad treatment.

For those who do love women and Lesbians enough to care, it is easy to learn about who Butches are. I have friends who can immediately recognize Butches. Many can do it from just seeing a photograph or hearing a voice. As a Fem friend said, “Just look around. Butch oppression is obvious.” There is a Butch look that is instantly recognizable. I have seen that same exact look among American Indian, African-American, Maori, Thai, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iranian, Israeli, Chinese, Filipina, Mexican, Serbian, English, French, German, US (from so many backgrounds and races) Butches.

             Identity Appropriation Is Not a Form of Flattery

Another part of the objectification of Butches is when Fems claim to be Butches.

It’s not uncommon for Radical Lesbian Feminists who are threatened by the mention of Butch existence to claim that they were never feminine as girls. (Even het women actors brag in their biographies that they were ‘real tomboys,” although their girlhood photos could not look more feminine. Ironically, real Butches hated being called “tomboys” as girls because we didn’t want to be identified with our attackers, boys, in any way.) In spite of many Fems’ attempts to prevent Butch oppression from being discussed and to erase our identity, there seems to be a deep awareness that Butches fought patriarchy from the beginning, and so some envy us. I’ve even heard a Fem who came out in her fifties and is an Hard Fem who bonds with other Hard Fems in public about makeup tips, say that if she’d come out sooner, she’d be Butch. Well, then why not try to look as much like a Butch now, and support your lover and other Butches?

It’s very unfair for the same women who as girls taunted and ridiculed little Butch girls (do they think we don’t remember?) to now claim our identity, even while some of them still look extremely feminine and would never be taken to be a Lesbian. Somehow we are both despised and yet considered trendy.

What is even more upsetting is that many of these Fems are publicly posing and posturing as offensive Butch stereotypes in photo collections and organizations that claim to be Butch. And they always outnumber the real Butches.

Then there are Fems who want their lover to be Butch and there are not that many Butches, so they push a more Dykey Fem into the Butch role of taking the brunt of Lesbian oppression when they are out together, and to do for them things that Butches often do, like accept inequality in love-making.

Other Fems decide to be authorities of what it means to be Butch and even write incredibly Butch-hating propaganda. An example is Carolyn Gage’s “The Lesbian Butch: Hope of the Planet from Supplemental Sermons for a Lesbian Revival Tent.” Val Miller and I co-wrote a response —

It’s become standard in Lesbian communities that no one is allowed to question anyone’s self-identity, no matter how bizarre, making it extremely difficult to object to extremely feminine woman being in Butch groups. Appropriating our identity is one thing, but it’s even more harmful when Fems get into power positions in Butch organizations, and control and influence the direction of the group into Butch-hating politics.

Some Fems ban real Butches from Butch groups. I was in such a “Butch” group for a year (our goal was to organize an ongoing female-identified Butch groups) with a Fem who was stereotypically feminine in appearance, body language, and gestures, even constantly mentioned her children (Butch mothers aren’t common and they also don’t refer to being mothers as frequently in political groups). She also identified as a “Leather top” (otherwise known as a “sadist”) and brought a bull whip to every meeting — I believe partly to try to intimidate me. (She just looked silly while brandishing her whip.) Half the original group quit or were kicked out, until I was left with the Fem and her Butch ally. I was soon also kicked out, leaving the “Butch” group to be led by one Butch and one Fem sadist.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the women claiming to be Butch who use male pronouns for themselves are actually Fem. A number of Fems and even het/bisexual women have claimed to be Butch and later claim to be F2Ts, which leads many people to think that the majority of these women are/were Butch. In Loren Cameron’s book, “Body Alchemy,” the “before” photos show adult feminine women who “transitioned” to male. Many of these women (like Loren herself and Pat Califia) later claim to be Gay men because they return to being sexual with men. They are het or bisexual women who are a “trans” version of fag hags. Some Butches became het when they were isolated and pressured, before finding other Lesbians. I have never known a Butch in a Lesbian community to go het.

Many of these women even use mannerisms and speaking styles that are like stereotypical Gay men, reflecting how influenced they are by Gay men.

But the worst appropriation I’ve seen happened at the Butch Voices conference in 2012, where it was bad enough that Fems posing as Butches were in power positions. Even while forbidding us to present any female-identified Butch workshops, they allowed two workshops by men claiming to be Butch. The men simply looked like drag queens with mannerisms and voice patterns similar to Gay men and were nothing like women and even less like Butches. One of them, Tobi Hill-Meyer, who was raised by Lesbians, was then welcomed onto a board of Butch Voices, even though he has had no surgery and is a pornographer who posts photos of his prick online.
These men had no shame about appropriating our identity and rare space. I really feel that if they could kill real Butches and take our skin, they would. But like with all men masquerading as Lesbians, they can never have what they most want – they can never have consensual sexual access and passion with a Lesbian, because any woman who would agree to be intimate with them is no longer be a Lesbian.

Original Chapter Four


Bev Jo, Linda Strega, and Ruston

Part 1

We originally wrote this chapter as two articles that countered the increasing glorification of male-identified femininity and role-playing in most Lesbian publications and among individual Lesbians.1 This reactionary trend is part of the growing acceptance of heterosexist values among Lesbians in all the countries we have information about. We have to fight it, because ignoring it means contributing to it.

    Butch Oppression

Butch oppression is a difficult issue to deal with because there are so many conflicting definitions of what it is to be Fem or Butch. Butches are the Lesbians who, as girls, rejected patriarchal male rules to feminize, and refused to play the role designed by men for women. Fem Lesbians are those who accepted that male-defined feminine, to various degrees, as girls.

We use the term Butch oppression (and Fem privilege) for what many Lesbians call “roles” and “role-playing.”  “Roles,” as it’s usually used, implies that Butches and Fems have equal power or that only Lesbians who define themselves as “Butch” or “Fem” are in roles.  But this is a political issue of power inequality — and is as serious and real as any other inequality that Dykes work to change. Our language should name the real core of the issue. “Butch oppression” makes it clear that Fems have the power and the privilege over Butches.

We use the word “roles” to mean the basic core identities of Butch and Fem that all Lesbians have developed in childhood (and which are not a result of genetics or hormones.) We say “role-playing” to mean deliberate role-playing as well as all the ways Fems maintain power over Butches, including sexual and social behavior, political beliefs, appearance, self-image, and manner.

We want to make it clear that we’re against role-playing. Acknowledging Butch oppression does not mean supporting role-playing. To think that it does is like saying acknowledging Lesbian existence supports stereotypes against Lesbians.  When we talk about all Lesbians being Butch or Fem, we’re using these definitions to make it possible for Butch oppression to be fought. Just as it’s impossible to fight classism if some Lesbians claim to be class-free, it’s impossible to end role-playing as long as some Lesbians deny their Butch and Fem core identities.

This is a complex issue. The terms are loaded, the definitions are contradictory, and, more than any other issue among Lesbians, the thought of it brings up intense Lesbian-hatred. To admit your Butch and Fem core identity in a responsible way means declaring your commitment to strong Dyke identity, which takes a lot of courage. Unfortunately, most Lesbians who openly identify themselves as Fem (and to a lesser extent, Butch) aren’t doing it responsibly, or even accurately. They’re just glorifying role-playing as “sexy” and “fun.”  But role-playing, including the intense versions played by Lesbians who deny they play Butch and Fem core identitys, is hurtful and damaging to Lesbians, individually and as communities.

The male origin of femininity is clear. We agree with the basic feminist writings of the early 1970′s that rejected all forms of femininity. Men demand that women caricature ourselves for men’s benefit. Identifying and rejecting that crap is the way to find our true, innate female selves. Even non-Lesbian feminists worked on these politics in consciousness-raising groups in the past.

We are so subjected to the propaganda of femininity being natural womanhood that it can be hard to see through the lies. For instance, growing up with caricatured images of female cartoon animals from our earliest memories has an impact. Look at real wild female animals – not the poor inbred pets with pink bows in their fur – and you see none of the mannerisms and movements that we’re taught are intrinsically female.

Yet many Lesbians, including those who consider themselves radical, still admire and emulate that male facade. They’ve embraced femininity. Even though it is so clearly a self-absorbed, narcissistic, unnatural state, these Lesbians believe that it is true femaleness, and so they set up Femness as the acceptable norm for Lesbians.

Besides the obvious signs of femininity in clothes, makeup, and mannerisms, and in articles glorifying femininity in Lesbian and feminist publications, there are also subtle undercurrents of feminization among Lesbians. In this chapter, we confront both the obvious and the subtle.  Looking past the tangle of lies we’re taught from the moment we’re born means facing the fact of being Lesbian in a whole new way — a reality that’s far removed from the world of “normal” het women.

There are differences among Fems: The extremely feminine Hard Fems are at one end of the scale — they internalize male ideals of womanhood, which requires continually viewing themselves as if through men’s minds until men’s ideals feel like their own. At the other end, Dyke-identified Fems are repulsed by most aspects of femininity. Fems’ Lesbianism is obviously a major resistance against male values and male appropriation of women. But our basic femininity and recognition by the het world as “women” remains. (Since we’re two Fems and one Butch, we generally use the terms “we” when writing about both groups.) We can choose to grow less feminine in thought, action, manner, looks, and clothes. However, nothing can change the fact that Fems grew up feeling accepted as real girls and real women, and so were spared the agony, punishment, abuse, and self-doubt of being ostracized as “abnormal.” Most likely, the reason girls become feminine is the same reason Lesbians choose to remain feminine, go back to being more feminine, or pressure other Lesbians to become feminine –that is, so they can fit in, feel acceptable, and not think of themselves as unnatural.

I’ve often heard Fems say, in defense of men who claim to be Lesbians, “You have no idea what it feel like to grow up never feeling like you fit in or belong.” Yet, unlike most of these men, that is exactly what Butch girls feel like growing up. But typically, men’s feelings are considered more important than women’s.

Most Butches who acknowledge being Butch clearly remember hating and resisting femininity when we were little girls. This is more than being a “tomboy,” which many Fems claim to have been. A Butch’s resistance brings extreme punishment:  she’s described as abnormal, queer, a woman-who-wants-to-be-a-man; she’s often beaten, raped, institutionalized, psychiatrically tortured (including being subjected to electroshock, drugs, and psychosurgery), and/or disowned by her family, for not “acting like a woman.” Her resistance does not EVER win her the privileges that men keep for themselves. Because men know she’s indeed a female, and a most rebellious one, she’s made an example of for all contemplating resistance. She has “stepped out of her proper place” and “gotten above herself.” Butch oppression originates with men saying, in effect, “This is how patriarchy punishes resisters.”

Many Fems, especially Separatists, are strongly Dyke-identified and genuinely want all Dykes to have equal, loving friendships and relationships. Adoration of femininity is no more acceptable to Dyke-identified Fems than it is to aware Butches, and that’s why we (Linda and Ruston), as Fem Dykes, are as willing to fight Fem privilege as Butch Dykes are.  Becoming aware for the first time that being Fem puts you in a position of privilege can be disturbing, but that hasn’t stopped many Fems from taking that new awareness as a chance to strengthen our Dyke identities and work toward stronger Dyke communities.

For many Dykes, the very mention of Butch and Fem is upsetting because it seems to prove male lies about us.  One of the most common stereotypes of Lesbians is that we “play roles.” Therefore, many Lesbians insist roles don’t exist or that only the most “unfeminist,” “uneducated,” “male-identified” Lesbians “play roles.”  Roles are supposed to be a thing of our “sleazy,” “perverted” past that feminism cured. These condescending, Lesbian-hating politics discredit and malign anyone who dares to try sorting out the complex truth, which is that most women, whether Lesbian or het, choose to be Fem from girlhood.

Since the 1980’s, there’s been a glorification of role-playing.  Some newer Lesbians think of roles as a trendy game, imitating mainstream hets’ reactionary return-to-the-1950′s nostalgia (with 1950′s racism, Queer-bashing, and stagnation).  Some Lesbians we’ve known who were unconsciously playing the Fem role began to be conscious and deliberate about it when they realized it could increase their privilege. So roles are either considered a reactionary topic we should avoid or the key to the hottest Lesbian sex, especially if played in an sado-masochistic setting. Also, there are a lot of Fems who think it’s fun to play at being Butch, the same way some class-privileged Lesbians make a game of downward mobility. Some of these Fems are the most vocal about being “Butch,” which adds to the general confusion about Butch and Fem core identitys. They are also the most likely to harass other Fems for being feminine.

All these misconceptions make it very hard to even begin dealing with being Butch or Fem in a responsible, political way. But it’s essential to do it because, otherwise, we won’t have equality among ourselves. The issue of Butch oppression is as complex as any other political issue that involves hierarchies among Lesbians. As with any other inequality, ignoring it doesn’t make the problem go away. It persists, affecting how each of us thinks and feels about herself and other Dykes. It affects our political work, our friendships, and our interaction with lovers.  Exploring the truth about Dyke identity, including Butch identity, is the only way to learn to truly value and love each other and ourselves as Dykes.

Dykes who want to deal with roles aren’t responsible for roles existing. We’re just describing them and trying to fight injustice. We don’t want Lesbians to feel shame, guilt, fear, embarrassment, or to take offense. We’re writing to free Dykes from those feelings.  Nor are we confirming male and het lies about Lesbians. We’re trying to make sense of a confusing situation that causes pain and oppression for Butch Dykes.  Dealing with any issue of inequality is hard and can be painful. No matter how unjust, the status quo of injustice is familiar and can seem safer.  But the damage is severe, while the gains from fighting Butch oppression mean happier, safer, stronger Lesbian communities for all of us.

Some of the oppressive behavior we describe may be similar to something you find yourself doing.  If you realize that it’s just a way you learned to act and identify with, and isn’t who you are deep down inside (otherwise you wouldn’t be a Dyke), then it’s possible to stop being oppressive without feeling personally threatened.  And if you sincerely care about the Dykes you’re oppressing and causing pain, it’s possible to let go of old ways of behaving and change without feeling resentful or bad.

Every Dyke we know, both Fem and Butch, who’s had the guts to bring up Butch oppression and Fem privilege has been attacked to her face and in the Lesbian press, and has been subjected to ridicule, condescension, slander, social exclusion, and loss of friendships — all in an effort to suppress the truth.  Obviously we care very much about this issue and are deeply convinced of the accuracy of our understanding, if we’re prepared to risk this sort of reaction. Fems have usually been the most insulting, because this issue threatens their power over Butches.  Those who fear loss of privilege usually become enraged.

Coming out as Butch is as terrifying and difficult as coming out as a Lesbian or a Separatist without support. The reactions are similar to what happens when someone brings up class in a group for the first time. She usually meets with angry resistance, denial, hostile jokes, unfair accusations, and ostracism by the privileged, which crushes opportunities for major, positive changes in how we think of ourselves and each other.  This destroys our chances for personal happiness and Dyke unity. Such reactions focus sympathy on the outraged Fem, when it’s the Butch who needs support.

Fems who deny that they are Fem are actually saying Butches don’t exist. Most Lesbians deny Butch oppression the same way that most het women deny Lesbian oppression. Some Butches also deny that they are Butch, or that Butches are oppressed, because for Butches, thinking about it brings pain, self-hatred, and fear of exposure to the surface, and because exploring Butch oppression can bring retribution from Fem lovers and friends.

When the reality of Butch and Fem identities are acknowledged by Radical Feminist Lesbians, they usually assume that only Butches “play roles.” Fems aren’t considered “Fem,” but are thought of as “just ordinary Lesbians,” because we merge into the mainstream concept of normality. Being more feminine makes us more like women are meant to be in a male-run world. These male standards have been taken for granted for so long that they’re usually assumed to be “natural.”

If we realize that femininity confers privilege, and therefore social power, and not nurturance, fragility, softness, and warmth, we won’t fall for feminine games.  If we realize that resistance to femininity makes openness, honest directness, a sense of realness, emotional intensity, passion, and Lesbian loyalty more possible, we can release and develop more of those qualities in ourselves and in our communities.  If we don’t reject femininity and the Lesbian-hating, self-hating politics it reflects, we’ll never have fair and equal personal or political relationships, because we won’t be loving and valuing each other as Lesbians.  Discussions about Lesbian ethics will remain an abstract fantasy as long as love and friendship are based on unethical game-playing, manipulation, and objectification.

Butches as Scapegoats

Butches have kept Lesbianism alive and visible over the centuries and should be an inspiration to us all.  Butches who are out in times and places where females are openly owned by fathers or husbands are extremely brave.  They are the first to be attacked, persecuted, imprisoned, and killed during the worst times of female and Lesbian repression.

Butch oppression is simply a more extreme version of how all Lesbians are treated by a heterosexist world.  Men and het women often use the term “Butch” interchangeably with “Lesbian.”  Men and het women scapegoat Lesbians for male crimes.  Lesbians are portrayed as girl-molesters, when it’s men who are the rapists, and when Lesbians ourselves are among the many girl victims of rape by male relatives and strangers.  Men have succeeded in diverting attention away from their own violence, teaching women to displace their real rage at and fear of men onto Lesbians. Scapegoating Lesbians enables the het woman who shrinks in revulsion from a Dyke on the bus or who shouts insults at a Dyke at work, to live with, look after and defend a man who beats her and rapes her daughters.

This scapegoating is central to Lesbian oppression.  It’s become clear only recently that most females are victims of rape by male family, making it obvious that most males are rapists.  The enormity of this terrorization is why males find it necessary to divert attention from their crimes, in order to maintain het women’s devotion.  Butches personify Lesbianism, so the most rage and fear is redirected at us.  Butches are portrayed, by hets and Fem Lesbians, as hardened abusers of women, when it’s men who are callously gynocidal, and when Butches ourselves are prime targets of male violence, as well as abuse from het women and Fems.

The existence of Butch and Fem identities have been so distorted and lied about by hets, and Butch identity is so deeply linked with Dyke identity and Queer oppression, that  just mentioning the issue often calls forth denial, pain, anger, and confusion among long-time Dykes. It also calls forth a stream of anti-Butch stereotypes from reactionary ex-het Fems who haven’t rid themselves of the lesbophobia of their het years.

Butches have the right to come out as Butch, yet when we do, reactions by other Lesbians are often identical to how hets react to any Lesbian coming out.  In spite of all the pressure, there have always been Dykes who identify as Butch, as well as Butches who won’t, just as there are Lesbians who are clearly out and others who prefer to be called “women,” or “womyn.”

For decades, I’ve been asked, “Why don’t you identify as something other than Butch?” by threatened Fems. (The last who asked me that was one third my age.)  Can you imagine asking another oppressed, marginalized, and invisiblized Lesbian why she doesn’t just give up her identity so she won’t make those in the dominant position uncomfortable?

A Lesbian-focused analysis of Butch oppression has to be based on what we know about heterosexism and Lesbian-hatred. Who first accused Lesbians, especially Butches, of being “like men?”  Who first accused Lesbians of imitating heterosexual couples?  Who is the most interested in destroying our self-esteem and making us appear repulsive to ourselves and others?  Who is the most invested in discouraging girls from resisting femininity and heterosexuality?  Who uses Lesbians, especially Butches, as scapegoats?  We know men’s lies, and we know we can extricate ourselves from yet another network of lies that damages us at our very Dykes cores, and at the heart of our relationships with each other.  Butches are not like men.  Lesbians are not the same as het couples. Analyzing “roles” among Lesbians really means analyzing Fem privilege, Butch oppression, and the heterosexual hierarchy that exists among Lesbians. Instead of assuming that Butches are in a role while Fems are just “being themselves,” we need to recognize that it’s Fems who have accepted the artificialities of a role, while Butches have resisted accepting those artificialities.

Het women consider themselves to be the norm of what it means to be “womanly,” just as Fems consider femininity the standard by which all Lesbians should be measured.  This means that many, perhaps most, Fems don’t even consider themselves to be Fem. They think of themselves simply as “Women,” “Womyn,” or (for the most radical) “Lesbians” or “Dykes.” That’s similar to how het women don’t think of themselves as feminine women or het women, but simply as “women.”  It’s left to us as Lesbians to say that het women don’t represent us all, that they aren’t “the Women,” but are just one kind of female — otherwise we end up accepting their implicit definition of us as non-female.  In the same way, we need to assert that Fems don’t represent Lesbianism or the ideal Lesbian.

We’ve been bombarded with feminine standards since we were born, so many Butches also believe the propaganda that Femness is the “normal” way to be.  This is similar to how the cultures of the class-privileged can seem more real and even cozily familiar to poor and working-class Dykes than our own cultures, because of media propaganda.

Butch oppression is so ignored that most Lesbians insist on simple definitions if anyone dares to bring up the subject.  When easy explanations aren’t possible, they conclude that the issue isn’t real.   After all, why should most Fems care when they’re not the ones being hurt?  Denying the reality of Butch oppression is like denying any inequality — denial ensures the continuation of the oppression.

Butch oppression isn’t given validity as a political issue.  Even otherwise radical Lesbians make jokes about Butches and put us down in a way they would never do with other oppressed groups.  Although some Lesbians are opposed to classism being discussed and fought, for instance, at least there’s a recognition that classism exists in patriarchy and also among Lesbians.

Often Fems, and even some Butches, not only deny that Butches are oppressed, but say that we’re oppressive to Fems. Old myths die hard, especially when the male and het world all around us constantly pressures us to believe them.  The fact is that more Fems fit negative Butch stereotypes, including being “male-identified” and “like men,” than Butches do. Fems who single out Butches this in way are acting like the men and het women who say that Lesbians are as cruel and horrible as men. Fems may find this a “terrible” thing to say, but how do they think Butches feel to be told such things about ourselves?

We should know by now that believing stereotypes distorts our perceptions.  For example, a Fem who isn’t expressive or talkative may be perceived as “shy” and “vulnerable” while a quiet Butch may be called “sullen,” “cold,” and “aloof.”  A Fem who shouts in anger may be perceived as “strong” and having a right to her feelings, while a Butch raising her voice in anger is likely to be perceived as “violent” and “domineering.”

Butches are no more perfect than any other oppressed group.  If being perfect were necessary for someone’s oppression to be acknowledged as real, and fought, no injustice would be fought.  There are always a few individuals from every oppressed group who happen to fit the worst stereotypes of that group, but that doesn’t make the stereotypes true or mean that group or those individuals deserve oppression.  The fact is that there are nasty individuals from all groups, and just as many or more individuals from the privileged group also fit the oppressed group stereotype.  Responsible Lesbians would never say classism is irrelevant because they know mean working-class Dykes and kind middle-class Dykes. Butch reality is so distorted and misrepresented that many Lesbians forget to apply what they’ve learned about their own and others’ oppressions to this issue.  For this reason, one way to avoid being unintentionally reactionary is to temporarily substitute Butches in your mind with a recognized oppressed group when you think or talk about roles.

Each of us has internalized some degree of anti-Dyke propaganda, which we take out on ourselves and on each other. The main targets are Butches, who are also the most pressured to internalize self-hatred.  But the strong Dyke inside every one of us is punished, repressed, and damaged by fear, hatred, and ambivalence towards Butches — whether as Butches we internalize it against ourselves, or as Fems we externalize it against Butches. It’s way past time for us to say No to heterosexual demands that we hate our Dyke selves and Yes to our love for each others’ enduring, wild, determined female/Dyke selves.

                                         “So Give Me a Definition”

A definition is both easy and difficult. When we describe Butch and Fem, some Lesbians immediately recognize what we mean. Those who do want to understand will recognize themselves and other Lesbians. For others, no definition satisfies them unless it’s a stereotype. Those who want to avoid the issue or “just don’t understand” are expressing their resistance to the truth, just as some het women don’t understand how anyone can be a Lesbian. The complex realities of our Butch and Fem core identities can’t be reduced to a brief glib sentence or two. This entire chapter is our attempt to define and explain it.

For those with awareness of Butch and Fem identities, it’s obvious. You can usually tell when you first meet someone whether she’s Butch or Fem. Sometimes you can tell just by hearing a Lesbian’s voice. It’s much easier, for instance, than identifying someone’s class background when you know nothing about them. Yet, for Lesbians who aren’t aware of who, it can seem difficult at first.

One way to work out whether someone is Butch or Fem is to notice how you feel around her.  What’s your gut reaction?  Who do you feel effeminate in relation to?  When do you feel like a clumsy clod?  How “Queer” or how “normal” do you feel around a Lesbian?  When do you feel “like yourself”?  Butches and less feminine Fems tend to feel awkward or crude when they’re around the extremely feminine. Fems, including the least feminine, tend to feel more feminine around a Butch.

Butches are more likely to recognize a Lesbian’s core identity because Butches are so oppressed by role-playing. Fems who’ve also suffered because of other Fems’ role-playing may recognize roles more easily, too. Butches tend to know more about who is Fems, just as other oppressed groups tend to know more about the oppressor’s culture than vice-versa. Hard Fems also recognize immediately who’s Butch and who’s Fem, for their own predatory reasons. Hard Fems are the most obvious role-players.  Some are so feminine that they look like drag queen Hard Fems, while others are more subtle. They may look like strong Dykes, but their actions reveal their oppressive attitudes. Hard Fems generally treat Butches as sex objects, treat less feminine Fems as if we were of no consequence, and treat other Hard Fems as rivals.

Butches are closer to what all women would be like if we didn’t live in patriarchy.

Butches are more like what we’d all be if we weren’t subjected to intense male feminization.  Butches express femaleness and Lesbianism more naturally, while Fems’ femaleness and Lesbianism is channeled through the acquired values of femininity.   Fems share those feminine values with men and heterosexual women while Butches’ ways of being are furthest from those of men and het women.  But there are exceptions.  The institution of heterosexism has many aspects.  Making one decision to resist male rule doesn’t mean someone makes them all. Some poor and working-class het women from rural areas who do hard physical labor have less of the typical feminine mannerisms, (although that has changed in the last few decades since pressure has been on such women to feminize even more).  And there are Fems who accepted some degree of femininity but never became het, while there are Butches who were het and even wives and mothers.  But there’s a higher percentage of Butches who never were het than Fems.  And there’s a higher percentage of Butches who are oppressed by racism and classism.

Since most of the many Lesbians who came out through the WLM are Fems, Butches are in a minority. Nowadays, it’s possible to go to a Lesbian event and find yourself in a crowd of a hundred Fems and five Butches.

Even though many radical Lesbians say they reject the most obvious femininity of the Fem stereotype, Fem is still overwhelmingly the image presented in Lesbian publications and books, and on CD covers and in films:  long hair, often dyed or bleached, in the styles clearly designated for women by men; plucked eyebrows; cosmetics; earrings; long, painted fingernails; dresses, skirts, and high heels.  Besides these images in photographs, there are also drawings of exaggerated femininity.

Even when the image is supposedly more “Lesbian,” with short hair and pants, there’s usually some male-identified womanliness — a touch of feminine jewelry, long fingernails, a “dainty” unnatural hand position, and/ or an expression that’s commonly found on models:  narcissistic, arrogant, coy, seductive, cute, graceful, or posed sweetness, rather than plain Dyke directness.  A few images project a “proper” motherly or grandmotherly expression, which is also acceptably feminine.  Most Lesbian feminist media stars are clearly Fem (although this was less true in the early 1970′s).  Many look het, but even those who look like Lesbians convey their Femness by the tilt of their head, their facial expressions, and the way they talk.  Many Fems speak in a higher-pitched voice than is natural for them.

On virtually every leaflet or advertisement we’ve seen for Lesbian conferences, meetings, support groups, and dances, the image is clearly Fem (sometimes including in ads for Butch events!).  This is a political statement saying who the organizers consider representative of our Lesbian culture, and who is welcome and who isn’t.  This not only excludes Butches, but Dyke-identified Fems as well.  It’s as elitist as high prices and lack of sliding scale, which say, “for the moneyed only.”  When the common images are also of thin, young, able-bodied, class-privileged, European-descent gentiles, then even more Lesbians are excluded.  But while there’s some growing consciousness about including groups of Lesbians other than the most privileged ones, there seems to be a decrease in including images of obvious Dykes.  (We suggest it’s better to not use any images of Lesbian faces or bodies on ads than to use ones that exclude any oppressed Dykes.)

Fems generally fit the image of how a woman is “supposed” to be, and Butches don’t.  Notice how much ease or unease a Lesbian feels with feminine apparel and how easily she passes or could pass for het.  We can all change our appearance, but body language is revealing.  Fems are more likely to move and make gestures in ways that are traditionally feminine, playing with their hair when talking, even if it’s only an inch long. Some Lesbians think the fad of shaving their head as a political statement makes them look more Butch, but it’s almost always a sign of being Fem. It requires constant maintenance and is actually just a variation on feminine fussing with appearance. Also, it’s not unusual for a Fem to dress and wear her hair clearly like a Dyke one year and look very het the next.  Looking Out has been a fad for many, but fads pass, and many Fems ultimately reveal a craving to follow the drag queen Hard Fem ideal. Dyke-identified Dykes, whether Fem or Butch, are repulsed by that crap.

Fems are more likely to be obsessed with their looks and what they like and dislike about their bodies.  They’re more likely to spend a great deal of time preparing their appearance, as if they’re going on display for the male gaze, just as het women do.  They’re also more likely to notice other Lesbians’ appearance and make critical comments about how they look.

Fems are also more likely to act “motherly.”  We’ve never met a motherly Butch who wasn’t an actual mother, but we’ve met many motherly Fems who aren’t mothers.  And Butch mothers tend to be less in the motherly role of being critical and policing.  But that doesn’t mean that non-motherly Butches and Fem Dykes aren’t loving, caring, protective, and nurturing.  Contrary to het propaganda, those are Dyke qualities, not inherent mother qualities.

Butch and Fem identity go much deeper than the superficiality usually talked about.  Some Butches convince themselves they’re not Butch because they’re good cooks, or they like doing craftwork, making a cozy home, and hate sports, and/or are intimidated by mechanical tasks. Some Fems think they’re not Fem because they hate femininity and are comfortable doing traditionally “male” work like carpentry and mechanics.  A more accurate way to recognize core identities is by noticing who has the power in social and intimate relationships. Fem privilege carries a lot of clout in Lesbian social interactions.

One Honest Fem’s Self-Recognition List

1. When I first meet another Lesbian, if all other things are equal (more or less), I feel less difference with Fems.  Even when there are other differences between us, such as ethnicity or class, when it comes to core identity, Femness is an area of similarity. With a Butch, I feel the potential barrier that any major difference creates.  We’re on different ground. We can’t assume we know how each other feels — we can assume our experiences have been very different and that as a result we’re likely to feel different about a lot of things.  That’s true of any two Lesbians, but every difference in privilege and oppression widens the gap and requires more conscious effort to achieve understanding and closeness.

2. Until developing a radical Dyke politics, I never had any qualms about identifying as a   “woman” and had no trouble being accepted as one by hets I feel myself moving like a Fem, and automatically using some feminine gestures.  They’re not exaggerated, but are obviously different from how Butches move and act I don’t pass as het, but I feel relatively confident I could pass as het if necessary — not a polished version, but adequate.

3.  Feminine activities like sewing, needlecrafts, cooking, and other things designated as “woman’s work” feel like something that belongs to me and to my sphere of activity.  Some I enjoy, some I’m indifferent to, and some I hate, but somehow they all “belong” to me.  I remember the years it took to train me in some of those skills, and how bitterly I hated most of them at first, but in the end I accepted them as “second nature.”  No one thinks it’s odd to see me doing these activities, while Butches who are comfortable and skilled with this kind of work are often teased and ridiculed by both Butches and Fems.

4. Often, Butches show friendliness to me by acting protective, solicitous, even deferential. They don’t usually act that way toward other Butches.

5. I can tell that I’m less uncomfortable among het women than Butches are.  I don’t need to be as on guard, because het women don’t act as scared, hateful, or predatory (flirtatious) toward me, especially if a Butch is present — they focus on the most Queer Lesbian present.  If I’m alone with het women, they sometimes do act that way.  However, no het woman has ever pretended after a long conversation that she thought I was a man, which has happened to Butch friends who are very obviously female.

But I Don’t Play Roles”

It makes sense that some otherwise responsible Lesbians don’t want to acknowledge that we’re all either Butch or Fem because:

1) Hets use this as propaganda to obscure their outrageously extreme role-playing;

2) Dykes don’t want to admit doing things that seem to confirm het stereotypes of us;

3) “Role-playing” is a negative stereotype of Dykes who came out before feminism, and so they are looked down upon by the newer ex-het feminist Fems;

4) Sado-masochist Lesbians and “Lesbian” porn glorify role-playing;

5) The even newer ex-het Fems who came out after the WLM (and who are therefore much less oppressed as Lesbians) often think it’s campy, cute, thrillingly “naughty,” and trendy to play with roles.

Of the many Fems who deny being Fem, some claim to be Butch, and others claim to be neither Butch nor Fem. Yet, to anyone with any awareness, it’s easy to identify whether someone who you don’t personally know is Butch or Fem just from a photograph or from a Lesbian’s voice and way of speaking. How can any Dyke consider herself free of these basic core identities? It’s like the Lesbians who insist they are class-free, when they visibly are not. When you’re privileged, you can take your position for granted, but when you’re oppressed, you can’t avoid noticing it. Whether or not a Dyke chooses to identify her Femness, she should be aware that Butches are treated as Butches no matter how we identify. She should at least notice and resist the ways she’s treated as more normal (Fem) by both hets and other Lesbians.

Some Never-het Fems associate Femness with heterosexuality and are understandably unwilling to identify as Fems, but they still benefit from Fem privilege, although to a lesser degree.  A sound analysis of heterosexism among Lesbians clarifies both issues — Butch oppression and Never-het Dyke oppression.

Some Fems claim it’s “masochistic” to identify as a Fem, because they accept and perpetuate the lie that “Fems are oppressed by Butches like women are oppressed by men.”  The truth is that Butches are oppressed by Fems similarly to how Lesbians are oppressed by het women.  Fighting femininity is an essential part of fighting sado-masochism.  Accusing politically responsible Fems of self-hatred because we acknowledge Fem privilege is just another way of trying to silence discussion about Butch oppression.  Should everyone just grab whatever privilege they can with no concern for who pays for it?  Lesbians who refuse to use our privilege, and who fight injustice — whether about Butch oppression or any other issue — should be respected for our courage instead of being called masochistic.  Fighting inequality benefits everyone.  Who wants to live in communities where some feel good about themselves at others’ expense?  We should all feel good together.

Many Fems claim that Butches are more privileged and admired in Lesbian communities.  Some Dykes do support other Dykes to stop being feminine and to be Dyke-identified in appearance and behavior.  But that doesn’t mean Butches are considered superior.  Similarly, working-class culture occasionally getting respect doesn’t mean that the working class are considered superior or now have privilege over the middle-class.  Oppression is real and observable.  Privilege means gaining real, concrete advantages.

When Fems complain about “pressure” to look and act like Dykes, it’s like het feminists complaining about being “pushed” to come out.  There’s far more pressure on us all to feminize — in the male and het world, our families, and Lesbian communities as well.  The support to be more Dyke-identified is minuscule compared to that (and, by 2015, nonexistent.)

Butches are under unrelenting pressure to look more “normal,” by mothers, other family members, co-workers, and even lovers and Lesbian friends.  If we do feminize ourselves, we are rewarded by being told how much “nicer” we look. Some Butches have succumbed to this pressure over the years.

Ironically, some Fems who are temporarily playing at being “Butch” pressure other Fems and Butches to act more “tough” (their erroneous image of Butchness).  They’re the ones we’ve noticed being the most likely to make nasty anti-Fem comments and jokes (another part of their erroneous image of Butches), which isn’t the same as honest resistance to Femness.  It’s scapegoating other Fems for your privilege.  A Fem we knew who used to make frequent anti-Butch comments was told why this was oppressive; she then tried to make herself appear more “Butch” and began making anti-Fem comments. It’s much more acceptable for Fems to reject femininity than it is for Butches, who are perceived as “going too far.”  In fact, the Lesbians who are most praised for being “Butch” are usually less obvious Fems. This makes identifying Lesbians more difficult, especially when newly-out Fem Lesbians are inclined to think of almost all longer-out Lesbians as “Butch.”

Anti-Butch attitudes are taken for granted among Lesbians.  At a Lesbian forum in San Francisco, the audience cheered when it was announced that several members were Fems, and they cheered again when another Lesbian described herself as a “recovering Butch.”  U.S. gay papers print many personal ads making statements like, “feminine Lesbian wants pretty Lesbian who looks like a woman,” or “no Butches, please.”  In one such ad2 the Lesbian stated her bias clearly:  “I’m most comfortable in this straight world acting straight.  I truly dislike the gay scene, roles, Butches, dykes … etc.  I’m not secretly looking to ‘come out,’ so no helpful offers please.  My closet has always been, warm, cozy, and exciting.”

We’ve occasionally seen some support of Butches in Lesbian and feminist publications, although it’s still vastly outnumbered by anti-Butch statements.  In criticizing a play about “Lesbian battery” for showing the victim as “obviously more femme” than the abuser, one reviewer wrote, “It is necessary to note … that the [Lesbian] abuser can as easily be a 5’2″ woman with a high voice and big dimples as she can be the tough “Butch” image.”3  In a workshop on Lesbian identity at the First Encuentro (Gathering) of Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Lesbians in Cuernavaca, Mexico, “Several women noted that it is generally the Butch that is regarded with distaste.  We need to accept the Butches among us and … thereby reject heterosexist attitudes.”4 De Clarke wrote about Butches:

I’ve never seen Butchdom as a cardboard replica of masculinity; never met a Butch who felt to me, socially, like a man; never felt from a Butch the sense of violence that underlies most male social congress … Many Butches of my experience have an almost exaggerated gentleness … I contrast this with the all-out violence of which women are capable who believe themselves weak and powerless … Butches come in for a lot of teasing … aggravation …To me it feels like queer-baiting, but from dykes … it’s a kind of violence to refuse a Butch her identity.”5

“Just Don’t Use Those Words!”

Like other inequalities among Lesbians, Butch oppression isn’t something the privileged — in this case, Fems — have the right to “disagree” exists.  Butch oppression does exist, and Fems either act honestly and responsibly about it or they refuse to, which is the luxury of the privileged.  When even the most well-meaning and otherwise radical Fem says, “I don’t agree with the issue of Butch oppression,” she’s denying the existence, identity, experiences, and lives of Butches.  It’s more honest to say, “I don’t want to be responsible about my Fem privilege.  I don’t want to face up to Lesbian oppression,” rather than to liberally act like it’s just a “matter of opinion” for Fems to deign to make decisions about.  Butches simply don’t have that luxury.

We use the terms Butch and Fem because, although we’re not certain of their origin, it’s likely Butches chose them as a way of expressing their oppression.  Butch isn’t only a political term, it’s an identity.  To delete the term is to delete that identity.  To replace it, as some Lesbians have suggested, is to gloss over reality with euphemism — it’s as closet as calling Lesbians “wimmin-loving-wimmin.”  Butch, like Dyke reclaims an insulting, “shocking” word as a term of pride and courage.  And to soothe Fems’ discomfort by deleting Fem is to delete Butch and the entire issue.  Fem accurately reflects the origin of Femness — femininity.  When Fems say, “I agree with some of your points but not those words,” they remind us of Ruston’s het sister who said, about Ruston being a Lesbian, “I don’t mind what you do — just don’t use that word!”

                                                                       Part 2

The Big Sell-Out: Lesbian Femininity

                                                  Linda Strega

In the 1980’s, a decade of reactionary politics, femininity became an accepted value among many Lesbians. Even many politically radical Lesbians, who I would most expect to support Lesbian self-love and self-respect, who usually call male bullshit for what it is, began to openly admire feminine ways of dressing and acting. Femininity! A patriarchal hype if there ever was one — a phony ideal created by men, not by Lesbians — an ideal that almost all heterosexual women embody to please men.

Femininity is not an inborn aspect of femaleness. Our most innate qualities as women can never be developed through the restraining, artificial posing, game-playing and mirror-gazing that is femininity. Men have taught women what they want women to be –they call it “feminine” or “womanly.” As Lesbians, we need to be awake enough to realize that this male invention is masculine to the core, no matter what it’s named, no matter how many women go along with the lie. Femininity is not truly female; the similarity in the words is a lying male trick.

Lesbians’ acceptance of anything “feminine” is part of the weakening of Lesbian politics — a Lesbian parallel to the right-wing trend of het politics. The same is true of the popularity of sado-masochism among many Lesbians. In fact, sado-masochism encourages the re-acceptance of femininity as a “positive” “erotic” style among otherwise radical Lesbians. I’ve heard shallow reasoning that if some Lesbians “enjoy” femininity and “can’t stop wanting it,” then it’s better to go ahead and accept it. That’s the kind of irresponsible, reactionary politics too often supported by psychotherapy. It’s the same liberalness that supports Lesbians going het, becoming bisexual, and having babies. It’s the same self-destructiveness that leads Lesbians to accept thinness as a standard, that calls the slow suicide of dieting “eating healthy” and the self-punishment of over-exercising “staying fit,” and that encourages Lesbians to worry about the effects of aging on their appearance. Those are all male, het values — feminine values. They all revolve around how men want women to act and look, and they all derive from male desires to control female behavior.

Those Lesbians who act out the feminine model and claim it’s a contribution to Lesbian culture, a flowering forth of their “real selves,” are of course Fems, and most often Fems who were once heterosexual. They haven’t gotten rid of old het values, which are now resurfacing in this reactionary time.

The het media is full of stories about the het feminist who “realizes that she doesn’t have to give up being a woman to be a success in life,” who “regrets having tried to be like a man,” and is now “rediscovering the excitement of feminine seductiveness, the fun of dressing up in high heels, make-up and skirts, and her deep need for the joys of motherhood.” Doesn’t sound too different from lots of Lesbian media, does it?

                                Fem Privilege — Who Pays for It?

During the past decade, I’ve read many articles and stories written by Fem Lesbians that celebrate Fem role-playing as positive, fun and erotic. It’s not just the writings that alarm me. I’ve encountered the same trend at Lesbian social and political events, even among otherwise radical Lesbians. By contrast, articles I’ve read about being Butch show conflict, self-questioning, self-criticism and pain. The same contrast occurs in most discussions I’ve had with other Dykes about Fem and Butch identity, and is one of the many indications that Butches are in an oppressed position relative to Fems.

I’ve been identifying myself openly as a Fem since 1979, when I joined in gradually developing a political analysis about Butch oppression and Fem privilege with a few Dyke Separatist friends. I define myself as a Fem, not because I admire and enjoy femininity or want to develop my Fem qualities but because I recognize that, like most girls, I accepted feminine training as a small child. Why I didn’t resist, when Butch girls did, is now unknown to me, part of the forgotten past. (I do know it wasn’t because I was more oppressed or more heavily pressured than Butches I’ve met.) What’s important to me now is how that choice affects me and other Lesbians in the present.

Being accepted as a “real girl” by the het world, and therefore by my own self, has given me the bearing, manner, and lack of doubt about being a “real woman” that Fem privilege bestows (even though I don’t now identify as a “woman” but as a Lesbian or Dyke). I try to avoid oppressive Fem behavior, but I know that because of my history I will always be Fem. If I claimed to have become Butch because I now reject Fem clothing and behavior, that would be as untrue and offensive as a class-privileged Lesbian saying she’s poor or working-class now because she doesn’t have much money and rejects classist values.

Is it possible to be neither Butch nor Fem, as most Lesbian feminists claim about themselves? From my observations, no. (By Butch and Fem I mean the core self-identity chosen in girlhood — not role-playing, which is about acting out a part which may or may not be your core identity.) Every girl is faced with the choice of either submitting to feminization and being accepted, or resisting and being punished. The pressure on girls to feminize themselves is universal and unrelenting. It exists in every patriarchal culture, and I don’t know of any culture in the world today which isn’t patriarchal. The styles of femininity vary in quality and degree from culture to culture, but in every patriarchal culture “woman” is defined by her allegiance and orientation towards male values and desires.

Patriarchy’s idea of “woman” is not based on true female biology as men claim. “Woman” is actually an artificial, social definition invented by men. It defines what men want women to be — a submissive being who bonds emotionally, mentally, and physically only with men. According to this scheme, if you’re not a woman (namely, a male-identified female), then you’re some kind of deficient man, or trying to be a man; you’re “unnatural.” So, Lesbians, by choosing to bond with other instead of with men, are defined by hets as being “like men.” (Notice that only Lesbians really give primary allegiance to other females. Het women and all men give primary allegiance to men. The comparison of Lesbians to men is inaccurate even regarding the choice of who we bond with.) Butch Lesbians, who not only bond solely with women but completely reject femininity, are even more viciously defined as being “unnatural” and “like a man.”

I believe that Butch and Fem identities are chosen at such an early age (they can be observed in four-year-old girls) that they have a profound effect on how we feel within ourselves, how we interact with each other, and how we’re treated by the het world, for the rest of our lives. A small girl is surrounded by only two models of gender behavior: she lives in a world that says and believes, “Women dress and act like this, and men dress and act like that.”

If a girl cannot and will not accept the artificial trappings and mannerisms of the feminine role, everyone around her begins telling her she’s doing something wrong and unnatural. As she gets older and still resists femininity, the accusations intensify. When her Butch (and possibly Lesbian) identity becomes obvious, she’s labeled a deviant, a freak of nature, a man in a woman’s body. She isn’t supposed to exist. She’s a threat to the Big Lie of “feminine woman,” and so men and their women collaborators make up all kinds of ridiculous, hateful fictions to explain away her existence. The pressure is meant to humiliate and bully her into accepting femininity, and it must put her through soul-shaking self-doubt, even if she knows other Butches. Because so few women totally reject femininity, she usually doesn’t meet other Butches for many years, but faces the onslaught alone, during the most vulnerable years of her life—her girlhood and adolescence. Sometimes Butch girls are partially accepted in their families and among friends, but as a kind of mascot or pet, not as an equal. After all, it’s helpful to have an outcast around, someone who’s at the bottom of the pecking order for those further up to feel superior to.

[Now in 2015, well-meaning liberal parents are being misguided into labeling daughters as young as four years old “transgender” if they resist femininity. These parents tell their daughters that they’re boys trapped in a girl’s body, and start them on a track towards hormone injections and surgery and, therefore, a lifetime of destroyed health. No alternatives are suggested. No one tells the girls that it’s natural for to prefer the freedom and dignity of trousers instead of dresses, and to want active and adventurous play. No one tells them that Lesbianism is a possibility and a good way to live. The parents, and their social workers and medical supporters, think they are “liberal” when they name a girl “transgender,” but they are not “liberal” enough to accept her as a young Butch or a Lesbian. In fact, their destructive enforcing of gender roles is not liberal at all, but extremely reactionary.]

Meanwhile, girls who accept femininity—the vast majority, unfortunately—are accepted as “real girls” and encouraged to take pride in their feminine ways. There are degrees of femininity, of course. Some Fem girls accept the complete emaciated Hard Fem sex-object ideal while others take on just enough feminine identity to still be accepted as real girls. But, because of hets’ fanaticism about “real womanhood,” they do set a rigid line. Any female who refuses to make at least some concession to feminine requirements is over that line—that is, she’s denied the right to be called normal. Not only is she “not really a woman,” she’s pushed outside the bounds of normal society, which judges that it owes her nothing and has the right to destroy her. She’s become a danger to male rule instead of a saleable item in the het marketplace and/or a cooperative representative and promoter of male-defined “womanhood.”

Fem privilege is based on retaining a claim to that “normal” standing that Butches are completely denied. Even though Fem Lesbians are seriously oppressed as Lesbians, we’re still treated by hets as if we’re more like women than Butches are. Butches receive a more extreme version of hets’ insistence on seeing Lesbians as unnatural. When young Butch and Fem lovers are found out by angry het guardians, who gets the most blame and punishment? You know it’s not the Fem. The usual interpretation, as we all know, is, “That disgusting bulldagger shouldn’t be allowed around decent innocent girls.”

Because Fems, in varying degrees, fit more closely the male-created ideal of “real woman,” we’re more privileged than Butches, both in the het world and in Lesbian communities. Because Butches have rejected feminine conditioning more completely, they’re treated as being more queer, more suspect, more “unnatural.” (Ex-het Fems get more “normal” privilege than Never-het Fems, and ex-married Fems and mothers get even more privilege. An ex-het Butch and a Never-het Fem are in a position to oppress each other, but when they’re both Never-het or both ex-het, the Butch will be more oppressed than the Fem.) Hets don’t relate to Fem Lesbians with the same degree of vicious queer-hating. Even though we do get it, especially if we’re dressing and acting in a more Dyke-identified way, it’s never as bad as what a Butch gets. As is always the case with oppression, we’ve internalized these privileges and oppressions, so that Butches and Fems alike tend to treat Fems as if we are more “real women,” more deserving of care and attention. Meanwhile, Butches are viewed as being “male-identified.” What could be more insulting, untrue, and oppressive?

Feminine Lesbians Treat Butches As Non-Women

Some of my understanding about Butch oppression comes from how I’ve been treated by het women, by more feminine Fems, and by anti-Separatist Fems who think of Separatists as being like the worst sort of men. At those times, I’m treated a little bit as if I were Butch, as if I were very queer and not quite female. Not a nice feeling. While it’s happening it’s made me feel, in weaker moments, as if there might really be something monstrous about me. The effects of being viewed as unnatural go deep, no matter how much I know they’re wrong, no matter how strong I am—and I am strong and politically aware. It’s insulting and objectifying to be seen as being like your worst enemy—men—and to have your female reality and individuality denied. That’s the kind of thing that’s done continuously to Butches.

Fems seriously injure Butches when they believe and act on Butch-hating stereotypes. Some of those stereotypes are obviously negative ones: that Butches are abusive, dominating and insensitive, like men; that they oppress women, like men do; that they don’t understand real women; that they don’t experience female oppression; that they are obsessed with sex, like men are. Other stereotypes are claimed to be positive, but are just as damaging: that Butches have special erotic power; that they are mysteriously physically stronger and emotionally invulnerable; that they enjoy doing hard physical tasks and protecting Fems from danger and from unpleasant experiences. Believing any of these stereotypes is not respectful — it’s objectifying.

Many Fems falsely assume that Lesbians value Butchness more highly than Femness. That’s similar to class-privileged Lesbians romanticizing poor and working-class Lesbians and feeling sorry for themselves because they’re “the wrong class.” If you pay attention to how Lesbians actually treat each other, it becomes obvious that Fems are treated more like “real people,” “real women,” while Butches are treated as more queer, more in need of Feminism.

Women’s Liberation feminism is concerned with making heterosexuality more comfortable for heterosexual women. Why should any Lesbian want to support this heterosexist reformism which, of course, supports the male idea that femininity defines femaleness? Accepting that unquestioned male definition is why most ex-het Lesbians who came out in the WLM think that Butches are in a role, but that Fems are not. Like with other privileges, Femness is considered the norm. And of course it’s those with the privilege who have the power to define what the norm is. Butches are usually considered unfeminist by ex-het Women’s Liberation Fems and are accused of not being “woman-identified”—an indirect way of saying not “womanly.” This is insulting and oppressive, because they’re saying Butches are like our oppressors.

The fact is, Butches are more truly female-identified than the Fems who criticize them. It’s Butches’ rejection of femininity that offends these Fems. Never does it occur to such Fems that they themselves are the ones who need to become more female-identified, that is, more Lesbian-identified. The “womanliness” they value so much isn’t basic to female nature at all: Butches’ independence from male definitions is more truly female. Most ex-het Women’s Liberation Fems have been too arrogant, because of their het and Fem privilege and lesbophobia, to realize that it’s they who have something to learn from Butches who are lifelong Dykes.

I’ve met many ex-het Fems who, because of their lesbophobic assumptions about roles, think Fems are oppressed by Butches. When I asked one ex-het, ex-married Lesbian mother what she meant by saying she, as a Fem, felt oppressed by Butches, she answered that it was “an extension of how I was oppressed as a heterosexual woman.” This Lesbian is unfortunately far from unique in thinking of a Butch as another sort of man, and she’d been a radical Lesbian for years when she said that. Het attitudes and het privilege don’t vanish upon coming out, even after years of being a political Lesbian: they have to be recognized, analyzed, and consciously resisted just like other oppressive beliefs and behaviors.

The same Fems who think of Butches as oppressive imitation men also often romanticize Butches as lovers: wanting to be pursued and swept off their feet, wanting to be the one who is made love to and not caring to focus the same attention on her lover; wanting to experience the Butch lover as Other, as some kind of opposite, as mysteriously more powerful, stronger, braver. The honest admiration and respect that a Butch could arouse in another Lesbian, Fem or Butch, gets distorted into a het-like power game—an addiction to inequality, with the Fem in the power position and pretending not to be. It’s not honest, it’s not respectful, and it sure isn’t love.

There are also degrading eroticized anti-Butch attitudes which are accepted unchallenged among Lesbians, like the following description of a sex video advertised prominently in the May, 1985, issue of a local Lesbian/Gay newspaper: “For the lesbian s/m connoisseur — butch is taught a few manners in femme worship.” Anyone having a hard time recognizing the hatred in this ad needs only to substitute the name of any other oppressed group for “butch” and the corresponding privileged group for “femme” and feel what your gut reaction is. (The depth of Lesbian oppression is such that it’s often easier for us to react emotionally to an issue which isn’t particularly and solely about Lesbians.)

It’s wrong to exploit Butches’ courage and risk-taking, letting them do most of the work of maintaining Lesbian visibility and take the worst punishment from the het world, while they are used by Fems to celebrate the Fems’ “power to attract.” What about Fems trying to develop some of those Butch qualities they sometimes claim to admire? Many Fems have done that, but the trend toward femininity is eroding support for de-feminization and replacing it with strong pressure to feminize.

What about Fems recognizing our privileged and oppressive position? What about trying to stop the sexualizing of power imbalances? What about acknowledging that acting out of privilege is, of course, going to feel more comfortable, but that that doesn’t make it all right? That privilege is why many Fems are now saying “I enjoy being a Fem,” while Butches express conflict, soul-searching, discomfort, self-criticism and pain about being Butch.

                             Fems Who Think They’re Butches

Discussions about Butch and Fem identity often become confused because many Fems think they are Butches. Butches are a small minority, and there are many misconceptions about what true Butch identity is. So, many Fems are mistakenly assumed to be Butches, or believe themselves to be Butches, if they’re less feminine than other Fems. Some Fems who are also privileged in other ways, like looks, thinness and class, get positive attention from other Lesbians by playing at being Butch. They may be admired for managing to act “Butchy” without “going too far,” but they certainly don’t experience Butch oppression. There are also Fems who want to be like men and think that means they are Butches.

Then there are more oppressed Fems who get pressured into a Butch-like role and are objectified as sexual and emotional servicers by more privileged and more feminine Fems. When two Fems are lovers or friends, if one is more oppressed because of being darker, fatter, older, having less looks privilege, less ethnic or class privilege, less or no het experience, or being more Dyke Separatist, she’s likely to be considered the less feminine of the two, and therefore “the Butch.” This just adds to her existing oppressions. Her feelings won’t be considered to be as important or as sensitive as her lover’s, her lovemaking may not be reciprocated, and her lover may interpret everything she does through the distorted screen of lesbophobia, because “the Butch” in the couple is the one who’s considered more queer than her lover. She’s more likely to understand the nature of Butch oppression as a result of being treated like a Butch at times, although she’ll never experience as much Butch oppression as she would if she was actually Butch.

                The Het Woman’s Uniform vs. Lesbian Identity

I’ve been criticized by Fem Lesbians who wear some form of Fem drag and want to know why I don’t “dress up,” why I “want to wear a uniform.” This offensive, militaristic male imagery is openly Lesbian-hating—they’re the ones wearing the male-approved feminine uniform. They complain about how terribly pressured they feel to wear Dyke clothes, yet in every case these Fems aggressively initiated talking about clothes. I don’t go around confronting Lesbians who dress feminine, nor does anyone else I know who feels the same as I do about this issue: we’re usually too busy defending ourselves against attacks on our lack of femininity. Meanwhile, I often hear feminine Lesbians praised for their “courage” in displaying their femininity. Where’s the “courage” in perpetuating male and het values?

One Fem, an ex-het, ex-married mother, gave me a lecture at my own kitchen table about how the “Dyke look” (Butch) is really a European-descent middle-class “uniform.” She claimed that racially oppressed Lesbians and poor and working-class Lesbians like to “dress up” Fem. (She herself is European-descent, working-class, protestant-raised.) For her, apparently, racially oppressed Butches and poor and working-class Butches either don’t exist or don’t count. Not to mention myself, sitting in front of her, a working-class Fem who hates feminine clothes and rejects the idea that Fem drag is “dressing up” in any positive sense — I also didn’t count.

Why do our critics assume I and other Dykes don’t know what a “uniform” is? None of us want regimentation. And why are the ancient, universal cultural traditions we’ve developed as an oppressed people shown such disrespect? Many oppressed groups of people express their cultural identity and recognize each other through wearing traditional clothes unique to them, with individual variation according to taste. People who invade others’ lands and suppress their cultures forbid traditional clothing as one of the first steps of genocide. Reclaiming traditional clothes is often one of the first steps in resisting cultural destruction. They’re worn as a statement of pride. Dykes wear Dyke clothing for similar reasons. Yet the same liberal men and women and het-identified Lesbians who’d never dream of attacking other peoples’ cultural style don’t hesitate to attack us for ours.

The clothes I and other Dykes wear aren’t the kind men designate for women. They’re clothes that are cheaper, sturdier, warmer in cold weather, less constricting and more protective—the kind of clothing that men would like to reserve for themselves. Wearing them is not only more comfortable and functional, it also makes it more obvious to anyone who sees me, including other Dykes, that I’m a Dyke. They also make it easier for me to defend myself if a male attacks me. My Dyke clothes free my movements to be more natural to myself, because they don’t require the artificial constraints that feminine clothes do: the smaller steps, legs kept together, restricted shoulder movements, the fussing with hair, jewelry, and make-up that we’re used to seeing in women. (When I refer to restricted body movement, I’m not talking about inherent physical ability. Whatever one’s physical ability, clothing can either restrict or allow maximum use of one’s body.) My clothes aren’t “male” clothes, they’re Lesbian clothes. They symbolize Dykes’ deep refusal to be men’s sex-toys. And because they’re forbidden to us, they also represent our refusal to follow men’s orders.

Those who understand patriarchal dress codes are aware that the seemingly more reasonable feminine slacks and blouses that many Lesbians accept still conform to male dictates. For example, if they weren’t specifically for women, feminine shirts wouldn’t be called “blouses.” This isn’t a word game—clothes designated for women have fewer pockets, are less well-made, and often more expensive. Even “unisex” clothing reserves better quality, convenience, and comfort for the men’s and boys’ versions.

I call feminine clothes “drag” because they’re a game-playing het costume. Het women’s lives are based on lies that are repeated and acted out so often that the truths about themselves as women and potential Lesbians are deeply buried. Het women are dead to themselves as true females as long as they choose to remain het. They don’t know what the needs of a female soul are, or they wouldn’t be het; they wouldn’t be nurturing their very enemy. Then why are so many Lesbians imitating het women? Or in some cases, going back to values they had when they themselves were het?

Hets often assume that feminine-looking Lesbians are really bisexual or het. I don’t think that assumption is 100% het ignorance. Feminine clothing, hair styles, behavior, obsession with dieting and with male-approved appearance are all forms of social communication that say, “I’m willing to please men,” or at the very least, “I accept men’s dictates in dress and behavior. I’m not as queer as a Butch. I’m really rather normal.” Generally, Fems can pass as het more easily than Butches. But Fems who reject feminine values and try to be visibly out are treated as more queer than other Fems. We’re in a position to be oppressed by Fems who are selling out, and we’re more natural allies for Butches.

Some Fems enjoy the fact that men and/or het women like their Femness. Some ex-het Fems are still caught up with male approval, even if it takes the form of thinking, “You men like what you see, but you can’t have me anymore.” I’ve actually read that written by a Fem in a “Dyke” publication, and I’ve heard Lesbians talk that way. Lesbians who play those sexual games with men are making both the games and the men more important to them than Lesbian identity and solidarity. Other Lesbians use feminine clothes and behavior simply to make themselves safer from queer oppression, trying to blend in more with het ways. Whatever the reasons, it’s all at the expense of Butches, who by being the most blatant and public resistance fighters against heterosexist values, by not catering to het approval at all, become the targets for the most intense punishment from the het world. After all, if even other Lesbians (Fems) are willing to play that part of the het game—are willing to dress and change their bodies (dieting, shaving, altering their hair) as men dictate—that supports the het pressure on Butches to do the same, not to mention the racism, ageism, looksism, and fat oppression involved in doing those things.

Femininity isn’t a harmless diversion or form of self-expression. It’s not creative, it’s not “freeing,” it’s not daring or sexy. It’s just the same phony heterosexist crap. It means spending time, energy and money on nail polish, perfume, hair styles, dresses, diets, body-shaping exercises, poses and games; fantasizing yourself as the center of sexual attention, making everything into a sexual game, getting yourself further and further away from female reality, from real female Lesbian power. It means identifying more and more with het values and choosing to see yourself through men’s eyes. Shit, you could be that woman in the lipstick commercial: Just substitute a Butch Lesbian for the man that’s panting after her. If your lover or friend doesn’t want to play that game, you’ll teach her how much “fun” it can be. How much time and interest does this leave for forming truly loving Lesbian relationships, building strong Lesbian communities and fighting patriarchy?

I don’t understand the pleasure some Fems claim to get from feminine drag, but I know it’s connected to heterosexist privilege — that is, it’s het-created, het-approved, het-rewarded and anti-Lesbian. I don’t know why most girls accept feminine training when it’s possible to resist it as Butch girls do, but I do know from experience that Fem Lesbians have the choice and ability to recognize the lie for what it is and to reprogram ourselves. Our politics change our feelings about a lot of things. Think of certain movies or books you enjoyed before you became more politically aware — ones that disgust you now, because your gut feelings respond to your present knowledge. I feel that way about the feminine clothes I admired as a little girl. I feel angry about the clownish, yet sexually suggestive crap pushed on unknowing little girls — miniature versions of what adult het women wear to advertise their availability to men to be fucked.

Living with Integrity

Feminine clothes and games aren’t something that can just be tacked onto a Lesbian’s otherwise-political life without affecting her and other Lesbians in deeply damaging ways. Those feminine things began as, and continue to be, male-oriented signals and symbols. They’re the results of female submission and collaboration. We can’t transcend or reclaim them. They’re in no way neutral, they’re loaded with meaning. They’re actually masculine in the extreme. Any pleasure that’s gotten from femininity is enjoyed at the expense of Lesbians who are oppressed by it, especially Butches, who are made to feel like misfit minorities in their own communities. Fems reveling in femininity also oppresses Lesbians like me who’d feel miserable and degraded in feminine drag, and who’ve experienced the queer-baiting game-playing of Hard Fems.  Fems who glorify femininity also make it harder for Lesbians like me to be understood and respected when we identify ourselves openly as Fem and discuss Fem privilege and Butch oppression. We’re less likely to be considered genuine Fems who know what we’re talking about. Not all Fems want to cultivate femininity. Many of us are resisting it wholeheartedly. We’re trying to strengthen our Lesbian identities, not weaken them.

Lesbians who dress and act feminine also make life harder and more dangerous for the rest of us in relation to the het world. They make blatant Lesbians an even smaller minority who are therefore easier to discriminate against, harass, scapegoat, and brutalize. It makes it harder for us to get and hold jobs, welfare or disability income, to be rented apartments, to attend schools, to get medical care, to go anywhere, to even just walk down the street. If all Lesbians were obvious Lesbians, we’d all be safer. There’s a hell of a lot of us, and we’d be a force to be reckoned with.

Most importantly, choosing to be an obvious Lesbian is about living with integrity. A Butch’s choice to resist femininity is the choice of a female who’s being true to herself, choosing to be as alive to her female self as possible, regardless of the punishments inflicted on her as a result. I find in that resistance a key to Dyke power, Dyke beauty and Dyke love.


The original version of this article was published in the Fall 1985 issue of the journal Lesbian Ethics. I have not updated it, except for one bracketed paragraph. Many thanks to Alix, my lover, for helping me revise it for clarity in 2011.

                                                                       Part 3

“Roles” = Butch Oppression

From the beginning of patriarchal rule, women who accepted the feminine role devised ways to manipulate the male oppressor through that role, as much as they could within the narrow limits of an oppressed position. What’s appropriate when dealing with the oppressor is, however, inappropriate and cruel when used against other Lesbians. It’s particularly cruel towards Butches, who are at the bottom of the heterosexist hierarchy.

Fems begin oppressing Butches in girlhood, which is why we have some of the same painful experiences with each other now as we did with other girls in the past. Beginning in girlhood, the most feminine little girls are at the top of the heterosexist hierarchy among their peers, and are already active in punishing Butch and less feminine girls through the many hostile games we all remember from our own pasts. They form exclusive cliques to ostracize and attempt to isolate the undesirables, and they ridicule the less feminine and the determinedly unfeminine. They slander less privileged, less feminine girls, deliberately damaging those girls’ chances for friendships and acceptance by others, and they show off their feminine accomplishments and attributes in ways that make everyone else feel clumsy and inferior.

These are the girlhood versions of Hard Fems. As Lesbians, Hard Fems don’t always wear extremely feminine clothes and trappings, though they’re the most likely to. It’s their behavior that most distinguishes them as Hard Fems. Because their femininity makes them more acceptable, more normal-seeming by het standards, and because most Lesbians have deeply internalized het standards, Hard Fems’ power and manipulations are seldom recognized as such. An Hard Fem usually has many friends and staunch defenders, some of whom are hurt by her over and over. Somehow she’s seldom perceived as being responsible for the pain, ruined relationships, and damaged political work she leaves in her wake. The Lesbian we knew who said, “It really is different with Lesbians than it is with men, isn’t it?” was an ex-het Hard Fem who left a swath of heartbreak and self-hatred among Lesbians she had manipulated and abandoned. Despite this minimal realization that Lesbians aren’t men, several years later, she’s still up to her old tricks, is considered very Lesbian-identified anyway, and still has friends who feel she’s a fragile soul who needs their protection. Lesbians don’t have to keep being vulnerable to this kind of heterosexist abuse from other Lesbians. If we can analyze and understand what’s going on, we can refuse to participate in it.

Although not all Fems are Hard Fems, all Fems do identify with each other as being other than Butch. This kind of bonding occurs within every privileged group, because there can’t be an in-group without an out-group, and it takes in-group cooperation to maintain the lie of superiority. That’s why a Fem who calls attention to Fems’ oppression of Butches, and is determined to fight that oppression, angers other Fems and is subject to their efforts to silence her. Fems who break Fem bonding get punished.

Even less feminine Fems always have the option of “pulling rank” and engaging in an occasional Hard Fem display, and many do so. The unquestioning, arrogant, smug assumption of superiority over Butches is an oppressive quality shared by almost all Fems, and that alone supports Lesbian-hatred among us to a degree that’s damaging to all Lesbians and devastatingly cruel to Butches. This is similar to how classist attitudes are ingrained in many class-privileged Lesbians. They may not consciously think they’re superior to poor and working-class Lesbians, yet they act condescending and authoritative.

           The Original, Real Role Players: Men and Het Women

It’s men and het women who truly play roles. Their roles are so much a part of the dominant male culture that they’re taken for granted and considered to be natural. Men project onto women all of their own deficiencies (such as cowardice, illogic, inanity, dishonesty, treachery, and pettiness), and they push onto women an array of male-invented feminine mannerisms and styles that encourage weakness, dependence, submissiveness and general fuckability. Such is the role of “woman,” yet we’re supposed to believe it’s natural to want to mince along on stilted shoes, face masked with stinking, lurid chemicals, nails bloody talons, dieted-jazzercized-depilated-plastic surgeried bodies encased in exposing dresses, voices unnaturally high, gestures “cute” and aggressively flirtatious, and minds focused on pleasing men at any cost.

Meanwhile, men, who are raping female-kind, destroying life on the planet, and in quieter moments simply boring everyone to death, pretend exclusive possession of all valued qualities: strength, courage, nobility of heart, directness, honesty, wit, loyalty, intelligence, and independence. They also steal all comfortable, freedom-giving, attractive, and dignified clothes for themselves.

These are truly grotesque, exaggerated roles, reversals of reality, invented by men to maintain control over women, and accepted by their collaborators, het women. Lesbians don’t “play roles” like hets do. We’re not “like men and het women.”

The fact that male drag queens (including MTFs) can pass as women should convince all Lesbians that femininity’s not natural. Some models in women’s fashion magazines are reputed to be men in drag.6  Some drag queen entertainers have said they “make better women” than any woman could. [Interestingly, in 2011, many men claiming to be women are saying the same thing.] It’s possible that men’s wish for women to look feminine reflects their own secret desire for themselves and other men to look like that. We suggest that if men so love dresses, makeup, and high heels, they should all wear them. (Just don’t claim to be female.

                                  Question Fems, Not Butches

Feminine women, accepted and rewarded for cooperating with male dictates, are given the job of teaching and enforcing male-invented womanliness in other women. So het women praise femininity and punish resistance to it, on behalf of men. They protect men’s exclusive access to dignity, safety, comfort, and physical freedom. Fems, as part of the Fem role, carry on this policing behavior in Dyke communities to varying degrees, punishing Butches and pressuring us overtly or covertly to become feminine.

Asking why Butches are Butch is the same as asking why Lesbians are Lesbians.

This question treats the Butch as an alien, incomprehensible being in a side show, to be psychologically analyzed. It’s like Lesbians’ families asking, “What did we do wrong to make you that way?” — as if they deserve the credit for our turning out so wonderfully. It’s insulting, oppressive, and patronizing for anyone to say they know what “caused” us to be what patriarchy considers bad or wrong about us. It’s the old, standard, “some terrible thing must have happened to cause that girl to become a sick queer.”

The theory that we’re shaped only by forces outside ourselves denies that we have power to make decisions and be responsible for our own actions. Asking “what caused Butches?” comes from the attitude that Butches are “abnormal” and Fems are “normal.” For instance, some Fems become obsessed with thoughts of male hormones when they see a Butch with facial hair, and forget that just as many Fems have beards or shave, not to mention all the het women who’ve had electrolysis. Why don’t those Fems make the mistake of thinking of male hormones when they see very thin Fems with small breasts? It’s because lack of female fat is admired by men, and female facial hair isn’t.

The only approach that makes sense is to start from the conviction that Lesbianism is every female’s natural, inborn state and that there are relentless attempts to condition it out of us by the greatest propaganda machine in existence: the institution of heterosexuality. We should instead ask “Why do most women become het?” It then becomes obvious that Lesbianism involves not only love for women, but also resistance to, and rebellion against, heterosexual indoctrination.

Heterosexuality is a vast and complex institution, and heterosexual conditioning has many facets. In order to become a successful Real Woman, a girl must reject other girls and become feminine, het, wife, and mother (the latter two preferably, but not necessarily, together). At some time in their lives, most Lesbians choose one or more of those roles. Many were wives, and some are mothers; some chose to be het but resisted marriage and motherhood. Some are never het, but did accept femininity enough to fit in as “normal.” There’s certainly tremendous pressure to be feminine, but the fact that some Lesbians completely resist it makes it clear that it is a choice, in the same way being het is a choice.

If het women didn’t cooperate with the teaching to be het, all women would be Lesbians. Similarly, if no Lesbian accepted the teaching to be feminine, we’d all be Butch. Butches, like Fems, live in patriarchy. We’re not saying Butch is our natural state, but that it’s much closer to our inborn, natural state, and that only a small minority of little girls refuse to let go of their original female essence. We can’t know what we’d be like if we lived in a Dyke-only world but, in the absence of het conditioning, there would be no such thing as femininity, and we’d all be more similar to how Butches are now.

Although most Fems we’ve talked with say they don’t remember choosing a feminine identity in girlhood, most Butches clearly remember rejecting femininity and being punished for it as early as three years old. We’re not trying to blame little Fem girls for making bad decisions. After all, we had no political support and couldn’t know the full meaning of our choices. We’re saying that Fems must stop scapegoating Dykes who refused the easier path of “normality” and who’ve been viciously punished for that. We’re saying that ex-het Dykes (both Fem and Butch) must now act responsibly about the consequences our choices have meant for Never-het Dykes, and Fems must face the consequences our choices have meant for Butches. Ex-hets and Fems shouldn’t wallow in guilt or self-recrimination—we should change our politics and truly support Never-het Dykes and Butches, who’ve been forced to pay for the acceptance we bought.

“The Lie That Rape Causes Roles”

“Lesbians who were raped when they were girls become Butch” / “Lesbians who were raped when they were girls become Fem.”

We’ve heard each of these contradictory theories from Lesbians who were trying to explain” in the same way that Lesbianism is often “explained” by psychiatrists. The first lie reinforces the stereotype that it takes something horrible to create a Butch. It’s difficult to disprove since most Butches are victims of family rape and other assaults. The fact that most Fems also are victims makes the second lie sound plausible, but that’s also offensive because it implies that Femness is created by oppression and Butchness is created by having more privilege. The fact is that both Butches and Fems are attacked as little girls, as are most het women. To focus on one denies the experiences of the other, and obscures the reality that most girls are sexually assaulted.

Passing As Het

We have a responsibility to not pass for het, especially in places where hets are more liberal about queers. It’s privileged arrogance to throw away the chance to help build Dyke community by being out. Many Lesbians manage to look acceptable enough to men and het women to get jobs, yet are still recognizable as Dykes to the Dykes who see them at work. There are other choices that make it possible to keep a job besides looking like a draq queen Hard Fem. The Lesbians who go out of their way to look het get benefits from men and het women that are won at the cost of oppressing Dykes who are less willing or less able to pass. Meanwhile, many Hard Fems and het women eagerly dress up like drag queens, old sexist dress codes are reinstated, and both Fems and Butches who can’t or won’t pass are unable to get or keep jobs. (And yes, there are a few Butches who do try to pass as feminine for jobs, but they don’t really convince anyone.)

Lesbians who choose to pass as het sometimes act insulted and falsely claim to be “oppressed” if other Lesbians don’t recognize them as Lesbians. But it’s not safe for us to make that assumption about them. Lesbians exist in every culture in the world, and we find each other by looking definably different from het standards. Those of us who are clearly out are more likely to be disowned by family and het friends, evicted, fired from jobs, arrested by police, beaten, raped, and/or killed for being Lesbians. We face huge risks, but to be closeted feels like a form of suicide to us. If every Lesbian refused to pass as het, our tremendous numbers would make the world safer for us. And those Dykes who can’t pass, no matter how hard they try, would be in less danger.

It’s no coincidence that in every country we have information about, whatever the traditional local style, the look that’s forbidden to women is the same look that’s widely recognized as Lesbian. This is the appearance that’s reserved only for men, and is considered “cross-dressing” for women. Since it belongs to men, it is more dignified, practical, and comfortable that the styles that men demand women conform to.

One of the most common identifying characteristics for being a recognizable Lesbian is to have short, natural (neither permanented nor straightened, dyed nor bleached) hair. We mean the type of hair that even oblivious hets identify as Lesbian, not “crew cuts.” It’s Lesbian-baiting to act like being out means you have to adopt a ludicrous male military appearance. Critics of short hair accuse us of focusing on “trivial issues,” yet their outrage makes it clear that hair style is anything but trivial to them.

Femininity pressures women to be obsessed with their appearance in time-consuming and self-hating ways. And women pay an enormous amount of money to maintain feminine hair styles. Racist attitudes pressure racially and ethnically oppressed women with tightly curled hair to have their hair straightened, or at least made more loosely curled with burning, corrosive, carcinogenic chemicals. And, although the oppression is far less, women with more “acceptably” straight hair are sometimes expected, depending on current styles, to make their hair curly in order to be more feminine. Very few women have escaped having their hair drastically altered when they were little girls, so that they could “look their best,” and most have chosen as adults to alter their hair.

There are fashions which have been called “Lesbian” or even “Separatist” when they’re just another counter-culture kind of femininity. One of these is the “tail,” “fag tag,” or mullet, where the hair is worn short in the front and long in the back, either all the way across or with just a narrow section hanging down. This fashion is popular among Gay men (who originated it), punks, and now mainstream het men and women. It’s become so trendy that even young boys in nuclear families wear it. (By 2011, the mullet has become a mainstream media joke.) The Lesbian who has it may think she’s being blatantly out, but the style says, “I may be a Lesbian, but then again, I may be het or bisexual. Either way, I don’t want anyone to get the impression I’m a Dyke.”

It’s a symbol of rebellion against male directives for Lesbians to refuse to change the natural appearance of our hair and to refuse to grow it long, preventing men from easily grabbing it. It’s also a symbol of ethnic and racial pride for Lesbians to refuse to straighten their hair in imitation of northwestern European hair texture. Some racially and ethnically oppressed Lesbians wear their hair in longer styles that reflect their culture but still make it possible for themselves to be recognized as Dykes. They do this by wearing styles of hair and clothing that aren’t specifically feminine.

                                                 “P.C.” and “P.I.”

Politics that support femininity either assert that Femness is an oppression, which makes it difficult for politically responsible Dykes to argue against it—or they assert that femininity is simply a matter of personal taste and preference, which implies that anyone objecting to it would have to be a dictatorial power-monger. (No Dyke has the power to stop others from selling out. As the oppressed, all we can do is object.)

Heterosexist Lesbians aren’t usually content with being oppressive—they like to boast that they’re “P.I.” (“Politically Incorrect”). That way they can pretend they’re original, brave, and revolutionary, instead of passively conforming to male rule. Lesbians who admire and follow such male-defined politics as femininity, “Lesbian” porn, sado-masochism, passing as het, supporting “Lesbian” pregnancy, or protecting boys’ and men’s “rights” to be in Lesbian space often pride themselves on being “Politically Incorrect.” Those who protest the selling out are considered boring bullies. After all, it’s easiest to silence someone by turning them into a joke. Interestingly, these are the exact same tactics that European-descent men and het women use to ridicule anyone who protests the status quo, whether by fighting racism or objecting to people wearing fur coats made from the bodies of endangered species.7

The few truly brave Dykes who are fighting the patriarchal onslaught against our communities are treated as if we were in power, even though encouraging and supporting our Dyke looks and behavior is far less common in our communities than criticism of Out Dykes. This is a typical male mind-fuck. It’s the Lesbians who are following men’s directives who are “Politically Correct” in a male-run world, and they derive privilege from that correct role. It’s as if they came into radical Dyke communities wearing crosses and other right-wing symbols, saying, “We’re so brave to stand up to you all.” There’s nothing courageous in wearing the feminine uniform (whether the old conservative or the newer trendy styles), repeating the ancient heterosexist propaganda, and doing just what women are supposed to do in patriarchy.

These anti-political politics aren’t just anti-Lesbian—they’re usually oppressive in every other way as well, as this excerpt from a Lesbian personal ad shows: “Politically Incorrect and proud of it … 5’4”, 135 lbs, green eyes, platinum blonde hair, good-looking, very intelligent … Dislike: … stereotypical dykes … man-haters. Seek women who is: Caucasian, pale-skinned, slender, 25 to 30+, … physically fit … pretty … Okay if you wear a pound of mascara … The more exotic you are, the better.

                                      Who’s Calling Who “Male”?

Looking like a Dyke does not mean we’re trying to look like or be men. Dykes who aren’t trying to gain privilege by looking het are often mistaken for men or boys because we don’t look like men’s definition of “women.” Even Fems are occasionally called “sir” by hets if they’re wearing Dyke clothes, short hair, no make-up, no earrings, etc. Yet it’s Butches who are accused by Fems of “trying to be men.” Fems, as well as Butches, have sometimes tried to pass as men when traveling or out walking alone at night because it was far more dangerous not to. This is just common sense, and Lesbians often approve a Fem doing it, but not a Butch. Why the double standard? Something unfair is going on when there’s one standard for Butches and another for Fems. Feminists admire women who take traditional male jobs, especially “professional careers,” and don’t accuse them of “wanting to be men.”

Butches are clearly, visibly Dykes. We’re sometimes mistaken for men not because we want to be men, but because no one believes women should be so solidly, sturdily ourselves, the way men are allowed to be. And also, people are trained to just not think – Lesbians who refuse to look feminine shake most men and het women to their foundation. We frighten men, and we remind het women of whole other worlds of possibilities.

It’s ironic that many Lesbians who accuse Butches of “being like men” actually like some men. They just don’t think women have the right to be any of the positive ways patriarchy reserves for the male image.

Being taken for a man is deeply insulting and queer-baiting. It doesn’t mean that the Dyke is getting any male privileges or power. Butches live under female oppression as well as under the worst of Lesbian oppression. If Fems defend themselves against the “Lesbians are men” attack by explaining that it’s one of the many anti-Lesbian stereotypes, why can’t they defend Butches in the same way? Why can’t Fems understand that Butches get more of this treatment because Butches have always been the most obvious Lesbians?

Many Fems, particularly Never-het and other Dyke-identified Fems, are treated as more queer/Dykey by Hard Fems. And even the most Hard Fems know what it’s like to be treated as perverts by het women. That gives them a little taste of Butch oppression. Any Fem who says she doesn’t understand at all what it’s like to be Butch reveals how much het privilege she has, and how much she considers Butches as Other, alien, and beneath her.

Butches are not like men. Butches don’t think, look, or act like men. Butches don’t have the privileges and power of men. In terms of the heterosexist hierarchy, we’re the least privileged of all Lesbians, and therefore of all women. Men, het women, and Fem Lesbians never treat Butches as if we actually were men, because that would mean giving us privilege. When they call Butches “male,” they’re being extremely cruel, smug, arrogant, dishonest, and oppressive. The Lesbian-hating of this stereotype is outrageous. Most Fems take part in this mass, community abuse of Butches, which has disastrous consequences, causing Butches emotional pain, deprivation, isolation, fear, illness, and death. By 2015, there is a much higher percentage of Butches we’ve known who have died – way out of proportion to their numbers.

Butches are treated as the queerest of the queers. In the patriarchal hierarchy, men are at the top, next are wives/mothers, single het women, celibate het women, next are bisexual women, then Hard Fems who emulate and identify with men and het women, next are Dyke-identified Fems, and finally Butches are at the bottom. (As we said in Chapter 3, this hierarchy is also affected by how long we’ve been Lesbians, when we came out, and past het privilege. Also, we’re in no way minimizing the significance of racial, ethnic, class, nationality, physical ability, fat, looks, and age oppression. Dykes who are oppressed in any and all of these ways are additionally oppressed if we’re also Butch.)

Just as, among Lesbians, the “normal” Lesbian image is a middle-class stereotype, the “queer” Butch image is often classist. When Butches are said to be “like men,” the image presented certainly isn’t that of the male lawyer, doctor, or business executive. It’s more likely to be the stereotype of a working-class truck driver who hangs out in bars, is uneducated, uncultured, rude, tough, cold, and violent. These aren’t just anti-Butch and anti-Lesbian lies, but classist lies as well. Meanwhile, the model for femininity is based on the upper-class WASP het woman ideal.

A few Butches may appear to have a fractional share of something that’s usually reserved for men, such as a non-traditional job, but the vast majority of women who’ve moved into such high-paying work are het; a few are Fem Lesbians. The very few Butches in those jobs are much more oppressed on the job, just as we are everywhere else. The only women who seem to have attained executive, upper-class positions as the heads of companies and high status in governments—often by being daughters or wives of powerful men—are, again, het women.

Butches who’ve tried to pass as men, or who are taken to be men, or who’ve done any or all of the things used to “prove” Butches are “male-identified,” don’t prove anything except that, in patriarchy, if you don’t accept the role of “womanly,” you’re labeled “manly,” whether you like it or not. Parents, relatives, teachers, and other girls who treat a Butch girl as an imitation boy aren’t causing her to be Butch; her resistance to femininity was chosen by her much earlier in life. What they’re doing is abusing her by refusing to acknowledge her as a female. She’s never given the privilege a boy has —she’s just treated as an abnormal girl.

In what way is a Butch girl thinking she’s “not a woman” different from adult Dyke Separatists and radical Lesbians rejecting the term “woman” for ourselves as a political act? (Except that choosing to reject a mis-definition is easier when you’ve had a chance to acquire a clear analysis and political support.) Can’t the young Butch’s early rejection of femininity be seen as an intuitive awareness that “feminine” usually means “heterosexual” and all the other disgusting things that go with it? Isn’t she instinctively realizing much earlier, and without political support, that all the outward symbols of womanliness and heterosexuality, and the internalized values that support them, also mean fuckable, dependent, unthinking, submissive, and ultimately passive? Young Dykes who perceive that crap for what it is and rebel against it without support, in spite of constant punishment, are to be admired and respected. That’s courage!

Because some Butches have bound their breasts, Butches are called “male.” In a world where men and boys stare and grab at women’ breasts on the street, making humiliating comments, it’s not odd that a Dyke would want to conceal and protect her body. Isn’t it more questionable to wear padded, push-up bras in order to elicit sexual attention from men – not to mention implants that destroy the immune system and which now many women are buying for their teenaged daughters, as well as other plastic surgery, to make them more sellable to men? Who but the truly male-identified would: wear apparatus that pushes her breasts out and up into men’s faces; ruin her back, pelvis, and feet by tottering about on high heels; squash her body into a girdle; painfully remove the fur on her body or face; wear make-up that looks like bruises across her cheeks or that mimics sexual excitement; poison herself and anyone within breathing distance with chemicals that disguise her female aroma; or wear a dress that exposes her body and makes her less able to escape from rape? Who else would deliberately starve and torture (“exercise”) herself to look weak, powerless, unfemale, and thin enough to please men? And who else would believe that looking so undignified and ludicrous is being “fashionably beautiful”? One Fem we know was on a local Oakland, California, television show about “Butch and Fem roles.” Even though Lesbians had in the past spent many hours explaining to her much of what we’re saying in this chapter, she wore het paraphernalia and make-up and explained she was a Fem because “I feel like a girl.”

Bev: Using make-up does males’ dirty work in other ways, too. Where do Lesbians think cosmetic chemicals come from? Besides the fact that most cosmetics are “proven to be safe” (which they of course are not) by torturing and murdering millions of animals, Lesbians don’t usually consider what it’s like to work or live near cosmetics factories. I have a higher risk of developing cancer or liver disease because of growing up a half-block from such a factory. My working-class neighborhood was daily subjected to the nauseating, caustic fumes that literally blistered the paint off cars. It’s no coincidence that factories are built only in poor and working-class areas.

Studies have shown that in the U.S., 884 ingredients used in cosmetics have been reported to the government as “toxic substances.” Of these, 314 are reported to cause biological mutation, 218 to cause reproductive complications, 778 are capable of acute toxicity, 146 are reported to cause tumors, and 376 ingredients cause skin and eye irritation. But the U.S. cosmetics industry is a 17 billion dollar business so, “… there are no inhalation tests to determine perfume safety, only skin tests, and neuro-toxic effects are not examined.”8 [These quotes are from 1990. It’s much worse now.

                            The Lie That Butches Bond with Men

This is a particularly offensive stereotype, considering that men are Butches’ enemies. Many of the Butches we’ve known haven’t ever been friends with men, while many of the Fems we’ve known have. Why are the few Butches who are friends with men focused on, when it’s het women as a group who literally, physically, bond with men? What of their collaboration? Het women are intimate with men in ways that no Lesbian could ever be. They welcome men into their bodies, and create and nurture men. Some even collaborate with males in the beating, abduction, rape, and murder of other women. If any Lesbians bond with men, it’s more likely to be ex-het Fems than Butches. Many ex-het Fems maintain close relationships with ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends. Ex-het Fems are also more likely to become bisexual or return to being het. Of the many Lesbians we’ve known who’ve gone het, all were Fems, and almost all had been het. Men and hets are more comfortable with Fems than with Butches, because that’s how they want us to be: the more Fem and het-identified a Lesbian is, the more comfortable patriarchy is.

                                   Butches as Sexual Objects

One of the major stereotypes of Butches is that we objectify Fems. This again compares Butches to men, when the reality is that it’s usually Fems who sexually objectify Butches. Butches are more likely to take the risk of initiating being lovers than Fems are, which is courageously Lesbian. When Fems appear to be more aggressive, they’re often in fact trying to get the Butches to do the initiating. A Fem at a Lesbian forum said about coming out, “You don’t go with men, after you grew up thinking you would. Then you let a woman touch you, and that’s really scary.” What goes on in a Lesbian’s mind when, rather than talking about coming out through desire to love and touch another female, her focus is on letting a Lesbian touch her! This is a common attitude—the Fem is the one who is loved, and the Butch is the one who loves. The way some Fems come on to all Butches and ignore other Fems sexually is similar to the way many het women flirt with all men and ignore other women. It’s also similar to the way men objectify women, viewing them only as things to be used for sexual conquest. It’s personally and sexually invasive to assume Butches welcome this impersonal and inappropriate attention.

One Butch we know was approached at a party by a Fem who’d recently come out. They worked together and there’d been no sexual interaction between them. Our friend thought of this Lesbian as just an acquaintance. Suddenly the Fem said, “Put your hand on my breast.” The Butch was stunned. She had no interest in touching this Lesbian in any way. She felt verbally molested, but presumably was supposed to feel flattered. Another Dyke we know was in a bar when a Fem she barely knew and wasn’t even in a conversation with deliberately rubbed her bare breast across our friend’s arm. These tricks must have worked with men in this Lesbian’s past.

When a Butch and Fem become lovers, the Butch is more likely to make love to the Fem than vice-versa. Some Fems never reciprocate their lovers’ passionate attentions. Many do, but often not with the same intensity and focus that they enjoy from their lover. Is it any wonder that some Butches become reluctant to accept lovemaking from Fem lovers, when all have experienced rejection, indifference, and half-hearted going-through-the-motions? It also doesn’t help that many Fems are attracted by the stereotype of the “stone Butch,” without any awareness that Fems have created and maintain that stereotype for their own benefit, and that it causes a great deal of pain to Butches.

In some places, Dykes sarcastically refer to Fems who don’t make love to their lovers as “pillow queens” or “flat-on-their-back-fairies.”  What is more hateful and cruel than making your lover feel that you can’t bear to touch her? One theory besides just being selfish is that as long as the Fems are not making love to their lover, they can fantasize they are with a man and not face being a Lesbian who is a woman who makes love to women.  Is this a woman who can be trusted to be a Lesbian?

Femininity teaches women to imagine themselves the center of sexual attention, the alluring flower meant to attract rewards from excited, attentive, and loving admirers. Of course, that’s het fairy tale crap. The het woman’s costume and perfume are meant to attract men, and men’s attentions are far from loving. Most Fems don’t want to attract men, but many have internalized that image of themselves as an alluring center of sexual attention, and they simply substitute Butches as those they want to attract.

But Butches are not men. We’re women, we’re Lesbians, and our lovemaking has absolutely no connection or resemblance to men fucking women. A Butch focuses her attention on her lover’s pleasure, and her lovemaking is a way of creating strong emotional, psychic, and spiritual intimacy with her lover. Men don’t make love — they use women’s bodies to masturbate themselves and to establish dominance over them — they fuck women. The physical realities of the two activities are completely different. Considering the profound emotional, psychic, and spiritual differences as well, comparing Butches to men in intimate sensual relationships is glaringly illogical and insulting.

It would be more accurate to say that, in many cases, a Butch making love with a Fem is similar to a Lesbian making love with a het woman. The most het-identified Fem’s lovemaking is like a man’s — her focus is on her pleasure alone, with no concern for her lover’s. When she does touch her lover it’s with the intention of “fucking” her and dominating her. It’s the most insensitive, harsh kind of Lesbian lovemaking. The Butch is set up as The Queer, and her female needs and desires — physical, mental, emotional, and beyond — are ignored, because she’s not perceived as being female. Does this sound like a safe situation for a Butch to say, “I really want you to make love to me the way I make love to you, even though a lifetime of queer and Butch oppression would make it hard for me to believe you really meant it”? Not likely. So, many Butches have accepted being “stone Butches” out of loneliness and desperation, and have given up on ever finding equality and real love.

Some Fems are pushed into unequal lovemaking by lovers who are more Fem. These Fems experience some of the pain, frustration, humiliation, loneliness, and self-hatred that unreciprocated passion creates, and they can understand from that what Butches go through all the time.

Passive Fems Avoid Their Own Lesbianness

By being lovers only with Butches or pushing Fem lovers into an oppressed Butch role, a Fem can avoid her fear of her own Lesbianism. When a Lesbian initiates making love to her lover, she directly faces the fact that she’s a Lesbian. But if she’s made love to and doesn’t reciprocate that love, then she can feel less queer. In fact, by being passive in Lesbian intimacy, she is less queer. That makes her lover “the real queer.” This is especially true of Butches but also affects Fems in the Butch role. The common het stereotype of Lesbian couples is that one is “the real Lesbian” (the Butch) and one is a het woman who’s been forced or seduced into the relationship by the Butch. This oppresses Butches, not Fems.

Fems who are involved with Butches and do nothing to fight the oppression of Butches go along with that stereotype whether they mean to or not. When they go out into the het world with their lover, they’re not thought of as being responsible for the relationship — they’re perceived as het and temporarily involved with a Lesbian instead of with a man. As insulting as this is to the Fem, it’s far more insulting and dangerous to the Butch. This unequal situation can be avoided only if the Fem takes equal responsibility for being a Lesbian and for being in a lover relationship, which means acting and looking like a Dyke.

Think about how het women flirt with us, act scared of us, believe and spread Lesbian-hating lies about us, patronize us, treat us like perverts or as if we’re stuck in a childish state” — that’s how many Fems treat Butches. Many ex-het Fems have said that it took them a long time to come out because they met Butches and were terrified, so they went back to men. Now, that’s really taking responsibility for yourself! Weren’t they scared of men? Why not?

While many Fems are passive because of irresponsibility, some have much more destructive motives. Some Fems who lived with or married men when they were het actually want their lover to be in a “male role.” They may push their lover to act like the ex-husband/boyfriend, to make love in a way that feels like fucking, because they haven’t stopped thinking like men’s women. Since Butches have much less social power than Fems, particularly ex-het Fems, they’re vulnerable to being pushed around by them, including being forced into the Fem’s fantasies — especially since part of the Fem role is authoritativeness toward Butches. For example, it’s usually male-identified ex-het Fems who talk about liking to be “fucked hard” and who like their Butch lover to use a dildo. An Old Dyke friend recalls, with pain and anger, being made to feel “like a walking dildo.” She tells of the countless times such Fems have said to her, “I’m a Lesbian at heart, but my body is still heterosexual and wants a prick.”  We believe that this is what dildo use is about. Instead of experiencing the exquisite sensation of your lover’s body or her feeling yours, a silicon prick is used instead. You can certainly feel more by touching and being touched, so the only reason we can think of for using an object that is in the image of what rapes and is imitated in weapons from guns to nuclear missiles is simply lesbophobia/Lesbian-hatred.

When a Butch is told all her life that she’s not really a woman, and is taught to hate herself, is it surprising that she would take a “real” woman’s word for what women like in lovemaking? Some of the ways Butches are stereotyped come not from the ways Butches look or act, but from the fantasies, desires, and pressures of het-identified Lesbians. These are the ex-het Fems who, when they talk about “past lovers,” include men. These are the Lesbians who came out for reasons other than their love of women. They “just happened to fall in love with a woman this time,” or they want power over others that they can’t get with men, or they want to play out a male-pornographic fantasy. (Most Lesbians we’ve known who like to read porn have been Fems.) By never making love to their lover, but only being made love to, Fems like this can fantasize they’re really with a man. Then they turn around and accuse their lover of being “male-identified”! It’s horrible that Lesbians like these, who operate totally out of male and het values, and fuck over Lesbians, are accepted as nice role-free Lesbians while Butches and, to a lesser extent, Dyke-identified Fems, are persecuted for their Lesbianism, by other Lesbians.

Fems sometimes ask, usually with hostility, “Well, why are most Butches lovers with Fems, then? And how come lots of Butches admire feminine Lesbians?” The answer is internalized oppression. It’s not unusual for other kinds of oppressed Lesbians to be attracted to Lesbians from more privileged groups. For instance, some working-class Lesbians are lovers only with class-privileged Lesbians. Resistance to femininity comes at a high price — total lack of support — which breeds self-doubt and self-hatred. In that situation, the more privileged and acceptable are always more highly valued than those who remind you of yourself, and you gain a little protection from oppression by getting their friendship and approval. Also, Butches are in a small minority, so we meet more Fems. Some Butches do succeed in becoming lovers with each other, and those we’ve met have said that theirs was the most equal relationship they’d experienced, and that they’d been able to help each other nurture self-love. However, Butches who are lovers with other Butches are harassed by both Fems and Butches, including being lectured to that they should be with Fems and that they aren’t “real” Butches or are less Butch than the “real” Butches who are with Fems. Sound familiar? Lesbians are told that “real” women are with men.

                                      Who’s “Sex-Obsessed”?

Hard Fems are often remarkably callous towards Butches and Dyke-identified Fems. Many Dykes have experienced Hard Fems’ het-style sexual games, but they can be very difficult to confront. Hard Fems’ sexually suggestive comments and jokes can seem like harmless play. A Hard Fem commenting on the vulval appearance of food or flowers may be considered charming, while a Butch saying the same words is likely to be called “sex-obsessed.”

Any Dyke who directly asks a Hard Fem if she’s flirting is also likely to be called “sex-obsessed.” Meanwhile, the Hard Fem gains popularity through manipulation, pretending attraction to Dykes she’s not interested in. She may “accidentally” rub her breasts or pubic region against a Dyke or place her knee between the legs of a Dyke while dancing, her manner clearly flirtatious. The Dyke may feel vulnerable and confused, wondering, “Am I imagining this? Does this mean she’s attracted to me? If I respond with interest, will she deny what she’s doing?” The Hard Fem will very likely respond with surprise, feigned fear, ridicule, or anger.

This type of covert sexual manipulation borders on molestation, because it’s an uninvited invasion of physical boundaries that’s done in order to gain a power position. It’s especially harmful to family rape victims or any Dyke who’s had her reality repeatedly denied. Yet this intrusive Fem seductiveness is admired by many Lesbians, and falsely thought of as “sexual honesty” and “being daringly out,” when it’s nothing more than the way “liberated” het women act with men. Lesbian sexuality should be genuine, Dyke-loving, and egalitarian.

Hard Fems often set up competition by flirting with several Dykes at the same time and then enjoy being fought over. They may also maintain power by stringing along several lovers at once without giving any their full attention, acceptance, or intimacy, and then harassing their hapless followers for their reasonable jealousy.

The Lie That Butches Are Tough, Mean, Violent, Unemotional

Every Lesbian has to be tough to survive. We’re threatened and attacked, verbally and physically, because we’re Dykes. The more out we are, the more likely we are to be attacked, especially physically. Even when we’re not being overtly attacked, we’re stared at, made to feel like outcasts, and are the objects of angry, disgusted, hating, patronizing, leering, or ridiculing looks. Even if no male or het woman is being horrible at a particular moment, we’re still constantly assaulted by a het, pornographic, male world, with male fetishistic fantasies of women in store windows, on billboards, and in all the male and het media. A Dyke can’t be all fluffy and sweet, with a soft, open face, when she’s walking through a virtual mine-field. Fems also have to protect ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and psychically against this assaultive het world, although to a lesser extent, and as a result could be accused of being “mean, closed, and tough.” When Butches are similarly self-protective, our behavior is used to prove male lies about Butches being “hard.” Yet the het world is much more hostile and dangerous to Butches, especially to those who are further oppressed by racism, anti-Semitism, ethnicism, classism, ageism, ableism, fat oppression, and looksism.

It’s a basic political principle that it’s not all right for those with more power to stereotypically label those with less power. A Fem who accuses a Butch of being “suspicious,” for instance, should ask herself instead what it is in her own behavior that the Butch has reason not to trust. There’s plenty, if the Fem is doing nothing to fight Butch oppression, and is making the usual assumption that it’s the Butch with “the problem.” Treating someone as “abnormal” is an excellent reason to not be trusted. Fems treat Butches this way all the time, with very rare exceptions. Butches have more than enough reason to relate to the general world with great distrust, and we also have plenty of reason to not trust Fems the way things are at present in Lesbian communities. While Butches are frequently and publicly insulted in Lesbian publications and elsewhere, with almost no one speaking out in our defense, we would be most unwise to completely trust Fems.

Butches are told we’re “unemotional, tough, and cold,” because we’re not Fems. These accusations have very little to do with what each individual Butch is actually like. Fems, being feminine, are perceived as “soft, vulnerable, and emotionally expressive,” which is often far from the truth. Fems aren’t “oppressed” by this womanly stereotype — they’ve chosen to live it because of the privilege it gives for appearing to be “normal women.” In reality, Fems are more often tough, mean, and less genuinely emotional than Butches are. It’s tough, mean and closed to act oppressively to Butches. Hard Fems who won’t even try to be close to other Fems, and who try to make Butches fill all their needs, are especially emotionally distant. Fems who’ll only be close to lovers or Lesbians they’re attracted to are impossible to be friends with.

Hard Fems sometimes behave in stereotypical feminine ways by throwing scenes, screaming, using tears to manipulate others, and generally acting like drama queens. This doesn’t prove that Fems are “open” and Butches are “closed.” Throwing scenes isn’t real emotion—it’s pushing other Lesbians around, intimidating and silencing them by using theatrical power plays or cruel outbursts that show no consideration for other Lesbians’ feelings. These displays are learned behavior, deliberately used for effect. It’s not from being genuinely upset, which all of us feel sometimes and need to express. The same Fems who use tears to manipulate other Lesbians are likely to ignore or ridicule a Butch who cries. That is the more male behavior.

None of the Butches we’ve met conform to the “tough, closed” stereotype. Butches are often more present, warmer, and more emotionally supportive than many Fems. We’ve met as much or more genuine warmth, sensitivity, and willingness to deal honestly with feelings among Butches as among Fems. Butches’ solid Dyke identity gives them a personal realness that no amount of femininity will ever confer. To be more Lesbian is to be more true to our natural female selves, while to be less Lesbian-identified (more het-identified) is to be further from our real selves. The further you are from your real self, the less capable you are of being honestly direct, and the less capable you are of being really close to another Lesbian.

Portraying an entire group of Lesbians as all having the same characteristics is objectifying and denies individual personalities and differences. Just as there are many sorts of Dykes, there are many sorts of Butches. As long as Fems are projecting stereotypes onto Butches, Fems will never be able to truly communicate and be close to us. This is the Fems’ failing, not the Butches’! It’s also the Fems’ loss, and the Butches’ oppression.

There’s also a stereotype of Butches being drunks, which reflects the common stereotype of Lesbians as alcoholics. In our experience, recovering alcoholic Butches are more likely to be open about being alcoholic and having stopped drinking than Fems. This makes alcoholic Butches more visible than alcoholic Fems, of whom there are many. This stereotype is also used against many other oppressed groups, since using alcohol and drugs is a common way of trying to cope with oppression.

Unfortunately, being bombarded with hatred causes self-hatred. Many Lesbians end up believing Lesbian-hating lies. They may think they’re queer because of emotional or hormonal problems. Some Butches believe the same. A few may even agree with Butch-hating lies, but no one should use Butches’ internalized oppression to believe the lies. No Dykes should be repeating those lies any more than they should repeat stereotypical lies about any oppressed group. Saying, “But some Butches are like men,” is like saying, “But some working-class Lesbians are dirty, lazy, stupid slobs.” Just because someone says something derogatory about themselves or about someone else doesn’t mean it’s true.

Butch Oppression Hurts All Dykes

No matter how often the stereotypes of Butches in particular, and Lesbians in general, are proven to be untrue, the lies are still spread, and damage is still done. Why? Because Lesbians are the only threat to the world-wide rule of patriarchy, and Butches are the most obvious of Lesbians — the Dykes who most clearly refuse to cooperate with male domination of the world. Why do Lesbians themselves participate in the male assaults on our resistance struggle? One of the reasons is that patriarchy is based on hierarchy and inequality, divide and conquer. Women are split up into many different groups and taught to be antagonistic, ridiculing, and hating towards anyone who’s beneath them in the het hierarchy. We learn this as little girls in our schools, families, and religions. Part of the conditioning to become “real women” is being taught to police and bully other girls on behalf of the male power structure. That’s why even young girls can be so cruel to anyone who is different.

Why is it that het women, who exemplify the feminine ideal, are perceived as “emotional, loving, open, soft, and expressive”? It’s because they get close to, are open to, and love males. As a group, they sure as hell aren’t that way with Lesbians. The feminine stereotype is a lie. Het women are closed emotionally, because they won’t be intimately open with other women. Lesbians, especially Butches, are falsely stereotyped as “closed” because Lesbians are not available for intimacy with men. No matter how intimate and warm we are with each other, we’re still called “distant, closed, emotionally frozen,” because closeness between Lesbians doesn’t count—only loving men and boys (especially sons) is counted as “feelings.” Individual het women can be as cold and vicious as they like, but as long as they’re a wife and mother, they qualify as “gentle, warm, feeling,…womanly.”

Of course not all het women act hateful. We know some who are dear friends and allies, but still, het women as a group operate this way and all benefit from institutionalized privilege.

Non-Separatist Lesbians, though they don’t hate and avoid men like Separatists do, still don’t fuck with men. That’s basic to Lesbian identity. No matter how nice non-Separatists are to men, they’re still viewed by men and het women as the mean, hard Lesbians of the stereotypes. Even more so are Separatists, who are so “cruel and harsh” as to have the guts to perceive men as the rapists and murderers they are. We supposedly “lack compassion” and are “hard and vicious” because we hate males, while rapists and murderers are the objects of universal womanly loyalty, and love. Het women breed, feed, clothe, clean for, fuck, love, and support those rapists, and so are considered “loving, natural, open, and womanly,” instead of being accurately perceived as the Lesbian-hating, female-hating collaborators they really are. Meanwhile, Lesbians who dare to challenge het women’s hatred towards us are called “woman-hating” or “misogynist — the lie of reverse discrimination.

The world we live in calls hatred and cruelty “love,” while calling courage and wit “cruelty.” Lesbians, especially Butches, are set up by men to be the universal scapegoats for male crime. Understanding this makes it clear why we’re stereotyped as harsh and mean. Stereotypes should always be analyzed to find out who they profit — then we find out why the stereotype exists. That’s more important than picking apart every individual component of each stereotype. Once we grasp why it exists, the entire body of lies automatically loses credibility. So whenever a Fem is tempted to treat a Butch as the stereotype, she should realize that, whether she wants to or not, she’s doing it on men’s behalf. Hopefully that will make it clear to her that she must stop. If she refuses to stop oppressing Butches because she doesn’t want her own Fem privilege to be threatened, she should realize that her actions are ultimately supporting men to go on abusing herself as a female and Lesbian.

Butches need to become more aware of Fem privilege and Butch oppression, not in a self-hating way, but by realizing how we’re oppressed and by caring about the oppression of other Butches. Part of that means developing solidarity with other Butches and unlearning the Lesbian-hatred that leads to valuing Fems more. The old pattern of being attracted to and falling in love with manipulative, game-playing, “attractive” Hard Fems doesn’t hurt only ourselves, it hurts other Butches as well. It’s essential to not fall for the thrill of Fem flirtation that has no love or real caring behind it. That also means fighting the urge to be trusting and protective of Fems who are actually being oppressive to you or others. For some Butches, that means changing a lifetime of believing that the most feminine Lesbians are the most female-identified. It means being true to your own self and to all Dyke-identified Dykes, Butch and Fem.

Dyke-identified Fem friends and lovers can be true and trusted allies to Butches, as the authors of this book prove. Reacting with rage towards all Fems doesn’t help fight Fem privilege. It can make things worse, as well as being unfair. Dyke-identified Fems shouldn’t get the brunt of a Butch’s lifetime of very understandable anger about Butch oppression. Hard Fems usually make sure they’re not around to deal with any of it. It also doesn’t help to insist your lover is Butch when she isn’t. (Both Butches and Fems do this.) Dyke-loving Fems can love and support our Butch friends and lovers best by supporting and encouraging their resistance to Butch oppression, and by rejecting femininity.

Lesbians who haven’t challenged their internalized anti-Lesbian attitudes are less able to be emotionally open and intimate with other Lesbians, because of the fear that Lesbian-hatred causes. Real intimacy with Dyke friends and lovers requires acknowledgment, acceptance, and pride in our Lesbianism. Dyke joy and intensity, love, and well-being are our rewards. To remain lesbophobic is to leave in place barriers to intimacy that no amount of therapy or drugs can ever get rid of. Only Lesbian-identified politics, which means really caring about other Dykes will remove those barriers.


1 Our politics about Dyke Separatism, strong Dyke-identity, and Butch oppression made an international Dyke connection for us and is how Linda and Bev met Ruston.

Ruston: From when I came out, I was aware of a feeling of “similar” or “opposites” in Lesbians’ friendships and lover relationships, including my own. However, I still believed “roles were in the past” and denied Butches’ existence. But several Lesbians courageously came out to me as Butch over the years, and as my understanding of Lesbian (including Never-het and Old Dyke [Lesbians who came out before the Women’s Liberation Movement]) oppression grew, it became clear Butches were oppressed. Even while recognizing I was a Fem, I found that the game-playing of other Fems badly affected me. I met no-one who shared these politics until reading Bev’s article “Roles: Butch and Femme” in 1982 in the Lesbian Insider/Insighter/Inciter (USA).

Bev: In the U.S., with the support of a few other Separatists, including my best friend Linda, I came to the same conclusions. I wrote an article in the original Lesbian Insider/Insighter/Inciter about Butch oppression (No.5, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 1981). Even though I presented the topic in a cautious, exploratory way, the article was met with hostility by many Lesbians. Ruston, who was also a Separatist, saw my article and wrote to me to share support. Ruston dared to say that she knew that Fems were in the privileged position in relation to Butches, which supported my and Linda’s ideas.

Linda: By 1983, I was alarmed by the increase of overt femininity and Butch-hatred among “radical” Lesbians, and by the resulting pain and damage to Dykes I love. I wrote an earlier version of what is now Part II of this chapter, “The Big Sell-Out: Lesbian Femininity,” which was printed in Lesbian Ethics, Vol. 1, No. 3, Fall, 1985. Together the three of us wrote the sequel, (which was partly based on an unpublished article of Ruston’s), printed in Lesbian Ethics, Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall, 1986, as “Heterosexism Causes Lesbophobia Causes Butch-Phobia,” now incorporated into Parts I and III of this chapter.

2 Coming Up, San Francisco, California, November 1988.

3 Tracy McDonald, review of “Behind the Curtains,” off our backs, 17:8, Aug./Sept. 1978, 19.

4 Elena Popp, “First Encuentro of Feminist Lesbians,” off our backs, 18:3, March 1988, 32.

5 De Clarke, “Femme and Butch: A Readers’ Forum” Lesbian Ethics, 2:2, Fall 1986, 96.

6 Wilson Key, Media Sexploitation (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1976), 24-26.

7 Tony Bizjak, “The Hip Social Manifesto: New Dictums of the ‘Politically Correct.’” San Francisco Chronicle, March 17, 1989, B3. Bizjak includes a list describing “P.C.” versus “P.I.” positions, ridiculing people who say “Persons of Color” rather than “minorities,” and “Asian” instead of “Oriental.” He says it’s “P.C.” to have a “housemaid named Bob” rather than a “housemaid named Maria,” to be for “affirmative action” instead of claiming “reverse discrimination,” and to be for “animal rights” instead of “animal deaths.”

8 Research by Karen Stevens, The Reactor, A Publication for the Environmentally Sensitive 4.1, Jan.-Feb. 1989, (P.O. Box 575, Corte Madera, CA 94925, USA), 2.

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Chapter Nine — Hidden Disability by Bev Jo and Linda Strega

 Chapter Nine 

 Hidden Disability

by Bev Jo and Linda Strega

Part 1


                                                          Bev Jo

Some have wondered why this chapter is in our book about Lesbian Separatism and Radical Feminism. Since our book is about having as much equality among women as possible and recognizing what harms us and what divides us, this information is essential, and is even more timely after 25 years, seeing how patriarchy has harmed and continues to harm women physically, mentally, and emotionally. Understanding some of the causes can help protect us.

We’ve also tried to include information to protect and improve health, especially since we’ve seen too many friends die and be disabled from possibly preventable diseases and pharmaceuticals and unhealthy eating recommendations. I know so many women who have worked very hard to eat what they don’t like and give up what they love, based on popular and accepted misinformation, and end up seriously damaging their health.

Since we published our book in 1990, many more Lesbians and other women we know, of all ages, have some form of chronic illness, chronic symptoms, and/or chronic pain. Many who are under fifty also have hormonal disruption, probably from growing up exposed to xenoestrogens (the toxic chemicals that mimic true estrogens) – from food cooked and stored in plastic (including Teflon pans), pesticides, and soy (carcinogenic and toxic to the thyroid). Girls are increasing going into puberty at earlier ages. (When I was a girl, puberty started around twelve but more recently it’s been said to start around ten, but now some girls are beginning puberty at seven. This makes little girls vulnerable to getting pregnant from rape as well as affecting their health in other ways.)

Doctors’ and alternative healers’ advice to be vegan or vegetarian, to eat soy (which is now in almost all processed food), toxic trans fat/hydrogenated oil, and high carbs, and to eliminate healthy organic saturated fat and meat has been disastrous for health, including leading to increasing numbers of women having hysterectomies and/or oopherectomies (removal of ovaries). I’ve noticed that vegans seem to have the most health problems,1 but many women are damaged in ways that women were not in the past. The hormonal disruptions also have severe mental and emotional effects, which affects relationships, including in our online Radical Feminist community.

Do not believe the myth that people live longer now. Remove statistics for decreased infant mortality and women dying in childbirth, and it becomes clear that people do not live longer.2  Women also have far worse quality of health now. Tombstones from hundreds of years ago, as well as genealogical records, show extremely long-lived women in the past. Alice Walker wrote about her great, great, great, great grandmother living to 125. A number of other women who had been slaves also lived to well over a hundred,3  in spite of the extreme stress of their lives.

Many of the forms of hidden disability that I’m seeing among friends are increasing, and it’s like solving a mystery to find out what is really happening to us. I believe there are multiple causes: toxic chemical and radiation exposure (including medical X-rays), synthetic, poisoned, and GMO food; polluted water and air; and new or engineered pathogens. The toxic and radiation exposures alone also account for the epidemic proportions of cancer, which was extremely rare when I was a kid. It’s amazing that anyone is still alive, actually, or that all people don’t have cancer, like nuclear physicist, John Gofman,4 said about the levels of radiation that people are now exposed to. (If any doctor tells you than an “X-ray is only like one plane trip,” they are lying. Doctors know the truth. They also all know that any radiation causes heart damage.)

I’ve been disabled with a mystery illness for more than half my life, since 1981. It has been called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Fibromyalgia,5 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, etc. Now I wonder about the cause being the bacteria spirochete, Borellia Burgdorferi/Lyme disease and/or the accompanying dozen co-infections also spread by Ixodes genera ticks.6

Then in the mid-Eighties, I also became increasingly reactive and sensitive to toxic stink that men and their corporations have spread throughout our environment as they continue inventing new “fragrance” poisons, which are completely unregulated and which never stop smelling horrible. It’s a clever way for men to mark territory while making money, from dirty perfumed laundry products to the countless and unnecessary “personal care” products mainly aimed at women consumers. My health was already damaged by growing up in Cincinnati with many factories spewing toxins, but now I still can’t escape Proctor and Gamble, thousands of miles away, because people are paying to pollute our neighborhoods through their drier vents with the disgusting stink of products like Tide and Downy, making our neighborhoods smell like factories. It’s a patriarchal/male nightmare affecting the health of all of us, against our will.7

The terms for people who react sooner to the toxins that are harming all of us is CI (Chemical Injury), MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) or EI (Environmental Illness, which implies the environment is making us sick). But most people just blame themselves and say they have “allergies,” which is like saying that lung cancer from cigarette smoke is an allergy, and personalizes what is actually a political issue that affects everyone’s health. Not to mention these toxic products are polluting the air, earth, and water where they are manufactured, used, and disposed of. It’s amazing how many people claim to care about the environment, but don’t consider refusing to support the companies producing such nasty filth. It’s one of the simplest, easiest ways to help the earth, save money, and protect your own health.

When I first became sick, my lover at the time also had the same symptoms that felt like a flu that wouldn’t go away: deep fatigue, low grade fever, swollen glands, pain, aching, and some friends also had similar symptoms, so I suspected a pathogen, with perhaps the addition of toxic exposure, to explain why some recovered and some didn’t. However, Lyme and the co-infections, transmitted through Ixodes genera tick bites could look like exposure to the same pathogen if we picked up ticks around the same time when hiking or working in the hills (which is exactly how Lyme was first discovered in the Seventies, by a cluster of kids with rare juvenile arthritis.)  No one publicly seemed to know about Lyme in 1981. Or at least no doctor we saw mentioned it.

I’ve also since learned about the damaging effects of metabolic syndrome, which includes polycystic ovaries, pain, etc. from eating as the doctors demanded. One fat-phobic idiot Lesbian doctor I saw was horrified I ate avocados because of the healthy high fat content.) Mainstream doctors’ recommendations to eat low fat actually have increased heart disease, cancer, arthritis, dementia, etc.8  Stress, like oppression, also increases high blood sugar and insulin resistance. Many of us probably also have symptoms of metabolic syndrome, but that doesn’t account for other symptoms or for so many of the symptoms to match.

It took me a while to identify as disabled, because my chronic illness isn’t visible. Also, most able-bodied women seem to try very hard to believe that I’m no different from them. Sometimes it’s hard even for me to take my sickness seriously because I’m fairly mobile and, when under pressure, I’m can still function, although I feel much worse for a long time after. But I know the difference between how I am now and how I was previously, and I’m lucky to have friends who also know that difference. Most importantly, my closest friend, Linda, is similarly disabled. We give each other valuable support and recognize that each other’s illnesses are real.

When we first published our book in 1990, I’d already been to nine doctors, four acupuncturists, two naturopaths, and five homeopaths. I tested positive once for mononucleosis, but was told it couldn’t be chronic, so it was ignored. Most of the doctors told me I wasn’t sick since they couldn’t find anything wrong, which I later found is common with illnesses causing hidden disability, so it look me years to get a diagnosis. CFIDS used to be called “The Yuppie Disease” because statistics showed that a lot of middle-class people have it. The fact is that these are usually the only people who can afford to see the average of eight doctors that it takes to finally get some sort of diagnosis. Those who are too poor to afford doctors aren’t generally listed in the statistics.

Four of the doctors I saw were sympathetic, but the rest were offensive and incompetent. I was concerned that I might possibly have a contagious disease, but the infectious disease specialist I saw assured me that a person couldn’t remain contagious after a couple of months of being sick. In fact, there many long-term contagious diseases. Another Lesbian doctor told me that there was nothing wrong with me and that I should just lose weight. (I was about 140 pounds at the time.) She told my underweight lover with identical symptoms that she should just drink coffee. Years later, I discovered that many of our symptoms match those for the early stages of leukemia and some other kinds of cancer. Certainly, you don’t want to try to lose weight with cancer since it’s a wasting disease and those who weigh more have a better chance of surviving.

I’ve heard many ridiculous, contradictory doctors’ opinions. One het woman osteopath flipped out when I told her that not all women are heterosexual, in response to her bizarre ranting that I should use birth control, although I couldn’t be more obvious as a Dyke and was at the appointment with my lover. In her crazed state of Lesbian-hatred, she said I needed female hormones, for no explainable reason.

Eventually, though, enough people became sick with similar symptoms that names for our illnesses were invented which still don’t really describe the cause.

I’m not surprised by the treatment I’ve gotten from doctors. I’m more upset by how I’m treated by other women. Since my constant fevers cause my face to look red, I’m often told I look “healthy.” They say that life is hard for everyone, and I should just try harder. They are terrified of getting sick, so they want to pretend I’m not. It’s true that all women have difficulties, but we’re also all in different states of health. Some can push themselves to extremes and use stimulants to keep going, which only works for a while.

One of the most offensive but typical comments is “we cause ourselves to be sick, so if you wanted to get well, you would.” I can’t imagine a more male-minded idea. “You create your own reality” is a useful philosophy to manipulate the oppressed. Unfortunately, it not only benefits the patriarchy, it also helps oppressive people maintain their privilege and illusion of superiority over the rest of us. If positive thinking works so well, why don’t these people visualize themselves into being less oppressive? (It’s interesting to see what happens when they become chronically ill themselves.)

Oppression adds to the severity chronic illness since physical or emotional stress makes us sicker. I’m writing this partly because I want to help prevent other women from going through the same abuse from both the medical establishment and from our own kind. You body tells you when you’re sick. If you feel sick, you are – especially in our cultures where we are pressured to ignore pain and sickness. No one has the right to tell you you’re not sick, whether they’re a doctor or a friend.

                                 Are These Man-made Illnesses?

Lyme disease didn’t used to exist. Many of us believe that the US government created Lyme disease/Borellia Burgdorferi when they injected Ixodes genera ticks with multiple pathogens in military biological warfare experiments at Lab 257 on Plum Island, New York (as described in the book Lab 257), near Old Lyme, Connecticut. (Therefore, it’s Lyme disease, not “Lyme’s disease,” since it’s named for the location and not a doctor.) The ticks were also injected with co-infections, such as Babesiosis, Erlichsiosis, Bartonella species, Yersinia enterocoliticaChlamydophila pneumoniaeChlamydia trachomatis, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, plus the newly diagnosed (in 2013) Borrelia Miyamotoi.

For those who are so mainstream or patriotic/nationalistic that they don’t believe that the US government, doctors, and scientists love to experiment on people, they should remember that the “land of the free” was built on genocide and slavery, and that giving American Indians blankets infested with smallpox virus was early biological warfare. (As recently as the Sixties, US scientists, funded by the US Atomic Energy Commission deliberately infected thousands of Amazon Indigenous people with a virulent measles vaccine that killed hundreds of people. According to Professor Turner, the same group also secretly carried out experiment on human subjects in the US, which included injecting people with radioactive plutonium without their knowledge or permission.) 8

Patronizing people as “conspiracy theorists” does not change the facts about past, present, and future biological weapon use. Of course the medical history of scientists experimenting on people against their will, from Mengele to Tuskegee9 and Guatemala proves that they are not to be trusted or believed. The US government admitted to mutating viruses and bacteria, to “study their effects,” and then releasing them into urban areas such as the San Francisco Bay Area,10 which is why the theory of ticks injected with pathogens is not outrageous. Who knows what the long-term results of the known tests have been?  The forgotten smallpox discovered in 2014 in a storage room in the US shows their level of criminal incompetency.

The goal at Lab 257 was theoretically to develop pathogens to kill the domestic animals in the Soviet Union in order to destroy the economy and starve the people to death, but the scientists also experimented on ticks. (I believe every kind of experimentation like this is male marking of territory, from wreaking death and disease, to contaminating parts of the earth for millions of years with nuclear pollution. In the Nov., 2014 issue of Natural History magazine, under “Samplings,” a short article describe scientists injecting mice with human semen, for no apparent reason.)

Of course Nazi scientists had Russians and other Slavic people on their list for genocide, so being paid and praised by the US government to continue the Nazi war on the Soviets would have been even more appealing to Erich Traub, the Nazi in charge of bio-weapons on Plum Island.

“Carroll’s ‘Lab 257’ also documents a Nazi connection to the original establishment of a US laboratory on Plum Island. According to the book, Erich Traub, a scientist who worked for the Third Reich doing biological warfare, was the force behind its founding….”

“….With the end of the war, Traub came back to the United States under Project Paperclip, a US program under which Nazi scientists, such as Wernher von Braun, were brought to America….A source who worked on Plum Island in the 1950s,recalls that animal handlers and a scientist released ticks outdoors on the island. ‘They called him the Nazi scientist, when they came in, in 1951 ­they were inoculating these ticks.”

Annual records of the first and subsequent cases of Lyme disease from the Seventies clearly show an increasing arc spreading westward from the part of the Northeast coast near Plum Island.11 Of course the medical propaganda now tells us that Lyme has always been here, but that’s another lie. Anyone old enough knows that we never saw or had to worry about ticks or Lyme disease when going into grasslands or woods. Many of us grew up playing in woods and only began to see ticks in the last few decades. Lyme disease simply did not exist anywhere in the US before the Seventies.

There are many myths about Lyme. A friend insists that Lyme always existed because it’s also in Europe, but it wasn’t there when I was living in England and Ireland in 1997 and 1998. It came to Europe later than the US, and my English lovers in the 1990’s had never heard of it and neither did anyone they know. The European vector is the same genera of Ixodes, and is named Ixodes Ricinus because the markings on the tick are reminiscent of the patterns on castor beans (Ricinus, same as the poison from castor beans). Borrelia Burgdoferi was probably brought to Europe by an infected person from the US who then was bitten by European Ixodes species Ixodes Ricinus. It’s now killing people there. (In the eastern US, the vector is Ixodes Scapularis, while in the west, it’s Ixodes Pacificus.) Lyme is now in Asia, South America, Australia, etc. When we are gone, it will be easier to spread the lie that it’s always been here, with theories that don’t make sense, like that it was found in a 5,000 year old corpse in the Alps. (In terms of trusting scientists’ competency in recognizing illness, they are still debating if syphilis came from Euro-Asia or the Americas.)

Lyme disease is most often spread by ticks, but can also be transmitted by fleas, mosquitoes, and mites. Evidence suggests that these small arachnids and insects don’t actually need to bite you for you to become infected. Lyme disease can also be spread in other ways, such as from mothers to fetuses. (At a Lyme lecture I went to, an alternative healer was positive she’d gotten it from her boyfriend.) The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believe that Borrelia burgdorferi can even survive the blood purification processes that donated blood is subjected to, and therefore can be spread by transfusion. The related spirochete, Borrelia Miyamotoi, discovered in 2013, is not being tested for, which means the blood supply is even less safe.

Lyme is also very difficult to diagnose because the US government commission had a conflict of interest and eliminated half the main diagnostic markers, so most people who have Lyme show up negative on the tests. This saves insurance companies a lot of money. And of course if the government accepted responsibility for inventing this illness, there would be millions of lawsuits. Again, Borrelia Miyamotoi, is likely to cause similar symptoms but will also not show up on standard tests.

A great imitator, like its cousin syphilis, Lyme is found in the brains of many people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, MS, Fibromyalgia, arthritis, Lupus, etc.12

From 36 known Borrelia species 12 cause Lyme disease or other borreliosis, which is transmitted by the bite of infected ticks….

When neutral techniques recognizing all types of spirochetes were used, or the highly prevalent periodontal pathogen Treponemas were analyzed, spirochetes were observed in the brain in more than 90% of AD cases. Borrelia burgdorferi was detected in the brain in 25.3% of AD cases analyzed and was 13 times more frequent in AD compared to controls.

They found spirochetes in about 90% of Alzheimer’s patients, while the bacteria were virtually absent in healthy age-matched controls.

The hopeful aspect to this is that Lyme can be more treatable and less of a death sentence than some of these illnesses. (Friends who have done the best have used specific herbs.)

My ex-lover got the classic expanding bull’s-eye rash which grew until it was enormous, with multiple circles of color, and then it disappeared in a few days. If it had been on her back, she would never have known it was there. Nothing else causes that rash, yet the doctor declared that she didn’t have Lyme because the test was negative – even though I’d told her that the medical literature says it doesn’t show up in tests for at least six weeks. This idiot doctor also told us that the Western Fence Lizard transmits the bacteria, when, in reality, the lizard has a mechanism in her blood that completely kills it, leaving ticks on her free of Lyme. (Don’t expect to get correct answers from doctors – most are arrogant and incompetent, which is a dangerous combination. They killed my mother. Most people I tell her story to have a similar one where doctors killed a loved one of theirs.)

When a friend got Lyme while camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains, she said she saw hundreds of tiny black bumps on her legs, which she’d never seen before during previous Sierra camping trips, and which turned out to be Lyme ticks. If the percentage of Ixodes Pacificus carrying Lyme was even 1%, then of course that’s where she got it. Every year, the numbers of ticks and infected ticks are increasing in California and elsewhere. The East Coast, where Lyme began, havs the highest percentage of infected ticks, recently listed as 35%.

I suspect Lyme was the cause of some friends dying while diagnosed with other illnesses, such as MS. Leslie Feinberg blamed Lyme and the co-infections for her death on Nov.15, 2014. I suspect Lyme pain and depression is behind some suicides also.

Many of us believe that Lyme is incurable and is chronic.13 I know many women with Lyme, and none have fully recovered. A Rheumatoid Arthritis specialist I know says he believes it’s not chronic, but turns into Fibromyalgia — which is chronic illness. So if Borrelia encysts and hides as spirochetes do, going through stages with remissions, then who knows if it’s still there? I spoke with Lucia Hui, Senior Public Health Biologist at the California Department of Health around 2002, to talk with her about Lyme. That was before she went on an expedition to the Sierras to study Lyme and got the classic Erythema migrans rash. She knew the protocol and immediately began treatment, but years later, she was taking $1000 worth of antibiotics a month, and still sick. She’s now listed as leading Lyme support groups.

A new myth is that unscrupulous doctors and alternative healers are behind the theory of Lyme as a chronic illness for their own benefit. There are a few doctors and healers who are conning people for money, and that has always been true about chronic illness, but the majority of doctors are deliberately denying acute Lyme even when people have classic symptoms, as well as denying Lyme as chronic illness. Some doctors actually refuse to write a prescription for the more accurate test, even when the patient agrees to pay for it since insurance won’t. For those who doubt the reality of Lyme as chronic illness, I suggest going barefoot, in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, off trail in a wooded or grassy area where a lot of deer visit, and sit and lie on the ground until you are covered in ticks. Eventually, you’ll get Lyme and then can tell us how chronic it isn’t.

Then there are the vaccines that cause cancer, like another polio vaccine that the CDC admits to:

Some scientists believe that AIDS is a similar bio-weapons creation, although I believe the theory that HIV was inadvertently spread from chimpanzees to humans in Africa, in 1955, through an experimental polio vaccine given by greedy US doctors. There’s an excellent award-winning 2003 film now free online called The Origin of AIDS.

(,,and, which explains how Dr. Hilary Koprowski and his research team used chimpanzee kidney cells. One of the women doctors in their group told them that their vaccine was not safe because she could see other unknown viruses in it. They ignored her, of course, because status and money were more important than health. Although Koprowsky denied using chimpanzees since that was too dangerous because of the possibility of transmission of pathogens from humans’ closest relatives, the film proves that he did use 200 chimpanzees and interviews Africans who captured and cared for them.

It’s revealing also that they gave Africans their experimental vaccine rather than people in the US.

Considering that humans have been eating primates in Africa for millennia without developing AIDS, the polio vaccine explanation makes more sense that the “bushmeat” theory, which blames the introduction of HIV into humans through contact with killed primate blood and blames Africans. Edward Hooper writes about this in his book, The River and in his article at

Unlike other viruses, HIV, as a retrovirus, was difficult to discover, but there was pressure to do it because of the many rich European-descent men being affected. Perhaps, also, men who wanted sexual access to as many women as possible, wanted to not have to worry about such a deadly STD. There is not similar urgency with finding  out what is behind the many chronic illnesses that keep appearing, even though they are devastating people’s lives and can be fatal, and certainly not when the US government could be sued, as in the case of the invention of Lyme disease and the many co-infections.

                            A Clean Environment Doesn’t Stink

In the years since I first became sick, I’ve grown much more sensitive to the man-made chemicals which surround us daily. My original illness has another cause, but not being able to escape toxic chemicals definitely worsens my health. And these chemicals damage all women and make some severely ill.15

Below is my separate section about chosen pollution:


                      Support Women’s Health, Not the Chemical Industry

I want an end to patriarchy and all oppression. But sometimes, more than anything, I just want to smell clean air. Well, not really clean air, which is impossible, but air that doesn’t stink. That shouldn’t be too much to ask, should it?

It’s not even that I live in a neighborhood with factories. I grew up in one, so I know them well – toxic fumes pouring out day and night, a half block from our house.  Sometimes the paint was blistered off cars in our neighborhood when the acid rain came down. At school, there was always another factory stench. Where I live now, it could be relatively clean-smelling, even in this city. Sometimes I can smell beautiful clean air from the ocean miles away, with trees and flowers on the wind, but the next moment will be a lungful of nauseating stink.

And why? Simply because of the greed of industry and the stupidity of people agreeing to be conned into paying for poisonous, dirty laundry products to pollute our air.

If we smell the products’ stink, we’ve already absorbed their neuro-toxic molecules into our lungs. I think of my friend who has already had cancer twice. She and none of us should be forced to breathe this pollution against our will. It doesn’t help that the spewers of this filth are not unreachable unchangeable corporate industries. It might be easier to accept if it was. No, these are regular people in this and every neighborhood, who choose to buy and release this poison into the air we are forced to breathe. But, again, why?

The irony is that I grew up in Cincinnati, being exposed every day to factory stink from Proctor and Gamble, one of the US’s biggest polluters. (Don’t believe their “green” industry label.) It’s like nightmare science fiction that I am now thousands of miles away and still am forced to smell Proctor and Gamble’s toxic products in our neighborhood and in the nauseating fumes pouring off people’s clothes and bodies in every public place. Even walking alone in the woods, I can smell most people from 100 feet away, with Proctor and Gamble following me.

Whenever I think I’ve discovered all the monstrous ways that men have made this beautiful planet into a nightmare, I find another man-made illogical horror.

It wasn’t until I was sick for several years that I became chemically sensitive enough to identify as “chemically injured” or having Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. We’re all injured by exposure to toxic chemicals in patriarchy, but some of us have had more exposure to pesticides or other toxins and so react sooner. Many of us who are chemically injured are considered to have an unnaturally sensitive/strong sense of smell, but in reality, we’re more like people who live closer to nature. People who surround  themselves with toxic scents have damaged, deficient senses of smell. (I’ve read that people in Viet Nam could smell US soldiers in the dark from a long distance because of their toothpaste and other scented products.)

Almost everyone trivializes themselves and others by considering this health issue  merely their own or others’ “personal problem,” calling our reaction to toxins “allergies.”  Allergies have nothing to do with it any more than people with lung cancer from cigarette smoke are “allergic.” It is simply poison. Ninety-five percent of the ingredients in scented products are synthesized from petrochemicals and many, like benzene and toluene, are considered hazardous waste.

Most women know that factory chemical fumes, gasoline, pesticides, herbicides, natural gas, carbon monoxide, and tobacco smoke (among others) are carcinogenic, and that some can kill you outright if you’re exposed to high enough concentrations. But they often don’t realize that the chemicals they choose to wear or use in their homes are toxic: perfumes, cosmetics, scented candles, scented soap, shampoo, hand lotion,  toothpaste, “cleaning” products,air fresheners,” hair spray, chemicals to curl or straighten hair, deodorants, detergents, fabric softeners, disinfectants, etc.

Most people seem shocked that the government allows scented chemicals to be sold without testing or regulation – yet they are usually aware that the government lies to us constantly, about invading other countries, the safety of our water and food, pesticides and herbicides, hormones and antibiotics in meat, GMO and irradiated food, nuclear reactors’ lack of safety, nuclear waste, and big pharmaceutical companies’ toxic drugs, etc. Toxic scented products are made by many of the same industries, just as chemotherapy drugs are made by the industries that cause cancer. People who would never buy other products from well-known polluters happily give these corporations money when it comes to personal care and household products.

These products aren’t needed by anyone. Plain unscented soap, baking soda, and white vinegar are as effective in cleaning our homes, and unscented body-care products are better for us than scented ones. But the chemical industry is big business. Through aggressive advertising, we’re taught that we, our clothes, and our homes aren’t really clean without a strong perfumed odor. Living in a polluted world has also meant that many people don’t have much sense of smell left, so the stronger a product smells, the more people are likely to buy it.

The mania for “cleanliness” and selling unnecessary products has meant that chemists continue to develop new chemicals that are much more persistent than before and which don’t wear off like previous products. Yet it’s not like any of these products smell good, no matter how many ads (mostly aimed at women) try to convince us. They’re disgusting, and their neurotoxins damage nerves and mucous membranes so that people lose their sense of smell and therefore use more and more of the poisons — ironically dirtying their homes and bodies while believing they are clean.

In the last several years, laundry products, especially fabric softeners and anti-static strips, have become so scented that people become sick from living near laundromats or even in neighborhoods where people use a lot of them. The perfumes in these products are so strong that they spread and cling much more than the milder scents used years ago. In the US, they’re added to printers’ ink, so we’re exposed to toxins in many magazines, newspapers, mailed advertisements, and even imprinted plastic grocery bags. No matter how the manufacturers advertise their products as having a “fresh,” “natural,” “flowery,” “herbal,” or even “unscented,” these are toxic chemicals and don’t smell natural at all. Many people find their odor nauseating. But these chemicals have become so popular that it’s almost impossible to go anywhere public without being surrounded by people wearing them.

Many ailments which are misdiagnosed as arthritis or migraine headaches are actually environmentally caused. Those who react first are like the canaries that miners took into the mines to find out if there was poison gas they couldn’t smell. We may be the first to suffer the effects of these toxins, but they’re poisonous to everyone — it’ll just take a while longer for some to use up their tolerance and become sick. So please take this seriously, for our health and yours. If we say something you’re using is sickening to us, please stop using it. (It can be hard to find unscented products, but the more consumers demand them, the more there’ll be.)

Chemical injury and exposure to toxic products can cause cancer, headaches, heart arrhythmia, nausea, migraines, joint pain, brain fog, asthma, depression, irritability, insomnia, exhaustion, dizziness, confusion, panic attacks, memory loss, rashes, liver and kidney damage, vomiting, seizures, hormone disruption, immune suppression, MS-like neurological reactions, pulse and blood pressure changes, impaired vision and concentration, aggression, loss of muscular coordination, convulsions, and coma.

There’s no escape, at home or outside. The laundry products’ fumes pour into our open windows and seep in even when the windows are closed. Going to a supermarket means being forced to breathe in nauseating stench from shelves of toxic air “fresheners,” laundry products, and pesticides. But most health food stores also reek of nasty-smelling scented products, and any open food you buy also smells and tastes nasty from perfumes and other toxins.

Almost every human stinks of “personal care” products and detergent and fabric softeners. Then the airborne stench sticks to us, so we bring it home, where it affects those we live with. (After being at any public event, I can’t even wash my clothes because the stink will remain unless I hang my clothes outside for days. I also always have to wash myself to get the stench off me.)

Why do women who otherwise are very savvy about other patriarchal cons participate in this? Unless someone has lung or heart problems or has been chemically injured, they usually choose to stink. Very few don’t. They willingly pay money to apply men’s scents to their bodies, marking themselves as men’s property because they believe it makes them smell “good.” It doesn’t matter how terrible they really smell – the marketing propaganda convinces them otherwise. In reality, perfume is as romantic as hazardous waste.

The use of toxic perfumes and cleaners is a female and feminist issue, because women are the most targeted by advertising, and women are the majority victims of Chemical Injury. Men also tell women we are dirty. Also, many women feel contaminated from growing up in patriarchy and from sexual assault, as well as from voluntary contact with men, so women are obsessed with trying to be clean. For some, that even means developing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Major corporations, like Proctor and Gamble, know this and direct their advertising accordingly, showing women looking crazed with ecstasy as their smell their nasty laundry products.

Peoples’ attachment to scented products shows in their trying to find “organic” scented products, but one study showed that every scented product, including those labeled organic, contained toxic ingredients. Also, be aware that many products that claim to be scent-free are not. Most stores smell so bad that you can’t even tell until you are home and your sense of smell clears that the product you just bought is scented.

Another increasing health problem is also caused by people’s choices: burning wood, garbage, etc. in their fireplaces.16  Burning is the cause of half the winter air pollution where we live. Most people in this area have adequate heat through gas or electricity, so they burn for pleasure, ignoring that people are literally dying. Having friends with asthma and congestive heart failure who are seriously affected is making me more aware of the damage from burning, but it’s also affecting the health of everyone, including animals, just as smoking does. When we can’t prevent most pollution, it’s upsetting that people selfishly choose to make the air absolutely filthy, against our will.

Although wood smoke conjures up fond memories of sitting by a cozy fire, it is important to know that the components of wood smoke and cigarette smoke are quite similar, and that many components of both are carcinogenic. Wood smoke contains fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. Wood smoke also contains chemicals known or suspected to be carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxin.

Wood smoke interferes with normal lung development in infants and children. It also increases children’s risk of lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Wood smoke exposure can depress the immune system and damage the layer of cells in the lungs that protect and cleanse the airways.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), toxic air pollutants are components of wood smoke. Wood smoke can cause coughs, headaches, eye, and throat irritation in otherwise healthy people.

For vulnerable populations, such as people with asthma, chronic respiratory disease and those with cardiovascular disease, wood smoke is particularly harmful — even short exposures can prove dangerous.

The particles of wood smoke are extremely small and therefore are not filtered out by the nose or the upper respiratory system. Instead, these small particles end up deep in the lungs where they remain for months, causing structural damage and chemical changes. Wood smoke’s carcinogenic chemicals adhere to these tiny particles, which enter deep into the lungs.

Recent studies show that fine particles that go deep into the lungs increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. EPA warns that for people with heart disease, short- term exposures have been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias. If you have heart disease, these tiny particles may cause you to experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

The particulate matter in wood smoke is so small that windows and doors cannot keep it out—even the newer energy-efficient weather-tight homes cannot keep out wood smoke.

The EPA estimates that a single fireplace operating for an hour and burning 10 pounds of wood will generate 4,300 times more PAHs than 30 cigarettes. PAHs are carcinogenic.

A study by the University of Washington in Seattle showed that 50 to 70 percent of the outdoor levels of wood smoke were entering homes that were not burning wood. EPA did a similar study in Boise, Idaho, with similar results.

                  Saying “No” to an Exclusionary Community

Lesbian are my people. I love Lesbians with all my heart. I want us to have the best Lesbian communities possible, which is why I’m focusing on Lesbians.

Some say that it can be difficult to make Lesbian communities completely accessible, but one thing that everyone easily can do is to stop buying and using toxic scented products. They would save money, help their own health, and stop smelling bad, but most won’t consider it – even when that means they’re making it impossible for many Lesbians to be part of our community

I used to hate the cigarette smoke that was everywhere, but understood it was an addiction. What I don’t understand is why women insist on using these horrible-smelling products. Even women who are conscientious about doing other things for the environment, and would never dream of not recycling, don’t consider that buying toxic products means supporting industries that pollute neighborhoods with factories, as well as their own air space. And when they use terrible-smelling detergents like Tide, Gain, etc. and fabric softeners like Downy, they are making neighborhoods everywhere smell like factories. Many women object to other ways men mark territory, so why accept this?

Then there are women who slather on the most foul-smelling perfumes and colognes even though they know it makes others sick. Some of these products are so full of petrochemicals that they smell like kerosene or disinfectant.

“But what about people’s right to choose? We shouldn’t control what people want to do, should we?” Well, that used to be the prevailing attitude until laws had to be made to prevent people filling up every public place with toxic cigarette smoke. Even most ex-smokers are glad about that control now. The insistence on “freedom”is also behind large industries’ fracking, pollution of lakes, rivers, and ocean, as well as their spewing of factory filth into the air. Without regulations and laws, the rich do what they want, and the poor suffer and die. This is far more than personal — it’s a political issue about accessibility and the right to unpolluted air.

With cancer rates increasing, we can’t afford to play games about filling our lives and homes with carcinogenic products. And for those who say they love animals, how can they justify subjecting animals who have such sensitive senses of smell to such foul poisons? I remember when dogs didn’t get cancer. I remember when cancer was so rare that only one member in my huge extended family, which included many old people, got cancer. There is so much that we can’t control about carcinogens in our environment, but this is one source of cancer we can control and save money at the same time.

This isn’t trivial. When people with asthma can’t breathe, they can die. Even if they “just” have trouble breathing and their lungs become more permanently damaged, and then they’re forced to use steroids and amphetamines in inhalants that damage their hearts, isn’t that bad enough? Why is this being ignored for vanity? One friend who already knew that perfume is toxic came to an event, proudly saying she was “only wearing a light scent.” (It was horrible, and a Lesbian with asthma reacted immediately.) It reminds me of the addictive quality of plastic surgery. The selfish narcissism of all this is astounding. It’s very much about obeying male rules of femininity.

Women don’t stop even when beloved women singers tell their audience that being exposed to perfumes and colognes hurts their voices. Too many women will coyly announce you shouldn’t hug them if their “fragrance” is a “problem” for you, but if you remind them their products are damaging the health of everyone in the room, they usually answer, “I know.” They understand that “no smoking” sections next to smokers are meaningless, so this shouldn’t be too difficult to grasp. (One woman who insisted on wearing perfume she knew hurt others, had actually asked for money for months for her ongoing health problems, never making the connection). No one should be cavalier about this issue. Several women I knew who adamantly refused to stop subjecting others to toxic products are now so chemically injured that they can’t leave their homes.

I know women who say they want to give up their car to help the environment, but they won’t give up Tide. What is going on here? (I do not advocate women restricting their lives by giving up their cars and making themselves vulnerable using public transportation.)

It’s actually not that hard to stop buying toxic products. Women affected by having asthma or CI or MCS, or who sincerely care for the environment (and animals they live with) , manage to have completely unscented homes. Do know, though, when trying to change to safe products, that mainstream detergents marked “unscented” usually reek horribly. It’s good to follow recommendations from some of the MCS lists.

We shouldn’t have to choose between being in our Lesbian communities and protecting our health. Women who react the most severely to scented toxins should not be forced to be homebound. It is the right of every living being to be able to smell clean air and be able to breathe.

Can you consider what it’s like for those who are homebound to know they can’t even have a friend bring them a library book because the books smell so bad from being in homes with scented toxins like “air fresheners,” scented candles, cleaning products, etc. If cigarette smoke bothers you, can you imagine never escaping it?  Almost no homes are safe to visit. But you’re likely to get hostility if you explain to friends why visiting them is difficult. They do understand on some level, because they wouldn’t want to spend several hours closed up in a room with a chain smoker, but somehow they take offense if you say their candle scented with oily volatile toxic ingredients is unbearable, even when unlit.

Trying to have friends visit creates another problem. Ninety-nine percent of those who say they are unscented actually reek from various products. Some of these products, like Tide, never go away. (A generous friend gave me a shirt from a Woman conference that she had washed in Tide. We hung it outside in the sun and rain for a year, and it still stunk horribly.) The bad smell also transfers to other surfaces (which is why I now always sit on a thermarest pad in public – that I am regularly harassed about using — which I have to leave outside after I go home, since it then stinks for days from being on public chairs). Before my housemate and I stopped being too afraid to make our home safe, we let a visitor sit on our couch for 2 hours – and our couch stank of Tide for over 6 months.  We’ve also put down a plastic tarp on a chair for a visitor who was scented only with Gain, but the smell soaked right through the tarp and the chair stank so much afterwards that we couldn’t keep it in the house. Being in the same room with someone scented also means that you, your hair, clothes, and every bit of fabric in the room absorb the stink. Some people seem surprised at this, yet they understand and object when cigarette smoke does the same thing.

No friends’ cars are safe to be in, so I always drive. But when I’ve given rides to friends who were previously unscented, they often are using a new scented product. This happens a lot, but the worst was when a friend arrived reeking, even though we’d arranged I would drive us several hours to a women’s music event. Being in a car accentuates any scent because of the closed space, but I could smell her as soon as she arrived. She’d used a new lotion and was only mildly apologetic, but it never occurred to her that I should have said no to being trapped in the car with her all those hours. I didn’t, and was nauseated the entire time. I also know that when something like this happens it’s likely to have a long-term affect on damaging my health, plus making me increasingly chemically sensitive. She’d understood the situation, so why was the new lotion so important? She wouldn’t have dreamt of lighting up a cigarette and saying she needed to smoke. I still don’t know how to deal with this kind of thing, so I drive alone, unless I’m with a trusted friend, and even then, there are often problems.

Everyone is affected by scented toxins that we’re forced to breathe, but most don’t know it, and they attribute their symptoms to other things. Some of us end up taking caffeine, pain-killers, or other drugs, which adds to our worsening health, to make it possible to go out, so we stay a part of the Lesbian community we helped create. We always have to weigh whether the risk and the effects are worth it.

Too many Lesbians prioritize men and other non-Lesbians when being activists, volunteering, or donating. Consider that ill and disabled Lesbians get much less support than our oppressors, yet have much less resources. No one else supports Lesbians so Lesbians need to.

Making our spaces scent- and poison-free is one of the few things that we can do to make our communities safe and welcoming. No man-made chemicals smell better than natural Lesbian scent!


1. The Vegetarian Myth, by Lierre Keith, has excellent health information, including explaining why being vegan for twenty years permanently damaged her health, and why being an ethical omnivore, who eats pastured, organic meat is better for animal species and the environment than supporting extensive agriculture. (Most soy is produced by Monsanto.)


…. The increase in life expectancy between 1907 and 2007 was largely due to a decreasing infant mortality rate, which was 9.99 percent in 1907; 2.63 percent in 1957; and 0.68 percent in 2007.

But the inclusion of infant mortality rates in calculating life expectancy creates the mistaken impression that earlier generations died at a young age; Americans were not dying en masse at the age of 46 in 1907. The fact is that the maximum human lifespan — a concept often confused with “life expectancy” — has remained more or less the same for thousands of years. The idea that our ancestors routinely died young (say, at age 40) has no basis in scientific fact….

 Again, the high infant mortality rate skews the “life expectancy” dramatically downward. If a couple has two children and one of them dies in childbirth while the other lives to be 90, stating that on average the couple’s children lived to be 45 is statistically accurate but meaningless. Claiming a low average age of death due to high infant mortality is not the same as claiming that the average person in that population will die at that age….

When Socrates died at the age of 70 around 399 B.C., he did not die of old age but instead by execution. It is ironic that ancient Greeks lived into their 70s and older, while more than 2,000 years later modern Americans aren’t living much longer.

The popular media often imply that increases in life expectancy are due to the wonders of modern medicine. This is false. Increases in life expectancy are due almost entirely to a decrease in the infant mortality rate….

Infant mortality in the US has decreased from more than 100 per 1,000 in 1920 to 10.9 today. During this same time, life expectancy has been said to have increased from 54 to 74 years.

At first glance it looks like people are living 20 years longer now than in the past. But this figure is misleading because it is just an average. It could mistakenly lead you to think that in 1920 most people lived to approximately 54 years of age and that now they live to approximately 74. This is not the case.

Consider these facts. In 1920 an adult 60 years old could expect to live an average of 16 more years, to about 76. Today an adult 60 years old can expect to live 20 more years, to about 80. That is only a four-year difference that appears in the life expectancy figures.

Adults are not living 20 years longer now than they did in 1920. In fact, adults today live little longer than they did in 1920, which is before the development of the powerful modern medications that are often credited with life extension. What has dramatically improved is our chance of surviving to 60.

Lies and Statistics

Mark Twain proclaimed that, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Surely he is not alone in the conclusion that statistics don’t lie, but liars use statistics. The statistics commonly used to describe “advances” in the area of life expectancy are misleading, at best.

3. Convention of Former Slaves

February 11th, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe


IMAGE: Washington, D.C., 1916. “Convention of former slaves. Annie Parram, age 104; Anna Angales, age 105; Elizabeth Berkeley, 125; Sadie Thompson, 110.” National Photo Company Collection glass negative. (Shorpy)


Dr. Gofman was a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D. in nuclear-physical chemistry and an M.D.) who was the first Director of the Biomedical Research Division of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory from 1963-65 and one of nine Associate Directors at the Lab from 1963-1969. He was involved in the Manhattan Project and is a co-discoverer of Uranium-232, Plutonium-232, Uranium-233, and Plutonium-233, and of slow and fast neutron fissionability of Uranium-233. He also was a co-inventor of the uranyl acetate and columbium oxide processes for plutonium separation. He has taught in the radioisotope and radiobiology fields from the 1950s at least up into the 1980s, and has done research in radiochemistry, macromolecules, lipoproteins, coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis, trace element determination, x-ray spectroscopy, chromosomes and cancer and radiation hazards. Starting in 1969 he began to challenge the AEC claim that there was a “safe threshold” of radiation below which no adverse health effects could be detected.

  1. Fibromyalgia is a term for what could be multiple illnesses.

6. Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the spirochete (spiral shaped bacterium) known as Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). Lyme disease is most often spread by ticks, but can also be transmitted by fleas, mosquitoes, and mites. Evidence has suggested that these small arachnids and insects don’t actually need to bite you for you to become infected. There is also evidence that Lyme disease can be spread by a number of other methods, including, like its spirochete cousin, syphilis, sexually, as well as from mothers to fetuses.

To complicate diagnosis, a second Borellia species was discovered in 2013.

Under Our Skin: The Acclaimed Documentary about the Untold Story of Lyme Disease.

In Lyme disease concurrent infections frequently occur. The clinical and pathological impact of co-infections was first recognized in the 1990th, i.e. approximately ten years after the discovery of Lyme disease. Their pathological synergism can exacerbate Lyme disease or induce similar disease manifestations. Co-infecting agents can be transmitted together with Borrelia burgdorferi by tick bite resulting in multiple infections but a fraction of co-infections occur independently of tick bite. Clinically relevant co-infections are caused by Bartonella species, Yersinia enterocolitica, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, Chlamydia trachomatis, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. In contrast to the USA, human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) and babesiosis are not of major importance in Europe. Infections caused by these pathogens in patients not infected by Borrelia burgdorferi can result in clinical symptoms similar to those occurring in Lyme disease. This applies particularly to infections caused by Bartonella henselae, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. 

Chlamydia trachomatis primarily causes polyarthritis. Chlamydophila pneumoniae not only causes arthritis but also affects the nervous system and the heart, which renders the differential diagnosis difficult. The diagnosis is even more complex when co-infections occur in association with Lyme disease.

NonSpiral Borrelia — Part 1 — Explanation of Shape shifting and Form Metamorphosis of Spirochetes

Part II — Cystic Borrelia and Related Topics Including Round Body Infections of the Brain

Why the government won’t allow treatment for Chronic Lyme disease

Dr Horowitz Lyme Disease and Chronic Illness

Good article except for recommending carcingenic, toxic repellants and carcinogenic, heart-damaging radioactive scans. Good about the myths….

Visiting physician sheds new light on Lyme disease

On a visit to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Dr. Nevena Zubcevik challenged conventional diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases.

Dr. Nevena Zubcevik described her findings on Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment, and its effect on the brain, to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital physicians and members of the public last week. — Barry Stringfellow

This past Friday, Dr. Nevena Zubcevik, attending physician at Harvard Medical School and co-director of Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown (SRH) traveled to one of the nation’s front lines in the public health battle against Lyme disease to speak to a group of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital physicians. “I wanted to do this presentation by Skype because of all the ticks you have here,” she joked.

Dr. Zubcevik was at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) to speak at grand rounds, a weekly meeting of clinicians, which on this day was open to the public, resulting in an overflow crowd at the Community Room just off the hospital lobby.

Over the course of the hour, she shared the most recent findings that she and her colleagues have made on the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease, in particular on the 10 to 15 percent of patients who suffer long-term symptoms, defined by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). She discussed the protean nature of tick-borne diseases, the importance of public awareness, and the urgent need for the medical community to step up its game.

“Graduating medical students and doctors really aren’t educated about the gravity of this epidemic,” she said. “There’s a gap there that needs to be filled. We’re all responsible to educate our young doctors about what this entails.”

Dr. Zubcevic said the recent revelation that actor, singer, and songwriter Kris Kristofferson was cured of dementia once he was properly diagnosed with Lyme disease should be a lesson for medical professionals on how pervasive the disease is, and how often it is overlooked.

“Sudden-onset dementia should really be a red flag for Lyme [disease], especially in people with compromised immune systems,” she said.

“Everyone over 50 has a compromised immune system.”

Dr. Zubcevik said that doctors and parents should know that Lyme presents differently in children than it does in adults. “71 percent of the time, headache is the most common symptom in children,” she said. “Mood disturbance, fatigue, and irritability are also frequent symptoms in children. If they are acting out in school all of a sudden, get them tested.”

Dr. Zubcevik cited a particularly compelling example of undiagnosed Lyme disease where a 29-year-old male had been institutionalized four times for schizophrenia. After a series of tests, and in concert with a psychiatrist, Dr. Zubcevik began a course of daily antibiotics on him. “The first month he could remember what he had for breakfast,” she said. “The second month he could read a chapter of a book, and after six months he was back to normal. He could tolerate light and sound again, which he couldn’t before.”

Tick truths challenged

Dr. Zubcevik said recent research debunks several commonly held beliefs about the transmission and treatment of tick-borne diseases.

“The conception that the tick has to be attached for 48 hours to inject the bacteria is completely outdated,” she said. “There are studies that show that an attachment of 15 minutes can give you anaplasmosis,10 minutes for the Powassan virus, and for the different strains of Borrelia burgdorferi, we have no idea.”

Dr. Zubcevic said the notion that children, infants, or pregnant women should not be given doxycycline is also outdated. “Dermatologists have prescribed doxycycline to kids for years to treat acne; why not for such a debilitating disease?”

She also said the two-day course of doxycycline, often prescribed for people who find a tick embedded on their body, has little or no prophylactic value. “It should be 100 to 200 milligrams of doxycycline twice a day for 20 days, regardless of the time of engorgement,” she said. “It is not a two-day thing.”

The blood tests currently used to detect the presence of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium are the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the Western blot test.

Dr. Zubcevik said research has shown there are 10 different strains of Lyme disease in the United States, and many of them do not test positive on the traditional Western blot or ELISA tests. In a previous email to The Times, she wrote that with current testing, 69 out of 100 patients who have Lyme disease may go untreated.

“The bull’s-eye rash only happens 20 percent of the time,” she said. “It can often look like a spider bite or a bruise. If you get a bull’s-eye it’s like winning the lottery. Borrelia miyamotoi, which we have a lot in Massachusetts, will not test positive on either test. That’s a huge problem, so the CDC is moving toward a different kind of test.”

Borrelia miyamotoi also has the potential to spread rapidly, since it’s transmitted directly from mother to offspring. Nymphal deer ticks need to feed on a mammal, most likely the white-footed mouse, to contract the virulent Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.

In addition to Lyme disease, Islanders are also vulnerable to coinfections such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia, which can also go undetected. “Babesiosis is a malaria-like disease that can persist for months or even years,” she said. “Patients who can’t catch their breath are a red flag for babesiosis.”

Double whammy

Dr. Zubcevik described deer tick nymphs as “the perfect vector” because of their diminutive size — the size of the “D” on a dime — and because of the analgesic in their saliva that often makes their bite almost undetectable.

The bacteria they inject are equally crafty.

“Borrelia burgdorferi is an amazing organism; I have a lot of respect for it,” she said. “It is a spirochete, meaning it can corkscrew into tissue as well as travel in the bloodstream. It can do whatever it wants. It’s twice the speed of a [white blood cell], which is our fastest cell. It’s so strong it can swim against the flow of the bloodstream.”

Dr. Zubcevik said there are videos that show a white blood cell pursuing a spirochete, which evades capture by drilling into tissue.

“It’s really easy to see why this adaptive bug can avoid the immune system,” she said.

Dr. Zubcevik said doxycycline stops the bacteria from replicating, but it doesn’t kill them. The rest is up to the body’s immune system, which is the reason some people suffer for so long.

“There’s a lot of neurotoxicity, which is why people feel so bad all over. It’s like a toxic warfare going on inside the patient’s body.”

Controversy continues

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker rejected the legislature’s controversial budget amendment that would have required insurance companies to cover the cost of long-term antibiotic treatment which chronic Lyme Disease (CLD) advocates maintain is the most effective treatment for their symptoms. The Massachusetts Infectious Disease Society, representing more than 500 infectious disease specialists, does not recognize CLD, and urged the governor to reject the amendment, asserting that long-term intravenous antibiotic therapy can be dangerous and possibly lead to “superbugs” that are immune to current treatments.

The CDC also does not recognize CLD or the use of long-term antibiotics for PTLDS. “Regardless of the cause of PTLDS, studieshave not shown that patients who received prolonged courses of antibiotics do better in the long run than patients treated with placebo,” the CDC website states. “Furthermore, long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease has been associated withserious complications.”

However, the website also says, “Recent animal studies have given rise to questions that require further research.”

Dr. Zubcevik diagnoses the condition with a different name — “persistent symptoms related to Lyme disease.”

“I’m new to this field,” she said. “For me there’s no controversy. We have to innovate, we have to find solutions. [SRH] has connected with top scientists from all around the country. Studies show that after treatment in mice, dogs, and monkeys, Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria are still there. This has also been shown in human tests.”

Citing the work of Dr. Ying Zhang at Johns Hopkins Lyme Center, she said the most likely effective remedy will be a combination of several antibiotics. In a previous interview with The Times, Dr. Zhang said he has worked on an effective PTLDS treatment for six years, and that current Lyme disease treatments may not clear bacterial debris, or “persisters,” which may be one of the possible causes of PTLDS. Dr. Zhang said that his work on tuberculosis (TB) is his primary focus; however, advances in fighting TB, e.g. using new combinations of drugs already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have yielded promising results in the fight against “persisters.”

“There’s also a need to develop a more sensitive test,” he said.

Patient advocate

Although she started out at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital focusing on the neuropathy of concussions, Dr. Zubcevik branched out into treating people with Lyme disease in part because both maladies can cause similar cognitive impairment. “I heard Lyme disease patients say they can’t remember what they had for breakfast, or they get lost driving home,” she said. “It sounded the same as concussion symptoms, so we started doing PET scans.”

Positron emission tomography, or PET scan, is an imaging test that uses a radioactive substance that shows brain functioning. Dr. Zubcevik said PET scan of a patient with persistent Lyme disease symptoms showed a brain colored in blue and purple hues, where a healthy brain presented with shades of yellow and green. She showed an image of the patient’s brain after six months of intravenous antibiotics, which was dominated by shades of yellow and green.

Dr. Zubcevik told the hospital gathering that many patients she sees have been suffering the physical, mental, and emotional effects of the disease for so long, they have lost the will to live. “I literally have patients who were just done,” she said. “They couldn’t go on. The first thing I do is validate their experience, and tell them, ‘I believe you.’ Sometimes they start crying because somebody finally listened. Some patients show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder because they’ve been ignored for so long. Marriages dissolve all the time because one spouse thinks the other is being lazy. Many chronically ill patients end up alone.”

Treatment at SRH borrows from many different disciplines. In addition to medication, it can include nutrition counseling, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language therapy, mental health counseling, and referrals to infectious disease and other specialists as necessary.

Dr. Zubcevik said that the program was initially funded by a donation from a patient who was treated shortly after the clinic opened. “We’re always looking for more funding,” she said.

The current wait list at Spaulding is about four months.  

Prevention, prevention, prevention

“Once patients are doing better, I will call harass them on the weekend to check if they are taking the proper precautions,” Dr. Zubcevik said. “Are they using repellant? Are they doing daily checks? Are they treating their dogs? I don’t want to do another PICC line [intravenous drug access] or PET scan.”

Dr. Zubcevik also said many people need to know proper tick removal — using tweezers to grab the head of the tick, not at the body.

“Don’t don’t squeeze the belly of the tick, it will inject the bacteria into your bloodstream. Do not use oils; it can make the tick vomit the bacteria into the bloodstream. If the tick is deeply embedded, go to the doctor.”

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More information on SRH can be found at

More information on tick-borne disease prevention can be found on the Martha’s Vineyard Boards of Health Tick-Borne Disease webpage.

Numerous videos on Lyme disease prevention, including Dr. Zubcevik’s presentation, are available on the MVTV website.

  1. excellent leaflet (“Fragrance: A Growing Health and Environmental Hazard) with a lot more information and links can be ordered through: Redemske Design, 344 Gardiner Road, Jefferson, ME 04348. Their phone number is 207-549-3531 and 207-549-5358.8. The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.


Thousands of South American indians were infected with measles, killing hundreds, in order to for US scientists to study the effects on primitive societies of natural selection, according to a book out next month….

The book accuses James Neel, the geneticist who headed a long-term project to study the Yanomami people of Venezuela in the mid-60s, of using a virulent measles vaccine to spark off an epidemic which killed hundreds and probably thousands….

Thousands of South American indians were infected with measles, killing hundreds, in order to for US scientists to study the effects on primitive societies of natural selection, according to a book out next month….

The book accuses James Neel, the geneticist who headed a long-term project to study the Yanomami people of Venezuela in the mid-60s, of using a virulent measles vaccine to spark off an epidemic which killed hundreds and probably thousands….

One of the most controversial aspects of the research which allegedly culminated in the epidemic is that it was funded by the US atomic energy commission, which was anxious to discover what might happen to communities when large numbers were wiped out by nuclear war.


While there is no “smoking gun” in the form of texts or recorded speeches by Neel explaining his conduct, Prof Turner believes the only explanation is that he was trying to test controversial eugenic theories like the Nazi scientist Josef Mengele….

Prof Turner says Neel and his group used a virulent vaccine called Edmonson B on the Yanomani, which was known to produce symptoms virtually indistinguishable from cases of measles.


“Medical experts, when informed that Neel and his group used the vaccine in question on the Yanomami, typically refuse to believe it at first, then say that it is incredible that they could have done it, and are at a loss to explain why they would have chosen such an inappropriate and dangerous vaccine,” he writes.


“There is no record that Neel sought any medical advice before applying the vaccine. He never informed the appropriate organs of the Venezuelan government that his group was planning to carry out a vaccination campaign, as he was legally required to do….


“The political implication of this fascistic eugenics is clearly that society should be reorganised into small breeding isolates in which genetically superior males could emerge into dominance, eliminating or subordinating the male losers in the competition for leadership and women, and amassing harems of brood females.” Prof Turner adds…

In the memo he says: “One of Tierney’s more startling revelations is that the whole Yanomami project was an outgrowth and continuation of the atomic energy commission’s secret programme of experiments on human subjects.


“Neel, the originator of the project, was part of the medical and genetic research team attached to the atomic energy commission since the days of the Manhattan Project.”


James Neel was well-known for his research into the effects of radiation on human subjects and personally headed the team that investigated the effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs on survivors and their children.


According to Prof Turner, the same group also secretly carried out experiments on human subjects in the US. These included injecting people with radioactive plutonium without their knowledge or permission.


9.  From The facility at Plum Island, now overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.

Carroll’s “Lab 257” also documents a Nazi connection to the original establishment of a US laboratory on Plum Island. According to the book, Erich Traub, a scientist who worked for the Third Reich doing biological warfare, was the force behind its founding.

During World War II, “as lab chief of Insel Riems­a secret Nazi biological warfare laboratory on a crescent-shaped island in the Baltic Sea­,Traub worked for Adolf Hitler’s second-in-charge, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, on live germ trials,” states “Lab 257.

The mission was to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union. This included infecting cattle and reindeer with foot-and-mouth disease.

“Ironically, Traub spent the prewar period of his scientific career on a fellowship at the Rockefeller Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, perfecting his skills in viruses and bacteria under the tutelage of American experts before returning to Nazi Germany on the eve of war,” says “Lab 257.”  While in the US in the 1930s, too, relates the book, Traub was a member of the Amerika-Deutscher Volksbund which was involved in pro-Nazi rallies held weekly in Yaphank on Long Island.

With the end of the war, Traub came back to the United States under Project Paperclip, a US program under which Nazi scientists, such as Wernher von Braun, were brought to America.

“Traub’s detailed explanation of the secret operation on Insel Riems” given to officials at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the Army’s biological warfare headquarters, and to the CIA, “laid the groundwater for Fort Detrick’s offshore germ warfare animal disease lab on Plum Island,” says “Lab 257.” “Traub was a founding father….”

The Long Island daily newspaper Newsday earlier documented this biological warfare mission of Plum Island. In a lead story on November 21, 1993, Newsday investigative reporter John McDonald wrote: “A 1950s military plan to cripple the Soviet economy by killing horses, cattle and swine called for making biological warfare weapons out of exotic animal diseases at a Plum Island laboratory, now-declassified Army records reveal.” A facsimile of one of the records, dated 1951, covered the front page of that issue of Newsday.

The article went on: “Documents and interviews disclose for the first time what officials have denied for years: that the mysterious and closely guarded animal lab off the East End of Long Island was originally designed to conduct top-secret research into replicating dangerous viruses that could be used to destroy enemy livestock.”

“Lab 257” has many pages about this based on documents including many that Carroll found in the National Archives.

The book also tells of why suddenly the Army transferred Plum Island to the Department of Agriculture in 1954­the US military became concerned about having to feed millions of people in the Soviet Union if it destroyed their food animals.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff “found that a war with the USS.R. would best be fought with conventional and nuclear means, and biological warfare against humans­ not against food animals,” says “Lab 257.” “Destroying the food supply meant having to feed millions of starving Russians after winning a war”

Still, “Lab 257” questions whether there ever was a clean break.

Officials at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center have, however, insisted over the years that the center’s function is to conduct research into foreign animal diseases not found in the US­especially foot-and-mouth disease­and the only biological warfare research done is of a “defensive” kind.

“Lab 257” also maintains that there is a link between the Plum Island center and the emergence of Lyme disease. It “suddenly surfaced” 10 miles from Plum Island “in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975.” Carroll cites years of experimentation with ticks on Plum Island and the possibility of an accidental or purposeful release.

“The tick is the perfect germ vector,” says “Lab 257,” “which is why it has long been fancied as a germ weapon by early biowarriors from Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan to the Soviet Union and the United States.”

“A source who worked on Plum Island in the 1950s,” the book states, “recalls that animal handlers and a scientist released ticks outdoors on the island. ‘They called him the Nazi scientist, when they came in, in 1951 ­they were inoculating these ticks.”

“Lab 257” goes on: “Dr. Traub’s World War II handiwork consisted of aerial virus sprays developed on Insel Riems and tested over occupied Russia, and of field work for Heinrich Himmler in Turkey. Indeed, his colleagues conducted bug trials by dropping live beetles from planes. An outdoor tick trial would have been de riguer for Erich Traub.”

  1. The Reactor, May-June 1988, p. 12. From an article by James Coates in the San Francisco Examiner, 10 April 1988. “Army officials admitted in 1977 that the entire populations of San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C. were subjected to germ warfare tests in the 1950’s and 1960’s when aerosols of germs were released into the air.”11.
    Lyme spread map


The results of Dr. MiKlossy’s review found a statistically significant association between spirochetes and AD. Spirochetes were observed in the brain in more than 90% of AD cases. Bb was detected in the brain in 25.3% of AD cases analyzed and was 13 times more frequent in AD compared to controls. Importantly, coinfection with several spirochetes occurs in AD.  – See more at:

J Alzheimers Dis. 2004 Dec;6(6):639-49; discussion 673-81.

Borrelia burgdorferi persists in the brain in chronic lyme neuroborreliosis and may be associated with Alzheimer disease.

Miklossy J1Khalili KGern LEricson RLDarekar PBolle LHurlimann JPaster BJ.

Author information  Abstract

The cause, or causes, of the vast majority of Alzheimer’s disease cases are unknown. A number of contributing factors have been postulated, including infection. It has long been known that the spirochete Treponema pallidum, which is the infective agent for syphilis, can in its late stages cause dementia, chronic inflammation, cortical atrophy and amyloid deposition. Spirochetes of unidentified types and strains have previously been observed in the blood, CSF and brain of 14 AD patients tested and absent in 13 controls. In three of these AD cases spirochetes were grown in a medium selective for Borrelia burgdorferi. In the present study, the phylogenetic analysis of these spirochetes was made. Positive identification of the agent as Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto was based on genetic and molecular analyses. Borrelia antigens and genes were co-localized with beta-amyloid deposits in these AD cases. The data indicate that Borrelia burgdorferi may persist in the brain and be associated with amyloid plaques in AD. They suggest that these spirochetes, perhaps in an analogous fashion to Treponema pallidum, may contribute to dementia, cortical atrophy and amyloid deposition. Further in vitro and in vivo studies may bring more insight into the potential role of spirochetes in AD.

Amyloid-beta Protein has Antibacterial Properties

Scientists have discovered that amyloid-beta protein has anti-bacterial properties, indicating that its production may be an adaptive response to infectious organisms, like invading spirochetes.3,4

The whole process may work something like this:

  1. Damaged brain cells produce amyloid-beta protein as an adaptive response to the infection.
  2. Amyloid-beta deposits grow and begin to affect brain cell connections and communication highways.
  3. With damaged connections and communication highways, dementia symptoms begin and gradually worsen.
  4. Spirochetes invade and infect the brain.
  5. The brain’s normal defenses become dysfunctional as the macrophages (microglia) become trapped and then attacked within the core of the spirochete plaque.
  6. With immune dysfunction setting in, the spirochete infection intensifies involving more and more brain cells.

13.  http://


Ed Hooper: Since the publication of the revised paperback version of The River in 2000, I have continued my research and, as I have long been intimating on this web-site, I can now demonstrate (a) that the experimental OPV made in Stanleyville, Belgian Congo in the late 1950s was indeed prepared in the cells of common chimpanzees of the Pan troglodytes species, and (b) that the chimps involved in these experimental procedures included many chimpanzees from the Pan troglodytes troglodytes subspecies, including those that come from the very area of west central Africa which members of the bushmeat group insist is the source of pandemic AIDS. – See more at:

The former finding is hugely important, proving that the central tenet of the hypothesis proposed in The River was correct. The vaccine-makers continue to insist that they never used chimpanzee cells for the vaccine, but I and others have proved otherwise. (Some of the evidence for this was broadcast in the prize-winning 2003 documentary, “The Origins of AIDS”, but there is considerably more evidence that has not been published to date.) This confirms that the word of the vaccine-makers cannot be relied upon for any of the history relating to these trials. – See more at:

By contrast, the oral polio vaccine (OPV) theory proposes that an experimental OPV that had been locally prepared in chimpanzee cells and administered by mouth, or “fed”, to nearly one million Africans in vaccine trials staged in the then Belgian-ruled territories of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi between 1957 and 1960, represents the origin of the AIDS pandemic. It provides a historically-supported background: that between 1956 and 1959 over 500 common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii and Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and bonobos or pygmy chimpanzees (Pan paniscus) were housed together at Lindi Camp (near Stanleyville in the Belgian Congo, now Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC). It proposes that in the Laboratoire Medical de Stanleyville (LMS) the kidney cells and sera of these different chimpanzee species and subspecies were used to prepare batches of CHAT vaccine, but that the fact that the vaccine was locally prepared was concealed by the scientists involved, and has been covered up ever since. (In the 1950s, in most countries around the world the kidney cells of Asian macaques were used for polio vaccine preparation. The use of chimpanzee cells and sera for vaccine preparation was a unique development, but it did not conflict with the 1950s recommendations of the WHO, which were that any suitable primate species could be used to produce polio vaccines.) Of particular importance is the fact that the different species and subspecies of chimpanzee were placed two to a cage at Lindi Camp, to encourage the more nervous pygmy chimps to learn to eat like the common chimps, and that there was a play-cage where up to 10 chimps at a time were placed. Thus there was every opportunity for the onward transmission of viruses like SIVs, through fighting, scratching, the licking of wounds, or coprophagia, the eating of faeces. One of the major vaccination campaigns with the experimental OPV (a version of CHAT vaccine, developed by Hilary Koprowski), was staged in the Belgian Congo capital of Leopoldville in 1958-60, and involved all the city’s children aged up to five years.

However, there is evidence that at least some African adults were also vaccinated in the capital, just as some 170,000 African adults were vaccinated elsewhere in the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi. Nearly forty years passed before it was confirmed by genetic sequencing that the first two cases of HIV-1 infection found in the world had occurred in the Belgian Congo – in fact both isolates came from Leopoldville, in 1959 and 1960. [To give some perspective, these two isolates are sixteen and seventeen years earlier than the next earliest isolate of HIV-1(M), which also came from the DRC, and roughly two decades earlier than any HIV-1 isolate from outside the DRC.] The correlation between the feedings of experimental CHAT vaccine in Africa and the first outbreaks of HIV infection and AIDS in the world (which occurred in the same towns and villages a few years later) is “highly significant” in statistical terms. The OPV theory ascribes the minor outbreaks of AIDS caused by other variants of HIV-1 (Group O, Group N and the more controversial “Group P”) to other polio vaccines (both oral and injected) that were prepared in the cells of chimpanzees and administered in French Equatorial Africa (including Congo Brazzaville and Gabon) in the same late fifties period. It ascribes the outbreaks of AIDS from HIV-2 (of which it maintains that only two were epidemic outbreaks) to other polio vaccines (both oral and injected) that were prepared in the cells of sooty mangabeys (or other monkeys that had been caged with sooty mangabeys) and administered in French West Africa in 1956-60. All the other HIV-2 groups that are claimed by the bushmeat theorists have infected just a single person, and some OPV theory supporters argue that dead-end, non-transmissible infections such as these are the natural fate of SIVs that infect human beings via the bushmeat route: that unless they are introduced in an artificial manner (as via a vaccine), they simply die out.

The above synopsis includes the detail that the use of chimpanzees to make these experimental polio vaccines was kept secret. The OPV theory proposes that the main reason for such secrecy back in the 1950s was that the killing of hundreds of the closest relatives to man (chimpanzees) to produce human vaccines was even then highly controversial, especially when it was being done in a country (the Belgian Congo) where the Belgian royal family had pioneered the conservation and protection of wild animals. Clearly the use of chimpanzee cells involved great potential risks (that humans might acquire a latent virus from their closest primate cousins) and great potential benefits (if the method produced an effective vaccine, then this technique might end up making the vaccine developers a great deal of money). The reason for the ongoing secrecy today is almost certainly the concern in “high places” that if the OPV theory should ever come to be proved, it would fundamentally shake public confidence in the integrity and reliability of the medical establishment, possibly leading to class action law-suits involving billions of dollars. It would also very likely undermine the future use of developing countries as a testing site for experimental vaccines.

– See more at:

And then the polio vaccine the CDC admits causes cancer:

  1. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity – MCS

The Wall of Personal Testimony
Personal stories about life with chemical illness.


  1. Toxins in

                                                        Part Two

                       WORKER, HEAL YOURSELF

                                                      Linda Strega

The privileged classes have flooded the media for decades with advice on how to be healthy and how to get well if you’re sick. A common message is “You create your own reality” and so your illness is your own fault. Or maybe you’re not sick at all — you only think you are, or you’re faking — especially if you have an illness that no one is able to diagnose or cure. These messages permeate US culture and health care, and they are deadly to oppressed people.

When we’re sick, especially if we have an undiagnosed illness, we go to doctors and “alternative healers” who take our money to tell us that we aren’t really sick, or that we’re making ourselves sick by wrong thinking, or that we just aren’t trying hard enough. (That is, if we even have any money to see them with.) Our money goes to pay for their new cars, houses, health club dues, gourmet food, and world travel, while we go home on the bus or in our old broken down cars to figure out how to make do with $200 or $300 less that month because we had to pay the “healer.” Wait! Who did they say was creating this reality?

We still have the old problems of doctors who prescribe harmful drugs and do unnecessary or botched surgery, but those of us who know to be very careful about choosing and trusting medical doctors sometimes, in desperation, place hope in alternative health care providers who harm us in other ways. Some are excellent healers, competent and caring. But many alternative healers have their own ways of avoiding difficult diagnoses or illnesses which don’t respond to their treatments — they blame the sick person for negative thinking or not trying hard enough, or they recommend psychotherapy.

Instead of openly calling their patient a hypochondriac, neurotic, or hysterical, as doctors often do, they dress up their accusations in pseudo-psychological “psychic” terms. “You need to examine what benefits you’re getting from this illness, and why you don’t want to heal,” “The words you use are making you sick,” “You must have a spiritual problem,” or “You’re sick because you’re angry.” Many alternative healers, including Lesbian ones, subject their clients to Lesbian-hating, fat oppression, racism, and ageism as well as this routine classism and ableism, just as many M.D.’s do.

What the media and medics say wouldn’t damage us nearly as much if other Lesbians weren’t believing them and telling us the same mind-fucks. I hope this article will be useful to Lesbians and other women who, like me, are chronically ill and unable to work steadily at full-time jobs, or unable to work at all. It’s about struggling with the combined effects of illness and low­ income, plus ableism and work ethic guilt coming at us from able-bodied people, including other Lesbians. I’m writing to share support with others in my situation, not to convince skeptical readers. I’m not writing for anyone who believes that “we create our own reality,” or who believes that not being in the het work world or not being a professional (lawyer, doctor, professor, corporate manager, etc.) is a sign of personal failure. Anything read through the filter of those ideas will be distorted and used against us low-income, non-professional Lesbians with chronic illness.

I have what has been called Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction (CFIDS), also called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) outside the U.S. It is one of the mystery illnesses which affect millions of people, most of them female. The causes are said to be unknown and the illness has been debated among medical scientists, denied by many doctors, and ridiculed in the media. Some people’s symptoms have improved, but so far no one has reported complete recovery. Symptoms resemble those of mild to severe flu: chronic intermittent fever, aching body, constant debilitating fatigue, difficulty concentrating, joint pains, headaches, sore throat, and swollen glands. Some people have only some of these symptoms, while others have these and more. People with other chronic illnesses and with both visible and invisible disabilities also face denial and blaming.

                                   The Rich Visualize — We Do the Work

Healthy Lesbians, like other people, are so scared of illness and the isolation, suffering, stigma, and poverty that usually go with it, that most would rather believe we aren’t really sick, or that we make ourselves sick, or allow ourselves to stay sick, or just aren’t doing the right things to make ourselves well—anything to convince themselves that it couldn’t happen to them. They don’t care about the harm their attitude does to us, or that they are adding to the very stigma and isolation they fear for themselves.

People who believe that we create our own reality believe this not only about health, but about every other aspect of life. To put this madness into some perspective, consider the following: A downwardly mobile daughter of rich parents told me that visualizing what you want works, really works. She knew, because after visualizing a trip to China for several weeks, she got a phone call from her extremely rich grandmother, inviting her to go to China with her. Amazing, isn’t it? These are indeed useful techniques for the privileged. If you’re the beloved daughter of a rich family and you want something expensive, by all means visualize, let them know what you want, and get ready for a good time. But for the rest of us, face it, this is not the path to fulfillment.

Affirmations and visualizations do work, as a way of focusing energy, making plans, and building confidence. They have to be acted on, supported with material means, and done in a social context. Oppressed people have been using them for centuries, which is why revolutionary activity continues everywhere. Affirmations and visualizations were the first steps in creating labor unions, and all liberation movements, including radical Lesbian movements and Dyke Separatism. We just don’t go around blathering about it in trendy jargon.

Individual solutions only work for those with privilege, because privilege buys them protection, comfort, and pleasure (at least temporarily). It also buys them the illusion that, “We create the world with our beliefs.” That’s precisely what ruling class patriarchy  would like us to believe: that poor people create poverty and illness, racially oppressed people create racism and their own genocide, females of all ages invite rape, little girls cause their male relatives to assault them, Lesbians create Lesbian-hating. It follows then that oppressed people deserve no better than what we get. As long as the victim is blamed, the perpetrators of violence and injustice are safe to continue their destruction. And those with the unearned comforts of privilege get to feel superior, believing that their well-being is a sign of their virtue or supposed “hard work,” thanks to the propaganda of dominant US culture. Even less privileged people who happen to be healthy at present can feel superior to sick people who can’t work at all, because of the merciless US work ethic.

Unless they are unusually aware and conscientious, the heirs of privilege lull themselves with affirmations. They imagine that the universe needs only to be furnished with a mental pattern of their desires and, out of thin air, all goodies will shower down upon them. They don’t want to notice that as they dream, millions of working people all over the world are wearing out their lives manufacturing the goodies, providing the services, cleaning up after, and often doing without basic necessities of life. Millions of people are just scraping by with or without jobs, millions are dying of hunger and illness, not because of natural disasters, not because they think negative thoughts, but because of male capitalist rule.

What do we visualize for ourselves? Freedom from oppression, and we already know that won’t come out of thin air, any more than anything else in our lives does.
Sometimes oppressed people believe the propaganda of the rich and powerful, because we’ve internalized shame and self-hatred, or because it’s so painful to face the enormity of the injustice that’s done to us, or because it gives us illusory hope. Sometimes it seems easier to blame ourselves than to put the blame where it belongs and fight back. It’s also very difficult to accept that there are some things we don’t have total control over.

                                  You Must Be Doing Something Wrong

When people believe that we create our own reality, they say many cruel things. One Lesbian told me, “Some people get addicted to their illness.” When you’ve been sick for a long time and have had to reshape your life because of illness, a statement like that really hurts. Being sick when you’re poor or working class doesn’t relieve you of work, responsibilities, or anxieties. It adds to them. What’s the reward she imagined we get? I have no doubt whatsoever that I’d rather be well, and in fact I follow disciplined health practices that would overwhelm most healthy people, to stay functioning and to try to regain my health.

Most healthy Lesbians overlook the enormous efforts I make to improve my health and to simply function at all. Through the years, I’ve seen more than enough doctors, acupuncturists, homeopaths, and other “natural healers.” I’ve read countless books about nutrition, herbs, and homeopathy, all of which I use regularly. I do Yoga or Qi Gong every day and take walks when I’m able, and I’m more careful than I ever dreamed possible about eating the most nutritious foods. I use herbs and supplements. I try to get adequate rest and sleep while dealing with chronic insomnia. I meditate and, yes, I visualize. I stay in touch with my feelings and find positive ways to express them; I pay attention to messages from my body; I’ve never smoked, and don’t use addictive substances, not even coffee, tea or sugar. I guard against exposure to toxic chemicals the best I can.

All these efforts keep me functioning. But I’m still sick. Sometimes I get sicker because of toxic exposure or other stresses that are beyond my control. Because I haven’t recovered, some Lesbians assume I’m not doing much to help myself. At this point, I’ve taken so much responsibility for my own health that it’s too easy to blame myself for “failing.” I don’t need other people pushing me to blame myself. Even if I wasn’t doing so much to heal myself, no one should blame anyone for being sick or for not getting well. That adds to our stress, and stress makes any illness worse.

                                                     “You Don’t Look Sick”

Other Lesbians’ not believing that I’m really ill has been a major problem. Friends and other ill Lesbians recognize the ups and downs of my physical condition even when I don’t say anything about it. But there are certain Lesbians who insist that I don’t look sick, that I must just be depressed, that I’d feel fine if I went out more. Logic doesn’t work with those who are determined to disbelieve. I’ve been told, “I’d be sick too if I sat home all day.” I don’t “sit home all day,” although illness prevents me from being as active as I’d like. But when I am seen at an event, that is used as “proof” that I’m not really sick.

It’s a relief when Lesbians take my word for it that I’m sick, as my closest friends have. I know someone cares when she doesn’t expect me to push myself to the point of collapse to keep up with her. I understand being confused at first, when a healthy Lesbian sees me socializing, or at a meeting, or grocery shopping, and thinks I can’t really be very sick. I don’t mind explaining about how seldom I can do those things, or about the hours of rest and sleep that precede and follow those activities, how I still always feel sick even when I’m apparently functioning for a short while as a healthy person, and how I pay with increased illness for exertions she can take for granted. But I don’t want to explain it to the same person over and over, and still have her doubt my honesty or sanity.

Some Lesbians tell me, “I don’t feel good either, but I just ignore it,” or, “Well, nobody really feels good, you know. Maybe you’re just hypersensitive about it.” Each of their days is filled with more activities than I could manage in a week, so I know that even if their health isn’t ideal, they’re not sick in the way I am. In fact, when these same Lesbians get temporarily sick with similar symptoms as mine (like when they have the flu), they’re completely incapacitated. I get sicker very fast when I have to push my activity level beyond a certain point, and I know of Lesbians with CFIDS/ME who have ended up in the hospital because they were forced to continue working beyond their capacity. We shouldn’t have to be that severely ill before we’re believed. Even then, a lot of people seem to think the illness is psychologically caused. It’s cruel.

Some Lesbians believe the propaganda that we’re just depressed. Depression is indeed listed as one of the symptoms of CFIDS/ME. It’s a challenge to avoid depression when we’re treated the way we are and suffer so many losses—jobs, a livable income, homes, friends, social life, social acceptability, independence, energy, favorite activities–but the illness and its symptoms are not caused by depression. I don’t even think that having CFIDS/ME in itself necessarily leads to depression. I know healthy Lesbians who are far more often depressed or otherwise unhappy than I am.

The fact that a number of people with this illness have killed themselves does not mean CFIDS/ME is actually just depression. Everyone with CFIDS/ME who’s told me she considered suicide said she felt despair because of the way she was disbelieved, scorned, and denied physical and financial support.

“You don’t look sick.” I’ve sensed different motives for people saying that. I think some Lesbians are trying to reassure us, hoping we’re not as sick as we feel. More often it  means they don’t believe us. It’s not helpful, because facing the realities of being sick is frightening, and we often have to struggle against our own tendencies to deny that we’re sick. We don’t need other Lesbians to push us to deny being sick, because when we do, we end up trying to be as active as a healthy person and neglecting our healing practices, and that makes us dangerously sicker. It probably is confusing for healthy Lesbians who haven’t been around someone who’s chronically ill. Illness doesn’t always show. For instance, many people with cancer don’t “look sick.” Should we shut up until we collapse?

When you’re chronically ill, you learn to hide it as best you can. It’s a way of trying to be more acceptable and also a way to try and forget for a little while. (Most of us get a lot of practice trying to pass as healthy when we have to continue working for years while seriously ill.) Lesbians should also be aware that some other disabilities don’t show either, and that denial and passing as able ­bodied can also be difficult issues for some disabled Lesbians who aren’t ill. And, of course, it’s possible to have both visible and invisible disabilities; for instance, a Lesbian with limited mobility might also have CFIDS/ME and Chemical Injury.

                                     The Boss Says “Get Back To Work!”

Then there are the Lesbians who ask, “Have you tried working it off?” That’s the kind of question that leaves me temporarily speechless. What choice do we have but to keep on working until we absolutely can’t, and then just keeping our lives together becomes a full-time job. The “working it off” question came up so often, and being unable to work is such a painful issue for me, it forced me to think about it more deeply.

I am haunted by the image of the malingerer, the person who’s sick or pretends to be sick or just won’t get well simply because they’re “lazy” and don’t want to work. Or rather, other people haunt me with that image which they project onto me. Where does it come from, I’ve wondered? Can’t they see how hard I’ve always pushed myself, how much I do in spite of being sick? But the malingerer is an imperialist capitalist lie made up by bosses and rulers and drummed into us from nursery school. The “malingerer” is the worker who won’t work, the soldier who won’t fight, because they’re supposedly pretending to be sick.

The indoctrination starts when the school child doesn’t want to go to school, because she’s sick. Ah, but “Is she really sick?” they ask. She must be taught that unless she’s at death’s door, and possibly even then, she must go to school, just as later in life she must go to work. I grew up in a factory town, and these teachings weren’t even disguised. “You’ll never hold down a job if you stay home every time you feel sick,” is what we were told. Schools are the places to train future workers, soldiers, and bosses, and all learn about the evil “malingerer”. We don’t learn that school, jobs, and being in the military can in themselves make us sick. In fact, we’re taught that they are good for us, and that only a bad, lazy person would try to avoid them. (Obviously, being in the military can also make you dead, or disabled from physical injury. But lifelong illness, such as Gulf War Syndrome, is a common result and seldom acknowledged as legitimate by authorities.) Yes, it’s sometimes important to be able to keep going no matter what, but no one should be forced to live that way all the time for someone else’s profit and power. And if the ruling class thinks these are such fine values, why don’t they live by them?

Nowadays I give myself advice that only another poor or working-class renegade could give me. A major breakthrough for me was realizing that my training and identity as “worker” was mostly an identity as “worker for somebody else.” I developed many strengths to cope with the demands and stresses of being a worker ­for others, but I also acquired deep-seated habits that drained my energy and self-esteem. Those habits are constantly reinforced and encouraged by the het world and also by many Lesbians, especially class-privileged and upwardly-mobile Lesbians. It has taken me a long time to realize that many middle-class and upper-class Lesbians have internalized the identity of “boss,” because I didn’t want to believe it. Now I know I have to believe it, for my own protection.

I was such a good, well-trained worker that even when I was alone, doing my own work, I felt compelled to do everything quickly and efficiently, ignoring my body’s pleas to stop for rest, food, and water — just like at a job. It wasn’t my natural pace at all. I now try to slow myself down and care for my body, so that when I have a “good” day I don’t drive myself non-stop and then drop into bed sicker than ever.

I was raised to believe that everyone else’s time was more valuable than mine. Being sick reinforced this belief, which was unconscious by then. Even now that I know better, it’s hard not to defer to Lesbians who have full-time jobs. My impulse is to consider their schedules, needs, and desires more important than mine. As a friend, I gladly make allowances for their limited amount of free time, and I’m genuinely sympathetic about the stresses and fatigue caused by their jobs. What’s been painful to recognize is that some well Lesbians don’t reciprocate by making allowances for my limited stamina and for the stresses and fatigue caused by illness.

Some act as if I’m on a long vacation, resent my ability to sleep late when I need to, and expect me to do as much as healthy Lesbians at social and political events. They don’t think about what it’s like to always feel as if you have the flu, to have an illness that forces you to sleep 10 to 12 hours a night or keeps you awake with insomnia night after night. They don’t think about  what it’s like not having the money, acceptability, and (for some) health insurance benefits of a regular job, or how it feels to work organizing an event and then have to skip the after-meeting party because you’re too sick. I don’t want to be scapegoated for other Lesbians’ anger at having to work for others. I don’t think they should have to work at jobs either. Patriarchy and capitalism — namely, powerful and unscrupulous men — are responsible for workers’ oppression, not sick Lesbians who are unable to work.

The most cruel things have been said to me by class-privileged or upwardly ­mobile Lesbians with professional or semi-professional jobs. One, who was proud of her job and liked it, told me she had “a hard time with Lesbians who don’t work.” She felt resentful of Lesbians who lived on Social Security disability benefits, unless they were visibly disabled. She thought of them when she saw how high her Social Security taxes were, and it made her angry. She didn’t say a word about how much of her income taxes go to the enormous US military budget. Why does she choose to think of Lesbians with hidden disabilities or illness as thieves of her money? And why does she not acknowledge that her income after taxes is enough to live luxuriously, unlike anyone on disability income?

Being face-to-face with thrift store clothed, ill Lesbians who still have revolutionary ideals apparently triggers deep reactionary reflexes. Something odd is going on when, during one conversation, you feel yourself shrinking, your clothes suddenly feel old and shabby instead of just broken in and comfortable, and your ignorance about expensive electronic gadgets makes you feel inferior. Most likely the person you’re talking with is feeling and acting smug and superior. For those who invest their self-image and the major energies of their lives in the security and status of acceptable, good-paying jobs or professions, we embody some of their worst fears — being poor and unable to work, and having no job identity to prove our worth. They seem to be thinking, “I’m not like her. I’m not like her, I’m not like her.” Meaning, “That can never happen to me.” In fact, the same Lesbian who resented sick Lesbians on disability income used to say, “That’s not going to happen to me — I have health insurance.”

Actually, given the same circumstances of class oppression and/or other oppressions, and illness, it would happen to her too. It could still happen to her. Anyone can get chronically ill, and in the US, if you’re not rich, poverty soon follows. It doesn’t feel good being less important to someone than their fears, their need to feel superior and safe. But the real struggle is to avoid internalizing their destructive attitudes.

As for jobs, I think Lesbians should have as much money, status, and power as conscience and circumstances allow. Professions and certain jobs buy Lesbians some of those things and give them the opportunity to help other Lesbians with less privileges. But we’re not failures in life, nor burdens on society, for not having a job or profession –nor is any Lesbian, able-bodied or not, who gives up the security of steady jobs for the risky but relatively independent life of part time low-paid self employment. That takes courage and shows sound values. Like many of us knew decades ago, working at jobs and professions that keep the capitalist het world prosperous and functioning is a necessary evil at best. Lesbians without jobs don’t get the money or acceptability of being an employed worker; however, we can rejoice in the fact that we’re not contributing our labor, attention, and good ideas to any patriarchal institutions.

As a Lesbian Separatist who’s worked at jobs while relatively healthy and also while increasingly sick, and who at present cannot work, my experiences have given me insights I would otherwise have missed. I value the insights of Lesbians who experience life from outside acceptable boundaries. We’re all outsiders to the degree that we identify openly as Lesbians. In addition, those of us who cannot or will not buy pieces of acceptability from the het world have a chance to sharpen our perceptions. It’s either sharpen them or be overwhelmed by negative propaganda. That gives us a lot to share with each other and with any other Lesbians who want to know what we have learned.

                                                      Working For Ourselves

I have dear Separatist friends of every class who have acceptable jobs yet still value my life and work and don’t retreat into acting superior. So I know it’s possible. My friends have the courage to face their own vulnerability, they love and empathize with other Lesbians, and are committed to bridging differences among Lesbians. Lesbians I meet who don’t have those qualities tend to drift, or hurry, into more privileged lives, a sad and unnecessary loss all around. Ableist attitudes serve patriarchy and capitalism, not us. We didn’t invent them. We learned them, and we can unlearn them.

In the early years of my illness, I still hoped to get well. At the same time, I had to be prepared for the possibility that this could be a lifelong illness and that it had caused permanent damage to my nervous system and/or internal organs. This isn’t negative thinking or “making it happen.” The material world is real. If a truck runs over us, we get broken bones. When toxic chemicals and radioactive pollutants assault our bodies our bodies are injured. And if we’re under stress because of oppression, and experiencing environmental racism and classism, unsafe homes and neighborhoods, lack of transportation, lack of jobs or low paid and unsafe jobs, overwork, homelessness (even while working), lack of access to nutritious food or decent health care, we’re more likely to get sick and stay sick from toxins and harmful microbes.

It’s especially cruel to blame an oppressed person for being sick. That’s blaming her for her own oppression instead of fighting to end it, and adds another load of stress onto an already overburdened body and mind. All the Lesbians I’ve known of who died young because of illness were oppressed in ways that caused their illness and prevented recovery. They loved life and fought for it, and were murdered by patriarchy.

I would never have chosen to be sick, and I would rather have the option of choosing how to get my income. I want to be given credit for using the experience well, for being more valuable to Lesbians than I am to patriarchy, and for having something important and true to say — something no man is going to pay me to say. I am now a worker for myself and for other Lesbians — a builder for a Lesbian-inspired future.


I am thankful to all the ill and disabled Lesbians who have shared valuable information, fought for recognition, and eased our isolation through writings, workshops, forums, and support groups.

This chapter is written completely from my own and friends’ experiences, but I hope in spite of this limitation it will be supportive to all Lesbians with disabilities or differences, healthy or ill, and to all poor and working-class Lesbians of every ethnicity and age.

My particular background is that of an Italian-descent factory workers’ daughter, trained in catholic schools during the 1940’s and 1950’s to be an office clerk. I did office work for several years after high school, then worked my way through college, did social work for two years to the point of physical collapse, and returned to office work. After becoming a Lesbian in 1972, I did part-time housecleaning and gardening until I became unable to work at all due to illness. I was sick with nausea and weakness throughout most of my school and working years. In that respect, I can honestly say I “tried to work it off” for more than 25 years.

                                             December, 2014 Update

Now, at 73 years old, I’ve been chronically sick for over 32 years, and I’ve survived two very invasive kinds of cancer: clear cell adenocarcinoma of the uterus in 1993 and an unrelated neuro-endocrine colon cancer in 2002. As frightening and horrible an ordeal it was to have cancer, at least no one doubted that I was truly sick, and I received enormous support from Lesbian friends and community. With that loving support, surgery (no chemotherapy or radiation), much effort on my part, plus the unknown factors we call luck, I am still alive. It’s a medical mystery how I could recover from those cancers, yet not be able to recover from CFIDS/ME or Chemical Injury/EI/MCS. (I didn’t mention being “chemically sensitive” in 1990, because those symptoms were milder at that time. They became worse as time went on.)

Meanwhile, not only are cancer rates higher than ever because of increasing pollution by toxic chemicals, heavy metals, radioactivity (including medical treatments and over-use in medical tests), and wireless technology, but more and more people are chronically ill, often from childhood on. The spread of Lyme disease, often undiagnosed, is also adding to the numbers of chronically ill people. Thanks to the internet, there is some information and support online for those who can afford internet access and are not too electrically sensitive to use it. But the problems of disbelief, social isolation, poverty, poor health care, and lack of support I wrote about in 1990 still exist. For many disabled people, conditions have become even worse.

The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote called “Lives Worth Fighting For,” published in Rain and Thunder in their Spring 2011 issue. The article protests government cuts to in-home care for disabled people. These cuts force many into corporate-run profit driven nursing homes, even though it costs much less to pay attendants to provide better care in people’s own homes. I am adding this excerpt here because it names root causes of the ableist attitudes I wrote about 25 years ago in Dykes-Loving-Dykes.

                                        Who Is Really a Drain on Society?

Everyone is dependent on other people, but privileged people are dependent way beyond their share. The ones with the most power, like the global corporate tyrants, are completely dependent on exploiting those of us who are poor and working class, female, racially oppressed, and/or undocumented. They hide this by reversing reality, scapegoating us by saying we are drains on society, accusing us of being lazy, greedy, untrustworthy and criminal. They also scapegoat those of us who are disabled, defining us as useless, miserable and not fit to live. They portray all of us as dehumanized things to be used and discarded.

We know that the global tyrants who run powerful corporations and governments do not expect to justify their existence or to worry that the cost of supporting their lives is a burden on society, no matter how much suffering and death they and their collaborators inflict on the rest of us and on the entire planet, and no matter how much they waste the money they steal. And they obviously do not worry about whether they contribute anything to other people’s well being.

By contrast to the global tyrants, all of the disabled Lesbians and women I’ve met contribute a lot to their communities and to the world. They are community organizers, friends, activists, writers, poets, educators and counselors, most often unpaid. Many are caregivers to lovers and friends who are more disabled than themselves. Even if someone cannot do any of these things, we still have the right to live. No one has the right to decide what the value of any disabled person’s life is, other than she herself. And I don’t know of anyone receiving In Home Support Services or other social services who instigates war, tortures people, assassinates democratically elected leaders, runs an industrial prison complex, disenfranchises voters, destroys labor unions, or creates massive environmental destruction and poisons people all over the world.

Our lives are precious. We are not here to be exploited, scapegoated or condemned to die. We are here to experience life, to love, to explore our potentials, to adventure outward and inward, to pursue happiness, and to meet the challenges of life that all people face, whether we are able bodied at the moment or whether we are disabled. Our lives are precious, and they are worth fighting for.

Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Chapter Three — Heterosexism Among Lesbians Is Lesbian-hating

                                                              Chapter Three

  Heterosexism Among Lesbians Is Lesbian-hating

                         Bev Jo, with Linda Strega and Ruston

I love Lesbians. For all our faults, I (Bev) believe that choosing to be a Lesbian is the best decision a woman can make in her life. If all women chose to be Lesbians, patriarchy would soon end.

Lesbians are among the most kind and loving people, which is reflected in how many are activists helping other oppressed people, animals, the environment, etc. The problem is that Lesbians aren’t always as loving to our own kind, and too often prioritize everyone else, including those with more privilege, and even those who are deliberately oppressing us. (The worst example now of Lesbians betraying Lesbians are those who support the “right” of het men to perv on us and invade our last women-only spaces. How can any Lesbian support a het man who not only says he’s a Lesbian, but demands sexual access to us? The myth of trans and “transgender” may be the most destructive Lesbian-hating con and cult that men have ever pushed on us. and

This chapter is about exploring and solving why Lesbians betray themselves and other Lesbians. When we know and understand the reasons for such self-hatred, we can change it and make safer Lesbian communities.

For many of us, when we first found a Lesbian community, we were so excited and relieved that it took a while to realize how damaged most Lesbians are by being hated individually and as a people by men, het and bisexual women, boys, girls, and other Lesbians who internalized Lesbian-hating. Instead of being angry at our oppressors, too many Lesbians turn their hatred on other Lesbians. Some Lesbians actually question if it’s worth going through the suffering of Lesbian oppression. But those of us who always loved other females are still celebrating and loving being Lesbians and finding other Lesbians.

This is an update of our previous Chapter Three in Dykes-Loving-Dykes, to explain, de-personalize, and solve what has gone wrong in our communities. This is also a short history of what happened to my Lesbian Feminist community as I have known it, in the Oakland/Berkeley/San Francisco Bay Area. (There are also other Lesbian communities in this area, such as NIA, which is African-descent Lesbians only. As far as I know, no European-descent Lesbians ever had anything comparable in being so Lesbian-loving.)

                                                 Dyke Community

The late 1960’s and 1970’s were a wonderful time of hope, celebration, and growing community for Dykes in many countries. Finding each other through the Women’s Liberation Movement transformed our lives. Lesbians stopped wondering if we were the mistakes of nature hets insisted we were. Lesbian Feminism made everything that had previously seemed confusing now make sense: why most males prey on most females; the sadness we saw in friends who had been sexually abused as girls; the sense of freedom and ecstasy we felt being in love with other women; and the emptiness we saw in friends who started patronizing us as they chose boys and men, and stopped being the vibrant life-loving girls they had been, in spite of their increased status. It was even clear why and how men were destroying the earth.

Our Dyke-centered politics and communities changed our lives. Once we recognized that men as a group were male-supremacist enemies with het women as their collaborators, male and het values began losing their control over our minds. We clearly saw heterosexuality as a male invention designed to dominate all females.

It also became obvious that eliminating our own self-hatred as Dykes freed us to create Dyke-identified Radical Lesbian Feminist movements and cultures very different from anything existing in known patriarchal history. With all our Dyke energy, heart, and politics, we dedicated ourselves to improving life for all Lesbians, which also helped all women and girls.

Separatist politics made clear our need and right to have Dyke-only space. First, we created women-only space, which started a blossoming of women’s — mostly Lesbians’ — creativity, politics, ideas, newspapers, articles, books, poetry, music, art, and places to dance and party and celebrate each other. Lesbian-only space was even more precious (rare in the US, but not in Aotearoa/New Zealand). It released us from het women demanding our energy to help them deal with their men, and from het women objectifying and oppressing us. (Since both being het and bisexual are choices, we  include bisexual women, unless stated otherwise, when we refer to het women).

We understood why we needed to put Dykes first in our lives — proudly, courageously, and with love — not by default and not apologetically. We refused to submit to ridicule, hatred, and attacks, right-wing threats, leftist contempt, or het feminist and Gay male pressure. It was Dyke Separatist values and politics that created a powerful public Lesbian Radical Feminist presence in many countries.

During the 1970’s, our Out Dyke presence also transformed mainstream hetero-patriarchal culture, making it easier and safer for many het women to become Lesbians. They had previously been too afraid to risk it. With so much support, joy, and celebration, it became popular and even trendy for het women to come out, and for a while it seemed that all feminists, and eventually all women, would soon become Lesbians.

Because almost all the feminists coming out through Women’s Liberation had been het, they didn’t play the now-popular game of pretending to have no choice, saying we are either born Lesbian or het, or claiming to have been victims of “Stockholm Syndrome.” (That con is more clearly dishonest with women choosing to be bisexuals. Bisexuals sometimes even complain about being distrusted by Lesbians, but the reality is that they are trying to have access to Lesbian love and community, while keeping their allegiance to men for status and het privilege.) In fact, the newly-out Lesbian Feminists made it a point to announce that their being a Lesbian was a feminist choice of pride, making sure no one would mistake them for the old-fashioned pre-feminist Lesbians, ridiculed in mainstream media as mentally ill perverts.

We soon painfully learned, however, that most women, including feminists, remained heterosexual and Lesbian-hating. Those of us who became Radical Lesbian Feminists were relieved to finally understand how and why we were oppressed as females and as Dykes, so it surprised us that all women didn’t feel the same way and join us. Some of those het feminists did play at being Lesbians for a while, but many explained that they didn’t want to suffer Lesbian oppression, be punished by their families, friends, etc., and they didn’t want to lose the other privileges that women who choose men get. (This choice becomes clearer when remembering that most het women signed their marriage contracts as a form of legal prostitution with one man, to be supported in a lifestyle few women could have on their own, for sexual services rendered.)

Some of the new Lesbian Feminists had already been close to becoming Lesbians and would have come out because of their love for other women, without Lesbian Feminist community support. They rejected their het pasts and het privilege as much as possible and consciously strengthened their Dyke identities through the following years. But many other het women wouldn’t have become Lesbians without the relative ease and support of Lesbian Feminists and our communities. (Some of these het and bisexual feminists enjoyed keeping full het privilege with husbands and boyfriends, while also being admired by some Lesbian Feminists and welcomed to our community and events, clearly with far more status than Lifelong Lesbians. Lesbian Feminists even provided free childcare for these women so they could have more time with their men.) The het feminists who did leave their men still kept their het-oriented and male-identified values, and they brought those destructive values into our Lesbian communities. As a result, they weaken, dismantle, and harm the very Lesbians and communities that helped them become Lesbians.

                                     Anti-Lesbian Propaganda

Every insult that het-identified Lesbians direct against more Lesbian-identified Lesbians is based on anti-Lesbian stereotypes. The patriarchal stereotype of a Lesbian is a class-oppressed Lifelong Butch. The closer any Dyke is to being Butch and/or a Lifelong Lesbian (Lesbians who identified as Lesbians from an early age), the more viciously she’s oppressed.

Stereotypes are a mixture of lies, projections, and distortions of partial truths. They’re illogical and contradictory. Those in power — men — made them up, and the stereotypes exist only to spread hatred and violence, so they don’t need to make sense. Condense all Lesbian stereotypes into seven basic themes, and you have a handy mental gauge for detecting disguised Lesbian-hatred and understanding clearly who it benefits, and how:

  1. “Lesbians don’t exist.” They’re all really bisexuals and/or het women gone bad, and they’ve gone bad just to attract men’s sexual attentions and provide variety for sado-masochistic scenes and pornography. If confronted with the reality of a Lifelong blatant Butch, the het mentality quickly shifts to:
  2. “Lesbians are pseudo-men” who’ve become that way because men don’t want them or because nature has made a terrible mistake. They’re alien, monstrous, ugly, unfeeling, perverted, sleazy, oversexed, predatory, violent, child molesters, criminals, dangerous, hard, tough, insensitive — a male in a female body. In other words, Lesbians are convenient scapegoats for men’s crimes. Related to these two stereotypes are the lies that:
  3. “Lesbians are ugly.”  Of course females who look natural are ugly to men since men love artificiality. This would be a funny since nothing is as ugly as men, if it didn’t make girls and het women terrified of being considered Lesbians. It’s also a good strategy to keep women obsessed with looking like drag queens with alopecia (except for their dyed heads), even if the shaved vulva is clearly pandering to male desire to rape little girls.
  4. “Lesbians are immature,” since adult status is granted only to females who fuck with men and/or breed. Lesbians’ feelings for each other are childish crushes because they’re arrested at an early stage of development. They’re young, silly, unrealistic dreamers, frivolous, and hedonistic. (As Freud said, to become real adult women, girls need to give up their clitoral orgasms for fictional vaginal ones.)
  5. “Lesbians are privileged.” They’re all rich, European-descent, grew up under unusual circumstances, and live somewhere else.
  6. “Lesbians are crazy.” Some horrible event or circumstance made them queer.  How else could they love females?  And since they’re not sane, they’re dangerous to “normal” people and nothing they say should be believed, or they’ll infect innocent het women with queerness; and
  7. “Lesbians are lonely,” pathetic, emotionally inadequate creatures living on the fringes of the real world. They’re incapable of true, deep love and loyalty. They all secretly long for a normal life of marriage and motherhood.

Like the het woman, the het-identified Lesbian use these stereotypes — sometimes openly and sometimes subtly — against all Dyke-identified Lesbians, because she hasn’t bothered to unlearn het supremacist assumptions. She still treats blatant Dykes as undesirable “Others.” An important part of her thinks, feels, and acts like the het woman she is or used to be.

The het-identified Lesbian wants to continue being accepted and valued in the het world, which to her is the “real world.” She is eager to convince men and het women that she hasn’t changed much, and in some ways she hasn’t. But she also wants to convince hets that all Lesbians as a group aren’t that different from hets. Blatant Dykes anger and embarrass her because our existence threatens her campaign for het acceptance. When she became a Lesbian, she wanted our love and energy, but she didn’t want to be like us.

                                             Het Privilege Lasts

Lesbians are among the only oppressed people who have to deal with our recent oppressor not just joining our communities, but outnumbering us. We deserve truly Dyke-identified communities, where all Lesbians are as out and Dyke-identified as possible. But how, when het women, full of male culture, male-worshipping, and Lesbian-hating propaganda, keep joining our communities, without bothering to learn our culture and to recognize and eliminate how much they hate us and themselves?

The only way we can get safe, Lesbian-loving Lesbian Feminist communities is if Lesbians with more heterosexual privilege acknowledge our privilege and change. (Since our book was written by one Lifelong Lesbian and two ex-het Lesbians, we say “we/our/etc.” for both groups.) But most Lesbians have no awareness of Lesbians having het privilege (or even that het women have institutionalized het privilege over Lesbians and celibate women) or how it affects us inside of our own communities.

Women who chose men first rarely question themselves or consider what Lesbian-hating and lesbophobic attitudes they brought into our communities. Instead, they usually act is if we should be grateful that they deigned to join us. Sadly, most Lesbians agree, and ex-het Lesbians they are likely to be given special status, admiration, and respect as being more “real” women than Lifelong Lesbians are. Why have women who are so male-worshipping that they are visibly male-identified in how they think and feel become more revered or considered more female than those who are the most female?

Lesbians who recognize that het women have power over Lesbians should easily recognize that Lesbians who once were heterosexual have more privilege than Lesbians who were never heterosexual. Lesbians who used to be het bring some of the social and economic power of heterosexual privilege with them when they come into Lesbian communities. They also bring STDs, danger from past husbands or boyfriends stalking them, and dildos and other sado-masochistic sexual practices, which are, after all, based on the inequalities and pain in heterosexual/male sex. Most het women, in order to tolerate intimate contact with brutal men, learn to numb themselves and also learn to believe that fucking and assaultive sex is what “love-making” is. Ex-het Lesbians also usually bring that strange heart/mind/spirit/body disconnect that het women have, and which interferes with having truly loving relationships.

We don’t know of anyone else who has dared to talk about this, yet it affects us and our communities in the most intimate ways imaginable. Ignoring this, in order to not offend or upset ex-het Lesbians, helps no one, and keeps our communities damaged and het- and male-identified.

Since most ex-het Lesbians are also Fem (Fems are the majority of women, who grew up accepting male-defined false “femininity” as our core identity), this compounds our sense of being normal among “abnormal” Lifelong Lesbians, many of who are also Butch (Butches are the opposite of “masculine” and are closer to what all females would be without patriarchy.) If the majority of Lesbians who chose to be het as well as Fem in the past don’t try to explore what that means for ourselves and Lesbian communities, then we cause damage and heartache, and even drive out longtime Lesbians.

Having been het in the past doesn’t automatically mean a Dyke is now het-identified.  Many ex-het Dykes came out because of their love for other women, have been strong Out Dykes for years, and are also oppressed by het glorification among Lesbians. We are committed to acknowledging our past het privilege just as we acknowledge any other privileges we have. And many of us do courageous Dyke Separatist political work.

Dyke-identified Lesbians all know the pain and deprivation of being unacceptable everywhere and of having to always be prepared for hostile attacks. Having been het ourselves doesn’t make us immune to this oppression, but it does act as a buffer. It makes it easier in proportion to how extensively het we were. The longer we were het, and the more involved with men we were, the more protected we are from Lesbian-hatred now. And the more status we still have among Lesbians.

How much het privilege an ex-het Lesbian has is determined by how high she climbed the het hierarchy and how long she stayed there. It’s also affected by other facets of her identity — including how much racial privilege she has or doesn’t have, her ethnic, class, and national background, her age, looks, and whether or not she’s disabled. But all ex-het Lesbians were once over the line into “normal” society in a way that no Never-het Dyke has been. There’s a world of difference between being over that line, no matter how otherwise oppressed or “unsuccessfully” het a Lesbian was, and being behind that line, always resisting hetness and — for the most brave — always being a Dyke as well.

During the years a Lesbian was het, she fit in as a “real woman.” This includes those who were celibate but still thought of themselves as het and hoped someday to find “their” man. Some of these Lesbians falsely identify as Never-het, or portray themselves as having always been Lesbians, but if they were living as heterosexuals and thinking of themselves as het, they were heterosexual.

Once a female has had the experience of being treated as and feeling like a “real woman,” she never loses it. Her basic, deep assurance of being “normal” gives her an unquestioned inner sense of permission to act with confidence and some expectation of acceptance. It also gives her a feeling of authority and superiority towards Lifelong Lesbians. The manner she learned circulating in the “real world” is a source of inner defense against the accusations of “perversion” and “abnormality” she receives as a Lesbian, and will be with her as long as she lives. In addition, she always has the option of decreasing the intensity of hets’ Lesbian-hating attacks by telling them that she, too, was once a member of their exclusive club. This is especially true if she still looks het, is Fem, as the majority of ex-het Lesbians are, and particularly if she’s also an ex-wife and mother (which means she had the certified societal proof of “normal” womanhood – a husband and children). Looking het carries enormous privilege at the expense of women who are proudly out as Dykes, and even more so, Butches. This is why we sometimes see ex-het Fems being condescending to Lifelong Lesbians, especially Butches, even though the ex-hets may be half their age.

Many ex-het Lesbians talk incessantly about their children, grandchildren, ex-husbands, and/or boyfriends, to gain or keep status. They even do this with other Lesbians since it also adds status among Lesbians (no matter how incredibly bored they make the listeners). This is the cue for other ex-hets to join in with their own het supremacist talk, asserting dominance. Sometime it almost appears to be a duel as to who will establish the most male-identified het credentials. Hets, including family members, can easily convince themselves that such ex-hets are still really one of their own who’s temporarily involved with Lesbians. By contrast, a Lifelong Dyke, especially if she’s Butch, is thought by hets to be completely alien and unacceptable, and is much more feared and hated.

The ex-het Lesbian knows she can’t possibly fit the most common anti-Lesbian stereotypes of the Lesbian who was supposedly “genetically programmed to be queer,” or became so as a result of “childhood trauma” or “rejection by men.” This makes it easier for her to feel comfortable being a Lesbian. Lifelong Dykes are much more vulnerable to having those stereotypes applied to them — even by Lesbians — because most anti-Lesbian stereotypes are based on the assumption that “the typical Lesbian” was never heterosexual.

It’s ironic when the ex-het Lesbian defends herself to hets by saying she chose to be a Lesbian, yet then denies to Lesbians that she chose to be het. The ex-het who refuses to acknowledge that her heterosexuality was a choice perpetuates the stereotype that Lifelong Dykes are born “queer” (in the traditionally hateful definition of what is shouted at Lesbians), while the ex-het who tells hets she had a choice (implying that others didn’t) is buying acceptance on the backs of Lifelong Dykes. She’s in effect saying, “I’m not one of those real perverts. I’m a more normal Lesbian.” Her defense is a selfish, irresponsible rejection of her own kind. The fact is that all Lesbians choose to be Lesbians whether we remember making that choice or not.

The relative privilege of ex-het Dykes is similar to how Dykes from middle-or upper-class backgrounds will never feel the way Dykes from poor or working-class backgrounds feel, even if they become poor. Present worry about not having enough money isn’t the same as a Lesbian being told she’s not good enough all her life, and still being told it in the present and into the foreseeable future, including by other Lesbians. The middle-or upper-class Lesbian is more likely to have a confident, even arrogant, manner to make her life easier, and to get her respect, attention, and the things she wants, including better-paid jobs with status. Such privileged Lesbians are never defined as poor or working-class by politically conscious Lesbians — yet a het woman who’s just come out is usually accepted as being as much a Lesbian as a Dyke who’s been out all her life. A Lesbian star once said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Lesbian for five minutes or fifty years.” But it does matter. Real Lesbian Feminists would be outraged if a rich Lesbian who just lost her money now defined herself as poor or working-class. Of course, het women who become Lesbians are Lesbians, but there’s a world of difference in their lives and experiences and that of a Lesbian who’s been out for many years.

When the brave Dykes who have resisted het and Fem identification are looked down on and policed to become more feminine and het-oriented, then Lesbian communities are weakened. It’s this growing heterosexism that has caused many Dyke-identified Dykes to wonder if our belief and idealism about Lesbian integrity and kindness could be wrong. But the oppressiveness and cruelty we witness in Lesbian communities isn’t an innate part of Lesbianism — most of it is from male and het values.

                   The Heterosexist Hierarchy Among Lesbians

To understand heterosexism among Lesbians, we need to understand the specific Lesbian experiences and oppression of Dykes who’ve been Lifelong Lesbians, Dykes who were never heterosexual, Dykes who came out before the support of the Women’s Liberation Movement, and Butches. These are four different experiences and identities, and sometimes they overlap, but sometimes they don’t.

For instance, a Dyke who was never heterosexual hasn’t necessarily always been a Lesbian. She may have come out later in life. (Because of the influence of Freudian psychology, it’s usually assumed that everyone is sexual in some way — a female who was never heterosexual is assumed to have always been a Lesbian. But some females didn’t consider themselves either Lesbian or het until they came out. In fact, most little girls are vehemently anti-male and anti-heterosexual for most of their girlhoods before they choose to become het.) We can also become Lesbians long before first making love. It’s possible to have never had a lover and still know you’re a Lesbian, at any age, and to suffer hatred and ostracism for taking the courage to be out with friends and acquaintances. (I was in love with other girls from my earliest memories and that was the most important influence in my life.) Also, some Butches have been het, although the majority haven’t been.

There’s no political language or analysis to support the particular experiences of Lifelong Dykes, Never-het Dykes, Dykes who were out before the WLM, and Butches. Politically responsible Dyke publishers who say they especially welcome writings by more marginalized, oppressed, and rarely represented Dykes, usually list only those groups recognized by the male Left. (That was decades ago. Now they focus on degrees and credentials, power given by patriarchy, which was once treated with suspicion by feminists, or list their children and grandchildren.)

It’s essential to fight all oppression because it’s wrong and hurtful, rather than to make a good-sounding tokenistic political platform. Unfortunately, many privileged Lesbians seem to be against certain oppressions only because some men and het women and their organizations say it’s the acceptable thing to do. If the only people who fought the same oppressions were Lesbians, the issues would be mostly ignored. It’s been extremely damaging to Lesbian politics that specifically Lesbian issues are treated as “personal” and therefore trivial. Even worse, if we dare to say we exist, we are patronized, ridiculed, or accused of bragging about being “gold stars” (the term usually used to ridicule and silence Lifelong Lesbians), even though most other Lesbians are constantly bragging about their het pasts. Lesbians’ past het privilege isn’t named in political terms or included in self-descriptions because it’s the assumed norm for all Lesbians.

Another way of trying to silence discussion about Lesbian oppression is to say it’s minor in comparison to more serious oppressions like racism or classism. But being targeted, attacked and killed for being visibly Butches and Dykes couldn’t be more serious. Plus, there’s never any conflict between fighting Lesbian oppression and other oppressions. A higher percentage of race- and class-oppressed Lesbians are Lifelong, Never-het Dykes, and/or Butches. Ignoring their Lesbian oppression adds to their/our oppression from racism and classism.

In Chapter Three, we named the Heterosexist Hierarchy among all women, with those at the top supervising and policing women further down, on behalf of men. Wives and mothers are the most privileged in the Heterosexist Hierarchy, while single, celibate women are the least powerful het women. But the Heterosexist Hierarchy doesn’t stop at the line dividing het women and Lesbians — it continues among Lesbians. Butches and Lifelong Dykes who came out before the WLM are at the bottom of the entire hierarchy and also are used as the scariest stereotypes of Lesbians, used to frighten other women into line. Yet men and their women collaborators who ridicule Butches also try to prevent us from being seen or known about, so we are never or rarely allowed to be shown in the mainstream or even “Lesbian” media. The one Butch portrayed in a mainstream film was raped and beaten to death, sending a message to all girls and women from patriarchy.

Such Lesbian-hating had a profound effect on my first lover and I in 1968, when she was 16 and I was 17. The only “Lesbian” film showing a “Butch,” was the horribly sado-masochistic, Butch-hating film The Killing of Sister George. Other films we saw were also terrifyingly Lesbian-hating, like The Fox, where a man kills a Lesbian and gets her lover, and The Children’s Hour, where teachers are falsely accused of being Lesbians but when one of the women realizes she does love her friend, she is so ashamed that she kills herself. The only Lesbian book we knew of was The Well of Loneliness, with the message that if you truly love your lover, you will abandon her so she can find happiness with a man. There was nothing in the mainstream media remotely positive about Lesbians.

Forty six years later, there are actually beloved Lesbians in the media (although heterosexuality is still aggressively and pornographically promoted as the norm), but still no Butches. Think about what it means when an entire population of women is never allowed to be shown in films and television. Then think about what this means when this censorship is also enforced in the “Lesbian” media – which means that Lesbians and other women have no truthful point of reference to make it possible to talk about what it means to be Butch. (In Radical Feminist groups, women flail around trying to find even one Butch, while others make cruel Butch-hating comments based on their belief that obvious Fems posturing as weird Butch stereotypes are Butch.)

If you try to talk about this, you will be told that women portrayed in films and television and illustrated books are Butch when they are not. At best (or worst, really) they are a grotesque and repulsive caricature of Butches – such as Lea DeLaria’s character, Big Boo, in Orange Is the New Black, which most people believe accurately represents real Butches, even though the character is the opposite of a Butch, and Lea has publicly said she’s Fem. (Of course that series also portrays a man who poses as a woman, Laverne Cox, playing the character who teaches real women about their vulvas because they are too stupid to know as much about their own bodies as a man does.) In The L Word and in Alison Bechdel’s illustrated comics and books, Dykes to Watch Out For, the “Butch” characters are womanizers who either are genderqueer sado-masochists or just slightly less feminine than the other characters. Why are Butches so terrifying that we must not be shown at all or other than as the opposite of who we are?1

Dykes who are lower in the Heterosexist Hierarchy are more likely to recognize what we’re saying as true. Oppression limits our lives in countless ways, while privilege is easy to take for granted. For example, an ex-het Fem mother usually doesn’t notice that the same hets who are friendly and helpful to her at work, in her neighborhood, and on the street, are likely to be openly cruel towards a Lifelong Butch, even if both Lesbians come from the same racial, ethnic, and class background. The Dyke who’s the victim of this oppression can’t avoid noticing it, but, unless she has political support, she mostly likely blames herself for being despised, and other Lesbians may blame her as well.

We’re not “ranking oppressions” — that’s already been done for us by men and their het women helpers. We’re explaining oppression and working to end it. This hierarchy is real and pervasive. Any Lesbian who wants to fight Lesbian oppression can observe it any day, any time. Lesbians’ lives are important enough to be given close attention.

The Heterosexist Hierarchy among Lesbians starts with Lesbian ex-het wives and mothers, and then, in descending order, Lesbian ex-wives, never-married Lesbian mothers, never-married ex-het Lesbians, Lesbians who thought of themselves as het although they never fucked with men, Lesbians who never were het, and Lifelong Lesbians and Butches. Any Lesbians who came out before the WLM have less privilege than their counterparts in the hierarchy who came out during or after the WLM. Those who are Fem have more privilege than Butches at the same position in the hierarchy, and Fems who pass as het have a lot more privilege than Out Dykes, especially Butches. (Not being recognized as a Lesbian can mean life, as opposed to being killed, in patriarchy. Lesbians have a range with some being as Dykey as possible, while others are drag queen feminine. Some are recognizable to other Lesbians, but not to most hets, and there are ways that some Lesbians feminize that are almost like uniforms in their sameness, such as Fems who have very short hair, but long dangling earrings, which even many het women don’t wear). Again, Lesbians who suffer from additional oppressions have less privilege than others at the same place in the Heterosexist Hierarchy.

Thus, the amount of privilege a Lesbian had when she was het, which is based on time and devotion given to men, determines how much heterosexist power she’ll have among Lesbians.

Of course, any Lesbian who brags about herself as a mother and ex-wife maintains more het power than a similar Lesbian who doesn’t. There are some Dykes who, when het, were at the top of the hierarchy but who now reject their past hetness and actively hate and fight heterosexism. A past choice of heterosexuality doesn’t mean anyone has to now be het- or male-identified. No matter how high a Lesbian was in the het hierarchy, if she chooses wholeheartedly to be a Dyke, her love, caring and respect for Dykes shows through. Her present choices make her more Dyke-identified than a Lesbian who was less connected to men in the past, but who still talks about boyfriends from decades ago and who’s currently identifying with het women, protecting and caring for them at Lesbians’ expense.

Strong Lesbian identity is a choice, and past het privilege doesn’t prevent it. The single most important thing is to identify primarily as a Lesbian, with other Lesbians. Many ex-het Separatist and Radical Feminist Dykes, including ex-wives and mothers we know, are as angry at Lesbians glamorizing hetness as Lifelong Dykes are.

                                    The Lure of Het Privilege

The het-identified Lesbian internalized male and het values as a girl, but she believes those values are an inborn part of her own female nature. Having been het means she adapted to life as a set of rules which patriarchy set up. Now that she’s become a Lesbian, she acts as if Lesbian culture is just a different set of rules. So she can take pride in breaking “Lesbian rules,” ridiculing Lesbian culture, and joking and bragging about being “politically incorrect,” when she’s really still just following male rule and oppressing Dykes.

Ex-het Fems are more likely to keep up with ever-changing het fads in makeup, hair styles, clothes, food, dieting, language, entertainment, and politics, making it a status symbol to pass as het. How can any Dyke trust or work politically with someone who spends so much time mirror-gazing and obsessed with making her appearance and behavior fit male standards? When Lesbians like a slutty het image, they’re revealing that they don’t feel oppressed by it. After all, many ex-het Lesbians chose to wear make-up, dresses, earrings, and high heels to please the men who were fucking them. It gave them privilege and status, proving they were “real” adult women. They never experienced that het regalia as symbolizing intimate betrayal and collaboration, and so they don’t understand those of us who do. Lesbians who embrace the het uniform oppress all Dyke-identified Dykes, particularly those of us who were young Lesbians without support as we watched our girlhood friends putting on dresses, high heels, and make-up as their steps to “growing up” and going het. Do the Lesbians who pass as het feel as superior to Butches and Dyke-identified Fems now as they did when they were het? Most act like they do.

One Lesbian said she liked to mention her ex-husband so hets would know she wasn’t “just a queer” or a woman who had been rejected by men. We’ve heard many Lesbians speak affectionately about ex-husbands, saying they discuss their lives and Lesbian friendships with them. They ignore that men aren’t trustworthy, and that other Lesbians don’t want information about themselves shared with any man or boy. These ex-wives also don’t care how their closeness with an ex-husband affects their Lesbian lovers. (One Lesbian we know actually allows her ex-husband to bring her flowers on their “anniversary,” even though she divorced him years ago and she is married to her Lesbian lover. Do men do this when their ex-wives have married men?)

We know of Lesbians who let their daughters visit overnight with their ex-husband, even though they know he sleeps in the same bed as the girl. Just like het mothers, these Lesbian mothers end up cooperating in the rape of their daughters, because it’s more important for them to preserve the mystique of family “love” than it is to protect their daughters from family rape.

                            Bisexuals Choose to Not Be Lesbians

Het-identified Lesbians say that anyone who says she’s a Lesbian is a Lesbian. (Some even include men who perv on Lesbians in this definition). But for our own protection, physically, psychically, and emotionally, we have to name bisexuals for what they are.

Why does a bisexual call herself a Lesbian? To make it easier for her to prey on Lesbians and increase her market value for men. Men like to think Lesbians want to be fucked since it satisfies their egotistical, pornographic fantasies. As one Separatist said, “When a bisexual calls herself a Lesbian, she’s giving her prick more of a bang for his buck than a regular het woman does.”

Bisexuals are not only emotionally dangerous to Lesbians, but also physically dangerous, from transmitting STDs (including some incurable and lethal ones), to Lesbians being disabled and killed by their bisexual lover’s jealous ex-husbands and boyfriends.

Being bisexual is not an act of fate but a choice. It’s choosing to be sexual with women while also choosing to be sexual with our oppressors, men. Some bisexuals take advantage of Lesbian love, which is far more intimate and passionate than what they would get from a man, but return to het privilege when it suits them. Some use their investment in men as a weapon to hurt Lesbians, like the Lesbian who bragged about threatening lovers by saying “That makes me want to go back to men.” Het-identified Lesbians who keep a foot in the het world are more likely to become het again.

Many Lesbians, similar to this woman, have returned to being het or bisexual. Such women whine that, “It was too hard, too painful, too intimate with Lesbians.” Many Lesbians blame themselves, asking “What are we doing wrong to drive these women back to men?” Those women went back to men because they hadn’t left them in the first place and are willing to betray themselves and us to get het privilege.

There was a meeting in Berkeley, California about why Lesbians go het. After a roomful of Lesbians poured out their hearts about feeling betrayed by this, a woman told the group that she’d begun fucking with men again. The Lesbian “facilitator” said, “You were very brave to come to this meeting”!  She didn’t recognize the courage of the Lesbians in the room who remained Lesbians, or made themselves vulnerable in discussing the pain of het betrayal with other Lesbians they didn’t know. Instead of making that space be safe for Lesbians, she supported a collaborator and traitor.

We know a woman who used to be a Lesbian Separatist, went back to men as a bisexual, and, then, after discovering she’d caught AIDS from her last boyfriend, returned to Lesbians. A friend said that the classism of her middle-class lover was part of why this woman began fucking a class-oppressed man, yet she herself was working-class and would never have considered even befriending a man to get class support. Two others of us were also working-class, and were outraged that classism was used as an excuse for this woman betraying Lesbians. Working-class and poor Dykes are not more likely to return to men and it’s not class privileged Lesbians’ fault if they do. This putting het/bisexual choices before Lesbians is oppressive to Lesbians of all backgrounds. The fact that this collaborator might have infected her Lesbian lovers with AIDS wasn’t even mentioned.

The Het/Male “Fuck” Mentality: Avoiding Love and Passion at Any Cost

Women who choose men learn to disconnect their mind/body/spirit. Unless they work on unlearning this, het-identified Lesbians bring male attitudes about sexuality into their Lesbian lives. They’re used to thinking of sexuality as separate from love and passion, and their real, inner selves, which makes them sensually and emotionally numb, especially if they were actively het for years. They think in terms of flirting, competition, games, conquests, libido, “sex-drive,” “fucking,” “hot sex,” “technique,” etc. — and they’re excited by the power of Fem privilege, dominance and submission, and sado-masochism. All of which means they avoid real intimacy, passion, and love.

As Lesbian-hating het women, they routinely scapegoated Lesbians for men’s crimes, and after becoming Lesbians they continue to do so more intimately. Sometimes they vent their misdirected rage by being cruel during arguments. Others play hurtful sexual games, such as refusing to make love to their lover while expecting her to make love to them, flirting seductively to try to be the center of attention, etc. Some het-identified Lesbians want everyone to be attracted to them, including Lesbians they have no interest in. They may become lovers with Lesbians they don’t care for, simply to get power, to make someone else jealous, for petty revenge, for attention, for a feeling of conquest, or other reasons having nothing to do with love or even passion.

This is het behavior, where women hate other women and are in competition with them. A het woman gets social power by making herself attractive to men and getting them to fight over her. She doesn’t necessarily feel attracted to the men she flirts with, but she’s chosen to absorb the het dogma that she should be “pretty” and “sexy,” and she’s competing with other women to increase her het status. Such het games are oppressive and hurtful when played with Lesbians.

The following situation isn’t uncommon: a newly-out Radical Lesbian Feminist Fem appears in our community, expresses rage against men, and is seductive towards several Lesbians in a friendship group, without being sensitive to existing relationships or individual vulnerabilities. It soon becomes clear that she is playing games like she recently did with men. After initiating being lovers with several of the Lesbians, she acts surprised at the understandable pain, anger, and jealousy she caused and reprimands the Lesbians for being “possessive” and “old-fashioned.” One such Lesbian actually said in surprise, “It really is different with Lesbians than it is with men, isn’t it?” She didn’t want to understand most Lesbians’ deep emotional involvement with lovers. When she flirted and said “I love you,” many Lesbians believed her. They also felt drawn to take care of her, because she’d talked about being abused by boyfriends and being lonely as a new Lesbian. But she was in a power position with most Lesbians because of being Fem and having had a recent extensive het past.

Another Radical Lesbian Feminist we knew also had been actively het. She then became what appeared to be politically sophisticated and articulate about Lesbian oppression, and also flirted with many Lesbians. Later, on a local television program, in full Hard Fem het regalia, she described herself as a Fem, telling the male and het women audience, “I flirt with anything that moves, including men.”

When many ex-het Lesbians talk about lesbian sexuality, they use terms like “fucking,” “penetration,” “screwing,” “cunts,” “coming,” “thrusting,” and all the rest of the assaultive pornographic imagery of heterosex — as if it were fun, funny, natural, exciting, and welcome conversation among Lesbians. Like their “casual” talk about past het experiences, marriage, children, and grandchildren, such conversation is the deliberate language of heterosexual dominance and is a way to exclude and reproach Dykes who resisted heterosexuality. Dyke-identified ex-het Lesbians don’t want to hear this disgusting crap either. Even otherwise nice ex-het Lesbians can subject Lesbian friends to hearing about why she thinks a plant looks like testicles or a “used condom.” (I still don’t know if she is just used to doing this with her male and het friends or what, but saying this last comment during dinner with a group of Lesbians didn’t get her a happy response.)

There are several highly-praised, internationally-read, Lesbian writers who push their offensive, het-oriented politics in their writing. They see pricks everywhere,2 or their “Lesbian” characters ignore the parts of female bodies that men ignore, like clitorises, and are instead preoccupied with what basically seems like fucking. Even het feminists used to recognize writing like this as sexist and pornographic. Some also target Butches to ridicule and caricature — all for the enjoyment of their male and het audience.

The first most influential three women who wrote about “Lesbians sex” and seriously damaged our Lesbian communities by promoting porn and sado-masochism in the late Seventies and Eighties were bisexuals: 1. JoAnn Loulan, a therapist who identified as a Lesbian in order to make money exploiting our community with her books and workshops. Linda and I wrote in Lesbian Sex, Is It?, our review of her book, Lesbian Sex, that she had to be a bisexual, based on her description of Lesbians as “having wonderful sexual relationships with men.” After years of denying this while pushing her Lesbian-hating and Butch-hating books, Loulan finally admitted she was with a man. 2. Pat Califia, a bisexual sadist Fem brought sado-masochism and porn into our community from the Gay male community, by starting “Samois,” the first “Lesbian Feminist S/M” group, writing a “Lesbian” sex book, and then porn that glorified Lesbians being gang-raped by gay men. Califia now identifies as a “Gay man” and is lovers with another woman who identifies as a “Gay man”). 3. Susie Bright was more clearly bisexual and was one of the first “sex positive feminist” pornographers. Similarly, the few books supposedly about Butches were also by bisexual Fems, full of porn and Butch-hating stereotypes.

These het/bisexual pornographers were part of the reason that Lesbians have falsely been identified with sado-masochism, although that history can be traced directly back to het and Gay male organizations.  The “Lesbian” sexologists spread Lesbian-hating propaganda, such as: “please yourself at all costs — even if that means fantasizing your lover as a het woman or even as a man” and “anything is all right if it gives you a thrill,” including porn and sado-masochism (even though they cause increasing numbness, boredom, and mind/body/emotion disconnect). They also ignore Lesbian emotions like love.

In Loulan’s book, “Lesbian Sex,” she suggested Lesbians should shove a variety of bizarre objects into their vaginas, such as dildos (worn on a harness), balls, fists, asparagus spears, zucchini, rubber tubes, etc. Lesbians who object to “penetration” are described as being “sexually backward” and “prudish.” She even recommends that someone with a “spastic” vagina train her vagina to accept larger and larger objects and then move the objects repeatedly in and out of an increasingly numb, traumatized vagina. For those who find it too painful, she insists you keep at it for an hour and then see how you feel. (This is exactly what male therapists recommend to rape victims and also het women who hate being fucked.)

There’s no support for Lesbians to explore why we have the right to refuse sexual contact that’s painful or uncomfortable, or that it’s possible to have extremely passionate multi-orgasmic love-making without vaginas being touched at all. The clitoris is the part of our vulvas with the most intense feelings, while the vagina has very few nerve endings. But of course men’s main interest is in vaginas, and so most girls and women either think their “vagina” is their vulva or don’t even know the word “vulva.” In some male cultures, clitorises are so threatening that they’re cut out of every young girl’s vulva.

For Lesbians who are alone and without support, there’s almost nothing “Lesbian” to read that doesn’t match male and het pornographic standards. True Lesbian love and passion are portrayed as laughable and too emotional, while cold, repulsive heterosexual or Gay male fucking are promoted for Lesbians.

Many of us have experienced ex-het lovers hurting us during “lovemaking.” A friend who came out at thirty was shocked when her first lover, who was stereotypically male-identified feminine, suddenly was as brutal and painful to her in bed as men had previously treated her. I explained that that is not how most Lifelong and Butch Lesbians are (unless trained by ex-het women), but is not uncommon with “feminine” women who first chose men.

Women who taught themselves to love repulsive pricks brought dildos and other aspects of sado-masochism into our communities, making them unfairly associated with Butches or Lesbians. Fem Joan Nestle wrote about carrying a dildo in her purse, presumably to be ready to be fucked if meeting a stranger Butch. (Poor objectified Butches…) I’ve heard Butches tell with grief and shame about how as young Lesbians they found pre- or post-feminist Lesbian communities ruled by ex-wives who taught them what “real” women wanted in bed — which was pricks/dildos, but not the rest of the brutal, ugly, selfish male. So young Butches were trained in obeying these Lesbian-hating sado-masochists, and then that added to Butch-hating stereotypes. Such damage is immeasurable.

Why would any Lesbian prefer to have a grotesque object representing ugly maleness and violence be used on her instead of feeling her lover’s body? I believe it’s because these male-identified ex-het women are afraid of being fully Lesbian, so they can fantasize they are still with men. Then why would any Lesbian want to use such an object, as opposed to actually touching her lover’s body? As scary as it is for the self-hating Lesbian to be touched by a Lesbian, it’s more terrifying to touch another woman because then she can’t ignore she’s with a woman — so she prefers using a object representing rape to fuck her lover, instead of making real Lesbian love with gentleness and true passion. And then, since so many ex-het Fems don’t want to reciprocate love-making, their Butch lovers end up being so grateful to have intimacy with the woman they love that they are more likely to accept any form of contact, no matter how demeaning. One of the cruelest things that some ex-het Fems do to Lifelong Butch lovers is to not love them, which is likely what caused the myth of the “Stone Butch.” Some ex-het Fems never want to make love back or as equally with Lifelong Lesbian and Butch lovers. Some stop wanting to make love at all, which is attributed to “Lesbian Bed Death.” (I have never seen anyone bring up how it’s rarely Butches or Lifelong Lesbians who stop wanting to make love, and that it’s primarily ex-het Fems who do.)

                           Dyke Identity Is a Conscious Decision

In the great blossoming of Lesbian Feminist ideas in the Seventies, Dykes heard, read, wrote, and discussed that men weren’t just controlling us through visible patriarchy, but that they were also influencing us through internalized male values, male cultures/religions/cults, media, politics, etc.

These ideas changed our lives forever. We realized that we didn’t just have to fight male supremacy in the world, but also internal patriarchal indoctrination, so that we could be more truly our natural Dyke selves. Why are these ideas so rarely expressed now? This is a major disconnect between Lesbian Feminist politics from the Seventies and afterward, where in the Seventies there was more of a sense of a committed community, as opposed to being concerned for ourselves only as individuals. (This change accompanied right wing national influences valuing greed and status.)

Although most feminists agreed that women had internalized male values, most het women who became Lesbians never thought about changing their male values to Lesbian ones. Many who otherwise cared about Lesbian politics and culture somehow assumed that Lesbian identity could be passively absorbed and that they automatically and effortlessly no longer had het values. For many, Dyke identity was misperceived as trendy. This is especially true of Lesbians who’d never even considered Lesbianism before they joined Women’s Liberation.

A new identity that’s only superficial is easily rejected when times get tougher, as they did in the 1980’s. Remaining, unexamined het identification resurfaced and many ex-het Lesbians began to look more het and abandoned Dyke-centered politics for het feminist, male left, Gay male politics, or to be “fun Fems.”

The new Lesbian who wrote in the mid-1970’s that she looked in the mirror and said to herself, “How amazing! Yesterday I was a wife and mother, and today I’m a short-haired radical Dyke Feminist,” was fooling herself about her transformation. She was now a Lesbian, but she had yet to do a lot of thinking and changing before she would have a strong, lasting Dyke identity. That meant working out how her recent considerable het privilege still affected Lesbians. Like many other Lesbians, she would probably mistakenly think of her past only in terms of how hard and painful being het was, and how “free” she was in her new “alternative lifestyle.” And she would erroneously interpret Dyke encouragement to become more Lesbian-identified as “reverse discrimination.”

Many of these were the Lesbians who complained about the “Lesbian uniform,” which was our Dyke culture’s way of proudly identifying and recognizing each other as Lesbians, while rejecting the het and male-identified feminine uniform propaganda blasted at us in the media and constantly policed by friends, family, co-workers, other Lesbians, and even strangers. These were also the Lesbians attracted to the porn and sado-masochism brought into our communities in the late Seventies by the bisexual pornographers.

Increasingly, new ex-het Lesbians joined our communities who didn’t seem to think about being a Lesbian at all. They continued as if they were still het, but just had a “better kind” of lover. They kept calling every animal they saw “he.” They strongly identified with their het pasts and with het women in the present, never caring about Lesbian oppression. Some just wanted to experiment with and use Lesbians, having power over us that they could never get with men. They abused Dykes by relating to us as if we weren’t female, which doesn’t mean they gave us the respect or privilege that men or het women get, but that they objectified us in cruel Lesbian-hating ways. At the same time, these women expected and demanded that Dykes take care of them the way men are supposed to look after women, yet never do.

One of the signs of reactionary/liberal feminism damaging our communities now is whenever there is a shutdown of discussions about the ways women obey and admire male values. Instead of this being named as collaboration, the women promoting patriarchal propaganda are claimed to be self-hating victims, which is designed to guilt-trip and shame Radical Feminists from having the basic life-transforming discussions that were part of even mainstream feminism from the Sixties and later.

                 The Co-Option of Pre-WLM Dyke Communities

It’s easier for newer Lesbians to come out because others of us have been out for years working to make it easier. It was devastating to be a Lesbian when the only portrayal of Lesbians in films and books was as pathetic, crazy, suicidal, or murderous. It was especially destructive for Dykes whose families abandoned or imprisoned and/or psychiatrically tortured them, and for Dykes who were thrown out of school, threatened, and ostracized.

The influx of many newly-out ex-het Lesbian Feminists, who were meeting Dykes for the first time, caused a new pressure on pre-existing Lesbian communities. The entry of this more privileged group into an oppressed, long-established group with its own cultures, values, and traditions, caused a classic culture clash.

There had always been the outside pressure of male and het society on Lesbian communities. And there had always been Lesbians who passed as het, as well as Lesbians who went back to being het, all of which added to Lesbian oppression. But now, Lesbianism came to the attention of het women, and through them, men, in a way it never had before. This made Lesbian assimilation into het culture (co-option) possible in a way previously unimaginable.

Many of the things that happened after this encounter are typical of events that follow the imposition of a more powerful, oppressive culture on a less powerful one. At first, there were more longtime Dykes than new Lesbians, but this soon reversed, particularly in more privileged communities in big cities or college towns. The pre-Women’s Liberation Movement Lesbians were more class and race-oppressed than the influx of new ex-het Lesbian Feminists, many of who came out through their universities and colleges, dramatically affecting Lesbian communities.

Because they came out in such large numbers around the same time, WLM Lesbians backed up each others’ still-existing heterosexist values and lesbophobia towards pre-WLM Dykes. The negative repercussions of this culture clash continues between Lesbians who came out because of being in love with other females versus those who came out more coldly and intellectually through feminism and because of hating men.

New Lesbian Feminists who looked and acted more feminine felt superior as “normal, “real” women (they had had their men to prove it). They called themselves “womyn-identified-womyn,” to make clear their political choice to be a Lesbian, and to differentiate themselves from the Lesbians they perceived as being born “queer.” They ignored that many of the pre-WLM had been feminists before them and had created the Lesbian Feminist movement, making it easier for them to come out.

Women’s Liberation politics glorified the word “woman” without analyzing its old association with heterosexuality (which is why some Lesbians still are reluctant to use it) and euphemistically glossed over the meaning of “Lesbian.” Lesbians who identified as “wimmin-loving-wimmin” rather than Dyke-loving-Dykes could now avoid Lesbian oppression in a way never before possible, by becoming a “new” normal, womanly, feminine, feminist, intellectualized, laundered Lesbian.

Pre-WLM Dykes were even more unacceptable if they looked Butch and couldn’t pass as het if they wanted to. They were oppressed as Dykes in ways that the new, het-privileged Lesbians couldn’t imagine, and were ostracized as well as being used as lovers by them. If they were occasionally emulated with the offensive term of “foremothers,” it was mostly in a superficial, objectifying way. So pre-WLM Dykes were forced into second-class positions and excluded in their own Lesbian communities.

In many large communities, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, new Lesbian Feminists outnumbered pre-WLM Lesbians so much that they could avoid them if they felt too “uncomfortable” (lesbophobic) around them. Because most of the out-through-movement Lesbian Feminists were Fem and ex-het, they also avoided Butches and Lifelong Lesbians. Their continuing contempt for pre-WLM Dykes reached its most oppressive and absurd when they sneered at what they called “Bar Dykes” (pre-WLM and non-feminist Dykes) by calling them “straight Lesbians.” Lesbian feminists often lumped together all non-WLM Dykes as “Bar Dykes,” whether they were part of Bar Dyke culture or not, and it was always said as an insult. (Again, the classism was glaring.)

The implication is that Dykes who come out because of their love for females are less Lesbian and feminist-identified than het feminists who come out because of hating men, an intellectual decision, or because it seemed like a trendy choice. It’s no coincidence that many of these new Lesbians went back to men once they experienced a bit of Lesbian oppression. This situation continued until the Lesbians who came out in the 1970’s have been outnumbered by even later waves (who seem to have no idea that stronger Dyke consciousness and communities ever existed.)

Similarly, Butches who refused the male-invented femininity pushed on all girls by men and het women are called “male-identified” in a classic mindfuck. This is because male femininity cushions Fem Feminists’ lesbophobia and Lesbian-hating. Fems’ stereotyping of Butches, who had said no to male rules, as “male,” is similar to how men and het women slander us, and increases Fems’ illusion that they are more female and “normal,” by patriarchal standards. But there is nothing innately female in the male directives ordering girls and women to pose as feminine.

Even more horrifying is that most feminist mothers, including “radfems,” dress and present their little girls as stereotypically feminine, from pink uncomfortable shoes they can’t run in, to demeaning hair styles, to flimsy dresses that make it harder for their girls to play safely, and exposing them to the humiliation and sexual harassment of boys and men seeing their underwear if they fall or climb. This trains little girls to be passive and sedentary, and also makes them more vulnerable to being sexually assaulted and raped.

So why do women who profess to be feminists do this to their daughters? I believe it’s because of the status they get for having feminine girls to show off, and to avoid being criticized by family, friends, and strangers, as well as not having to deal with their girls being called “boys” if they dare to comfortable and natural. This making little girls vulnerable to men and boys calls all of their mothers’ so-called Radical Feminist politics into question. It’s one thing for adult women to choose to make themselves exposed to men for status, but far worse to prostitute their little girls to male prurience. Non-feminist women pressure their protesting and crying little daughters to act the way men expect girls to act in patriarchy because of the rewards they get (and I am very aware of this because of how my mother dressed me in dresses so obscene that I was humiliated by teachers and sent home from school), but these women are not aware as Radical Feminists are of how this endangers their girls.

All of this is connected to wanting to appear “normal” in male supremacist cultures. The more fearful that Fem Lesbian Feminists became of being perceived as Dykes, the more feminine they try to appear, which was and still is reflected in Lesbian Feminist media images and drawings of Lesbians in publications, on leaflets, and now in online posts. It was not an accident that this “reclaiming femininity” coincided with the introduction of porn and sado-masochism into our communities. (When some Radical Feminists recently attempted to locate images to post online of warrior women, they could only find grotesque, half-naked porny images, unnaturally skinny with massive breasts, or ephemeral fairy/weak images, often in gauzy gowns and high heels – none of which is how fantasy male warriors are portrayed.)

One prominent US Lesbian feminist, who came out comfortably after the WLM and soon set herself up as our leader wrote, “Clearly we needed a different name for Lesbians who are feminists than for those who are not. Finding women sexually attractive has nothing to do with feminism; most men find women sexually attractive.”3  She also describes the difference between Lesbians, bisexuals, and het women as “choices of sexual expression.” She doesn’t seem aware that trivializing Lesbianism as merely sexual is a classic Lesbian-hating male attitude which denies that being a Lesbian is a choice of loving other women, and that Lesbian passion is totally different from predatory male sexuality. The very act of a Lesbian feeling attraction for another female is in itself rare and revolutionary. It threatens patriarchy at its core. Lesbians who never heard of feminism have loved, and still love, other Lesbians with care and commitment that far exceeds the ideals of feminism. Why don’t ex-het feminists feel the same need to differentiate het feminists from non-feminist heterosexuals? Can you imagine the outcry if they used insults for non-feminist het women similar to those they use for non-feminist Lesbians?

Lesbians who chose men first often seem to think, “Why be a Lesbian if not for feminism?” Meanwhile, those of us who chose our own kind first, out of love and without conscious political analysis, are suspected of being sordid and lecherous. To anyone with a het mentality, the word “Lesbian” is inherently sexual and suggests the dirty, predatory, male sexuality of traditional anti-Lesbian stereotypes. Meanwhile, ex-het Lesbians’ past (hetero)sexuality is taken for granted and rarely thought of as wrong, lurid, and dirty — even though that’s exactly what heterosex is. Ex-het Lesbians who came out intellectually through the WLM are more likely to have learned and later exhibit male traits of sexually objectifying women since they learned their sexuality from their obscene and predatory men — not Lifelong Lesbians or Butches.

A Lesbian is also most likely to stay a Lesbian if she made her choice through love and passion, from her entire heart, mind, soul, and body, and not through political analysis alone. Lesbians who paid the high price of Lesbian oppression are also more likely to be trustworthy and strongly Dyke-identified than women who wholeheartedly chose men and later came out reluctantly after years of encouraging support from Lesbian friends.

Another Lesbian star said in an interview, “I knew I had Lesbian leanings before I found the Women’s Liberation Movement, but I don’t think I would have admitted it. Lesbians’ life back then was the bar life, alcoholic, unhappy, difficult and depressing.” Yes, it was very hard for Lesbians before feminism and coming out then demanded special courage and commitment — but this Lesbian is still thoughtlessly repeating, years later, the stereotypes she held of Lesbians when she was het.

And not all Dykes who came out before the WLM were part of bar culture. Dykes created many ways to survive and be part of communities of their own kind. The sort of life they made depended on how much racial, ethnic, and class privilege they had, and how fiercely females were oppressed in their countries. Some formed private clubs where they could meet. Others made cultures in Lesbian bars, preyed on by the male bar owners and violent police. Any horribly oppressed people forced to meet in bars will be vulnerable to alcoholism. Members of oppressed groups who succumb to their oppression are always used to show that stereotypes about them are “true,” while the ones who found happiness are forgotten. Why not instead recognize how oppressed, and therefore courageous, Dykes who survived bar culture were?

Meanwhile, what was the comparable life of a middle-class housewife in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, which is what this Lesbian had been? (My mother, who was a married working class housewife, was so miserable and lonely that she regularly went to filthy het bars for company, became an alcoholic, was arrested in brawls, and tried to commit suicide. When I was a little girl, she put me in frilly dresses and brought me with her for attention and put me on disgusting drunken stranger men’s laps.) Many Lesbian Feminists had no contact with pre-WLM Dykes, so where was this ex-het getting her information, which is identical to het media myths about “perverted” Lesbians, designed to frighten women into obedience to their men? As hard as it was to be a Lesbian before feminism, there was the beautiful love of equals between two women together, as opposed to the lonely, depressing, often alcoholic or anti-depressant-addicted sado-masochism, inequality, and abuse that is in heterosexual relationships.

Lifelong Lesbians and especially Lifelong Butches, can have a beautiful, solid Dyke feeling which is quite different from the atmosphere in most later Lesbian Feminist groups. That unique presence is reassuring to those of us who feel alienated around the many ex-het Lesbians who prefer femininity, het identification, and obsessively fussing with appearance, trendy clothing, hair styles, and jewelry. Such Lesbians feel “absent” in contrast to the centered presence of Lifelong Dykes, which is why many ex-het Fems seek out Lifelong Butches as lovers.

Many communities did feel more Lesbian-identified in the 1970’s than later, but pre-WLM Dykes have been subjected to Lesbian Feminist censorship and ridicule since the beginning of the WLM, and have had to see their pasts being “reclaimed” in books and speeches by Lesbians who, when they were part of pre-WLM Dyke culture, betrayed them by passing for het or being bisexual. Why should that be who now represents pre-WLM Dykes to an objectifying audience of new Lesbians and, worse still, to the het public? The Lifelong Dykes who never sold out, fucked men, or passed for het, and who actually continued the ancient traditions of Lesbian culture, are usually ignored, and their writings unpublished. They have the right to define what their cultures were, who they were then, and who they are now.

                                      No, We Were Not All Het

To ignore and deny someone’s existence is an attempt to eliminate her, which is what most heterosexuals do to Lesbians. Why then do many Lesbians deny that some Lesbians were never heterosexual? Why do they enforce ex-het dominance in Lesbian communities as the only Lesbian reality?  Never-het and Lifelong Dykes face the obstacle of being a small minority within a minority, yet most Lesbians would prefer we didn’t exist at all.

If hetero-patriarchy can’t claim a female as one of its own, it tries to claim her as having been one of its own. That’s why rape by male family is so prevalent — it’s men’s attempt to possess females. All females resist rape, and therefore resist enforced ownership. But most females become heterosexual. By making that choice, they agree to become possessed by men through fucking and marriage, whether that’s their conscious intention or not. The father “gives” his daughter away in marriage, to be owned by another man. But the ownership isn’t complete, the marriage isn’t legally valid, unless it’s “consummated” — unless she’s fucked. The fucking alone ensures possession, as when a victorious army rapes the females of a conquered nation, to prove its ownership and to change the genetics of the people. But the existence of Lesbians says there are females who refuse to be voluntarily owned and controlled by males. When ex-het Lesbians deny Never-het and Lifelong Lesbians’ existence, they are replicating how hets treat Lesbians.

It’s common at Lesbian gatherings and in Lesbian publications, to hear and read “We were all straight once.” If a Dyke hesitantly says that she wasn’t het, she’s likely to be shamed, slammed with hostility or the topic is changed.

Lesbian Feminists would never tolerate anyone saying all Lesbians are middle-class, so why the double standard? Our class background isn’t our choice, while becoming het is. Those of us who are working-class at least have working-class culture acknowledged in the world and regularly represented (even if caricatured) in the media. Young Lifelong Lesbians usually grow up completely alone, in the most vulnerable years of our lives, not only with no one else in our family, neighborhood, school, or culture being like us, but knowing we are completely unacceptable. To continue this double standard among Lesbians is incredibly Lesbian-hating.

Some ex-hets have even said ridiculous things like “Since we’re all exposed to het culture, we’re all het in our minds anyway, so no one can say they’ve never been het.” (Butch-hating Fems say similar things about Butches.) They really don’t believe there’s no difference between choosing to fuck with men and choosing not to? Can they also not imagine any female not internalizing male and het values as they’ve done?

Ex-het Lesbians also often say, “I was always a Dyke — I just didn’t know it.” Well, no they weren’t. Some were completely het for decades and never even considered loving other females. They’re also likely to be the same individuals who talk proudly of past husbands and boyfriends, making certain everyone around them knows they’re mothers and even grandmothers. But they can’t have it both ways — het women are not Dykes and Dykes are not het.

In a large Lesbian discussion group where ex-het Lesbians frequently bragged about their het pasts, a Lifelong Lesbian started to talk about having always been a Lesbian, but another Lesbian quickly changed the subject. After the meeting, several Lesbians angrily said how “insensitive” the she was — they had suffered as het women and didn’t want to be “reminded that other Lesbians hadn’t.” Some accused her of trying to make them feel guilty. Are they so narcissistic that they think everything is about them, or are they just trying to maintain dominance? If they really feel bad about having been het, why did they brag about it so much? (Originally, we’d written that the same group would be less likely to accept ongoing bragging about class privilege or to accuse class-oppressed Lesbians of “guilt-tripping” for daring to talk about their lives, but I now think they would do that also — anything to maintain supremacy and privilege.)

No one considered how painful and difficult it was for a Lesbian who’d always been oppressed as a “queer” outcast to try talk about her life in a group full of het/male-identified Lesbians who’d always felt accepted as “normal.” And they certainly didn’t want to learn about her life. In fact, they were trying to drive her out of the group. Meanwhile, these same women often devoted hours of attention and support to Lesbians who talked of their past het experiences, including being mothers.

If ex-hets want to discuss their het pasts and resolve problems from it, they should do it with other ex-het Lesbians, and use the opportunity to also talk about ways they can support to their Lifelong Lesbian friends, including protesting whenever ex-het experience is presented as the only Lesbian reality, and encourage other ex-het Lesbians to be aware of the privileges they have.

The myth of ex-het Lesbians being more oppressed is furthered by therapy politics that support privileged Lesbians’ “rights” to be demanding and narcissistic. Lesbians who subject other Lesbians to hearing about their “conflicted feelings” about men or sordid, pornographic details of their past heterosexuality will often begin by saying, “I’m being very vulnerable to tell you this, but …” Being oppressive is not the same as being vulnerable. In the name of “being honest,” one upper-class, European-descent Lesbian we know of subjected her working-class, racially oppressed lover to pornographic, sexually explicit details about her fucking experiences, and then told friends what she’d done, as an example of how important it is to be “completely honest” with one’s lover, and how Lesbians can help each other “deal with” their het pasts. Not only did she hurt her lover, she also publicly humiliated her as well. This self-indulgent insensitivity came from a Lesbian who’s considered to be very Dyke-identified and who speaks glibly and authoritatively about issues of privilege and oppression.

Some ex-het Lesbians make bizarre contradictory rationalizations about why they chose to be het, such as saying, “I was het because I’m an incest survivor,” — which again denies the existence of Never-het victims of rape by their male family. The fact is most girls are sexually assaulted by male relatives, and that includes most Lifelong Dykes as well as ex-het Dykes.

“Did your family raise you as a boy?” is more likely asked of those who aren’t drag-queen feminine and and reveals that the interrogator can’t imagine any female refusing to be fucked by men and loving other females unless she was conditioned by hets to think of herself as male.

Other ex-het Lesbians ask, “Maybe your family gave you more freedom,” denying the rape, restriction, and mental and physical torture many Lesbian girls have experienced from their families.

Saying “I was straight because no one told me I had any other option” ignores that no one tells any young female it’s okay to be a Lesbian. The courage to follow your own female wisdom, in spite of het propaganda and severe punishment, comes from within. What about love for her own kind and a natural revulsion toward males? Why does she also deny the existence of celibate women? Of course all girls know about “old maids,” but most prefer to be fucked by men to escape that stigma.

Lifelong Lesbians were equally pressured to be het, often by the same women who now claim they had no choice. Do they think we forget their sneering at us, name-calling, ridiculing, and ostracizing us and, for some, physically attacking us when we were girls? Do they think we don’t remember them telling us about consciously deciding to abandon girl friends for predatory, female-hating boys in order to get status?  Some of these women even went against their families in choosing particularly disgusting boys and men.

Some ex-het Fem Lesbians’ also sexually harass you if they find out you’re a Lifelong Lesbian. I’ve been subjected to a “friend” loudly asking a group of us at a dance, “Wouldn’t you like a big hard dick right now?” Another Lesbian from that friendship group showed me a photo on her cell phone of a man’s erect prick. Another “Lesbian” in our community, in a baby girl voice said, “I have something to show that will scare you.” It was a metal key chain with a grotesque image of an erect prick on a little man effigy. Her lover of many years told me how tortured she felt by her lover taunting her that she had a physical need to get fucked and would go find strange men to be fucked by.

At a Lesbian party, a Lesbian feminist star who’d co-founded MS magazine announced “we’ve all been straight.”  When I dared to disagree, she started ranting “But didn’t you ever want some dick? Can’t you imagine wanting some dick? ….everyone had to have been straight once … why don’t you try fucking — you might like it.” Only Linda and I argued with her. The others in the room were afraid to.

Their goal, like with the women who troll Radical Feminist groups online, is to censor and silence, and to make it just not worth speaking out. When a Lifelong Dyke tentatively mentions her life, ex-hets are likely to complain, “That’s all she ever talks about.” Try counting the times you’ve heard Lesbians say they’re Lifelong Lesbians, compared to how often Lesbians talk about their het pasts, ex-husbands, boyfriends, children, etc.

Others ask, “Why is it an issue at all? Why make such a big deal of never having been het?”  Well, why make such a big deal of having been het?  And isn’t that what hets say to us: “Why make such an issue of being Lesbians? Do you always have to talk about being a Dyke?” “Do you have to be so blatant?” Meanwhile, it’s impossible to talk with a het woman for two minutes without her bombarding us with unasked-for information about her husband or boyfriend and/or children. But that’s taken for granted and is therefore acceptable, just like ex-het Lesbians’ het talk. Lifelong Lesbian oppression is considered trivial because Lesbian oppression is considered trivial.

We’re also told “You’re so lucky to have escaped being het,” ignoring the choice of resistance we made to say no to men that they said yes to. It also reinforces our being “abnormal,” compared to most women. It’s even more unfair when the Lifelong Dyke is working-class and the seemingly jealous ex-het is middle- or upper-class.

“Oh, how cute!  A virgin Dyke!” is patronizing and pornographic. If the speaker thought about the realities of sexual assault, she would know that refusing to choose heterosexuality doesn’t protect the majority of females from rape. When men invented the idea of virginity, it was because they are obsessed with fucking, raping, and possessing females. For thousands of years “virgin” has meant not having been fucked, and therefore having market value as “untouched territory” – a particularly vulnerable, frightened victim for easy terrorization and conquest. None of this is funny or cute.  “Virgins” are portrayed as naïve, unknowing, unworldly, sheltered, and ignorant of “real life,” because in patriarchy only males and hetness are “real life.”

Just as Lesbians are considered immature and “in an arrested stage of development” by patriarchal psychologists, Lifelong Lesbians are treated by ex-het Lesbians as if we never grew up and became real adults. Lesbians even continue this crap when they use “virgin” for women who haven’t yet been to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Becoming het often means learning to wear arrogant, parental expressions, while Lesbians who never were het sometimes look the same natural way we did when we were girls. Yet it isn’t safe to have such open expressions in our hierarchical communities.

It’s the voice of “maturity” and “adulthood” that tells little girls “everyone” gets married and has babies. It’s the same voice that explains, patiently and condescendingly, that nuclear power plants are safe. The status of adulthood should never be underestimated since it means acceptability, credibility, respect, and privilege. At least ex-het Lesbians, especially ex-wives and mothers, were treated as “grownup” and “worldly-wise” before becoming Lesbians Their attitude to those who are different is often parental — they assume their values are the best and only values. The burden of explaining is never on the het woman or ex-het Lesbian — it’s on the Never-het Dyke. How did we manage to be such freaks? Plus our existence is a reminder that becoming het was and is a choice, rather than the compulsory state it’s professed to be. Het supremacist Lesbians find our lives less real and less full because we haven’t been intimate with males, who have the real power. Since we “gave up less” to come out, who really cares?

Most Lifelong Lesbians play along with the myth that ex-hets had harder lives because they are protective of lovers and friends. But if a Lifelong Dyke occasionally feels pride at having said no to men throughout her life, it’s understandable considering she lives as a social outcast at the bottom of the heterosexist hierarchy, as well as all the betrayal she’s experienced. But there isn’t a chance in hell she’d imagine she’d gain status or respect from most Lesbians by talking about her lifelong resistance to heterosexuality.

                           The Myth of Reverse Discrimination

Some ex-het Lesbians complain that they were distrusted when they first came out. This sometimes happens in more Dyke-identified communities, but usually newly-out, ex-het Lesbians are far more valued than Lesbians who’ve been out longer. Many Lesbians consider it more admirable when mothers who were married for a long time come out, as if it’s much harder for them to be Lesbians. It’s not — it’s easier, because married mothers are treated as more important than other women. But they are also more likely to complain and be bitter about what they felt they were promised and didn’t get from men and patriarchy. Many of these ex-het Lesbians turn their rage at men onto Lesbians. It’s classic arrogance that those with more privilege complain more and therefore their feelings are considered more important. This dynamic is also seen in groups discussing classism, where the class-privileged take up far more space complaining than the class-oppressed do. Losing privilege is hard, but it isn’t as hard or as painful as never having had it.

Some ex-het Lesbians may be annoyed and disappointed the few times they’re not  catered to when they talk about their children, grandchildren, husbands, or boyfriends, because they’re used to getting that attention among hets. The issue isn’t that new ex-het Lesbians are “harassed” for not being “real Lesbians” — it’s that Lifelong Dykes are oppressed (including by Lesbians) for not being “real” women.

Lesbians are the only oppressed people who are constantly being joined by large numbers of their recent oppressors. This is one reason why entire Lesbian communities seem to be making the same mistakes over and over. We gain strength in increased numbers, but we also have to deal with an onslaught of new members who are still very lesbophobic and oppressive, and who usually do not bother to learn our history or culture. These women are also more likely to get into power positions in Lesbian communities, as the Lesbians in “LGBTQI” organizations, and in Radical Feminist communities online.

Newly-out Lesbians, especially those who were heterosexual, are very likely to be Lesbian-hating towards the more longtime Dykes they meet, just as most het women are Lesbian-hating to Lesbians. Lesbians who’ve been out longer, who understand the realities of Dyke oppression, and who’ve watched many new, ex-het, Lesbians return to men and het privilege, have the right to be cautious about welcoming unknown members. It’s entirely reasonable if they feel suspicious of those new Lesbians who still look and act very het and who talk proudly of their het pasts. Sadly though, the opposite is usually true: new Lesbians are often hostile and condescending towards longer-out Lesbians even while they’re receiving extra attention from Lesbians because of the high status their recent hetness gives them.

There are also Lesbians who, when they were het, actively oppressed Lesbians, were hostile to us, harassed us from jobs and housing, and excluded us from feminist groups. Some of us knew het feminists who did these things, later came out, and then expected us to welcome them into our communities and trust them as one of us — even when they continued to make Lesbian-hating statements. The more hostile a het woman is to Lesbians, the more destructive power she’s going to have towards us if she later becomes a Lesbian.

Newly out, genuine Dykes deserve support and friendliness, but certainly no more than longtime Dykes get. Longtime Dykes need more support because we’ve been oppressed as Dykes for much longer. Lifelong Dykes’ experience, wisdom, and strength deserve new Dykes’ respect and appreciation.

Het-identified Lesbians try to prove how non-threatening Lesbians are by denying that we’re significantly different from het women, pointing out the many ex-wives and mothers among Lesbians. Whose standards are these? Why do so many Lesbians consider having chosen to fuck with men as more of an indication of “warm, mature, genuine femaleness” than choosing to love other females right from the beginning?  Who is saying that all females should be fucked, or at least should once have been fucked? — Men and their het women collaborators. Male values are fatal to Dykes. Any culture and political movement that tries to prove to itself and the oppressor that it’s no different from the oppressor’s culture is in serious trouble.

Because heterosexual privilege means very real economic privilege, some ex-het Lesbians bring money, possessions, and opportunities with them into Lesbian communities that other Lesbians could never hope to have (again, depending on other privileges the ex-het Lesbian has). A Lesbian who married a rich, middle-class, or even a well-employed working-class man is likely to have material assets from that marriage, such as alimony or social security money, a fully furnished house, land, a car, savings, etc., which are long-term rewards for heterosexual compliance, and a continual reminder of that connection. (Some of these Lesbians continue being legally married to their husbands.)

They also have access to Lesbian community events that many longtime Lesbians could never afford to go to, even though we helped create our communities. Many events sponsored by “Lesbian” organizations (which are now primarily focused on helping men posing as Lesbians against real Lesbians) are deliberately priced high in order to maintain class and race segregation. Yet some of these European-descent ex-wives actually complain about how they were “slaves” to their husbands, (which is a common racist misuse of “slavery,” and should be applied only to people literally, legally, physically owned by other people.)

Het acceptability also gives a woman increased opportunities for educational and job skills, and access to legal, medical, financial, and other services, which continue to benefit her after she becomes a Lesbian. Meanwhile, Lifelong Dykes, Butches, and Dyke-identified Fems, and are more likely to be rejected by schools and employers, and discriminated against by such services, often ending up in the lowest-paying, hardest jobs, denied decent health and other care, and homeless. Het women, and therefore ex-het Lesbians, have more confidence in dealing with, and feeling they have the right to use, such services — access that can make a great difference to a Lesbian’s quality of life and, in crisis situations, can mean the difference between life and death.

We’re not saying Lesbians shouldn’t bring het-gained riches with them into our communities, but we’d like that privilege to be acknowledged about where it came from, rather than it be assumed that these advantages came from their own work, and, when possible, shared (which was once basic Lesbian Feminist politics.) Another way to help other Lesbians is to be an advocate for Lesbians when dealing with the medical and legal systems, to help them get justice and better treatment. Even less privileged friends can help. When a dear friend was trying to get health insurance and then prepare for surgery for cancer, a group of us who are Dyke Separatists helped, donating safe Lesbian blood, going to the government agencies, doing medical and alternative research, planning to spend each night in the hospital room with her, shopping for food, bringing meals, etc. I went to every medical appointment with her and asked the surgeon, who has a reputation for cruelty, every relevant question we could think of, which clearly meant that the doctor was more respectful. The one time I had to miss, she was treated terribly by that surgeon. This support can sometimes mean the difference between life or death.

                      Het Identification Destroys Dyke Culture

The Women’s Liberation Movement did make vast positive changes in Dykes’ lives, and that’s largely because many pre-WLM Dykes worked to create Feminism. Yet many ex-het Lesbians defend and protect males and het women far more than they do other Lesbians. They personally and politically caretake and prioritize women who still choose men. They provide support for contraception and abortion as well as medical services for diseases and injuries caused by fucking and childbirth, making het life more tolerable for women. They identify with het women, saying, “I was there once.” Since they don’t recognize themselves as former collaborators, they don’t recognize the present collaboration of het women. They also pressure other Lesbians to make het-oriented issues a priority. In mixed groups of Lesbians and het women, ex-het feminists often want Lesbians to be less blatant, so het women can be “comfortable.” In other words, they support het women’s Lesbian-hatred and put Lesbians’ rights and needs last.

Lesbians who tout femininity and who treat Butches and Fem Dykes with contempt reveal that they don’t really consider Butches to be truly female. This behavior is male-identified, not that of the Butches they accuse of being “male.” Lesbians who imitate het women by supporting and identifying with men and their rules are male-identified. They treat Butches the way men treat females — with contempt and objectification, as an alien Other who’s nevertheless needed and used. Such het-minded contempt for Dykes, like all oppression is deeply hurtful, causing isolation, loneliness, grief, illness, despair, and death. The irony is that the ex-het Lesbians who are so casually malicious and uncaring continue to benefit from Butches, whose courage and work keep Dyke cultures alive. Again, this is ex-het Lesbians’ choice. They don’t need to be like this, as ex-het Lesbian Separatists and other Radical Feminist Dykes who truly fight Dyke oppression prove.

Some women didn’t become Lesbians because they love Dykes and feel like Dykes — they came out because it was trendy for a while, or they hate men (yet don’t really love and desire Lesbians), or they want “better sex” and don’t want to worry about getting pregnant or getting STDs, or they have male pornographic fantasies of Lesbians. We’ve met ex-het Lesbians who said they became Lesbians because they couldn’t get what they wanted from men, and because they wanted to be loved and looked after. We all want to be loved, but the difference for Dykes-loving-Dykes, whether Lifelong or ex-het, is that we’re also devoted to loving other Dykes, and don’t expect our friends and lovers to focus their lives and emotions solely on fulfilling our needs.

Het-identified ex-het Lesbians have diluted Lesbian politics in their eagerness to maintain connections with men and het women, and to get approval and material benefits from them, even though that “approval” is mostly tokenistic and voyeuristic. Most Lesbians in power positions that we know of are ex-het and Fem — CEOs/directors of “Lesbian” or “LGBT” organizations with massive salaries, media spokespeople, writers, “spiritual leaders,” gurus, therapists, etc. The reason that so many Lesbians support the rights of het men who pretend to be Lesbians to perv on us and destroy our last women-only spaces is because they are used to putting men first and valuing men more. Some Radical Feminists suspect it’s also because they must feel more comfortable having men around.

This co-option, together with men’s and het women’s deliberate backlash against our movements, caused the present fragmentation and bleeding of Dyke-identified politics. We’re determined to return to the hope we once felt and are working towards a new beginning for Dyke Separatism, with the Dyke love and unity that means.     

                                  Unlearning Lesbian-Hatred

We’re not saying ex-het Dykes should never mention having been het, any more than we’d suggest Dykes from middle-class backgrounds shouldn’t say they’re middle-class.  They should be honest so other Dykes know who they’re dealing with, but they shouldn’t flaunt their het privilege or burden more oppressed Dykes with problems related to their het pasts.

We raise these issues because we believe Lesbian communities should reflect Lesbian cultures, not male or het cultures. Do we want het-identified Lesbians to be comfortable in our communities — when they have the entire het world validating them — at the expense of Dyke-identified-Dykes, who get comfort and support nowhere?  Shouldn’t Dyke communities welcome Dykes since no one else does?

We’re not trying to make anyone feel bad or guilty. We’re trying to protect and defend more marginalized Dykes from being hurt. The first step towards fighting an injustice is to name it. Ex-het Lesbians sometimes lock themselves into self-pity and resentment when another Lesbian tells them their het values and assumptions are oppressive. They focus only on the pain and abuse they suffered from men during their het years, and ignore the fact they would have suffered pain and abuse from both men and het women if they’d been Lesbians all their lives.

Psychotherapists teach us we must “feel good” about ourselves, whatever the consequences. Of course it’s good for us to feel self-loving and proud of being Dykes, but it’s not appropriate for us to feel good about oppressing others, taking no responsibility for whatever privileges we have. That selfish attitude helps no one, including ourselves. It we’ve sold out and collaborated with injustice in any way, we will feel bad, which is necessary to motive ourselves to change We’ll feel better when we do change, but if we don’t take responsibility, we’ll continue inflicting pain on those we oppress. If we want to be strong, truly Dyke-identified Dykes, then we will help ourselves by fighting hetness – even if we were once het. Fighting injustice benefits us all — it’s not good for any Lesbians to gain and hoard privilege that hurts other Lesbians.

Instead of retreating into anger or defensiveness, ex-het Dykes should appreciate the rare occasions when Lifelong Dykes and Butches talk about our experiences. Discovering other Dykes’ realities can be a real pleasure, and it teaches us about our own lives. New Lesbians entering established communities have a responsibility to find out about the politics, history, and traditions of their new home — out of interest and respect — just as privileged people should when they’re the guests of an oppressed culture or country. Radical Feminists have such values about other oppressed groups and cultures — why not about Lesbian culture?

Just as there are groups for Dykes in “Unlearning Classism” and other injustices, why aren’t there groups for newly-out or ex-het Lesbians in “Unlearning Lesbophobia” and “Unlearning Heterosexism”? All ex-het Lesbians have proven themselves/ourselves capable of tremendous change, courage, and self-love by becoming Lesbians. What many of us haven’t understood is that we have to keep changing in order to identify more with our newer Lesbian selves and less with our former het selves.

For ex-het Dykes, unlearning Lesbian-hating first requires overcoming your own resistance.  Ask yourself why you’re a Lesbian, and really think about your answers.  Notice how het women oppress and betray you because you’re a Lesbian and because they’re het, and let yourself get angry at them. This is an act of self-love.  Het women are destructive beyond measure to Lesbians, and we have a right to be furious at them. Their male-worshipping hetness itself is an act of Lesbian-hatred, and they’re collaborating most intimately with our common enemy — men. Why make them so much more important than us? If you don’t protect and care for yourself as a Dyke, it’ll be impossible for you to really be loving and protective of other Dykes.

It’s a good idea for Lifelong Dykes to form groups for support and political work to unlearn together any values we’ve internalized about preferring ex-het Lesbians to ourselves and each other. The same is important for Butches to do, knowing that oppressed people often value oppressors more than they value themselves. We also need each other’s support to reject ex-het Lesbians’ and Fem’s assumptions and insults. It’s important for us to develop solidarity with each other rather than be forced apart by defending oppressive ex-het and Fem Lesbians at each other’s expense.

Ignoring and refusing to fight any oppression — whether it’s racism, anti-Semitism, ethnicism, imperialism, classism, ableism, fat oppression, looksism, ageism, or heterosexism — means participating in it, deliberately or through passivity. Politically responsible and caring Lesbians work out what our privileges and oppressions are and name them when we communicate who we are, whether in writing or personally. It’s as important to name whether we’re ex-het or Lifelong or Never-het Dykes, whether we’re Butches or not, and if we came out before the Women’s Liberation Movement when we describe ourselves, as it is to say what our class and ethnic backgrounds are. Lesbian publications should encourage by including these Lesbian cultural categories whenever they name usually excluded Lesbians who they particularly wish to recognize and support.

The invisibility, mistreatment, and oppression of Lifelong, Never-het, and pre-WLM Lesbians, and Butches is simply Lesbian-hatred, and it doesn’t just affect Dykes as individuals — it hurts all Lesbians individually and damages our entire communities’ safety, love, strength, unity, and political achievements. In order to recognize that heterosexism exists among Lesbians, and in order to fight it, we must name it and take the issue as seriously as any other inequality that exists.


1  A rare exception are the Butch directors and actors in the short films in the annual free Queer Women of Color Film Festival in San Francisco, which was started by Madeleine Lim, a Butch who was a refugee from Lesbian persecution in Singapore. But this is not mainstream and seems to be ignored by the more prestigious and money-making “LBTQWTF” film festivals.

2 Jan Clausen, Sinking, Stealing (Trumansburg, New York: The Crossing Press Feminist Series, 1985), 222. In describing a little girl opening her birthday presents, Clausen says, “I stay put in my chair, content to watch from a distance the rending and tearing, the ritual violation. Of course I’m familiar with this climactic moment, endemic to birthday parties: the remorseless frenzy of the defloration; the faded, indifferent gesture with which each gift is laid aside as the young roué gropes about for fresh stimulus.” (p. 25). This is just one example of the bizarre heterosexism in this book — yet it received rave reviews from U.S. Lesbian feminist publications. A few years later, Jan’s longtime lover discovered her being fucked by Jan’s secret boyfriend in their bed.

3 Sonia Johnson, Going Out of Our Minds: The Metaphysics of Liberation (Freedom, Calif.: The Crossing Press, 1987), 116-117. Her The Ship that Sailed into the Living Room is one of the most Lesbian-hating books by a recently-out, previously described “hopelessly heterosexual” Lesbian Feminist, I have ever seen. She projects all her hatred of men and male-identification onto Lesbians. She also is racist in making up a “Black woman” character who she uses to put down African-American culture.

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