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 Lesbian — 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

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.

Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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.”

BODY,.aolmailheader {font-size:10pt; color:black; font-family:Arial;}
a.aolmailheader:link {color:blue; text-decoration:underline; font-weight:normal;}
a.aolmailheader:visited {color:magenta; text-decoration:underline; font-weight:normal;}
a.aolmailheader:active {color:blue; text-decoration:underline; font-weight:normal;}
a.aolmailheader:hover {color:blue; text-decoration:underline; font-weight:normal;}

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 , , , , , , , , | 7 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.

Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Chapter Two: Heterosexuality/Selling Out Is Not Compulsory

                                                  Chapter Two

How Patriarchy Uses Heterosexual and Bisexual Women against Lesbians —

Heterosexuality/Selling Out Is Not Compulsory

                                                           Bev Jo

(This is the latest update of what had been our original Chapter Two,  by Bev Jo with Linda and Ruston, which included The Crimes of Mankind, now updated to be our new Chapter One.

                      Het Feminism Is a Contradiction in Terms

This chapter is not meant as a personal criticism of women who are heterosexual and/or bisexual, but as a response to the dilution of feminism by liberals/right wing women pretending to be Radical Feminists who are spreading myths and lies in order to promote heterosexuality and bisexuality for women. Decades ago, Lesbian Feminists who had previously chosen to be het claimed that “heterosexuality is compulsory” for women, ignoring the existence of Lesbians and other women who had chosen to never be het. (One of the main proponents for this propaganda was upper class and had chosen to marry a man before coming out through feminism.) All the reasons they gave for their faulty and harmful political analysis have been disproved, yet the myth continues to harm women. Radical Feminism is about finding and naming the truth.

Radical Lesbian Feminists do have a few good, trusted allies who are het women, but most het women are hostile to Lesbians, even if it isn’t obvious at first. Feminism used to challenge all aspects of heterosexuality, but now is so liberalized that many “radfems” follow the Gay male and genderqueer lie that we have no choice about one of the most important decisions we make in our lives: who we choose to love.

To find truth instead of confusion, ask, who do these politics ultimately serve?  Do these ideas challenge male supremacy at its core, or do they benefit men and help continue male rule?

How did one of the most revolutionary truths of basic Feminist and Lesbian Feminist politics, which has the potential to change all girls’ and women’s lives forever, become so hidden, denied, and lied about? Learning how and why our original inspiring politics were diluted and destroyed explains everything. True feminism is about choosing courage and the obvious truth, instead of choosing the path of fear and denial of reality.

We need to understand our history to know what happened to our wonderful, hopeful, and exciting Radical Feminist and Lesbian Feminist movement and culture. And that means learning our real history rather than the distortion which men posing as Lesbians are re-writing. (These men have far more money, power, and media access than we do, and of course are supporting male supremacy.)

No, we never joined with Gay men or the much later genderqueer movement. We said no to, and fought, the porn and sado-masochism disguised as “feminist” that invaded our communities in 1979 and later. We also always said no to the few men who posed as Lesbians. We built proud, creative communities where female-only space was the norm.

Most importantly, we fought the horrific Lesbian-hating we grew up with, from the time when there was nothing but hate and lies about us in any media, when we were told we were mentally ill and even dangerous. Rare Lesbian characters in films and books usually died at the end, and real Lesbians often hid who they were, in fear and/or shame. As a people, we were ignored, lied about, and despised.

So when Lesbian Feminists created our culture and movement, it was essential to say proudly that we chose to be Lesbians, to counteract the lies that we were born queer or made “perverts” by some girlhood trauma.

I (Bev) found Lesbian Feminism in 1970 when I was 19, and it was a dream come true. That was when a larger percentage of Lesbian Feminists were Lifelong Lesbians and Butch, having become Lesbians out of our love for other females. Also, more of us were class-oppressed. Our community reflected that strong Dyke identity. Soon the newly-out women who became Lesbians as a result of becoming feminists, and who often loved women less than they hated men, and who were majority white and middle-class, outnumbered us and changed our culture. But at the time, it seemed as if all women would soon come out. We knew that the psychoanalytical propaganda that pathologized us was lies and that all females are born Lesbian, while it’s the choosing to be het or bisexual that goes against our nature.

It wasn’t until the Eighties, that the seemingly liberal, but actually reactionary politics of “born this way” invaded our communities, having come from Gay male politicians. We were pressured to join in asking for equal rights by appealing to the pity of lawmakers – of course we “queers” (in the original insulting use of the word) would prefer to have boring, empty het lives if only we could. If Gay men said it was a choice, those in power would tell them/us to stop complaining. The entire structure of the campaign for equal rights is built on Lesbians and Gay men agreeing we are deficient in relation to heterosexuals, which is not far removed from the old American Psychiatric Association’s assertion that we are mentally ill.

But our Lesbian Feminist community had not been connected to Gay men at all. Some who had tried working with Gay men had quit in disgust at their female-hating and Lesbian-hating.1  Most Lesbian Feminists we knew were never around Gay men and had no reason to be. Our communities were completely different, which was obvious in the male porn ads we were subjected to if we got the “Lesbian” and Gay newspapers we relied on for information about events. Their focus is on sex rather than love. Men choosing to be het appear to be more relationship-oriented because they have to be if they want access to women, but in reality, few het men are monogamous, and most would live similarly to Gay men if that were possible to do with women. (Perhaps Gay men do feel they are born gay, but many more het men would choose to be gay if it weren’t for the stigma.)

Gay men have almost nothing in common with Lesbians or other women anyway, and did not experience what we did with the enormous influx of previously het women into our Lesbian Feminist communities. Only later, when Gay men formed Gay rights groups with access to media and enormous amounts of money, and needed token Lesbians to get even more money, did their politics influence Lesbian communities. And, even though Gay men publicly expressed disgust and hatred of Lesbians, the AIDS epidemic, though clearly a sexually transmitted disease, activated Lesbians to choose to support men instead of Lesbians. Even then, very few Lesbians joined with them.

What happened to the Lesbian pride we had when we said, “We do have a choice, and we choose to be Lesbians”? Returning to our original politics and knowledge makes it clear that het and bisexual women choose to collaborate with patriarchy, and also frees the many Lesbian Feminists who spend their lives working to help “free” and protect het and bisexual women from their men. It also enables Lesbian Feminists to finally make our own people a priority.

    The Heterosexist Myths that Manipulate Lesbian Feminists

We could move forward if certain women would just stop lying and playing games. (This seems to be the predominate tactic when unable to answer honestly and directly.) If you really want to be Radical Feminist, stop oppressing the women who are saying no to patriarchy, and stop lying about us. Stop pretending you are not playing both sides if you are still invested in males. Just be honest, whatever your choices are.

1. The lie that almost all girls and women are naturally heterosexual.

If this were true, why is every aspect of the media bombarding us with increasingly pornographic propaganda, from schools, books, television, films, magazines, peer pressure, and even “radfem” online groups? It starts much younger than it used to, with five year old girls policing other girls as well as adults about whether they have a “boyfriend” and, if they don’t, why not? It’s shameful for girls to admit their first feelings of love, which is for other girls, and which would continue if most did not decide later to choose boys and then men. (Some do stay following their hearts, while others regret decades of their lives wasted trying to make themselves love men.)

Every once in a while there is an extremely revealing interview, such as in television news “magazines” where a young woman, asked about her “first time” says “It was horrible, but it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?”

Privileged women riddled with STDs, some of which, like herpes and HPV, are incurable, still call themselves “hopelessly heterosexual.” If women say similar self-destructive things about being addicted to drugs or sado-masochism, friends are likely to talk about having an intervention on their behalf. Instead, the pressure from most women is to keep staying with men, no matter how abusive the men or how dangerous the consequences. When women break ranks about choosing heterosexuality, other het women try to pull them back into line.

When “feminists” insist heterosexuality in inborn and not a choice, they are supporting women to be hurt and abused by men. And they are keeping patriarchy going.

2. The lie that woman have no choice but to be het.

Well, then what about all the ex-het Lesbians who return to men for privilege?

I certainly remember the Lesbian Separatist lover I held as she told how abused she’d felt by the men she’d let fuck her, crying with her, for her. And only a few years later, she told me in graphic detail how much she loved being fucked by her new boyfriend.

It’s ignored that girls and women make thought-out choices about this. Some of us remember our teenaged friends talking with us about how they were repulsed by boys and men, but decided they had to learn to flirt to attract them or they would lost status. We remember this, even if the women who did it pretend not to.

3. The lie that it’s ‘misogynist’ to say that women can choose to not be het since they are victims.

It’s misogynist to deny women have the strength and intelligence to choose. It’s infantilizing them and is for more dangerous for them to stay with men.

It’s interesting that the strongest proponents of “Stockholm Syndrome” as the reason women stay het are women with their own husbands or boyfriends. Who else wants women to not think about any of this?  Again, het women are threatened when other het women want to break ranks.

4. The lie that Lifelong Lesbians are “lucky” to always have been a Lesbian and to never have been fucked.

Saying no to men and their women our whole lives doesn’t mean not having been raped.  How is being marginalized and oppressed as a Lesbian our entire lives, in patriarchy and even among “feminists,” “lucky?” Many Lifelong Lesbians remember being taunted and even physically attacked when they were girls by the girls who chose boys and men. Have some of those abusers grown up to be feminists spreading this insult?

5.  The lie that het women are more oppressed than Lesbians.

Seriously?  Are we not living in the same world?

              The Power of Women to Choose Who They Love

So, how does male supremacy succeed, when females outnumber males and are longer-lived than them? The answer is that het women support it. Males couldn’t continue their crimes against the earth if women didn’t collaborate with them. Patriarchy couldn’t exist without them.  Males need females for their very creation and for their survival.2

Dyke courage built the International Women’s Liberation Movement. Yet the focus of mainstream feminism, including Lesbian feminism, remains reformist — a way for het women to get a better deal from male rule — not a way to change patriarchy. Enormous Lesbian energy goes into working for het women to gain more rights from their men.

Feminist goals are primarily het-identified: contraception and abortion (to make fucking easier), divorce and alimony, support for battered women’s refuges, pay for housework, childcare (with the emphasis on the father’s role), and the creation of a “men’s movement” to help “free” men from their own sexism. (Of course we support women’s rights to contraception and abortion, but we think fighting for them is het women’s responsibility, not Lesbians’.)

Yet most feminists show their ingratitude by denying the existence of Lesbians in their organizations. They’re Lesbian-hating personally and politically. They’re willing to sell out their Lesbian “sisters” in order to not disturb their men. The few het feminist groups that do recognize Lesbian existence tokenize and objectify us, and still expect us to make their het concerns primary.

Why are het feminists like this? It’s because they don’t really want to challenge the basic foundations of male supremacy. They’d rather gain acceptance into male power structures and share the roles of prime ministers, presidents, and executives with men. The less privileged het feminists who have no hope of such goals want to at least share their own men’s male privilege and to receive heterosexual privilege instead of Lesbian oppression.

(After writing our book, I do want to say that I have some het women friends who I love dearly. Interestingly, most aren’t feminists and it probably makes it easier that we don’t have political discussions. I met them in the Rat Community, which is an international community of people, about 99% women, who love and work for the acceptance of rats, and who do rescue work on behalf of rats. Maybe these women are special because they’ve opened their hearts and minds to these gentle, intelligent, loving little animals who are feared and hated simply because of who they are without being known as individuals, just as Lesbians are.)

                                  The Heterosexist Hierarchy

Besides the unequal hierarchy among females that are based on racism, anti-Semitism, ethnicism, classism, imperialism, ableism, ageism, fat oppression, and looksism, there’s also a heterosexual-based hierarchy created by men and perpetuated by het women. Females at the top most fit the male-defined feminine role, while those at the bottom are furthest away from what men say females should be.

This hierarchy was not created by Lesbians. We’re naming it in order to be able to fight against it. Wherever oppression exists, there are intricate hierarchies within each group which make a great difference in the quality of life of each individual. The older the oppression, the more complicated the hierarchy. Those at the top of any hierarchy get the most social and economic rewards, and therefore get to feel better about themselves at the expense of those considered “beneath” them. This is also true about other hierarchies.

With classism, for example, there are dividing lines between those who grew up poor, working-class, middle-class, upper-class, and ruling-class. If you’re over the line from a poorer to richer group, you’re generally more socially acceptable, more culturally visible, and more arrogant. Poor Lesbians have less power than working-class Lesbians, but both have less power than all middle-class Lesbians. And within each broad division there’s an internal hierarchy. Lower-middle-class Lesbians from non-professional backgrounds have less power than Lesbians whose parents are professionals. And then there are what our lives are like now, though class identification is based on how we grew up. All the details are important. To say otherwise would over-simplify and deny women’s realities.

Men hate Lesbians because: 1) We love females in a female-hating world; 2) we refuse to let men fuck us; 3) we refuse to marry and look after men; 4) we refuse to breed and raise families; and 5) many of us refuse to look and act feminine. Het women, by obeying these male dictates, gain privilege. The more rules they obey, the more privilege they get, and the higher up the het hierarchy they are. But the fewer rules Dykes obey, the more Dyke-hatred we get, and the further down the het hierarchy we drop.

Since marriage and motherhood (preferably together) are the most valued female roles in patriarchy, married mothers are at the top of the hierarchy. Even if someone isn’t a wife or mother, she’s still expected to be fucked by men or to at least want to.  What male supremacists never forgive is females loving other females instead of males.  Lesbians are a serious threat to male rule, so we’re at the bottom of the heterosexist hierarchy. And the less feminine a Lesbian is, the more she’s oppressed, and the less het she’s been, the more she’s despised and treated as alien.

The het hierarchy goes like this, starting at the top: het wives who are also mothers; wives who are non-mothers; divorced mothers; unmarried het mothers; married bisexuals; unmarried het women; unmarried bisexuals; celibate het women (women who aren’t fucking men but are still heterosexual in their thoughts and feelings).  Although those at the top have more power than celibate het women, all are heterosexual and so have the power to oppress Lesbians, and all do so. (Unfortunately, this het hierarchy also continues among Lesbians, which we talk about in our chapter on heterosexism among Lesbians.) The het hierarchy is affected by all other hierarchies, so how much racial, ethnic, class, and national privilege a female has affects her power, as does her age, size, looks, and abilities. But when females are similar in these other aspects, those further up in the het hierarchy have more power than those below them.

We’ve heard many Lesbians describe other Lesbians as “male-identified,” but we’ve never heard het women, no matter how devoted they are to males, being called male-identified. That slur is reserved for Lesbians. Yet no female is more male-identified than het women. How could het women seriously want to fight patriarchy when they live with it, nurture it, love it, and are fucked by it? If they have sons, they’re literally creating patriarchy and are deeply invested in its future.  Heterosexual women are the scab labor that sabotages female resistance.

Even the few het women who befriend Dykes usually still feel superior to us. They patronize us because patriarchy says only het women, particularly wives and mothers, are truly adults. No matter how old we are, Dykes are still treated as children who never quite grew up. That’s because we refuse to be part of what hets define as “real,” “adult” life – being fucked by men. (Lesbians participate in continuing this stereotype when in Lesbian novels, het women characters are portrayed as older, wiser, and mature, while Lesbian characters are portrayed as young and naïve.)

By refusing to let the passion of Lesbianism into their lives, most het women keep female relationships on a limited, superficial level, and focus instead on their shallow, empty, numbing relationships with men. After all, other females are competition for their men.  Everything and everyone is sacrificed for the males in their lives, usually including their own daughters’ well being, because heterosexuality is based on the betrayal of females by females.

(Since writing our book, we’ve read some very strange accusations, such as that Radical Lesbian Feminists want to recruit het women to come out so we can have sexual access to them. Our response is: Don’t flatter yourself and don’t confuse us with your own male attitudes. Unless het women coming out are very careful and thoughtful, they actually damage our communities, and the Lesbians they become lovers with, because they usually bring their female-hating, Lesbian-hating male and het attitudes, including their tendency to sexually objectify and pornify Lesbians. It would be far better for such women to simply stop being het and stop continuing to support males, and to be celibate or become involved with each other.)

Lesbianism challenges the foundation of male supremacy. No matter how much a Lesbian tries to identify with and support patriarchy, no matter how much she’s sold herself out, her very existence threatens male rule at its core. The essence of patriarchy is maleness, and Lesbians, by definition, refuse to feed, nurture, and intimately support males. Some Lesbians support males in other ways than het women do — except they don’t welcome men or their semen into their bodies. Lesbians are therefore much less likely to support males in ways that het women take for granted. And Dyke Separatists refuse to nurture males at all, which is why we’re such a threat to anyone involved in patriarchy, including men, boys, het women, and even non-Separatist Lesbians.

                                        Dykes Are Oppressed

Part of the shock I (Bev) had when I first went online and saw how Radical Feminism had been gutted, was seeing the combination of the virulence of het women hating Lesbians combined with het women denying that Lesbians are even oppressed. Our history of being ostracized and attacked, tortured and killed, is clear to see for anyone who cares. Any het woman who doubts this could try going around announcing to everyone she knows and meets that she’s a Lesbian and see the effect. (Start with your family….) One of the primary reasons that women stay with males is their fear of being considered a Lesbian, a freak and a queer.

It’s important to be clear about definitions. Oppression isn’t simply the same as misery. Oppression has clearly defined boundaries measured by such things as discriminatory laws, physical attacks, verbal insults, threats, cultural invisibility and stereotypes, deletion from historical records, discrimination in housing and work, and ostracism by family and other heterosexuals. Lesbians are more oppressed in these ways than het women. And we are also forced to live in an alien society that we find repulsive and terrifying, that tells us we don’t exist now and never did in the past.

Our refusal to be fucked by men doesn’t mean men aren’t constantly oppressing us.  Unlike Lesbians, all het women receive some degree of honor and respect from patriarchal societies. No matter how little, it’s more than any Lesbian gets. Het women’s lives and reality are acknowledged every day, at our expense, while Lesbian reality is denied and distorted.  The price of that damage can never be measured. And one thing het feminism ignores is that, unlike oppression, the hardships of being het can be avoided — by choosing not to be het.

No matter how oppressed a het woman is, she’s still given more political and personal rights than any Lesbian from her same background.

Men and het women oppress Lesbians every day in ways het women escape. Het women are more likely to be treated better anywhere in the world than Lesbians are, whether it’s at jobs, on the street, in stores, prisons, courts, hospitals, or mental institutions. That difference in treatment at times means the difference between life and death. Het women are also treated better in feminist women’s centers, clinics, bookstores, and even in specifically Lesbian places. The more out a Dyke is, the worse treatment she receives. Dykes who can’t or won’t pass as het are attacked by hets and scapegoated by many Lesbians. Yet Lesbian apologists for het women still talk about how much luckier, “freer,” and fulfilled we are as Lesbians — therefore het women’s lives must be “harder.” But luck has nothing to do with it. They should remember that just as we chose to come out, so also can het women.

Money means survival, and het women have access to more money through their husbands, boyfriends, sons, and male relatives. Females still earn only a fraction of what men earn, but het women are more likely to get jobs, including non-traditional and highly paid work, than Lesbians. They’re more likely to advance at work and are less likely to be fired, harassed, or threatened into leaving their jobs.

All government and private organizations discriminate against us, and het women participate in this. There’s no claim on any territory in the world by Lesbians as a people, nor is such a claim a possibility. Because we’re Lesbians, we’re more likely to be incarcerated in prisons or mental hospitals than are het women. Insurance, tax deductions, and health care all benefit hets. We’re forced to be separated from our lovers and friends by anti-Lesbian immigration policies. Even our dead bodies are often forcibly taken from our loved ones by family and other heterosexuals. Lesbians are rejected by our families, cultures, and nations, while het women ally with all these structures. We’re especially isolated when we’re very old, young, ill, or dying.

We’re social outcasts and targets for hate — either made invisible or ridiculed and caricatured in the media. Stereotypes of Lesbians are very damaging: “inverted,” alone and lonely, ostracized, disowned, hated and self-hating, sick, crazy, desperate, pathetic, ugly, violent, suicidal, molesters, and murderers. We aren’t even considered to be females. In films and books, we’re most likely found in bars, mental institutions, and prisons.

Het women proudly announce they’re het to any stranger. It’s almost impossible to meet one without her immediately making a point of mentioning her husband, boyfriend, or children. Meanwhile, Lesbians are expected to stay silent. Such het talk isn’t casual, random conversation – it’s an assertion of het privilege and status, and a reminder that they’re not “old maids” or Lesbians. They do it to get approval and acceptance. It if wasn’t so important to them, they wouldn’t do it so obsessively. Just like rich women bragging about their possessions, it’s hierarchical behavior. And when they know we’re Lesbians, they say “your private life” or “your sexual preference” “doesn’t matter to me.” That means they don’t want to hear about our lives, but they assume that they’ll talk about theirs and get support. Calling our entire life choice of who we love a “sexual preference” trivializes us into absurdity. How dare we complain about oppression that’s caused by a mere sexual choice?

Central to Dyke oppression is that it’s not taken seriously by anyone, including many Lesbians. Most politically-minded Lesbians focus more concern on fighting for the rights of almost every group of men, boys, and het women than for their own kind. When any of us dares to say males are the enemy and het women are collaborators, we face not only men and het women’s rage but also that of most Lesbians! Our Dyke pain, oppression, and lives don’t matter to them — only non-Lesbians are important.  That’s why feminist health collectives, which exist and function only through Lesbian energy and commitment, focus primarily on het women’s and even Gay men’s needs. If any of us object because there are many Lesbians who are sick and are dying and need help, and we point out that we have far fewer resources than either men or het women, we are called “selfish” — by Lesbians. Unfortunately, the self-hatred of internalized Lesbian oppression often turns into active hatred of those of us who dare to speak out for Lesbians.

If Lesbian oppression were treated seriously, het women would be less effective in pressuring Lesbians to take care of them — whether it’s het feminist groups demanding Lesbian support, or het families demanding Lesbians’ time and energy. Het feminism mirrors families in interesting ways — when they want to disown you and deny your existence, they do — when they want your life’s blood in caring for them and keeping them going, they feel justified in demanding it. When more Lesbians clearly understand the privileges that het women have over them, it will be easier to say no to their demands.  It will also be easier to rebuild Dyke communities presently weakened by het-identified Lesbians who perpetuate the het hierarchy among us.  Perhaps we could finally have truly Dyke-identified political movements and communities where we take care of our own kind and not our oppressors.

Part of the problem is that only het women are considered “real women.” Lesbians suffer female oppression in addition to Lesbian oppression, in ways no het woman can ever experience or understand unless she becomes a Lesbian. Lesbian-hatred is the most extreme form of female-hatred. Women’s Liberation Movement politics, which say women are oppressed by men, but ignore Lesbian oppression, have been carried by into our Lesbian communities with no revision to fit Lesbian reality. Het feminists’ attitudes are:  “Females are oppressed. All females are het, so Lesbians aren’t female. Therefore, Lesbians are not oppressed.” This extreme Lesbian-hating exists in our communities as well as among het feminists, because Lesbian values reflect het values unless consciously changed.

It’s true we perceive Lesbianism as more ideal, sensible, independent, strong, attractive, and wonderful than hetness. It’s also true that we’re made to suffer terribly for our choice. Many het women who left their husbands and boyfriends and became Lesbians after joining the WLM spread the lie that Lesbians have easier lives. They often don’t want to think how oppressive they were to us in the past or even now. Certainly no other oppressed community has had to face the onslaught of being outnumbered by their previous oppressors as Lesbians have. Rather than form groups or classes to “Unlearn Heterosexism,” which feminists and other women have done about other privileges they have, the recently out ex-het women tend to get more respect as more “normal women.”

As long as Lesbians are slandered, insulted, controlled, imprisoned, deprived, hunted, hidden, forcibly isolated, forcibly separated from each other, attacked, and murdered for being Lesbians, none of us are free. Legislation outlawing Lesbianism or discriminating against Lesbians exists in most countries. Only in a few very liberal places are there laws protecting Lesbians from discrimination — yet there are now laws in many countries outlawing sexist discrimination.3

Lesbians also suffer intense internalized oppression, without the shielding of “normality” that het women have. The suicide4 and addiction rate of Lesbians is very high. Being hated and slandered, and not represented in most of the media, has an effect. Lesbians are more vulnerable to illness than het women are. The cancer rate for Butches, and especially those also oppressed by racism and classism, is extremely high. Oppressed groups’ health suffers because of the daily tension of living with danger, deprivation, and hatred. This is known to be true of people oppressed by racism, ethnicism, classism, ableism, ageism, and fat oppression, and we know it’s true of Lesbians.5

Many Lesbians went through hell as girls. Some were thrown out and made homeless as young teenagers, while others were locked up in mental hospitals and given drugs, with lifelong consequences. Rebellious het girls still usually get strong support from friends, but Lesbian girls are often afraid to tell friends or are ostracized. Lesbian girls who are the most visible, like Butches, are also physically attacked by boys, men and even het girls and women.

Happiness for het women is having the status of normalcy, husband and children, acceptance by family, money, a house, careers, possessions, and power. They pay for it through loss of integrity and lack of true love and intimacy, but that’s their choice. For Lesbians, happiness means having loving friends and lovers, integrity, self-respect, Dyke culture, creativity, and intimacy.  We pay for it through severely increased oppression, forced on us by both men and het women.

Lesbians are called “privileged” if we show pride in being Dykes. Yet when feminists go on about how strong women are, their pride is not used to disprove the fact that het women are oppressed. The strength and pride Dykes have developed through fighting persecution are turned against us instead of admired. Dyke strength and pride do not equal “freedom” or negate our oppression.

         What Is the Cause of Heterosexuality?  Is There a Cure?

Many Lesbians ask,” Aren’t some het women’s lives just too hard for them to come out?” No. This argument implies that it’s a luxury to be a Lesbian. In trying to trivialize our oppression, defenders of heterosexuality completely reverse the truth. No matter how difficult and painful a het woman’s life is, there’s always someone from her same background and experiences who chose to be a Lesbian. (We are everywhere!) And that Lesbian is not only more oppressed than that het woman — she’s oppressed by that het woman.


What about an uneducated woman who was virtually sold by her father into marriage with an older man when she was 13 years old? She lived poor and isolated in the country, was beaten by her alcoholic husband, and had her first of eight children by age 14. What choice did she have? That woman was my grandmother. She did choose to leave her husband and kids and run away to the city, where she cleaned houses for a living. But instead of becoming a Lesbian or even being celibate, she married another alcoholic who was later sent to prison for burglarizing a house where she worked. (After I wrote this, a cousin suggested that her husband took the fall for her. She was ruthless and often got into bar brawls, and even shot a woman in one, though she was said to be aiming for a man.) When rid of her husband, did she decide to at least be celibate if the idea of becoming a Lesbian was too repugnant? No, she got herself yet another drunken boyfriend.

It certainly wasn’t her poverty that prevented her from coming out or being celibate, since she economically supported her men, as do many poor and working-class women. My grandmother’s life was very hard, but the fact is that there are females from her same background who chose to be Lesbians. And she was treated better as an ex-married het woman than she would have been if she were a single het woman (who’d only be able to get approval by talking about wanting a man) — and she would have been treated far worse than either if she was a Dyke. For all the hardship in my grandmother’s life, she still had the power to oppress me as a Dyke, and she made it clear she hated Lesbians.

Why is there such a pervasive belief that it’s a privilege to be a Lesbian? Why are the lives of upper-and ruling-class het women conveniently forgotten, even though some of them have the power of life and death over many people?

Many class-privileged, European-descent Lesbians don’t want to recognize the existence of millions of racially-oppressed Lesbians or to acknowledge that the majority of Lesbians of all races are from poor and working-class backgrounds.6 (Similarly, anti-Separatists deny existence of Dyke Separatists who are racially and/or class-oppressed.)

Most upper- and middle-class females are het. Women often gain in status and money when they marry, while Lesbians usually lose what economic privilege we got from our families. (That’s why so many women are against females getting equal pay for equal work. They know that their men will get paid less if other females are paid fairly.) Working-class women can get some middle-class privilege or at least stay working-class through their association with men. Working-class Lesbians often become poor because females not living with men have fewer economic options. Although a class-privileged Lesbian can use her privilege to treat a class-oppressed Lesbian badly, even the most oppressed het woman still considers both Lesbians scum.

Many Lesbians also claim that het women become het because of self-hatred resulting from being victims of rape by male family. This is particularly ironic, since it’s been wrongly said for years that sexual assaults on girls cause Lesbianism, as further “proof” of our being “sick.” The fact is that rape by male relatives is so rampant that both Lesbians (including Lesbians who were never het) and het women are equally likely to have been victims of sexual assault as girls. This can make each lie sound plausible, since both lies are Lesbian-hating. One lie makes us seem less oppressed than het women, while the other supports the theory that it takes something horrible to create a Dyke. Both obscure the truth that most girls are sexually assaulted.

Many Lesbians say, “But what about societies where Lesbians don’t exist? Some women have no choice.” Since when does any Lesbian believe propaganda spread by men? How many Lesbians’ lives have male biographers and historians distorted and lied about until our existence throughout history has been completely denied? Dykes have had to do a lot of research and read between the lines to find the few Lesbians from the past that we now know about. When we hear of cultures where every female is said to be het, we should be skeptical about where such “information” comes from –especially if the sources are European or European-descent male anthropologists. Such “scientists” are notoriously racist, sexist, and heterosexist. Likewise, we should be wary of patriarchal governments and leaders within any culture. Every patriarch declares: “There’s no Lesbian in my family, my town, my society, my country. It’s an insult to even ask!” In capitalist societies men lump us together with leftists, while in socialist and communist societies we were explained as “evidence of capitalist decadence.”

Lesbians exist in Iran and Bangladesh. Even Butches, the Lesbians who rejected male-identified femininity from girlhood, are in every culture with the same recognizable look, including where Lesbians are executed by the government. So why are Lesbians in the most privileged countries denying their existence? The fact that Lesbians exist even in countries with forced child marriages proves that heterosexuality is clearly a choice.

Lesbians who refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of Lesbian oppression are still identifying primarily with het women. Ex-het Lesbians who identify with het women are doing so at all Lesbians’ expense.

                                Heterosexuality Is a Choice

Many Lesbians repeat common fallacies as their reason for having been heterosexual: “Becoming het isn’t a choice. I didn’t know any different. Everyone does it. I didn’t know Lesbians existed.” They continue to use these same excuses to support het women’s present choice of heterosexuality.

Saying “everyone does it” is used as an excuse for almost every oppressive act,  making it acceptable to be Lesbian-hating, racist, anti-Semitic, ethnicist, imperialist, classist, ableist, ageist, fat oppressive, and looksist. It’s a cruel lie, because it denies the existence of anyone who doesn’t fit into the privileged “norm” of “everyone.”

You’d expect that Lesbians who believe that the majority of men are well-meaning would think that het women make an understandable choice to be het. But instead, they insist that women are incapable of making such a choice and are the victims of the terrible oppression of “compulsory heterosexuality,” suffering far more than any Lesbian. Why the inconsistency? The same Lesbians who defend men as being no different from females suddenly sound as if they’ve become Separatists when they talk about how het women are forced to be het by brutal, cruel men!

Why do these Lesbians patronize het women by saying they’re incapable of making the major choice of their lives? And why do they ignore women who brag about making that choice?7 As Separatists, we don’t think males treat females fairly at all, but we do acknowledge het women’s ability to make their own decisions, and we do hold them accountable for those decisions. No one chooses her race, age, or class background. But heterosexuality and Lesbianism are clearly chosen. We’re born into het and male cultures, but we are not born het.

If you think het women don’t make a choice, try a random sampling on the street and ask them. If you think they’re more oppressed than we are, try asking them if they wouldn’t have happier, more fulfilling lives being Lesbians.

Do women who insist no choice about having been het think we don’t remember? I’ll (Bev) never forget being asked to leave the bed I shared with the first lover I lived with because her boyfriend was coming to fuck her… and then seeing her playing her het woman flirty little-girl games with him in public. I’ll also never forget visiting a new friend when I was 16 and her introducing me to a male friend who put his hand on her belly and looked pleadingly at her. She then laid down on the floor and let him fuck her. No emotion visible, just whatever he wanted. It didn’t matter I was there. Later she was worried she might get pregnant, which would have destroyed her life. Rather than seem embarrassed when back at school, she clearly felt superior to the other girls who hadn’t yet been fucked.

Some Lesbians even say that the middle class euphemism for getting fucked “PIV” – penis in vagina) is “rape.” Equating chosen fucking with rape is more cruel female-hating. It denies the horror of actual rape. Baby girls who can’t run away are raped. Imprisoned women are raped. Females of all ages are held down and raped by gangs of men, or raped at knife or gun point. How can these experiences be compared to women willingly letting their husbands and boyfriends fuck them? Why are the lives of rich, ruling-class women, for instance, who can leave their husbands whenever they like, and who have money, servants, etc. ignored when women are said to not be choosing to be het? What about the choices of millionaire het women who spend tens of thousands of dollars on each of their designer dresses? Yet even the most oppressed het women can and do leave their men. Again, for every het woman existing, there are females from her same background who refused to be het and others who chose to be Lesbians.

Older women used to admit they hate fucking, but with the modern co-option of feminism in the phony “sexual revolution,” many women now proudly say they love to be fucked, as often and by as many men as possible. That means some women’s choice to invite men to fuck them affects how all of us are thought of and treated. (The STDs in women increased dramatically as a result of this, including incurable ones like HPV and herpes.)

One example proving choice is the two women who started a business called “Wear And Share,” making and selling earrings for women that are simply condoms on cardboard.8 Stores that carried them sold out immediately. What better way for women to publicly say they want to be fucked? Another example is the introduction of high-cut bathing suits that expose the pubic area, requiring women to shave their vulvas. If women hadn’t bought those suits when they first appeared in stores, they would have “gone out of style.” Instead, they’ve become so popular that it’s almost impossible to buy the more protective old-style suits. They’re even made for little girls, and mothers buy them for their young daughters. (Since writing our book, women buying breast implants, labiaplasty, etc., have made self-mutilation into big business for surgeons, and many women even buy them for their teenaged daughters, making their daughters more inviting targets for boys and men.)

Similarly, many women not only choose to wear clownish make-up but choose styles that look like bruises on their cheeks and eyelids. Violent anti-female porn and, later, even “family” television shows made this popular. The porn industry itself could not exist if women didn’t agree to be its models. A few women have been abducted to be used in porn films, but the majority choose their jobs.

Some women write and film porn, no matter how much liberal feminists deny this. For example, Lena Dunham, a producer, director, writer, and actor with media power, who identifies as a “rabid feminist,” has gotten rave reviews for her popular television series, Girls, even though she writes unbelievably female-hating, pornographic scenes — such as the one showing the boyfriend of main character (played by Dunham), fucking a woman while her “whore,” “bitch,” etc., even though she is protesting, making it clearly change from consensual fucking into a rape scene. He finishes by wanking off on her chest (shown in pornographic detail), further humiliating her. And then he is back with Dunham’s character, and presented as her wonderful, kind, caring boyfriend. Similarly, Miley Cyrus, is making a fortune by displaying herself on stage in repulsive pornographic ways, and prostituting other women, like the little person who she hires to perform at her concerts in a grotesque pointy bustier. When Sinead O’Connor wrote to Cyrus, telling her she could be rich and famous without doing such female-hating things, Cyrus responded with a nasty dig at O’Connor’s history of mental illness. Instead of liberal feminists telling us to stop protesting such female-hating and instead focus on men making money from selling women (even though men will never stop and we would be wasting our time), wouldn’t it make more sense to try to reach women who can potentially change?

And then there’s Joan Kelly, a “radical feminist,” who (in 2011) had a blog called “Chicks Dig Me.” She seems to be accepted by some of the most radical feminists online, in spite of the fact that she’s still selling her book, The Pleasure’s All Mine. The Village Voice gave her a glowing review in Big Bucks for Pain Sluts:

Over the course of her career, Joan Kelly has been strung up and splashed with freezing water, had her labia sewn shut, gotten caned, and taken countless bare-bottomed spankings — and has loved almost every minute of it … Byron Mayo, co-owner of the BDSM advertising hot spot and former owner of a commercial San Francisco dungeon, has nothing but praise for the skills pro subs bring to their trade … “In a world of political correctness, confusing role models, and enforced ‘equality,’ the ability to tell a beautiful, intelligent, and demure woman to get on her knees and do what you say is a fantasy come true.” Kelly goes into more detail in her book: “I had a client sew my vaginal lips shut … I had another client who took 18-gauge needles, heated them until they were red-hot, and used them to pierce the insides of my butt cheeks. I could hear my skin sizzling as the needles penetrated me.”

Liberal feminists most likely would call Kelly a victim, but Kelly herself identifies not just as a feminist, but radical feminist. She didn’t become a prostitute out of desperation, but for fun. She’s from a very privileged background.

When will het women be held responsible for making their own decisions? When they support the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi party? Radical Lesbians don’t excuse women who choose to be right-wing racists in the same way they excuse the most Lesbian-hating het woman, about whom they say, “It’s not her fault. She’s powerless. She’s just doing what she’s been taught and doesn’t know any other way to live.” Again, this is about Lesbian oppression not being taken seriously. “Self-hatred” is no more of an explanation for Lesbian-hating than it is for classism or racism — nor is it an explanation for het women’s choice to be heterosexual.

The “radfems” most vehement about trying to silence discussion about women being able to say no to men, insisting het women are “victims of Stockholm Syndrome,” while branding Radical Feminist who disagrees as “misogynist,” usually turn out to be women who themselves have husbands or boyfriends. Who else besides het women are so invested in the myth that no woman can say no to men?  Men.

Some Lesbians say het women don’t give “informed consent” — “If women aren’t given positive descriptions of Lesbians, how can they be expected to become Lesbians?” – ignoring the obvious third choice of celibacy. Saying no to men doesn’t have to mean choosing Lesbian oppression. Besides, patriarchal societies don’t tell any girl that Lesbianism is an option, but that lack of support plus the stigma attached to loving other girls certainly didn’t stop the millions of us who came out before feminism. It’s an interesting contradiction that Lesbians who talk about how difficult it is for women to come out usually have little concern for Dykes who did come out without the support of the WLM.

What does inform us? Aren’t perceptions, observations, feelings, and instincts our deepest knowledge? It’s true that though many of us didn’t grow up with any positive images of Lesbians, we still all knew “queer” girls existed, and we certainly all knew about “old maids.” Every family and neighborhood has at least one. But celibate women are pitied and ridiculed, even if they aren’t as viciously despised as Lesbians are. Newspapers, radio, television, libraries, and families are full of horror stories of brutal, cruel men, yet most het women are grateful and proud to have a man. The privilege of heterosexuality is a powerful incentive to collaboration.

Linda: Throughout my teens and twenties I was devastated by the loss of one woman friend after another as they began dating men, fucking, getting married, and having babies. I wasn’t a Lesbian, but neither was I actively het until my late 20’s (I finally became a Lesbian at age 30.)

The worst loss was my best friend, who I’d been in love with since we were both 18. We had a close, confiding, and playful friendship. She prided herself on being a gutsy rebel who resisted authority. We both swore we’d never get married and have children. Then at age 20, she suddenly changed. That year, I attended her wedding, shaking and dizzy from the intensity of my “inappropriate feelings.” I was reeling from the impact of seeing her contract herself publicly, legally, and ritually to a man she hardly knew.

I knew then that I was losing my friend to a system that was destroying me — my life was filled with grief and loss, and she was choosing to do this. She had told me she didn’t love this man, but she was worried about being an old maid, didn’t want to work, and he had a steady job and would “take good care of her.” It was the same reasoning I’d heard from a half-dozen other friends: a cold, economic decision. On her way back up the aisle, she winked at me. Shaken to the core, I thought I had no right to feel betrayed, no right to feel rage and grief.

We stayed friends for a few years afterwards, but the closeness was gone. She had the status of married “grown-up real” woman, and then of mother (authoritative “grown-up real woman”). Her main allegiance was to her husband and children. I became her old maid friend who she saw only when her husband was away. (In our working-class community during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, women were expected to be married by ages 18 to 20.)

While my friend was accepted and helped along by her family and friends because of her valued position as a man’s helpmate, I was treated as a misfit. Anyone who’s experienced that unspoken, bland ostracism knows it cuts deep. Rejection and isolation are some of the worst social punishments. They engender loneliness, fear, self-doubt, grief, and sometimes despair. The victim becomes shut out of the everyday exchanges that sustain life, like information about jobs and apartments. The misfit is last on the list, and she’ll hear about the job or apartment only if no one else wants it. It doesn’t matter how endearing, helpful, or admirable she is, she’s then just an admirable misfit.

My friend was a lot better off than me, because the het world was rewarding her for fucking, marrying, and breeding, and it was punishing me for not doing any of those things, nor showing any desire to do so. That is privilege and oppression: hierarchies institutionalized for the purpose of maintaining hetero-patriarchy. The system runs so well that hets play their roles without even thinking about it: “That’s just the way things are.” “That’s life.”

Girls fear and hate boys. They’re harassed and assaulted by boys in their families, schools, and neighborhoods. Many girls love other girls and are Lesbian in their hearts and spirits. It’s not until later, when the privilege of heterosexuality becomes more obvious, that many betray their best girlfriends in favor of boys — sometimes even the same boys who’d been their tormenter and attackers.

Becoming a “real” woman in patriarchy means deciding to forget and reject the girl you once were. It also means rejecting the girl in each of us. This loss of the self is chosen. It results in privilege, not increased oppression. We still have these feelings and memories, deep within us, of knowing the differences between females and males. We can be true to our inner selves or we can reject ourselves, which means choosing heterosexual privilege and female-hating. It’s male and het lies that call remembering our choices and lives as girls “immaturity” and “childishness.” It’s Lesbian-loving to keep that innate female wisdom that others have abandoned.

Men don’t want us to know that we do choose, because that would increase (as it already has) the numbers of het women who become Lesbians. The idea of heterosexuality as the norm would be challenged and rejected. Het women continue these lies because it gives them an excuse to not question their choices. Lesbians then participate in these lies to protect het women and also to excuse their own past choices. But by continuing the lies, they end up participating in the vicious oppression of Lifelong Lesbians, Never-het Lesbians, and Butches, viewed by the ex-het Lesbian majority as “those freaks/queers” among the more “normal” Lesbians.

Even if women choose to subject themselves to abuse for the privilege of being considered normal, it’s criminal what horrors many are willing to subject their daughters to (including rape and clitorectomies and infibulation in some countries). Most het women would like to be able to force all females, including Lesbians, to be het. If heterosexuality is so “oppressive” to women, why do most mothers aggressively pressure their daughters to be het?

Lesbian apologists for het women don’t believe they’re making a choice even today in countries where there are beloved Lesbians on television and films, pro-Lesbian books in public libraries, and mention of Lesbians in national news reports. When we wrote our book, media images of Lesbians were mostly hideously anti-Lesbian, yet countless Dykes still managed to come out under those circumstances. In addition, millions of Lesbians who’ve come out through Women’s Liberation have come out to their female relatives, friends, teachers, neighbors, and co-workers, and have portrayed Lesbianism as positive to them all. So millions of het women have knowingly had contact with Dykes in a way not possible before.

What of the het feminists who work politically with Lesbians and yet choose daily to stay het? Some Lesbians don’t even hold accountable het women who used to be Lesbians and have gone back to men. Instead of considering them traitors, they say “How did we fail them? What’s wrong with our communities?” Blaming heterosexuality on Lesbians is extreme Lesbian-hatred. The fact that many “Lesbians” have returned to heterosexuality makes it even more clear that hetness is a choice.

Het women hate females so much they can’t bring themselves to be intimate with them. Many have never even been friends with other females except in the most shallow ways. Female-hatred explains why many mothers treat their daughters cruelly, while loving and encouraging their sons.

Because we suffer Lesbian oppression in addition to female oppression, Lesbians are subject to much more hatred, which then causes self-hatred. We’re more likely to have low self-esteem and to doubt ourselves, which is why Lesbians are so thrilled when a het or bisexual woman declares she’s a Lesbian. Certainly het women don’t similarly rejoice when a Dyke declares herself a woman.

What is often ignored in discussions about het choices as well as male-identified femininity is that one of the reasons that women stay het and are so hating of other women is that they are in competition over men. And sadly, when many women come out, they bring these male attitudes right with them into Lesbian communities.

What other group of oppressed people so sympathizes with, looks after, and welcomes collaborators into our lives and communities as Lesbians do? What other group of freedom fighters so “respects the choices” of traitors? If Lesbians don’t care enough for our own kind to hold het women accountable, we should at least care for their other victims.

                                          “A Mother Knows”

Although many het women are upset when male strangers attack females, the majority silently condone what their own men do. Some even actively participate. In 1984, the U.S. news media reported that a multiple rapist in Oregon had been sheltered by his rich mother who claimed all his victims were lying. In 1988, a man convicted of “indecently assaulting” his six-year-old daughter for a year and giving her an STD was publicly forgiven by his wife, who wanted him returned to the family.10 In spring, 1986, in Santa Ana, California, a 10-year-old girl had the courage to bring her mother’s boyfriend to trial for raping her, even though her mother pressured her not to report it. The mother married her boyfriend just before he was taken to prison. We can only wonder what revenge she’ll take on her daughter, who’s still her legal possession. In August, 1986, a mother was jailed for participating with her husband and son in the rape and sexual molestation of her four daughters who were all under the age of six. The little girls were also hired out as sexual slaves for other men’s use.

Some women may say they “didn’t know” what was happening, but how many really care? When the majority of little girls are sexually assaulted by their fathers, stepfathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and male cousins, often over a period of years, how can their mothers not know? Even if they don’t directly witness the attacks, how can they ignore the girls’ terror, nightmares, illness, and utter misery? Little girls are incapable of completely hiding their reactions. Even if the mother herself is a victim of family sexual assault, she has no excuse to fail to protect her little girl. In fact, her experience should make her more protective towards her daughter, not less. No truth is so shocking and no adult woman is so powerless that she can’t try to prevent her daughter from being repeatedly raped, or at least give her the healing support of knowing her mother is doing everything she can to protect her. It’s the girl who’s utterly powerless.

The same woman who would immediately leave her husband if he brought home another woman to fuck will usually stay if she finds out he’s raping her daughter. And that includes rich women who can easily leave.

There are a few het women who are horrified when they find out what the men they love have done. A few mothers leave or fight their men in order to protect their daughters, but, unfortunately, the majority don’t. We’ve heard many stories of adult Lesbians telling their mothers years later about being sexually assaulted and raped as girls by male relatives, and not once did their mothers act concerned for the victim. In every case, the mother denied the attack occurred and defended her husband, sons, brothers, or father. The mothers then pressured their daughters to not tell anyone because “what would people think?”, and told them to behave like a “proper” daughter, granddaughter, sister, or niece to their attacker.

One of the worst responses we know about was from a het mother who was renowned in her community as a feminist. She continued supporting her son after her adult Lesbian daughter (our friend) told her that he’d raped her when she was little. Several years later, our friend discovered that her other brother was raping his 18-month-old daughter. When she said she was willing to testify in court to prevent him from having further access to the baby, her mother supported her son and told her daughter, “I wish you’d never been born.” Thus the het feminist betrayed both her daughter and baby granddaughter in her effort to protect a rapist. But after all, he was her son. This woman  had received dozens of humanitarian awards, including a local “Woman of the Year” award, and was also nominated “Mother of the Year.” She was even elected as a delegate to represent women at international feminist conferences.

Another friend was betrayed by her mother when she was 17. Her mother invited a military man to stay at their house, in her daughter’s bedroom, where he raped her throughout the night, leaving blood all over her bed and walls. Clearly her mother’s goal was to stop her daughter from being a Lesbian. Later she imitated his accent, saying he could easily climb in their windows to “visit” her again.

We also know of a case where a Lesbian mother participated in keeping secret her 12-year-old son’s rape of another Lesbian’s 9- and 7-year-old daughters — in order to “protect the boy.” The girls’ mother participated in the cover-up, and the boy is still in that community, having access to Lesbians’ daughters.

Lesbians find it difficult to hold women accountable because male authorities often blame mothers in order to excuse rapists and murderers, and because men have always blamed everything bad on females. By refusing to participate in the lie that society “causes” men and boys to be brutal attackers, we’re saying something that few females have ever dared to say before. Mothers aren’t to blame for what their sons do, but they do share the blame if they protect their men and boys by keeping the attacks secret. If they continue to support males they know are dangerous, they do become partly responsible for the violence those males commit. This is true not only in the het world, but also in feminist communities where mothers have fought battles to win boys’ access to female-only space.

                                          “But I Love Him”          

Some women’s allegiance to men is unbelievable.11 Lawrence Singleton raped 15-year-old Mary Vincent, cut off her forearms, stuffed her into a drainage pipe, and left her to die. Bleeding profusely and in agonizing pain, Mary ran for help and survived. Singleton was arrested and convicted. When he was released from prison after just eight years, nearby towns protested, demanding that he not be paroled in their area. But two women invited him to live with them. One was his ex-wife, who said, “I’m not scared of him. He’s served his time.” The other was his girlfriend, who said, “I’ve got no reason to doubt Mary Vincent. He may have blacked out. I don’t know.” When asked if she knew for certain if Singleton was guilty, she said, “It wouldn’t matter one bit, not one bit. There is the other 99% of him that is good.”12  Singleton later moved to Florida where he was convicted of killing a woman. No one knows how many other girls or women he may have otherwise raped and killed.

Ted Bundy confessed to murdering 23 young females in four U.S. states, and is suspected of actually murdering over a hundred. He usually vaginally and anally raped his victims before murdering them, and in at least one known instance he forced one girl to watch while he raped and murdered another, before killing her also. Many of the bodies were found decapitated and otherwise mutilated. It’s believed that his first victim was an 8-year-old girl who he killed when he was 14. After he was in jail for two years, a woman named Carol Boone married him.13 The night before his execution for murdering 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, his mother told him, “You’ll always be my precious son.”14

Some women who are beaten by their husbands or boyfriends use their daughters to draw away beatings from themselves. Six-year-old Lisa Steinberg was beaten to death by her illegally adoptive father, Joel Steinberg. He had severely beaten his girlfriend, Hedda Nussbaum, for years before they “adopted” Lisa. A friend said she believed “… Nussbaum thought adopting the little girl was going to be an answer — a protection from Joel Steinberg.”15 Yet the feminist media has greatly sympathized with Nussbaum, even while knowing that Lisa was beaten and neglected for years with Nussbaum’s knowledge.

In 1987, Robert Chambers strangled Jennifer Levin, his 18-year-old girlfriend, and left her half-naked body in Central Park in New York City. He claimed she was forcing him to have “rough sex” with her and he killed her “accidentally”! Since his family is rich, Chambers was let out on bail. In December, 1987, before the trial even began, he went to a “slumber party” consisting of just him and four women. A videotape showed the women wearing pajamas, laughing, dancing, and playing sado-masochistic games with each other and with Chambers. At one point, he holds a Barbie doll up to the camera, twists its head around and says, “Oops, I think I killed her.” In another scene, one of the women plays at being a baby crying and tells him, “I’ll tell everyone.” He says, “I’ll say you’re lying. I lie and they believe me.” The women were laughing throughout these scenes, even though they were also Jennifer’s friends. One of them, Chambers’ new girlfriend, was interviewed on TV. She said she “loved” him, that he was “warm and funny,” and that everyone at the party knew he’d confessed to the murder. She said he’d received over 400 letters of support, many from women. When asked how she felt about the murder, she said, “I don’t feel it’s really my business.”16

In 1984, college student Brad Page beat his 21-year-old girlfriend, Bibi Lee, to death. He later went back and raped her corpse. It took authorities five weeks to find her body, while Page pretended to help search for her. In 1988, he was convicted of “voluntary manslaughter” and was given only six years in prison. He was released on bail awaiting appeal and the judge set his bail relatively low, because, Page “… does not pose as a threat to another person, with the possible exception of his wife.” Since his arrest, Amy Hacker married Page, and she cried brokenheartedly as he was sentenced. Page’s lawyer asked that he be freed on probation because of his new “family responsibilities.”17

                                    Het Women Hate Lesbians

Some “radfems” say that we should love all women, and that women aren’t our enemy. But as long as het women attack us and support the males who attack us, they are our enemy. It’s healthy to hate those who do you harm. “Love your enemy” is a christian, suicidal platitude that keeps the oppressed from protecting ourselves. We can’t love ourselves if we don’t fight those who hurt us. Recently at a march, Lesbians were shouting “Lesbians Unite!” when a het woman yelled “Kill Lesbians!” – which sums up the attitude most het women have towards us. Some despise us as a group, but are more respectful towards het-identified Lesbians who use credentials that establish them as having been successfully het in the past, such as being wives and mothers. But even the most “loving” het woman is likely to reveal her hidden Lesbian-hatred if questioned closely. A “caring” het mother, in one conversation, says she’s glad her daughter is a Lesbian, yet at another time asks, “What do you think went wrong, to make you be ‘that way’?” Another het mother says she’s proud her daughter is a Lesbian, but then warns her to not tell other relatives because “what will people think?” These mothers aren’t acting this way because they’re “powerless” or “unaware.” In fact, they were each given devoted feminist support for years by their Lesbian daughters.

Contrary to what many Lesbian feminists believe, het women do feel superior to Lesbians. Deep down, we’re just perverts to them, no matter how they profess to “love” us. After all, if they really loved Lesbians, they’d be Lesbians.

As a group, het women are deeply resentful of females who refuse to support patriarchy and heterosexuality. They participate in many of the crimes men commit against us, from ostracism and name-calling, to denying us work and housing, to physical attacks. Het women neighbors have gotten Lesbians evicted. Friends of ours were harassed by het women yelling “disgusting perverts” and “you need to get fucked by men.”

The power of hetness is clear when even het girls are capable of being oppressive to adult Lesbians. Young girls who haven’t yet become physically het are still het if that’s their identification and goal. Het girls can make Lesbian girls’ lives hell. Some Lesbian mothers’ het daughters have made insulting, anti-Lesbian comments to adult Lesbians. That means we aren’t protected from Lesbian-hatred even in the rare safety of female-only gatherings, one of the few places we have any hope of really relaxing. Although het girls may feel understandable anger at adults’ control of them (especially their mothers’), any Lesbian-hating oppresses us. There’s tremendous pressure in schools and het youth culture for girls to fit in with het standards. Those of us who remember our own school years know how cruel girls can be to anyone who’s different, and girls who don’t fit standards of male-identified femininity are ostracized and tormented.

Some het women give obvious Dykes dirty looks or smirk at us while on the arms of their men. At Dyke Marches, het women join their men in videoing half naked Lesbians in what seems like a freak show to them. It’s not uncommon also, for some of these women to have played at being bisexual, including for the benefit of their men.

Het women channel their suppressed fear, anger, and hatred of men onto Lesbians. Men are the rapists and attackers, but some het women act scared of us. At the same time, some are drawn to Dykes by our strength, realness, intensity, and attractiveness. Their own lives are empty of feeling in comparison, so they flirt with Dykes, using us, while reserving their primary energy for males. Men say Lesbians “prey” on het women when it’s het women who prey on Lesbians. We know of a Lesbian who was actually slapped by a het woman because she tried to stop the het woman from kissing her. There was a story in a Gay San Francisco paper about a Lesbian fired from her job because of being a Lesbian, while the christian het woman who was behind the firing had previously made repeated sexual overtures to the Lesbian. This is sexual harassment.

Het women play games with Lesbians in order to “spice up” their fucking with men, treating us as sex objects. Some of the het women most likely to share intimate information about our lives with men, feeding men’s voyeurism and providing titillation for het couples’ amusement and pornographic imaginations, are those who seem on the verge of coming out for years.

Meanwhile, as attention to males’ sexual harassment of females grows, the male media tries to divert our attention by reporting so-called harassment of women by women. A 1988 article on sexual harassment of women in the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet, and a 1987 television show about harassment of women actors in Hollywood both mentioned women being “sexually harassed” by women. Of course, the het public is led to the “obvious” conclusion that Lesbians are “harassing” het women. Again, the feminist political awareness that Lesbians brought to public attention is co-opted and turned against us. The truth — that het women sexually harass Lesbians — is given no attention anywhere in the mainstream media, and only rarely in the feminist, Lesbian, or Gay media. Because of this distorted co-option, it’s even more important that Lesbians not be afraid to speak out about our experiences of sexual objectification and harassment by het women.

                              Het Women Betray All Females

Rather than be ostracized, hated, and ignored by their families and het culture, many het women let themselves be fucked night after night, year after year, by men they detest, giving up their own passion, and essence, and live lying lives, selling themselves cheaply. Unfortunately, they sell the rest of us out too, rather than risk their own economic and social position.

Heterosexual supremacist women’s arrogance and selfishness protects and excuses men, even while men are exterminating entire species, because het women benefit from male rule. Those who claim to care about the destruction say, “Save the earth for our children,” meaning boys, the future patriarchs. Other creatures and plants have a right to exist for their own benefit, not for men’s or women’s enjoyment. The earth is being destroyed now and entire life forms are already gone forever. Het women’s choices do affect all of us. Male supremacy could not continue without het women.

Women have far more power than they take responsibility for, and that power keeps patriarchy going. Men could not do it on their own. (And no, het women are not sacrificing themselves, as some het feminists’ fantasize in order to explain their own collaboration. Het women literally could bring down patriarchy now.)

Het women also police other females for patriarchy. They punish Lesbians for daring to fight against the established order. The vast majority of mothers train us early to hate ourselves and other females, while the privileged ones almost always teach their daughters to continue men’s hierarchies of Lesbian-hating, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnicism, imperialism, classism, ableism, ageism, fat oppression, and looksism, because it maintains their own power and feelings of superiority.

Men as a group are waging a war against all females, and many het women don’t just collaborate passively, but actively support their men’s positions of power, from running governments, death squads, the Ku Klux Klan, right wing politics, religious groups, etc., which couldn’t continue if the wives didn’t physically and emotionally support them. We read about wives and mothers at a Ku Klux Klan gathering happily exchanging recipes, which they wrote on the back of racist hate literature. You’ll rarely see a rapist or murderer brought to trial without a loving woman on his arm. Het women make excuses for men, and Lesbians make excuses for het women.

We’re not saying all het women are horrible or that all Lesbians are wonderful. We’re saying privileged Lesbians can change from being oppressive to being responsible politically and personally, but het women — as long as they choose to remain het — are limited in how much they can change, whatever their good intentions. No one can effectively reject the methods of male rule without rejecting male rule itself.

Some het women have shown great courage in fighting injustice, but they’ve done it within a heterosexual, patriarchal framework, which still keeps females subjugated to males. As long as any so-called “revolutionary” society is heterosexual, men still rule and Lesbians are still oppressed. In fact, that is a good way to find out if any culture or even environmental group that is said to be feminist or matriarchal is truly not oppressive to girls and women: check out their policy on the status of Lesbians and see if Lesbians are even acknowledged.

Our people, Lesbians across the earth, should no longer give our lives to fight in any men’s or het women’s battles, which inevitably preserve male domination. Dykes are subject to every kind of oppression that exists. When we focus on fighting Lesbian oppression, we are also uniting with Dykes everywhere to fight all injustice. That means rejecting all of men’s hierarchies. It means creating justice and equality among all Dykes, and finding ways to ally with Dykes from every nation and background. No one else fights for Dykes, so we must!


1 In 1970, Del Martin wrote “If That’s All There Is” in 1970 to explain why she would no longer work with Gay rights organizations because they were too misogynist.

2 Many het women are so female-hating that they selectively abort female fetuses so they can later have a son. Some even kill their newborn daughters, especially in societies that legally restrict the number of children people can have. M. Lloyd, O. Lloyd, and W. Lyster, “Slugs and Snails Against Sugar and Spice: Changes in the ratios of boys and girls might have profound consequences,” British Medical Journal 297 (December 1988), 1627.

3 In Aotearoa/New Zealand, there’s a government Ministry of Women’s Affairs specifically devoted to “women’s issues.” It’s so liberal that it organizes women-only feminist events and sponsors others. Yet, when it was originally suggested that an open Lesbian be employed to work on Lesbian issues, a heterosexual feminist organization complained, so the idea was rejected.

4 Karla Jay and Allen Young studied 1000 Lesbians in the U.S. and Canada in 1977 and published their findings in The Gay Report in 1979. Thirty-nine percent of the Lesbians stated they had attempted or seriously contemplated suicide. By contrast, 19-26% of het women in an earlier study cited by Eric E. Rofes had attempted suicide. From Lesbians, Gay Men and Suicide (San Francisco, U.S.A.: Grey Fox Press, 1983), 17, 18, 20, 21.

5 One of the few studies on the health of “homosexuals,” including Lesbians, said, “Those living a homosexual lifestyle in our society are at greater risk of ill health …. This vulnerability is predominantly a consequence of social stigma. In this respect homosexuals suffer in a similar way to other stigmatized minorities.” A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg, Homosexualities; a study of diversity among men and women (London: Mitchell Beazley, 1978).

A more recent study says: “… stress related illnesses are what most distinguish Lesbian health from that of the female population as a whole.” Judith Bradford and Caitlin Ryan, Final Report of the National Lesbian Health Care Survey, PO Box 65472, Washington D.C. 20035, U.S.A. From a report by Jamakaya, Hag Rag, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A., September/October, 1988.

6 A Lesbian wrote about the poverty she saw on a trip to India, “I hadn’t believed that people had to live in such conditions! The first coherent thought that hit me was, ‘Shit, what’s the oppression of Lesbians in the West, compared to the oppression of wimmin here, of children here, of people here!!’” “Wimmin in India,” LIP, Tamaki-Makaurau, Aotearoa, July 1988, 6. Her eagerness to rank heterosexuals’ pain as more real than Lesbians’ pain led her to forget the existence of Lesbians among the poor Indian people she saw. If she hadn’t automatically put heterosexuals first in her mind, her immediate thoughts would have been about how much harder it must be for the Indian Lesbians in those communities. She may have privileges that protect her from feeling much oppression as a Lesbian, but that doesn’t give her the right to deny the oppression of other Lesbians in any countries.

7 Feminists are also condescending towards prostitutes. Judy Helfand, a former nude model and topless dancer in San Francisco said, “It makes me angry when feminists lump all sex-industry workers into a pile of poor, exploited, brain-washed victims without minds of their own.” “I was a young woman who needed to earn a living and chose to pursue the highest-paying least-demanding jobs I knew of.” “These women … were not victims.” Quotes from Sex Work: Writings by women in the Sex Industry (Cleis Press), in a review by Tara Bradley-Steck, San Francisco Chronicle, 15 August 1987.

In a review of Working (Dolores French with Linda Lee, E.P. Dutton, 1988), Dolores French is quoted as saying prostitution is “as legitimate a career as nursing or teaching.” She suggests many women have “chosen prostitution because they like the independence, the money, and the satisfaction of providing a needed service.” Review by Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 August 1988.

As Separatists, we’re totally opposed to any female working as a prostitute because that hurts all females, but we do recognize the ability of some to make their own decisions, while also recognizing that girls and women who are literal prisoners are trafficked, which makes it even more upsetting that some women promote prostitution.

8 Newsweek, 28 March 1988, 50.

9 While 25% of a mixed group of male and female voters said they wouldn’t vote for a woman for president, 29% of women surveyed said they wouldn’t vote for a woman. KGO-TV News, San Francisco, 29 September 1987.

10 Evening Post, Whanganui-a-Tara, 30 January 1988.

11 A magazine article describes how the U.S. film Mississippi Burning (a fictionalized account of the murders of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner) erroneously depicts the deputy sheriff’s wife helping break the case by giving evidence against her husband. In reality, deputy Cecil Price, indicted for participating in the murders, was completely supported by his wife, Connor Price. “She has never asked Cecil what happened on that … night. ‘Don’t you love your husband?’ she asks by way of explaining this steadfastness.” People, 9 January 1989, 38.

12 San Francisco Chronicle, 3 October 1988.

13 People, 6 February 1989, 46

14 Tim Swarens, Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colorado, 25 January 1989. Bundy said of himself, “ … I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents … where we, as children, were the focus of my parents’ lives, where we regularly attended church, two Christian parents who did not drink, they did not smoke, there was no gambling, no physical abuse, no fighting in the home.”

Bundy was such an “exceptional” man that he wrote a pamphlet for women on rape prevention while he was assistant director of the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission. “Tears and Prayers: Killer Ted Bundy Executed in Florida,” San Francisco Chronicle, 25 January 1989, A1.

In a television report, Ann Rule, who worked with Bundy as a counselor at a suicide crisis center, said, “He was the perfect young man … the kind of man if I had been ten years younger or my daughters ten years older, I would have thought this is the perfect man for a mate for life.”

Men also were fond of Bundy. Right after he was convicted of clubbing two women to death in their beds in a sorority house, the judge who sentenced him said to Bundy in a compassionate tone of voice, “You’d have made a good lawyer. I’d have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself.” 20/20, ABC-TV, 27 January 1989.

15 People, 23 November 1987, 30.

16 The interview and video were shown on A Current Affair, KGO-TV, San Francisco,18 May 1988.

17 The Daily Californian, 3 June 1988, 1.

Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 49 Comments

Chapter One — The Crimes of Mankind

Chapter One

The Crimes of Mankind

Bev Jo

                     (Based on the Original Version by Bev with Ruston and Linda)

(This chapter was originally the beginning of Chapter Two, Heterosexuality/Selling Out Is Not Compulsory, in our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes, 1990.)

All males as a group have power over all females. The overwhelming majority of men and boys harass, attack, and/or rape the majority of females. All girls and women have been sexually harassed by boys and men, and most have been sexually assaulted. Those males who aren’t able to physically attack us have other forms of power they use against us.

Even when a man seems to be caring and fighting for justice, he still is likely to be harming girls and women. Some of the most revered men across the world, have been found out to be predatory to girls and women, or wrote disgusting pornography.1

There are some men who do seem to be genuinely kind and trustworthy, but that, sadly, doesn’t change what the majority are doing. And we never know what males are doing when alone with those who can’t talk, such as babies and animals. (It’s often forgotten that men and boys sexually assault animals, but people in rural areas are well aware of it.)

Most women and even some reformist/liberal feminists believe the con that men are violent and dangerous only because of being harmed by childhood trauma, which, if that were true, would mean that most women would be serial killers.

The myth that socialization is the cause of male violence is one of the most dangerous politics perpetrated against girls and women. It denies reality. It denies what most girls and women know in their hearts and from their own experience. It denies that male violence exists across many animal species, and particularly in our mammal relatives. This myth is why women who are invested in boys and men keep devoting the majority of their lives to males, hoping to somehow make a better world, when in reality their very devotion to males prioritizes them before girls and women, feeds them psychically, emotionally, physically, and literally keeps patriarchy going. If women stopped supporting men, patriarchy would end. Besides refusing to reproduce, this is the most important thing that women can do for the earth. Rather than continuing to hope and fantasize that males will change, we actually have the power to stop men from raping, killing, making other species extinct and destroying the earth.

Because we are trained from our earliest memories to worship males and to believe lies instead of our own perceptions, the truth can be shocking and upsetting. But we can easily see the truth all around us, and it ultimately frees us.

Men know very well how innate their capacity for violence is, and how deeply, biologically different they are from females. If in doubt, just ask them. Listen to them and read them, and then, as many of us have done, stop voluntarily interacting with them on every level.

A man in India wrote:

“I have heard the socialization excuse too. It’s nonsense. Biological men are naturally born rapists. What feminists say about men — that they rape because of their upbringing and social conditioning – is ridiculous. I am a man, and I hate men and rapists because I was raped as a kid and I know how painful it is. Even after that, I feel like raping women when I see them. It’s a natural feeling because of testosterone. I try hard to control it because I know how painful it can be to be raped. But I don’t trust myself. I am a man and a potential rapist and I don’t trust myself because I can’t help with the testosterone. I can say that 100% it is not my upbringing – it’s nature. The only way to stop rape is to just not give birth to males. Girls and women can only be safe when there are no boys or men on this planet.”

Most men pollute the earth for the sheer pleasure of it, not just as the by-product of their industries. Men love to leave their mark as a territorial statement, just as many male animals mark “their” territories by spraying. Of course, human males also mark with urine, as anyone who’s been in a public telephone booth knows. Even when public toilets are available, men leave their smell and mark on objects in ways females don’t.2

Some Lesbians say in anger that men are such “animals,” but that’s insulting to animals. Of course all mammals, including humans, are animals, but men are the least natural of animals. Men seem to have the goal of creating a completely artificial world and have left their mark on the earth forever by altering the natural landscape in many places.
They’ve exterminated countless plants and animals already, and their murder of entire species is accelerating. They kill forests, build their ugly cities, pollute the sea and fresh water, change the land’s shape with their destructive farming and mining methods, and, as we wrote in 1990, they have even changed the weather.4

Men’s radioactive and toxic chemical wastes will contaminate the earth for hundreds of thousands of years. Plutonium, which is completely man-made, remains deadly for 250,000 years. One sixteenth of a millionth of a gram can kill a person, and men have already made thousands of pounds of it.5 If we didn’t know this was true, it would be hard to believe. Even so, it’s still unimaginable except in nightmares.  Man has truly left his mark on his territory and, for the most part, he’s very proud of himself.

People speak of “man’s inhumanity to man,” because the effect on females isn’t even considered. But Man enjoys his power and cruelty. It makes him more of a man. A male nuclear scientist who watched numerous nuclear explosions said what a “rush” it was because, “A male human being likes to see an explosion.”6 (As of 1990, there were over 50,000 nuclear weapons on earth.)

The US military has contaminated what was pristine forest and water in Viet Nam, where they sprayed Monsanto’s and Dow’s Agent Orange that was so toxic it still causes birth defects in the people victimized in their homelands, but even in the genes of the US soldiers, continuing into future generations. It also killed so many of the trees,  plants, and animals that they still have not recovered.

Most US people don’t seem to know that the US used nuclear weapons (deceptively called “depleted uranium”) in explosives used to kill people in Iraq, leaving the land and people permanently contaminated by radiation. (And this is the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, once claimed as the “birthplace of Western Civilization,” meaning that even the land revered by European patriarchal historians was not safe.)

Mankind has also left his mark on his female possessions. In many cultures, men literally own girls and women. Some women are even owned by their own sons or other boys considered to be the heads of their families.

Fucking and impregnating girls and women is the epitome of males marking their territory. Throughout the history of man, rape has been used to permanently mark a people after invading their territory so that their future people are partly descendants of the invaders. Many women still think of rape as merely an expression of uncontrollable male sexual urges, but rape is calculated, premeditated marking and expanding territory. It’s a form of genocide as well as gynocide.

Men and boys raping and otherwise sexually assaulting girls in their families is also a territorial statement. Fathers who rape their daughters are declaring their daughters as their property. This includes beatings and other abuse with sexual taunts.

Statistics show that over one-third of all females report being raped,7 but the actual number is much more since it’s been estimated that only 10% to 20% of sexual assaults are reported, which is further proof that the majority of females are attacked by the majority of males. Most rapes aren’t reported, since dealing with male authorities like police, hospital, and courts usually mean experiencing brutal mental and emotional rape. (This is still true, 25 years after we first wrote this.) That’s not surprising, because men in those institutions are also likely to be raping girls and women. And some victims are raped by the men they go to for help.8

Because of the hierarchies men have created, men also oppress each other. Women with racial and class privilege have some power over more oppressed men, but all females are vulnerable to rape, sexual harassment, and other attacks by all males. Racist and classist lies portray racially- and class-oppressed men as the primary attackers of all females, but statistically, females are most likely to be attacked by males from their own racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds, and the attacker is usually someone we know.

Heterosexuality is a protection racket in which women choose particular men to protect them, thinking they’ll be safer, but they’re actually putting themselves in more danger.  In the US alone, a woman is beaten to death by her husband or boyfriend every four minutes9 — in fact, three out of four women murdered in the US are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.10  It’s ironic that Dyke Separatists are taunted by being told we “just want to kill all men,” when the reality is that it’s men who kill women. If every female, including baby girls, were able to kill in self defense any boy or man who sexually assaulted her, there would be few, if any, men or boys left on earth. (There would be even less if every non-human female who was raped and tortured by male humans was able to kill her attacker.)

Families exist in order for men to be served by females — domestically, emotionally, and sexually. A lot of us haven’t realized that such sexual service is required of daughters as well as wives, and that the rapists include all male family members as well as fathers.  Combining the numbers of reported assaults11 with the many more unreported ones (especially knowing that many victims of rape by male relatives forget the details, and others lack information to name it for what it is), we believe over 90% of all girls are victims of rape by male family. Of the many women we know who were raped as girls, none reported it to the authorities. The majority don’t tell what they know won’t be believed. And they’re also in fear for their lives. Most who did tell their mothers were not protected. Instead, the mothers defended and protected their husbands, boyfriends, sons, and other male relatives, and the attacks continued. The horror of living with rapists, sadists, and their collaborators — usually without the support of one person — means many little girls survive by forgetting much of our/their own girlhoods. (I don’t know of any woman who was not sexually assaulted in some way as a girl.) This mental and psychic colonization12 is even more powerful than males’ ownership of our bodies.

The resulting amnesia of individual females mirrors the worldwide mass amnesia of our own female past, of the time before patriarchy existed, before subjection, rape, and torture were the “natural” order of things. An entire population that’s brutalized into forgetting its own memories is more easily manipulated. Just as cultures are destroyed and colonized by the censoring of history, so also are individual lives damaged by the denial of our/their own pasts. Those who do remember are made to feel confused, alone, and shamed by attacks which we/they were powerless to prevent. Girl rape victims are told it was their own fault, just as adult victims are. We’ll never know how many girls were murdered to prevent the truth being told.13

One of the biggest patriarchal secrets has been the rape of girls by male relatives in “normal, happy families.” We’re taught the lie of “family love,” but we live the reality of rape by male family.

Even many Feminists don’t want to know about the extent of rape by male family and the reality of male violence in general, saying that talking about it is “negative.” But knowing and facing the truth stops the self-hatred many girls and women feel from being attacked. Men don’t want us to remember or to know what they’ve done and continue to do. They don’t want us to remember the power we felt in our essence as little girls before they began their assaults.  And they don’t want us to regain our full selves, because then we can stop them and change the world. Our families fight to stop us from talking about rape by male family, to protect our attackers.  For most of us, we already know the truth. To finally say it out loud and to fight it politically, releases the horror and frees us.

Meanwhile, the male media rapidly co-opted the work of Dykes who’ve been publicizing the prevalence of rape by male family, faster than any other female issue since the beginning of the present wave of female liberation. This attempt to control the issue shows how central it is to the oppression of females. Rape, especially the rape of girls by their fathers, is the most brutal, early lesson we receive in our subjugated status as females in patriarchy.

The media talks of “child-molesters,” concentrating on the minority of boy victims, when it’s girls who are the prime victims. They focus on the rare woman or Gay male perpetrator, which protects the vast majority of attackers, who are heterosexual males.14 Thus, fathers, step-fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, etc., escape notice and blame. The attacker is described as “deranged,” “unusual,”15 and “sick.” The reality is that the average rapist is a normal male, and studies have found the convicted rapist and “average” male to be psychologically indistinguishable.16 Elizabeth Ward writes,

“…it is obvious that the Fathers come from every class in society.  A judge, a          barrister, a diplomat, an eminent doctor, a university lecturer, a teacher, a university student, a businessman, a film star, a labourer, a tradesman, a public servant, a farmer, a counsellor, a minister of religion, a soldier, a politician, unemployed, handicapped, very old, very young:  Everyman.  All have raped girlchildren.”17

The rapists sometimes skip a generation, so that the woman’s grandfather sexually assaulted her as a girl, while her father sexually assaults her daughter. Both are pressured to forgive.

Far from showing concern for girl victims, the male media makes money off our/their bodies. Rape has always been a big seller, spoken of in sexually provocative, sensationalistic, and pornographic ways. Ads show young girls looking seductive in cosmetics. Men attack girls and then make films about it to get a thrill by watching themselves. They also try to take credit for “exposing” rape by male family, which also means they’re controlling women’s reaction to it. An explosive issue which could forever change all women’s attitudes toward men, heterosex, and the family is turned into a TV soap opera.

Something so full of pain and horror is actually trivialized by men, presenting it in a bland, unreal form in TV movies:  Daddy rapes his little girl, but he still “loves” her, and she “loves” him, and everything’s all right in the end — just like a het “love” story.  The family even stays together.18  It is lies. That’s one of the most horrible things about patriarchy — it’s terrifying and destructive, yet also deeply boring and numbing. The horror and damage immobilize us and take away our hope for justice and change. The numbing makes us passive. Either way, men make it very hard to fight back.

The long-term emotional and physical effects of rape by male family are so severe that it’s a wonder that any girl survives, let alone survives with any physical or mental or emotional health. Rape by male family too often is the cause of illness, suicide, and psychiatric incarceration of girls and women.

“The idea of torture is to … demonstrate that there is no hope, that you can’t trust anyone, that you have no control from the point of torture on.” “Torture as a conscious exercise of … policy [is] systematic violence used to keep entire populations depressed, disorganized, humiliated and quiescent.” These are statements in a newspaper about torture victims from Central America living in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Symptoms can include anxiety and physical aches. There may be nightmares, painfully vivid memories, muteness, overwhelming grief, insomnia or withdrawal.” These are also among the many effects victims of rape by male family suffer. They’re reacting the same way as torture victims. “A terrifying message can be sent to entire communities by returning prisoners to their families, broken and silent, or by dumping mutilated bodies in public places.”17 — like girls at school witnessing each other’s silent pain, like girls, Lesbians, and other women hearing about yet one more attack, rape, mutilation, and murder of a girl or woman. Comparisons to political torture clearly demonstrate the true reasons for rape by male family in a way nothing else can. It’s a male policy decision about the management of potentially rebellious females. (Females in countries where prisoners are routinely tortured are therefore doubly terrorized and damaged from rape.)

We’re not claiming men openly talk with other men about their decision to rape their daughters, though some do brag and joke about it. But their actions point to a mass male agreement on the rape and torture of girls: the male media either ignores or exploits the issue; the male police, legal, and social work systems collude by failing to prevent rape and convict the rapists; so-called “radical” men are silent in the face of the now widely-publicized statistics, trials, and victims’ stories; and males tolerate, defend, buy, act in, and film pornography involving girls. They may not make explicit government policies saying all men should attack and rape all girls, but in every way, men’s reaction to the issue indicates their approval. The judge who fails to convict a rapist of girls is, after all, likely to have raped his own daughters or other girls. Those who do protest are often doing it to protect their own property from other men.

                                                         Boys Will Be Boys

Mankind is poisoning the Earth. The air and water are contaminated, cancer and other man-made diseases are epidemic,18 and the same men who can create nuclear war at their whim are casually raping their daughters and other females. Female apologists for men and boys say that males are rapists because they were sexually assaulted when they were young. Why then aren’t most females rapists too? Or they say the problem is merely socialization — that “males were only taught to do these horrible things” (by who?) and “they’re really no different from females.” But the truth is obvious to anyone who’s not invested in believing the lies.

Females are clearly physically different from males. We have different organs, physiology, and body chemistry. Our brains are also anatomically different and function differently. The corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects its two halves, is bigger in females, which means that females use the intuitive right side and factual left sides of our brains in a more balanced way than males. Female brains also use 20% more energy than male brains. One male researcher said that it takes males until their thirties to physically be able to develop compassion. Testosterone changes brains permanently, causing males to be much more violent than females. Ninety percent of violence in the world, across all cultures, is committed by men and boys. The man who compiled this information said, “Men are competitive and less sensitive to context. How do we insure global peace in an atmosphere charged with testosterone?”19

Why do so many Feminists avoid thinking about the proven effects of testosterone?  Men talk about it openly. It’s why male farm animals are routinely castrated — otherwise they’re uncontrollably violent and dangerous.20 (As filmmaker Michael Moore, said to Bill Maher on television, “We want to fuck anything in front of us.”)

The truth is all around us, and even our other animal sisters know better than most women that it’s the norm in males to want to rape and kill.

The behavior of many other male animals is similar to human males, with male mammals being among the worst: brutality, constant violence, fighting over territory, obsession with fucking, and sometimes killing females they are trying to rape, as well as killing the babies and raping and killing other species. Even media favorites like koala males, when attempting to rape the females, often kill the females and their babies. Male sea otters kidnap baby otters from their mothers, forcing the mothers to bring food to them. They kill ten percent of the females when trying to rape them. They also rape baby seals to death and continue raping the corpse until it rots. Male lions kill the babies, including their own, and rape the females. In one bug/hemiptera species, the males literally puncture the females’ abdomen to reproduce.

Certainly socialization doesn’t cause male animals to act the way they do, so there’s only one other explanation.

In response, some female animals have built female-only societies, while others choose to live in groups where all the adults are female and males are ejected once they are adolescent and from then on live alone, since they can’t get along with other males. Some female species, like ants and bees (so much for “the birds and the bees” propaganda) have almost completely eliminated the males and control the existence of the few they choose to create.

These aren’t just biological differences, but spiritual differences.  Body and spirit are united. You can usually distinguish a male animal from a female just by his facial expression. Too many Feminists don’t believe in the innate differences between males and females even when they can feel that difference. Perhaps it’s too hard to face the fact that nature isn’t perfect, because that also means facing the fact that males won’t change their brutal ways. Yet it doesn’t really matter whether males can’t or won’t change, because they aren’t changing. That is their choice and responsibility — no more women should devote their lives to males, pleading with them to stop their violence.

The behavior of many other male animals is similar to human males, with male mammals being among the worst: brutality, constant violence, fighting over territory, obsession with fucking, and sometimes killing females they are trying to rape, as well as killing the babies. Even the media favorites like koala males happily kill babies and females. Male sea otters not only kill babies to control females, but they also rape baby seals to death and continue raping the corpse until it rots, many days later. Certainly socialization doesn’t cause male animals to act the way they do, so there’s only one other explanation.

Some female mammals choose to live in groups where all the adults are female and males are ejected once they are adolescent and from then on live alone, since they can’t get along with other males. Male lions frequently prey on the female societies, intruding on their territory, stealing their food, and killing lion cubs, including their own offspring. These aren’t just biological differences, but spiritual differences.  Body and spirit are united. You can usually distinguish a male animal from a female just by its facial expression. Too many Feminists don’t believe in the innate differences between males and females even when they can feel that difference. Perhaps it’s too hard to face the fact that nature isn’t perfect, because that also means facing the fact that males won’t change their brutal ways. Yet it doesn’t really matter whether males can’t or won’t change, because they aren’t changing. That is their choice and responsibility — no more women should devote their lives to males, pleading with them to stop their violence.

Why do most women forget the incredible cruelty and nastiness of the boys of their childhood?  Boys are miniature men who grow up to have the power of adult men.  They actively oppress girls in the same way men oppress females, by humiliating, insulting, beating, raping, and even killing girls.  We know Lesbians who were sexually assaulted when they were little girls by boys as young as five years old.  We know of a seven-year-old girl raped by her nine-year-old brother. This isn’t uncommon.20

Boys also verbally and physically assault women. Women sometimes arrogantly believe themselves safe from boys’ physical attacks, but if there are enough boys or if the females are unable to fight back, they too can become victims of even very young boys. And because of their age, boys are rarely punished and are safe from prosecution even when they’ve committed murder — after all, “boys will be boys.”

As our Separatist friend, Katinka, from Sweden, wrote to us:

“These are just a few of the things I read in the newspapers recently; a 7-year-old girl stoned to death by a boy, a 10-year-old girl stabbed to death by a 16-year-old male, a 58-year-old woman stabbed in the neck and killed by an 11-year-old boy, a 13-year-old stripped naked and beaten in the schoolyard by boys, and a 6-year-old girl who had been kicked so severely by boys her own age at a day care that she had nightmares and screamed while sleeping. A friend of mine in West Virginia told me about a murder reported in the newspapers there where a Lesbian had been stabbed to death by her 15-year-old son; he stabbed her lover as well but she survived.  The crimes of even younger boys against girls and baby girls never reach the news media of course and these boys as well as teenage boys are never punished in any way since the girls are blamed and no one really recognizes it as oppression to begin with.”21

In Katinka’s article, “In Defence of Dykes’ and Girls’ Lives,” She says:

“Lesbians are often ‘shocked’ at many Lesbians’ hatred of boys. Why is that? I am shocked, angered and disappointed by many Lesbians’ lack of understanding of girls’ lives. Hatred and anger are healthy and natural reactions to oppression. These feelings are also politically important and necessary. My hatred of men and boys grows all the time when I see what they do to women and girls, and the indifference of others never ceases to stun me.”22

Still, feminists defend and protect boys. In a review of a women’s book of self-defense stories, a feminist wrote about one story that particularly shocked her:

“A woman who taught small children told of a 4-year-old boy in one of her classes who didn’t like the fact that she swam in the ocean. He told her that women weren’t supposed to do that, and when he grew up he was going to cut off her arms and legs so she couldn’t do it anymore, and then he would swim out farther than she had. Although such a little boy probably didn’t realize the gruesomeness of what he was saying, it does reveal the attitudes even small children can already have about women.”23

Why does the feminist reviewer excuse that boy? Of course boys know exactly what pain, injury, and limitation is. After all, a popular boys’ pastime is to torture and kill animals. Calling the boy’s threat “the attitudes of small ‘children,’” denies the difference between girls and boys, and holds girls equally responsible for such violent anti-female attitudes.

Blaming socialization for boys’ violence blames the females who raise and teach boys.24  The implied solution is that even more female lives should be devoted to changing males. The reality is that men and boys know it’s wrong to rape and murder.  There are laws in most cultures saying so. Blaming socialization excuses those who commit the crimes and portrays the attackers as victims. This is the typical patriarchal trick of reversing reality — the truth is called lies and lies are called truth. In the resulting muddle, no male is ever held responsible for his actions. The truth is that the crimes of mankind are willful and deliberate. We ask: When will men and boys be held accountable for their crimes? When will females of all ages be protected and cared for, instead of their attackers?  Why do women so often love the rapist more than they love his victims?


1 It’s revealing how female-hating the most revered men seem to be, from Mohandas Ghandi, who forced young girls to sleep naked with him to prove his celibacy, to the often-quoted Sufi poet, Rumi, who wrote a poem about a woman who watched her female servant enjoying being fucked by a donkey, so she tried it, and ended up being fucked to death. How lovely and spiritual. The Importance of Gourd Crafting, The Essential Rumi, New Expanded Edition, translated by Coleman Barks, HarperCollins Press, 2004,181.

2 This study of men’s toilet behavior found that men leave a hormonal secretion on toilets. When they have a choice, men choose a toilet unmarked by this hormone. Females don’t leave such secretions. A. R. Gustavson, M. E. Dawson, and D. G.  Bonett, “Androstenol, a Putative Human Pheromone, Affects Human Male Choice Performance.” Journal of Comparative Psychology 101 (1989): 210-212.

We know a Dyke whose parents visited her Lesbian household in the country, and the first thing her father did was to urinate against the outside wall of their house in full view.

3  It’s revealing how obsessed men are with the idea of artificial, man-made “people” and whether they can have true human emotion. At the same time that men call it “anthropomorphizing” and “wishful thinking” when some people believe that animals have emotions like humans, men continue to make up android characters in the male media, showing machines with feelings. We can’t help but think that men are obsessively trying to explore their own lack of emotion. Their question actually seems to be “Can men feel real emotion?”

4  Man’s technology and forest destruction is producing excessive amounts of carbon dioxide, causing the “greenhouse effect,” a warming of the planet, which causes huge storms, floods, droughts, and land loss. Many scientists say this is the beginning of an irreversible planetary disaster. (We wrote this over 25 years ago. The situation is obviously a lot worse now.)

5  “Dark Circle,” a documentary film produced by Judy Irving, Chris Beaver, and Ruth Landy, first shown on KQED, a San Francisco PBS television station, in 1986.

6 Independent Documentary Group, 1982, shown on US PBS television stations in 1988.

7  Information from Bay Area Women Against Rape, Berkeley, California.

8  “West 57th Street,” a CBS television news program, US, 8 October 1988. A 10-year old girl who’d been raped for five years by a family “friend” finally summoned the courage to tell her doctor. He raped her too, telling her she was “trash forever.” There are also reports of police raping rape victims.

9 Information from US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

10 Jeffner Allen, Lesbian Philosophy:  Explorations (Palo Alto, California: Institute of Lesbian Studies, 1986), 28.

11 Diana E. H. Russell says that in her study of 930 females, according to the broader definition of “incest,” including “ … exhibitionists as well as other unwanted noncontact sexual experience … 54 percent … reported at least one experience of … sexual abuse before they reached 18 years of age, and 48 percent … reported at least such experience before they reached 14 years of age.” (p. 62) However, Diana also says that “Many people cannot remember any childhood experiences before the ages of three or four or even five. How often incestuous abuse occurs with small babies … is unknown … One such recent case involved a father who self-disclosed that he had orally copulated with his two-week-old daughter. Most of these very young victims will never remember the incestuous abuse — a fact that some perpetrators are likely taking advantage of.” (p. 34) The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women (New York:  Basic Books, Inc., 1986).

“One out of three girls are sexually abused by the time they reach the age of eighteen.” Ellen Bass and Laura Davis, Courage to Heal, A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (New York, USA.: Harper and Row, 1988), 20.

“Some studies indicate that 38% of all girls … have been sexually abused …” “Frontline,” PBS Television, originally broadcast Apr. 12, 1988. WGBH Educational Foundation, Transcript No. 609, 1.

“Research indicates around 85% of child sexual offenders [men who rape girls] are either a family friend, a relative, or acquaintance of the child” “ … around 70% of girls who are sexually abused … are 5 to 11 years old.” Family Violence Prevention Committee and Accident Compensation Corporation leaflet, New Zealand Listener, 10 December 1988, 117.

12 Females living in countries under foreign rule experience additional colonization.

13 “Most frightening of all is that many ‘inexplicable’ family murders that adorn the front page of afternoon tabloid newspapers are a response to incest. The family murders I am speaking of are those where the father apparently kills his wife and all their children, then shoots himself. When this causal theory was originally suggested to me … I felt skeptical. I asked the then most senior female police officer in the NSW police dept. if she had heard of this theory. Her reply rocked me: ‘Oh, yes, we know that. There’s nothing we can do about it.’” Elizabeth Ward, Father-Daughter Rape, (London:  The Women’s Press, Ltd., 1984), 90.

14 Most of the so-called women “rapists” who’ve been prosecuted for having sex with boys actually were preyed on by the boy, as in the case of Villi Fualaau, who was twelve when, after already fucking girls, told his friends he was going to “nail” his teacher, Mary Kay Fualaau (Schmitz/Letourneau), which he did. Yes, it was wrong of her to agree, but it was his decision, revealing how much power even a twelve year old boy can have in relation to an adult woman and teacher. Mary Kay and Villi were discovered and she was sent to prison for seven years, though he impregnated her twice when she was temporarily released, and she was sent back to prison. After her final release, they were married.

15 In San Francisco in 1987, there were a number of sexual assaults at a military childcare facility. In an effort to prove how “unusual” this was, the blame was placed on the influence of “Satanism.” Not only does this take the focus from the actual frequency of child sexual assault, it indirectly blames witches, including Lesbians, because in most hets’ minds, witchcraft and Satanism are the same thing.

16 Leaflet, Bay Area Women Against Rape, Berkeley, California. “Alan Taylor, a parole officer who has worked with rapists in the prison at San Luis Obispo, California, said, “Those were the most normal men there.’”

17 Elizabeth Ward, Father-Daughter Rape, 87.

18 This was the theme in Something About Amelia,” US film,1984. Girl rape is also a common theme in television advertisements. An ad for baseball games said a good reason to attend the games was “pretty girls – lots of them,” showing a girl who was about three years old. KPIX-TV, San Francisco, 6 September 1987. An ad for the US NBC television series “Hunter” said, “The bait in a murder trap is blonde, beautiful, and two years old.” San Francisco Chronicle, 1 December 1988.

17  Edward W. Lempinen, “Memories of Torture Haunt Bay Area Refugees,” San Francisco Chronicle, 1 August 1988, A6.

18  In the 1950’s, females had a one in ten chance of getting cancer — it’s now one in three, Rose Appleman, “Cancer:  Breaking the Isolation of the Epidemic,” Coming Up, S an Francisco, December 1988, 9.  As of February, 2011, it is just over one in two.

19  Roger Bingham, “The Sexual Brain,” Community Television of Southern California, 1987. Shown on KCSM-TV, San Mateo, California, May 18, 1988.

21  In Florida, a seven-year-old boy pulled a gun on two girls in his class at school and demanded that they have sex with him. Information from friends, 1988.

22  Katinka, “In Defence of Dykes’ and Girls’ Lives,” Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d’Aujourd’hui, No. 20, Québec, Canada (June 1988), 205.

23  Liz Quinn, review of Her Wits About Her: Self-Defense Success Stories by Women, in off our backs, January 1988, 18.

24  Anna Lee wrote an excellent article on this, “The Tired Old Question of Male Children,” Lesbian Ethics, Vol. 1. No. 2, 106.

Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Chapter Five — LESBIANS FOR LESBIANS — Dyke Separatism

Chapter Five


                Dyke Separatism Means Loving Dykes

                                                           Bev Jo

                                                     Linda Strega


In a male supremacist world that reviles Lesbians, it’s a deeply courageous and loving choice to be a Dyke Separatist and say, “We put Dykes first. No one else cares for or loves Dykes, but we do.” Separatism comes from the same place within us that our choice to be Lesbians comes from — fierce love, passion, protectiveness, and commitment to our own kind. It’s the most female-loving politics, philosophy, and way of life on Earth. Separatism also means having the courage to perceive the world the way it really is.

The principles of Lesbian Separatism – female-only space – are what created Feminist and Lesbian Feminist culture and community. It’s what made our politics and blossoming creativity possible in women’s centers, bookstores, coffee houses,  meetings, readings, newspapers, journals, books, dances, parties, plays, concerts – with no interruptions, domination, or voyeurism by men. The unique magical feeling of Lesbians together is incredibly powerful.

All Lesbian Feminists and other women who participated in our communities benefitted from Lesbian Separatist politics. It changed everything. It still is changing the world, though under more pressure than ever by men trying to destroy women-only space, (which says what a threat Separatism is.)

So why was Separatism so reviled and lied about in the Seventies and still is, all these decades later, by the same women who profited from it?  Why are we the one Lesbian group who everyone loves to scapegoat, lie about, and hate?  Why are we treated as if it’s a crime to care for and love our own people and actually make Lesbians a priority instead of putting everyone else first – men, men who pretend to be women, men who pretend to be Lesbians, women who pretend to be men, women who choose men, and women too Lesbian-hating to choose to be Lesbians?

Separatism for other oppressed peoples is rightfully admired and understood, even though many have been killed for daring to do it (proving how necessary it is). Of course people under siege need to meet with their own kind, away from their oppressors. But not Lesbians and other females. Why? The answer is that females count for little, and Lesbians even less. Women and Lesbians together away from the policing eye of men are extremely threatening. Also, Dyke Separatism is saying no to men, and they punish and try to destroy any female who does that. And then women take on the policing job for men.

As Pippa Fleming, in support of Lesbian Separatism, once demonstrated, while standing with a group of Lesbians of different races, “This kind of Separatism is not acceptable….” and then walking a few feet away to stand next several African-descent Lesbians….”but this kind of Separatism is.” Yet, even while Lesbian Feminists and other Feminists welcomed our politics of women-only space, Lesbian Separatists became the scapegoats of our community – harassed with the most ridiculous slander, banned from Lesbian and feminist organizations and social groups. The attacks continue, even though men, with collaborator women’s help, have invaded our last women-only space.

I (Bev) became a Dyke Separatist in 1972 and I don’t know of any other Lesbians who have been Dyke Separatists as long as I have, so I want to keep our culture and history alive. As a group, we had less privilege than most of the Lesbians who attacked us, yet the Separatist-hating slander said we were privileged and lived escapist lives in the country. Like most Lesbians, we are majority working class and live in cities. Separatism is about who we choose to be close with, not who we are forced to relate to for survival.

No other oppressed people are so ordered to make their oppressor priority. As an oppressed people, we have the right to be with each other away from our oppressors — het men (including those pretending to be women and Lesbians), Gay men, boys, and women allied with and invested in men. We also have the right to choose who we love and trust, who our friends will be, and who we’ll work with politically. This is the basis of feminism, which was once taken for granted in many countries. Lesbians, women, and girls, created times and places to be together, protected from male stares, perving, domineering, insults, and violence.

Even after all these years, at the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change conference in July, 2014, which, except for the man pretending to be a Lesbian, was operating under Separatist principles of being for Old Lesbians only, Separatists were targeted for slander and hatred. One of the speakers, who owes her fame and writing career to the support of Lesbian Feminists, aimed the usual lies and hatred at Separatists. She told personal stories of how betrayed she felt by her lover’s son and how used she felt by her own son, yet her direct anger was aimed at Lesbian Separatists for no apparent reason. Her claim that all Separatists are European-descent and middle class is not honest since she knows that’s not true, and here she was benefitting from this space where she was virtually worshipped, once again scapegoating us with hatred. Why?  Because we are the easiest target and she could motivate the audience of Old Lesbians, at almost Lesbian only space, to participate. And of course in her attack on Lesbian Separatists, she completely ignored the existence of NIA, which is the only Lesbian only organization that we know of in the San Francisco Bay Area, by and for Lesbians of African-descent.

             Who You Choose to Love Says Everything About You

If all Lesbians put Lesbians first in every aspect of our lives, and if all Lesbians fought heterosexism and every other oppression among us, we could create vital, powerful, joyful Dyke cultures. In many countries in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Dyke Separatist politics produced exciting, creative communities of Dykes, transforming Lesbians’ lives and making it easier for many heterosexual women to become Lesbians. But now Lesbian energy is diverted into helping everyone but Lesbians. When Lesbians prioritize supporting het women, even though het women prioritize males, is that because het women are considered more “real” women and more “oppressed,” even while they are oppressing Lesbians?

Dyke Separatism means always putting our Lesbian friends, lovers, and political allies ahead of males and het and bisexual women. It means making Lesbian values more important than male and het values. Putting Lesbians first also means never siding with men or het women, including relatives, who are oppressing Lesbians. That includes not neglecting or abandoning Lesbian lovers and friends in an effort to be accepted and approved of by family, het friends, or co-workers. Being true to Dyke integrity is more important to us than the social acceptance we’d get by silently accepting Dyke oppression.

Dyke Separatism means relating only to females when we have the choice. Because men control the world’s resources, we have to deal with men for physical survival, but we don’t choose to be close friends with them. (Some Separatists make cautious exceptions for male relatives, while other Separatists don’t.) Separatism also means working politically with other Lesbians whenever possible (except for the most trusted het or bisexual women who do not despise us.)

It is an unforgivable crime in patriarchy for females to dare to deeply and completely love ourselves and each other, so Lesbians are the most universally hated people on Earth. We are so hated that het individuals and media try to pretend we don’t even exist. In every patriarchal, het culture, our existence is denied or viciously lied about. Men and boys are expected to love themselves and their male cultures, and het women are expected to love and devote their lives to men and boys. To be more accepted, many Lesbians also accept the patriarchal role of women prioritizing males, while the few of us who say “no” to this injustice are hated by Lesbians as well as by men and het women.

Because males daily threaten our survival, we protect ourselves by resisting them at all times in every way possible. Separatism means refusing to collaborate with men in the ways they oppress, exclude, humiliate, attack, rape, and kill females. Separatism also means fighting the Lesbian-hatred and female-hatred that turns us against our own selves, which leads to illness or death. Too many Dykes have died because of Lesbian-hatred. Too many Dykes have killed themselves trying to escape the pain of oppression. Separatism means choosing life.

By definition, all Lesbians live in a Separatist way, because we aren’t sexually intimate with men. Refusing to let men fuck us is a courageous act of rebellion in patriarchy. Separatists take this intrinsic Lesbian act and extend it into all parts of our lives, consciously refusing every male demand.

Lesbian Separatism has a history and culture. We have always met together in political Separatist-only groups and with friends. In the US, there were also Separatist Gatherings, with the first that I know of being in 1982 at DOE Farm in Wisconsin, another in San Francisco in 1983, and then a series of annual Gatherings in Wisconsin in the late Eighties and early Nineties, and another in the Bay Area in 1993. There was also the Separatist anthology, For Lesbians Only, edited by Julia Penelope and Sarah Hoagland, printed in 1992.

I became a Dyke Separatist after meeting a nineteen year old Separatist when I was twenty one at the 1972 Lesbian Feminist Conference that I helped organize in Berkeley (one of the first in the world). Separatism from men was already taken for granted among Lesbian Feminists, but this Lesbian clarified that she was also a Separatist from het and bisexual women since they were collaborating with men. Even as late as 1991, some Separatists wrote that women-only space was a given everywhere. And now, twenty-five years later we do not even have the safety of female-only public restrooms.

Some het women smugly say to us, “But you’re cutting yourselves off from half the human race!” – forgetting how much they have cut themselves off from the greater number, which are women, and that they’re even cut off from themselves. Their perceptions are distorted because only males really matter to them. These are the kinds of ridiculous mind-fuck/gaslighting comments that women devoted to men throw at Lesbians to get us to react with shame and guilt, and to feel we are not being “normal” women because “real” women prioritize males.

It simply isn’t possible to be loving, nurturing, and loyal to both males and females, because males are waging a war against all females. Even if males don’t seem to be participating at a particular moment, that can change at any time. Commitment to any male is a commitment to male supremacist rule, and that means participating in the abuse, exploitation, rape, and murder of Lesbians and other females. Some self-hating Lesbian Feminists have said, “It doesn’t matter who you go to bed with or whether you love males or females — what’s important is how you live the rest of your life.” This trivializes what it means to be a Lesbian. Who you choose to love, says everything about you. There’s a world of difference between females and males. Lesbians who value males and het females more than Lesbians are female-hating, but no female is as female-hating as those who intimately nurture males over females.

If all women refused to relate to males, that would be the end of patriarchy. Even just for Dykes to say that we have the right to our own Dyke communities is a revolutionary act. Not collaborating with men also means valuing life over men’s death-worshipping cultures, and choosing Dyke wisdom and creativity over the cold, empty, boring stagnancy of patriarchy.

Simply by existing in a world that denies our existence, and by surviving millennia of male rule, Lesbians are a resistance movement. Throughout patriarchal history, Lesbians have always been in the forefront of fighting for female rights and defending females against male attack, while het women have continually betrayed us to men and created more men. Just as we’re the core of present day Women’s Liberation, we were the core of past feminist movements. The most out, blatant Dykes have been the most consistently courageous in fighting for Lesbian survival because of refusing male-identified rules of femininity. (It’s no coincidence that the media forbids us from ever even seeing a Butch, except for a rare one who is shown being raped and beaten to death, as in the film Boys Don’t Cry).

Where permitted by men and het women, usually because they’ve been closeted or “discreet,” Dykes have also been in the forefront of national, racial, ethnic, class, and other liberation movements across the Earth. This work gained rights for men and, to a lesser extent, het women. But Lesbians have been persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered in both “revolutionary” and reactionary societies. Wherever you find strong, exceptional females – in the past or present — you find Dykes. We should reclaim our courageous past with pride and remember that current international radical Lesbian movements, including Dyke Separatism, come from that tradition.                 

                                         Female-Only: Freeing Ourselves

Men made institutions to enforce patriarchy and patriarchal propaganda: governments, military, police, legal, medical, educational, and social welfare systems; media with newspapers, magazines, television, films, advertising, “literature,” “art,” and, of course, the ultimate male cultural expression — pornography, vital to their terrorization of females. Man’s organized religions vary in their female-hatred, but all provide symbols and myths to “prove” the “inevitability” of male dominance and heterosexuality.  Male institutions are made to appear such a necessary part of the world that it becomes almost impossible to imagine living without them — particularly the social institutions considered “normal,” like heterosexuality, marriage, motherhood, and the family, as well as artificial male-identified femininity and false standards of “beauty” that keep all girls and women insecure and ungrounded, and which even most Lesbians take for granted. These cultural institutions are as vital to male rule as governments and armies.

Patriarchy isn’t just outside of us in rape, murder, and male institutions. It’s also inside of all females’ minds, in how we think, feel, speak, and act, because we’ve been indoctrinated with male propaganda since birth. Separatism means examining and ultimately freeing ourselves from all those male lies, as well as freeing ourselves from actual male presence. We need to question everything because anything that doesn’t come directly from Lesbian culture is likely to be anti-female and anti-Lesbian. Separatism is a way to keep clear awareness in a world that thinks only of exterminating Lesbians.

Some Lesbians believe that to be truly Separatist, we must never see or hear male media, as if we’d be uncontrollably influenced by this propaganda. But Separatists aren’t that weak. It’s far more important for Lesbians to recognize and eliminate male and heterosexist thought and behavior than it is for us to afraid look at a book or film by a man. We need to know what lies are being told in the media and also to recognize the ways that Lesbians are following male and het fads. Separatism doesn’t mean shutting ourselves off from patriarchy — ­it means knowing its lies so clearly that we’re strong enough to reject them.

Why is female-only space now almost non-existent in many communities, when it was common in the early 1970’s? It’s not like men and boys are less prurient and dangerous or that we don’t have the same needs for safety and community. What’s different is the steady erosion of Lesbian identity and commitment, but most importantly, the entire economic situation changed so that there simply isn’t enough money to have the spaces we once had. Even the bars are gone.

In the US, the change began dishonestly, with events still called “women’s” or even “Lesbian,” while beginning to welcome men. It was a shock when a “Lesbian Conference” in San Francisco was open to men and het and bisexual women. There’s also a dishonest change in the US, where some events are still called “women’s” or even “Lesbian,” while also welcoming men. Even a “Lesbian Conference” in San Francisco was open to men and het and bisexual women. The conference organizers even wanted male media attention. A “Lesbian Health Forum” in San Francisco was even more upsetting because men were not only welcomed over Lesbians’ protests, but when a doctor with limited time answered audience questions, all the men were called on while many Lesbians were ignored. When sign-up sheets for support groups for ill Lesbians and their friends and lovers were passed around, the men also signed up. We’d gone to this forum only because it was clearly advertised “for women-only.”

Part of the problem is that some Lesbians and women made careers out of our movement, getting power and status and money at the expense of our communities. Like when Lesbian directors of organizations which betray Lesbians to men make $300,000 a year, while still asking poor Lesbians to donate.

Some of the biggest money-makers have the word “Lesbian” on them, like the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which prioritizes men over Lesbians and other women, and even campaigns to destroy the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (one of our last and most precious spaces), on behalf of the men identifying as Lesbians — the same men who threatened the Festival for years, walking around with weapons and signs saying “Die Cis Scum” (“cis” is the name the trans cult uses for real women since they’ve taken “women” for their own), handing out cards with the ugly porny image of women commonly used as stickers on trucks, but with a large erect prick, and the words, “Real woman have cocks” — who are now allowed in, because of Lesbian betrayal, parading around exposing their pricks. Many Lesbians and other women are still fighting to save the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival as women-only space, including doing a letter writing campaign to NCLR, but NCLR is likely to follow the direction of whoever has the most money, which is the trans cult and other men.

                                     Boys First Means Lesbians Last

Anti-Separatist Lesbians who want an “inclusive” rather than Lesbian-identified movement have selfishly undermined female-only space. They seem to forget that het and Gay men, with so much more money and power than Lesbians, have plenty of spaces that are not “’inclusive” to women. Their commitment is to men, and, particularly, boys first. Many Lesbians who seem to understand the need for separation from men often act as if they think boys are another kind of female, not noticing how abusive most boys are to girls and even adult women. Why are mothers of sons and their supporters so upset about female-only space when it’s so rare anyway? They act as if a once-a-month or even once-a-year female-only event is going to destroy their sons.

Males expect that all girls and adult females exist for their use and ownership. When females bully other females into accepting the presence and demands of males, they’re acting as agents for those males. It’s important for boys to learn that they can’t get everything they want and to be taught to respect the rights of females. Some Lesbian mothers do try to teach their sons this, but most seem intent on training their boys to be dominant.

When mothers of sons disrupt female-only events until they get their way, they’re teaching those boys to be the center of attention, which is, after all, the traditional role of a male among females. And when Lesbians fight for boys’ “rights” at the expense of females, they’re not only denying us our basic right to choose to be away from our oppressors, they’re teaching boys that no girl, Lesbian, or other woman has the right to say “no” to them. They’re truly training them to be young men in a male world. It’s no coincidence that some of the Lesbians who first brought boys into female-only spaces later brought men who identify as Lesbians into our community and organizations. These are heterosexist choices for Lesbians.

                              The Sacred Gift of Lesbian Only Space

Heterosexuality and all het women oppress all Lesbians. Het women act as men’s collaborators in maintaining male and heterosexual supremacy. Female-only isn’t enough – we also fight for Lesbian-only. And, as an oppressed people, we have the right to say clearly who is one of us and who isn’t. Het and bisexual women, and even men, say they’re Lesbians when they want access to us.

Separatism means Lesbians together — not just “Lesbians away from others.” Lesbian space is not a vacuum because it’s devoid of male and het women. There’s almost no truly Lesbian land anywhere, or even any female land. Most “women’s” land welcomes boys and often men. Lesbians have no countries, states, cities, towns, neighborhoods, or even streets where we’re safe and welcome, let alone which belong to us. We are despised everywhere. Men own the world, and even Gay men control entire neighborhoods and towns. The few “women’s” places usually cater to het women. Lesbians always come last, even for most Lesbians. Lesbian-only space has existed only for brief times in a very few places in the world, even when women-only spaces were strong and numerous.

Lesbian-only space is a precious gift to all Lesbians. We have the right to be where Lesbianism is valued and loved openly instead of being voyeurized and endangered by bisexual and het women. We also have the right to just feel safe enough to have fun and enjoy each other’s Lesbian selves away from our oppressors. It isn’t enough to just be away from male presence, although that’s an essential first step. Lesbian-space feels completely different from women-only space, just as women-only space is different because no males are present.

Dykes have survived thousands of years of patriarchy, being attacked, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered for daring to be Dykes. We know so little about our long Lesbian past. There’s some small record of the most privileged Lesbians, but the stories of the majority of more oppressed millions are lost to us forever. They built and sustained hidden Lesbian communities and cultures, but there are none of the things that honor the lives of men and even some het women — no monuments or buildings dedicated to their memories, stories told, songs sung. In fact, the trans cult, with far more resources and money, are re-writing our history and claiming every dead famous Lesbian, from Joan of Arc to Teena Brandon as a “transman.” (This reminds us of when Mormons baptize dead people who were not Mormon, including people who were killed in the Holocaust, against the wishes of those who love them.)

Before the Lesbian Feminist movement, most Dykes had nowhere to meet except for a few expensive male-­owned bars that abused us. Creating and supporting our own Lesbian spaces transformed Lesbian lives. Yet the rare Lesbian-only spaces we know of that existed in recent years weren’t destroyed by police wrecking them or by governments closing them, but by pressure from men passing as Lesbians and by anti-Separatist Lesbians, usually the same groups that destroyed female-only space. Once again, the demands of females dedicated to males were made more important than any Lesbian’s rights.

Some Lesbians have complained that we aren’t doing enough outreach to help het women come out. Often the Lesbians making these statements have chosen to live in isolation while Separatists like ourselves have worked for years helping het women as well as creating Lesbian-only gatherings and forums, and writing Separatist politics. Lesbians provide many services to make it easier for women to come out, but we shouldn’t have to give them any rare places that might still exist for Lesbians. Putting women who choose men before other Lesbians doesn’t help het women, anyway, because they’re more likely to come out, and stay out, if there are visible, strong, Dyke-identified cultures. Putting het women first only perpetuates the ancient Lesbian theme of waiting — waiting for things to improve, waiting for men to stop attacking us, waiting for het women to stop betraying us, waiting to find our own kind and love and friendship. It also continues the ancient female tradition of supporting and living through everyone else except ourselves while no one looks after us. We’ve waited and sacrificed long enough.

Far more Lesbians work on het women’s issues, supporting women assaulted by the men they choose, birth control, and abortion — just as far more Lesbians work for Gay men’s issues, like AIDS — than work for Lesbians. Dykes who prioritize het women are automatically putting them before Dykes, because the whole world makes het women more important than us. We can’t develop and work on Lesbian politics with het women because, by definition, they will no longer be Lesbian politics.

Women-only and Lesbian-only space is also essential to have online, at blogs and in facebook groups. You immediately know that a site is a troll group if it claims to be “feminist” but men are allowed, or, even worse, moderate the groups.

While Lesbian-only publications have disappeared in the US, “erotica” magazines and books supposedly published by Lesbians have appeared. Why do Lesbians buy and write for these publications, particularly the expensive glossy ones which are obviously funded by the male porn industry? One of the most popular among some supposedly political Lesbians is even sold in liquor stores in San Francisco. Making images of naked Lesbians available for male pornographic titillation is selling all Lesbians against our will. Whether or not the Lesbians photographed mind that men see them, we mind. One Lesbian exposing herself in this way hurts and exposes all Lesbians. Do we really want men masturbating to Lesbian photos and staring at all Lesbians in public with with those magazines in mind? Rapes of obvious Lesbians have increased, and we know of a series of attacks in San Francisco in which one of the Lesbians was forced to watch while her lover was being raped. It’s bad enough that men and het women make pornographic books and films about “Lesbians” without Lesbians participating in it. Het women who work in man-made “Lesbian” porn are also betraying us.

                                    Separatists Fight All Oppressions

Females as a group are far kinder and more just than males. (For instance, women are the vast majority of those working to help or rescue animals and anyone needing help.) Female plus female — Lesbians — greatly multiply this potential. Lesbians know what it’s like to be ostracized and unfairly hated, and so, as a group, Lesbians tend to be the most devoted to fighting for justice and equality, whether it’s for oppressed groups of women, people, other animals, or the environment.

However, we live in patriarchal societies divided by racism, anti-Semitism, ethnicism, classism, imperialism, ableism, fat oppression, looksism, and ageism. That means that most Dykes worldwide suffer these oppressions in addition to female-hatred and Lesbian-hatred. Being opposed to all injustice is central to Separatist politics. Because Separatists love Lesbians and hate oppression, we don’t want to do anything that harms any Dyke or makes her life harder, and we also refuse to tolerate oppression for ourselves. We oppose all oppressions, including when men and het women suffer them.

Some racially-and class-privileged women have said, “Racism and classism were invented by men and if we focus on those issues we’re letting men divide us.” Regardless of how racism and classism originated, they exist now and have existed for thousands of years. Privileged het women have participated wholeheartedly in racism and classism as their privileged men’s helpmate, nurturer, feeder, breeder, wife, and mother. European-descent, gentile women may not have started slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi party, and colonialism, but they participated in and profited from those atrocities. If all men disappeared tomorrow, racism and other oppressions would continue. It’s right wing and liberal “feminists” who are letting men divide us, if they ignore oppression among women. They are also not being true feminists, because real feminism means working for equality among us. They also need to learn feminist history to know that the most oppressed women were a crucial part of the early Radical Lesbian Feminists.

Oppressions are best fought by truly caring about the Lesbians subject to these oppressions, whether those Lesbians are ourselves or someone else. Being oppressed ourselves doesn’t automatically mean understanding someone else’s different oppression, but it can help in terms of knowing what it feels like to be stereotyped, denied access to important resources, treated as “other” by the privileged dominant society, publicly harassed, physically attacked, in danger of being murdered, and ignored or ridiculed in the mainstream media.

Those of us with additional oppressions shouldn’t use that as an excuse to avoid being responsible about any privilege we may also have, nor should we only agree to fight a Dyke’s oppression if she fights ours. Oppression should be fought regardless, and being oppressed doesn’t cancel out any privileges we have, although it makes the privilege less powerful. Fighting all oppression means constantly trying to find ways to resist any privileges we have by developing non-oppressive language, creating political groups and events that are welcoming and inclusive of all Lesbians, and expanding our knowledge of the world to take into account the everyday realities of Dykes from all experiences, cultures, and countries. Developing inclusive language is difficult and the results can seem labored and sometimes artificial, but it’s still vital to do it, because the languages of those in power reflect their supremacist values. Creating inclusive political and social events means privileged Lesbians being sensitive to the cultures of Lesbians from backgrounds different from their own, and not objectifying them as “exotic” or “other.”

As Dykes, we know what it means to be objectified by men and het women, but the most privileged Lesbians often have little understanding of more oppressed Dykes’ lives except as media caricatures, while oppressed Dykes usually know a great deal about privileged cultures. Privileged Lesbians sometimes say that all countries and ethnic groups are male-dominated as an excuse to not learn about other Lesbians’ cultures, yet the same Lesbians accept the cultures in power as the norm, even though they are more male-dominated. In fact, strong female-loving traditions from ancient female cultures still survive in recognizable form in many contemporary cultures, in spite of invasion and colonization by more male-oriented nations.                                             

                                                  We Have No Brothers

This chapter is about Lesbians, but we’ll say a bit here about Gay men because many Lesbians who recognize het men’s misogyny still work politically with Gay men and relate to them as if they were Lesbians. It makes sense to sometimes temporarily ally with Gay men if they’re being harassed, since we share some aspects of “queer” oppression with Gay men, and bad treatment they get also affects us. But Gay men are still men. Male bonding is, after all, the basis of patriarchy, and Gay men are usually as openly female-hating as het men. When Lesbians work politically with Gay men, we’re drained and only the men benefit.

The heterosexual, familial appearance of men and women together, even if they’re Lesbian and Gay, is very appealing to some Lesbians. The attraction of “normality” should never be underestimated. Organizations, like the Shanti Project, for “dying Gay men and Lesbians and their loved ones” were changed into groups dealing only with “people with AIDS,” (over 90% men) — and dying Lesbians were told to go away. Everything in the world seems to be about “men” and “mankind,” but suddenly it’s “people” with AIDS. Like other STDs, AIDS is primarily transmitted by semen, so Lesbians are the least likely people to get AIDS through sexual contact.1

After AIDS appeared, Gay men wanted to be identified with Lesbians in order to obscure the fact that AIDS is primarily spread by men. In true vampire fashion, a San Francisco Gay newspaper ad targeted Lesbians with “Our Boys Need Blood …. Lesbians: help solve an urgent crisis in our community. Our blood is the least likely to be contaminated with the AIDS virus. Our blood is urgently needed for the ever-increasing numbers of AIDS patients. Stand with our brothers in fighting the AIDS epidemic.”2 These men who had refused to share any of their massive resources with us and who subjected us to having to see their pornographic and naked displays in that newspaper, which was our only way to find out about local Lesbian events, suddenly wanted our actual blood? What a mind-fuck to play on Lesbians’ (many disowned by het family) wanting a replacement family and acceptance by pretending we were in a familial relationship with men who despised us.

How did it become Lesbians’ job to help men deal with their STDS from fucking each other to death?  A Gay man who I (Bev) met in 2012 said that Gay men would never have helped Lesbians if we were dealing with a lethal epidemic, even though they have so many more resources. He’s disgusted with most Gay men and said that because he has AIDS, he’s regularly asked by Gay men to give it to them. (Yes, that rumor is true. Lesbians ask me about this, horrified, and I can only answer that this is one more way that we are a world apart from necrophilic men.) How dare they imply these Gay male strangers are our brothers or sons?

Yet, all these decades later, when AIDS can easily be prevented, Lesbians are still donating time and money and participating in AIDS benefits, like the AIDS Life Cycle Ride, which made $14.5 million in 2013. For years, the San Francisco “Lesbian and Gay Parade” (later “LGBTQ” Pride Parade) was the only way for Lesbians to march publicly, but Gay men also subjected us to their female-hating drag displays and we had to see the massive NAMBLA — “North American Man-Boy Love Association” — banner. As the parade became increasingly corporate and expensive to join, there were a handful of Lesbian contingents, while thousands of Lesbians marched under AIDS banners. You would never have known there was a difference between Lesbians and Gay men, or that the caring was not remotely reciprocal. Yet, more Lesbians in this same area are homeless and sick and dying than ever before.

We don’t advocate neglecting or harassing anyone with AIDS, but we are saying that Lesbians and het women’s great concern for AIDS victims are because most are men. Even US “Feminist Women’s” clinics have special sessions for Gay men’s other STDs.3

In a speech given at an Eighties San Francisco conference for Lesbians who were taking care of men with AIDS, Jackie Winnow, a Lesbian dying of metastatic cancer, said

…. there’s a few things you should know. There are around 100 women with AIDS in the Bay Area. In 1988 there were 40,000 women in San Francisco and Oakland living with cancer; at least 4,000 of the women with cancer are lesbians; 4,000 will die this year. Only 1.5 percent of the city health budget last year went to women-specific services …. There are so many women in our community with health problems, be they cancer, environmental illness, Epstein-Barr or multiple sclerosis, but they are not seen as having anything serious enough to be taken care of … and women are on the lower rungs of the financial ladder, and when they become ill the bottom falls out much quicker, because they’re closer to it …. Why aren’t we screaming that sexism kills us? …. All disease in this country is political … the money going to AIDS was taken from the cancer budget ….4

As Anna Lee, a Black US Lesbian Separatist, says in her brilliant article, For The Love Of Separatism:

Another example of the bond between white lesbians and white males is the almost wholehearted endorsement of the need to support males dying of AIDS…. many white lesbians both separatist and non-separatist claim that because black women are dying of AIDS, lesbians should be involved in that struggle. It is true that black females and males die from AIDS. It is not true that AIDS is transmitted through the air we breathe and the water we drink. It is transmitted through sexual contact with someone who has AIDS and through blood exchange with someone who has AIDS. Because of the way AIDS is transmitted, lesbians are a low risk group. In order to induce lesbians to work on AIDS, the definition of lesbianism is diluted to include women who have sexual contact with men. Who then is a heterosexual woman?…. I’m still waiting for white lesbians to question their bond with white men and what that bond means to creating a diverse lesbian community. The bond between white lesbians and men is currently a stumbling block to the creation of meaningful race and class diversity.”5

                             Hating Males Who Hate Us Is Self Defense

Dyke Separatists’ refusal to love men and boys is extremely threatening, because males need females for their survival in ways that we simply don’t need them. So our saying no to males is interpreted to mean we are man-haters. But we are Separatists first because of our love for Lesbians.

Yet when someone hates you and is actively trying to destroy you and those you love, it’s a reasonable, healthy decision to hate him. Responding in any other way is self-destructive and self-hating. The christian platitudes “love your enemy” and “turn the other cheek,” inviting your attacker to hit you again, are obscene, reactionary, and sado-masochistic philosophies. There’s no neutrality under male rule. If males weren’t constantly harassing us and attacking females and destroying the earth, then perhaps we could try to just ignore them. But if you truly love the earth, plants, animals, and all females, then inevitably you grow to hate men and boys as a group.

Men and boys hate life itself, which shows in the way they automatically attack all living things, from throwing rocks and and sexually assaulting animals, to hitting plants with sticks. Refusing to recognize that fact keeps us powerless and in danger. Most females who are raped and killed are assaulted by men they know and have trusted. Even females who are attacked by strangers sometimes waste precious seconds hesitating to defend themselves, because they’ve been taught to mistrust their own instincts when they’re in danger and don’t want to hurt the feelings of the men. Girls and women often don’t want to be interpreted as unfair, suspicious, unkind, or untrusting of males, even when preyed on. What are most women’s responses when approached by a man they don’t know? It’s still a shock to realize that many women first wonder if their hair or clothes are attractive enough to the man and appraise him as a potential date.

Taking the courage to distrust and hate males gives us a detachment that releases us from the stress of constant anger, while freeing us to feel the rage we need to protect ourselves when in immediate danger. It also helps us to heal from the damage done to us in the past. The right to fight for survival is a basic right of nature.

No oppressed group is required to justify its resistance to a deadly enemy the way Separatists are. Why aren’t men and boys similarly expected to justify their hatred of females and Lesbians and all life? And why aren’t het and bisexual women challenged for choosing to support males? It’s acceptable everywhere for men and boys to hate all females, because their violent misogyny is so built into their cultures that it’s treated as normal and inevitable. A man who’s slightly less female-hating is praised as a “great exception.”

Women and girls are told to “forgive and forget” in a way that men never are. This is designed to keep women vulnerable to attack. Alice Sebold’s autobiographical book, Lucky, is about being raped at knife point by a man who continued to stalk her and later raped her best friend, ending their friendship. The rapist was so premeditated that he had a system worked out with a rapist friend who looked almost identical to him who would arrange to be brought in for the police lineup, after having arranged a good alibi with witnesses. Alice’s book is harrowing in describing how her life was almost destroyed by this man who continued to stalk her for years, yet when she was interviewed by Terry Gross on the National Public Radio show, Fresh Air, Terry actually asked Alice if she had “forgiven” the rapist. That was such a horrible, cruel thing to do to Alice, though she managed to say “no.” Can you imagine a man who has written about being tortured, raped, etc. being asked in the media if he “forgave” his attacker?

So much female life is spent thinking and worrying about men. Het women constantly worry about whether men will like them, be attracted to them, or whether they’ll be able to keep their men — or whether the men they love will physically or emotionally attack them or even kill them, as well as sexually assault their daughters. When you don’t care about men or welcome them into your personal life, you spend far less time thinking about them than other women do.

Some non-Separatist Lesbians go out of their way to praise males and talk about how much they love men, as if they are trying to prove that they aren’t “abnormal” man-haters. Yet the same Lesbians who go on about how much they love men sometimes bait Separatists by saying that we’re “like men,” because we hate men. Suddenly they act as if maleness was terrible — you’d think that they’d want us to be like men if they’re so fond of them. This comes from the traditional Lesbian-hating lie that Dykes are like the worst men. Yet it’s het women who most imitate men in thought, feeling, and action. (After all, both men and het women love men first.)

Lesbians who taunt Separatists for our healthy rage are acting in men’s interests, not female’s. Men are terrified of what will happen if all females become man-hating Dykes. What should be questioned is automatically loving, admiring, promoting, emulating, nurturing, trusting, seeking the approval of, covering up for, fucking, breeding, and raising males. In a world where males, including boys, daily maim, torture, beat, rape, kill, exclude, and oppress females, it’s loving males that’s irrational, unrealistic, inappropriate, obsessive, and male-identified.

We dare to say the truth about the horrors that men commit, so Lesbians who choose to live in a humanist fantasy world about “gentle men” are frantic to silence us. Censorship of Separatists by Lesbians and liberal feminists is part of that attempt to hide the truth, which is far more destructive to Lesbian cultures and communities than openly hating men could ever be.

Internalized Lesbian-hatred is so strong among most Lesbians that they hate and insult Separatists more than any other group of Lesbians, including those who are actively support the right-wing, capitalists, sado­masochists, practicing christians, etc. Separatists are criticized with more hostility than men or het and bisexual women ever are. And Lesbians who normally preach tolerance and love towards every person, including men, will spout the most vicious lies against Separatists. The irony in all this is that everywhere that Separatist political activism exists, it’s made Lesbians’ lives safer and better.

Lesbianism is said to be caused by a childhood trauma that makes us afraid of men, so many Lesbians who are rape victims fear being stereotyped if they admit to hating men. It can be a shock to realize that almost all females, Lesbian and het, were sexually assaulted as little girls and have good reason to be afraid of and repulsed by males. That’s not why we’re Lesbians any more than that’s the reason het women choose to become het (which is the line that liberal feminists are spreading). In fact, we’d find it easier to be more loving with each other if we weren’t sexually assaulted as little girls. It’s healing for Lesbians who’ve been attacked by men and boys to say openly that we hate them. It’s cruel and disrespectful to tell us to feel otherwise. Why is there a double standard, where Lesbians support women raped and beaten by men to be angry and distrustful towards men while telling Separatists not to be?

Most non-Separatist Lesbians, and probably even more het women, loathe men on some level. It’s emotionally impossible for females living under male terrorization to not feel rage at them. Separatists are just more direct and honest. Non­-Separatists can spend hours talking about hating men, and many would never be friends with them, yet if you dare to tell non-Separatists they sound like a Separatist, they are insulted. Married het women who’ve lived with men for years are usually the most vocal about how nasty, arrogant, violent, cold, and cruel men are. The difference is that het women are selfishly committed to those they hate because of the privilege they get for it — they don’t want to shake up their lives by facing reality, so they devote themselves to men and boys, undermining other females on males’ behalf.

The Lesbians who don’t hate men should realize that if they really loved or even liked men, they would be heterosexual. Being a Lesbian isn’t about the mythological “born this way” or “sexual orientation” propaganda, or about finding females more “sexually attractive” than males. There’s so much pressure on females to be het, and so much punishment for being a Lesbian, that “sexual attraction” alone doesn’t explain Lesbianism. Being a Lesbian means intensely loving females. On some level, all Lesbians are repulsed by men, which is a very natural female/Lesbian feeling. Non-­Separatists who love men and boys are still not nurturing them in that essential way that men demand: They don’t agree to be fucked. That very refusal says something crucial about who we are. A Lesbian who loves males is a contradiction.

Some ex-het Lesbians who are still very het-and male-identified may be more emotionally tied up with men than they are with Lesbians. Many came out because they couldn’t get the care and love they wanted from men but do get from Lesbians, yet they don’t love Lesbians. They’re still concerned about what men think of them, and some are trying to impress individual men that they still relate to. Many of these Lesbians go het again for the status and privilege.

                                Anti-Separatism Is Anti-Lesbian

The deeper our commitment is to Lesbians first, the clearer it becomes that everything in patriarchy is designed to put Dykes last. As we become more aware, we can recognize the most disguised Lesbian-hatred, even when it appears in our own Lesbian communities and friendships.

When we meet other Lesbians, we meet ourselves. When we see another Dyke being oppressed by men and het women, we re-experience our own oppression. When we see another Lesbian’s self-hatred — the Lesbian-hatred she’s taken into herself from the patriarchal world — we’re reminded of our own self-hatred. Much of this self-reflection is unconscious, yet can have profound effects on the ways we treat each other as Lesbians. We can either respond caringly and protectively or with re-directed self-hatred. From the Lesbian who snubs you in the street or avoids you at work, to the rampant hatred directed at Separatists in our own Lesbian communities, internalized Dyke-hatred and heterosexist hierarchies devastate our lives as individuals and communities.

Horizontal hostility is part of all oppressed groups. Those who want to be accepted by their oppressors are ashamed of and distance themselves from the most oppressed, most recognizable, most radical of their group, believing that such “trouble-making” members give their entire group a “bad name” and damage its chances of acceptance. Those who are the most proud of their identity and culture are the most likely to become the group scapegoats. In Lesbian communities, it’s Separatists and the most recognizable Dykes (particularly Butches) who’ve been attacked in this way by conformist Lesbians who want to be accepted by men and het women.

From the start, Separatists have been so lied about and ostracized, that it’s a wonder any of us are still politically active or even personally functioning. Yet the Lesbian feminists, Lesbian socialists, “radfems,” and other activist “radical” Lesbians who attack Separatists would never consider directing such abuse at most other oppressed groups, including other separatist groups. Because Dyke Separatists are “merely” Lesbians, and so insistently Lesbians, it’s acceptable for them to take out all their fear and rage on us. After all, no male or het radical movement cares about Lesbians, so why should other Lesbians?

Separatists we’ve talked with from six different countries have described almost identical experiences of insults, ridicule, threats, slander, and ostracism in their Lesbian communities.

Meanwhile, Lesbians who ally and identify with men and het women do get some measure of tokenized validation and respect from liberal men and het women, and thus from other Lesbians. It’s the traditional male protection racket — women attach themselves to men in order to get “protection” (from other men, of course), while “unattached” females are treated as the lowliest females in society.

Anyone who fights oppression is attacked by the oppressor and by the collaborators, and we’re no exception.                      

                     Lying About Separatists on Behalf of Patriarchy

Lies don’t have to be true to be believed, and stereotypes don’t need to make sense to be convincing. Some anti-Separatist stereotypes are in fact direct opposites: Separatists are reviled because we hate men, yet we’re said to be like men; we’re said to put too much energy into men because we refuse to put any energy into men; we’re accused of being narrow, rigid, intellectual, unfeeling zealots, yet we’re also said to live in a naive fantasy escapist utopia. We’re called harsh and cold, but we’re also accused of being too emotional and intense in our reactions to oppression.

Anti-Separatists accuse us of being “immature,” just as psychologists say that Lesbians are permanently immature, in an arrested stage of development (the evidence being that we never went from having girlfriends to having boyfriends, which is based on female-hating Freud saying that clitoral orgasms were immature and mature women would have vaginal orgasms, from being fucked of course).

Anti-Separatist lies mirror traditional anti-Lesbian stereotypes: “It must have taken something terrible to make you hate men so much” is a variation on “You’re only a Lesbian because you had a terrible experience with men.” Yet we’re also said to be privileged, with no true knowledge of men or the “real world.” Feminist socialists accuse us of being just a non-political spiritual and cultural alternative lifestyle, while “apolitical” Lesbians criticize us for being too political. We’re told we’re too full of hate because we dare to love ourselves in a Lesbian-hating world. Stereotypes aimed at other oppressed groups usually don’t make any sense either, because stereotypes and lies are merely tools used to make those groups seem less “human.”

One of the nastiest attacks on Separatists is to call us “militaristic” and “fascist,” even though Separatism is deeply opposed to fascism and war, and fascist governments always try to exterminate their Lesbian populations. Separatists, like all Lesbians, are in particular danger from right wing men. Calling Separatists “fascist” is also anti-Semitic, because it denies the existence of Jewish Dyke Separatists who are courageously out about being both Separatist and Jewish. Such comments are also particularly offensive to other racially and ethnically oppressed Separatists.

Mainstream patriarchy aims similar lies at non-­Lesbian activist groups, whether they’re anti-racist, het feminist, socialist, unionist, anti-imperialist, environmentalist, or pacifist. Any group fighting for reasonable changes in the basic structure of inequality is accused of “reverse discrimination.” Those who fight for justice under an oppressive system don’t have the power to discriminate against their oppressor. Excluding our attackers isn’t the same as our attackers enacting laws to exclude us -­- it’s the opposite.

Separatists are also accused of being “critical” and “judgmental” because we dare to criticize a system that’s killing females and because we dare to judge men for their crimes. That doesn’t give us social power — it’s a dangerous, painful thing to do that has no external reward.

Separatists are accused of doing nothing and having done nothing for the world. That’s what hets say about Lesbians: “Nothing plus nothing equals nothing.” So the Lesbian-only centers, publications, books, demonstrations, gatherings, conferences, forums, actions, self ­defense classes, art, healing, music, concerts, dances, and love that Separatists have created, and which have improved Lesbians’ lives, must all be worth nothing too, since the accusers only value men and het women.

One of the strangest criticisms of Separatists is that we don’t exist. (This is a charge that right wing pretend ”radfems” make about Butches also.) Truly, some Lesbians have said that Separatism is a thing of the past, yet here we are, across the earth, more of us than ever before. Centuries of persecution haven’t made Lesbians fade away, and persecution won’t make Separatists disappear either. The same courage, determination, and love that keep us alive as Lesbians keeps us going as Separatists.

There’s something very wrong when a movement devoted to fighting oppression is accused of being completely oppressive. It makes sense that men and women invested in males lie about Separatists, because we threaten their power. But it’s Lesbians who are most directly doing their dirty work for them. Why? Het women’s role under male rule is to police other females on behalf of men and, sadly, Lesbians tend to continue this destructive het women’s tradition. Cooperative females are rewarded with social acceptance. Just as het mothers teach their daughters to be quiet and submissive so as not to disturb Father, het feminists suppress and control Lesbians, and anti-Separatist Lesbians try to control and silence Separatists, so we won’t disturb men — especially because when Father is angry, he tends to take it out on the policer as well as the policed. This same system of betrayal happens when male-worshipping women and Lesbians promote men who say they are women and Lesbians against our will.

Anti-Separatists gain in political and social power by attacking Separatists. Some become leaders in the “women’s community,” and some gain influence, status and careers in mainstream het culture. And many Separatist bashers also have gone het.

Do Lesbians who’ve been dedicated to destroying female-only space actually like what they’ve done? Are they happy knowing that little girls are attacked by boys at “women’s” events? Do they like the fact that females have been beaten and raped in the “Women’s” Building in San Francisco by men who were welcomed into the building, and that Lesbians have been attacked by men at a “women’s festival?

Telling a non-Separatist Lesbian that you’re a Separatist is like telling a het woman you’re a Lesbian — they react like you’ve turned into a monster and never speak to you again, or suddenly announce that they’re one too — even though everything they say makes it clear they’re not. Non-Separatists say they’re Separatists for many of the same reasons that non-Lesbians say they’re Lesbians — they want to be with us and enjoy our culture without risking the oppression. They mistakenly think it’s trendy and want the status of being considered daring and unusual. Some are attracted to the truth in Separatism but not fully understanding what it means. There are many non-Separatists who agree with and work for basic Separatist principles such as Lesbian-only and female-only space — yet who’d never identify as Separatists and in fact criticize Separatism.                            

                                                 Lesbians Who Sell Us Out

Recognizing and developing Dyke culture is essential to our survival as Dykes. Culture is the way we express our beliefs, values, and emotions. It’s our music, art, writing, oral traditions, dancing, healing, and even love-making — it’s everything that celebrates Lesbians. If we don’t live within and through our own Dyke culture, we automatically live within and through the dominant male and het culture.

Feminist and Lesbian businesses that are run for power and profit have accompanied the weakening of radical Dyke politics. The betrayal in trying to get as much money as possible affects our communities also in terms of promoting segregation, because events for these organizations cost more than the majority of Lesbians can afford, effectively keeping out the poorest Lesbians, who are also likely to be oppressed by classism, racism, ageism, ableism, etc. We believe this isn’t just coincidental, but deliberate. How nice for the rich to be able to socialize with other privileged Lesbians without being embarrassed by seeing one of their Lesbian servants at events.

It’s not inherently bad for a Lesbian to run a business catering to Lesbians, but it’s a bad idea to confuse it with radical action, to make money at the expense of other Lesbians, and to use it to gain a power position. Many of these businesses make political statements of welcoming men, and sell Lesbian culture to men, while being unfriendly to Lesbians as a group. Basic feminism was opposed to hierarchies with stars and followers, because the star system condones the belief that some women are intrinsically better than others, and should therefore legitimately have power over other women. Now stars are revered without question, even though their power depends on other women being denied power. Usually someone becomes prominent only by diluting her radical politics and dominating and using other Lesbians.

Lesbians once did political work in collectives open to all Dykes, but now many Lesbian organizations are exclusive and closed. Most have “boards of directors” with hierarchies and rules based directly on class-privileged men’s corporate regulations and hierarchies. Decisions are made through a director’s’ decree or power block voting, so that Lesbians in a minority position are ignored or driven out. (And some of these directors make horrifying amounts of money.)

Instead of sharing emotional and political support in the radical free small groups that were once a foundation of Lesbian Feminist culture, there are self-appointed “leaders” or “facilitators” whose qualifications were given to them by men, who control meetings according to their biases and privilege, who tell you when and how you can talk and what you can talk about — all for an expensive fee. Paying them reinforces the “proof” that they are “experts.”

Things that we used to do for ourselves are now in the control of those who run support groups as a business. This has greatly weakened Lesbian politics and communities. The self-reliance, creativity, and daring of Lesbians developing our cultures and politics from our own experiences was the essence of our Dyke culture and essential to our survival as radical, independent, and egalitarian communities.

The Lesbian therapy movement has been a powerfully reactionary force in Lesbian communities. The strong, clear thinking that once transformed Lesbian lives has been diluted into a muddle of dangerous psychobabble. A Lesbian psychology book says that it’s “heterophobic” for Lesbians to criticize het women, and also “homophobic,” because it means we’re not secure in our identity. And of course anyone protesting men in women-only or Lesbian-only space are called “transphobic.” This is classic mind-fuck, as unreal as “reverse racism” where the white racists are whining about being oppressed. Men have the power and are oppressors. Women allied with men against Lesbians are not oppressed when we say no to them or confront their oppressing us. And no, Lesbians are not “homophobic” for fighting our oppression. We’re Lesbian-hating only when we betray ourselves and each other and our cultures.

Mind-fuck and gaslighting are a powerful and dishonest way to silence oppressed groups, by using our politics and language against us. Words that have power and impact are made meaningless. Another example of this method is to silence anyone you disagree with by calling her an “abuser,” even though she’s never hit or threatened or emotionally abused anyone. That, of course, takes all meaning out of the word “abuse,” but it’s a good way to politically and socially eliminate a Lesbian who you don’t like.

“Misogynist” is another term used against Radical Lesbian Feminists and Separatists to bully and censor. Twelve-step programs based on those of Alcoholics Anonymous have been developed to deal with other problems Lesbians have. They’re less hierarchical than some forms of therapy, but because they were originally developed for men, they stress humility and giving up power. Of course this is a good idea for men, but not for Lesbians. Lesbians don’t need to believe in a “higher power” or a male god — we have enough trouble believing in our own power. It would be far better to develop “programs” to overcome self-hatred and learn to love our Dyke selves: in which Lesbians would declare, “I had to face the fact that I have an inner power, and that I can have a powerful effect on others.”      

              Separatism Means Doing Things in Radical Dyke Ways

Lesbian publications and increasingly online Lesbian and “radfem” blogs and facebook groups often avoid strong, radical ideas, and instead promote reactionary politics that are widely supported by the male media and patriarchy. Some are deliberately trolling to promote right wing, reformist, or liberal “feminism” as Radical Feminism, while censoring real Radical Feminism, to confuse new feminists.

They are deliberately undermining our Lesbian Feminist politics of forty plus years. Lesbian policy statements saying clearly that a publication is against heterosexism, racism, classism, ethnicism, imperialism, ageism, ableism, fat oppression, and looksism are rare now, when they once were basic Lesbian Feminism. Invitations especially directed to more oppressed Dykes to write are almost non­existent. Instead of having an editing policy which encourages Lesbians to write in more real, less pretentious ways and to reach writers who have less confidence because of oppression, most Lesbian publications are eager to follow male journalistic and academic styles of classist and racist editing. Slick Lesbian journals refuse work not because it’s oppressive (which should indeed be refused), but because it’s not “good enough” in terms of style, spelling, and grammar.

These male standards have no place in Lesbian communities. All Dykes’ work should be valued, not just those with male university training. Of course we want good quality publications, but that doesn’t mean excluding Dykes by arrogantly presuming to know how we should express ourselves. Racial, ethnic, national, class, and other differences are expressed in writing and language styles, and they should be respected. Otherwise, the many beautifully varied Lesbian voices we have are reduced to the bland, boring, tedious, privileged, and often unreadable form of “proper” class-privileged, academic, WASP English. When male standards are used by Lesbians, including enforcing fake feminism, we lose Lesbians and other feminists who should be with us. These oppressive standards would have eliminated the Lesbians who helped create Lesbian Feminism.

The Lesbian and “radfem” star system has meant that some of us have seen our own and others’ brave Separatist politics reviled, only to have them reappear in a diluted form, plagiarized as the well-loved ideas of well-known writers. These often-quoted stars are usually class-and race-privileged, clearly Fem, proudly ex­-heterosexual, and were still het when the radical Lesbian ideas that they’re now calling their own were first written and said. Unfortunately, even some Radical Feminists contribute to this by quoting and praising certain “radfem” stars, while ignoring the anti-Lesbianism and sometimes even anti-feminism in their writings.

There was such a sense of promise and excitement in the early 1970’s. Then, as selfishness and selling out increased in the growing right wing mainstream male and het cultures, it moved into Lesbian communities. Some of these attitudes were brought by recently-het Lesbians who never heard of caring, egalitarian, Lesbian ways of doing things, and when they did, openly despised them. Being part of a group that accepts selfish behavior also means being treated selfishly and living cold, lonely lives, full of the pretense of love but never the reality. Yet these Lesbians continue imitating male and het cultures.

The “wimmin’s” culture that once meant “Lesbian” is now clearly about “women,” with het women’s values again. Instead of real politics based on real love, “women’s” music is full of the fake “love” found in male music. Lesbian lovemaking is sold as pornography in some Lesbian publications or online. Women fitting grotesque male standards of “beauty” are considered “beautiful” by deluded Lesbians and het women. Even Radical Lesbian Feminists seem incapable of posting images of females that are not disturbing in how male-identified feminine and silly, ungrounded and flimsy they look, One well-meaning Radical Feminist activist actually wrote an article saying she wanted to be a “fairy” and “princess.” Radical Feminists tried to find “warrior women” images to post online, and only found grotesque drawings of half-naked skinny women in high heels looking like they had breast implants. Even many Radical Feminists don’t seem to be aware of what it means that men would never choose to look the way even “strong” women are now portrayed, except as caricature, and that there are almost no strong and dignified images of women anywhere. All are pornified, with revealing clothes, stances, expressions, and poses that men never use because they are porny, demeaning and humiliating. Awareness of all this was common feminist knowledge in Lesbian communities in the Seventies. It changed when porn and sado-masochism was brought into our communities from Gay and het men, by bisexual women posing as Lesbians.

Lesbian consumers who are desperate to fit into the “real” world eagerly consume lies. It’s a choice to live in an artificial world. But if we have enough courage, we can reclaim our Lesbian traditions and our passion, fire, and realness. We can think for ourselves and refuse to participate in the increasing co-option. Most of the co-opters couldn’t and wouldn’t continue undermining us if there wasn’t money to feed them, since money and power is all they care about. If we refuse to fund, believe in, and follow them, then they would fade away.

Dykes who’ve been discouraged by the co-option and by Lesbian betrayals can take heart by remembering that the growth of Dyke-identified communities worldwide is just beginning. Forty-five plus years is a long time in an individual’s lifetime, but it’s a tiny fraction of the thousands of years of patriarchy and Lesbian isolation. Our numbers are growing across the world, across all generations, and our international connections and solidarity are increasing. As we become more Separatist, and therefore more Dyke-loving, we will have the communities we dream of.


1.  As of January, 1989, the 24-Hour National AIDS Hotline of the US Centers for Disease Control reported that of the 82,406 cases of AIDS in the U.S, only two Lesbians had contracted AIDS through sexual contact — and that was from using “sex toys” still moist with the blood and vaginal secretions of their infected partners. Other medical reports claiming female-to-female sexual transmission turned out, on closer examination of the literature, to involve Lesbians who were intravenous drug users and/or bisexuals, so they were probably infected by men or needles contaminated with infected blood. While other Lesbians are clearly at low risk of contracting AIDS, there is always a risk when anyone is lovers with bisexuals or with Lesbians who were recently het (tests aren’t always reliable, since the HIV virus can take a while to show up), or is doing sado-masochism with an AIDS carrier (because of blood-to-blood contact through traumatized, torn tissue). Just as Lesbians are the group at lowest risk for sexual transmission of AIDS, we’re the lowest risk for other STDs. A study of 148 sexually active Lesbians in San Francisco revealed no cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. Sexually Transmitted Diseases,  April-June 1981, 75.

  1. Coming Up, San Francisco, California, August 1986, 9.

3. The Oakland Feminist Health Center has a “Men’s Wart Clinic” for “treatment of penile and anal venereal warts.” Oakland, California, USA, 1987.

4.  Rose Appleman, “Sustenance for the Long Haul: Lesbian Caregivers Conference.” Coming Up, San Francisco, California, August 1989, 6.5. Lesbian Ethics, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1988, 54.

5. Lesbian Ethics, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1988, 54.

Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Chapter Seven: Motherhood: The Ultimate Feminine Role

Chapter Seven: 

Motherhood: The Ultimate Feminine Role

Bev Jo
Linda Strega

(Originally published in 1990, I, Bev, have updated this to share online.)

Radical Feminism is about questioning everything we are taught is sacred and unquestionable in patriarchy, from male religion to every other male dictate for females. Radical Feminism means understanding all male cons in both the political and personal, exploring the political effects of each personal decision, and knowing what choices are possible. Motherhood is one of the most important foundations of patriarchy, yet we are taught that choosing it means becoming woman supreme.

Any time we find ourselves being expected to genuflect to and pay homage to any particular group of people, which means valuing ourselves less, we need to deeply think about why we are expected to do that – especially when they are often our oppressors.

This is not about criticizing women who are mothers, but about exploring the institution of motherhood and how it keeps patriarchy going, because women claiming to be Feminists are still choosing motherhood.

Please have no illusions: If you choose to reproduce, you are being incredibly selfish and keeping patriarchy going. Patriarchy and the daily extinction of species would stop very soon if women just stopped reproducing. This is the one thing where each woman’s decision has a massive effect on the future.

Motherhood is one of the biggest cons and cults of patriarchy. Women complain endlessly about how terrible their lives are as mothers, even though most choose it (yes, most women know that if they choose to let men fuck them, pregnancy is likely). At the same time, mothers brag endlessly about being mothers and about their children, particularly sons. They openly pity women who can’t have children. Most participate wholeheartedly in the destructive myth that they are doing something wonderful for society and the earth, when the reality is that they are giving the earth a death sentence. At the very least, mothers do not have to add to the propaganda of motherhood pushed onto all girls and women, yet, in spite of their bitter complaining, most wholeheartedly pressure other females to also reproduce. Why?

One of the dilemmas of talking about the privilege of motherhood is that motherhood is presented by reformist/right wing/liberal feminists as being the most oppressed condition women can experience. What is ignored in this is the power that motherhood has as an institution, how it is promoted with endless media propaganda, and how women who say no are punished. (If you dare say this on most “radfem” sites, you will be banned for telling the truth.)  Like most kinds of privilege you can often only see it when you’re not experiencing it.

Acting out of heterosexuality, reformist feminists focus primarily on men, ignoring Lesbians and women who say no to breeding. (We are an unpleasant reminder that women can and do choose. They would rather we don’t exist.)  Most women are promised much more than they ever get for reproducing the next men and the next women to breed more men, so they are bitter and angry. They make demands on men to help with their children, and then, without any thought about the privilege they have that is directly gotten at the expense of non-mothers, they expect Lesbians and women without children to help take care of those children, as if they have done us all a favor by reproducing and as if we somehow owe them. They also take out their anger at men onto us.

In reality, reproducing is one of the most selfish things a woman can do. The world is horrifically over-populated and adding more humans is killing the planet. If you dare to say this, the most common response is a crazed “But all humans will die out!” as if that is likely at eight billion and growing. These children, who we never had a say about being made, are our direct competition for future survival resources.

The happiest Lesbians seem to be those who came out late, in their forties or fifties, after having husbands, careers, houses, lots of money, and far better health with which to enjoy life. Of course, most wish they had never chosen men to begin with, but they have gotten substantial rewards for reproducing and choosing men, with a far more secure future than most Lifelong Lesbians.

Meanwhile, het Feminists set on keeping this mess going are unwilling to look at their own complicity, and will do anything to avoid taking responsibility for their past choices to be het, or even their current choice of having a man — so they start talking about girls in far-away countries chained to walls, being raped and forced to reproduce, as if that was their own situation, which is designed to shame us into silence. How dare we even question motherhood, enshrined as a cult along with religion and patriotism?

                            The Myths and Mania of Motherhood

To understand why some Lesbians want to be mothers, we need to understand what the mother role has to offer. There are strong Dyke-identified Dykes who are mothers and who don’t expect to be revered for it. But many Lesbians, both mothers and non-mothers, revere the institution of motherhood in the same ways that patriarchy does. They envision matriarchy is as the ideal alternative to patriarchy, but Mother Rule, especially Het Mother Rule, wouldn’t be much of an improvement over Father Rule. What we need is equality between Lesbians, with no one ruling. The way to create that equality is to question and challenge every “truth,” especially sacred “truths,” that we’re taught. That also means questioning much of feminist analysis, especially the parts that reflect het feminists’ heterosexism.

Very few Lesbians question the sacredness of motherhood and the demand that mothers be treated as superior beings in relation to non-mothers. The few who do are  attacked in print, censored, or banned from online groups. The insults are similar to what men and het women call any female who refuses to support the institution of motherhood. That tells us we must continue exploring why patriarchy and feminists so love motherhood. (Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d”Aujourd’hui of Montréal, Québec, Canada, was a wonderful exception to this.)1

There’s a feminist myth that motherhood is the most deeply oppressed, suffering, and hardworking of female conditions, and that, in comparison, non-mothers’ lives are full of fun, irresponsibility, and freedom. Meanwhile, patriarchal propaganda says that motherhood is the only true fulfillment and happiness a female can have, and that childless females (especially Dykes) live pathetic, empty, meaningless, neurotic, lonely, unnatural, and barren lives.

Both of these myths are lies, based on a distortion of truth. The feminist lie is based on the fact that men oppress women and therefore mothers are oppressed by men. Mothers create and raise children for men — boys are future men, and girls are meant to be future creators and incubators of men, as well as servants and fuck objects. Poor mothers who don’t have men supporting them in their mother role have a hard time making enough money to live while also caring for their children. We agree that mothers’ lives can be hard. It’s expensive and time-consuming to raise children. But that hardship is chosen for the privilege involved, and pain and hardship aren’t always the same as oppression. It’s painful to be het, but het women have tremendous social power over Lesbians and oppress us.

Hetness and, in most cases, motherhood, are choices, and both choices come from a commitment to men first. Even when women don’t decide specifically to get pregnant, if they choose to be fucked by men, then they know what the risks are. Women who choose pregnancy gain the particular privilege and respect that only mothers are allowed. (Women often just continue doing what they are told they are supposed to do and follow what “everyone else is doing,” which means choosing men, making babies, etc.  But clearly not every women does that, and trying to fit in and be considered normal is going for privilege. Some women are more calculating and aim to get a man with substantial privilege so they can have security, status, and money, while providing heirs, as well as sexual services as their part of the bargain — higher class monogamous prostitution.)

The feminist lie that defines mothers as oppressed victims ignores the privilege which comes from men declaring that mothers are the women who everyone must love, praise, and admire. It ignores the existence and deeper oppression of Lesbians who aren’t mothers, especially those who’ve always been Lesbians. The patriarchal lie that defines mothers as supremely fulfilled is based on the false “fulfillment” that privilege gives them – only mothers, enacting the most het of roles, are allowed to represent the radiant epitome of womanliness. The rest of us are treated with various levels of contempt, because men consider our lives as barren as they consider our bodies. Many Lesbians ignore the social power that mothers have, like they ignore the power het women have relative to Lesbians. That power is given to mothers and het women by men because men need them. Men couldn’t exist without mothers.

Patriarchy makes a fuss over the physical aspects of how women become mothers, from the het acts of fucking and pregnancy to having a “fertile” body. In patriarchal minds, giving birth makes a Mature Woman out of a girl. Otherwise, all ages of females are just “girls” to men. The baby is the female body’s badge of completeness. As one mother said, “I feel I would be hollow now if I had not been a mother.”2 This glorification is particularly oppressive to females who are physically unable to get pregnant.

The propaganda is that being pregnant is natural and even needed, not just by humans, but by other animals. Some women even force their pets to get pregnant because they think it’s good for them, though for many species, this means being raped. Many female animals are left scarred and injured, and some die as they fight to defend themselves from being raped. In zoos, when they want a species to reproduce, they often shackle the female to be raped because some will fight to the death against the rapists. Being pregnant also sucks the life force from the mother animal. Female bodies respond as though it’s a parasitic invasion and try to kill the fetus. And many women still become permanently disabled or die from pregnancy and childbirth, which is rarely publicized.

Then there’s the social aspect. In every culture we know of, mothers receive far more respect and status than any other group of females, which is why so many women choose to have children. Even patriarchal religions demand, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Mothers are given their own day — “Mother’s Day.” Businesses praise mothers and give them special discounts — not surprising, since mothers create more consumers. Cards and gifts are sent in their honor, and both the patriarchal and feminist media laud mothers.

Feminist and Lesbian stars do special concerts and events for mothers. One of the largest annual gatherings of Lesbians in the world, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, has been called “a gathering of mothers and daughters,” with mothers therefore doubly welcomed. That means females who are and were het were publicly more welcomed than Lifelong Lesbians and Lesbians who’ve never been het. It also means non-mothers were automatically put in the inferior position of daughters. What other female or Lesbian group is as regularly and institutionally acknowledged and praised as are mothers? No wonder most Lesbian mothers identify first as “mothers” and second as “Lesbians.”

Many employers give special benefits to mothers, and many pay for extensive maternity leave. Some employers and governments provide free childcare. Non-mother Lesbians pay taxes to support those benefits without getting similar benefits when we’re ill or having to look after our lovers and friends who need care. Many feminist groups also provide childcare or money for childcare. (Bev: I taught self-defense classes for girls and women for ten years for Bay Area Women Against Rape. After administrative changes in the group, my $100 a month salary was eliminated, while office staff members received full salary plus $400 a month extra for childcare. Self defense classes are among the most important support that such groups can give to girls and women. I was committed to never being able to leave the area for more than a week for most of ten years since I taught each week, but mothers had priority.)

In Lesbian communities, more Lesbian money has been donated to Lesbian mothers than any other group, particularly for custody cases, while most other Lesbians’ needs are largely ignored. Since the new A.I. (“artificially inseminated”) mothers became the majority of mothers in Lesbian communities, that means they’re likely to get the majority of funding. There’s usually little or no organized financial support for Lesbians who have other responsibilities, such as caring for ill or dying friends and lovers. How much money and support has been raised for homeless, hungry, terminally ill, disabled, and/or imprisoned Dykes compared to money raised for childcare and custody cases? How many Lesbian events welcome children free (including boys), even if the mothers are rich, and then refuse to let in poor Dykes who can’t pay? Lesbians are simply valued less. Why give the most help to those who provide a future for the patriarchy? Children are future men and potentially future het women, while Lesbians merely stay Lesbians. The richly funded “Lesbian Rights” project in San Francisco is almost completely devoted to Lesbian mothers’ and even Gay fathers’ custody cases. “Lesbian Rights” has become synonymous with “Mothers’ Rights”!  (Meanwhile, the “National Center for Lesbian Rights,” with their enormous budget, primarily works for men, including the very men who are destroying our last female only spaces.)

Lesbians who get pregnant assume they can demand support. (Bev: A few years ago, I organized meetings for Lesbians to discuss Lesbian Separatism. One of the Lesbians who sounded very anti-male and agreed that males were inherently dangerous, was pregnant with a boy. I didn’t know her well, but she actually announced she would have me “on diaper duty” for her baby boy. I told her it’s the last thing I would do. A couple of years later, she confided that her still young son is proof of how boys just throw rocks and there is nothing she can do to stop him.)

Motherhood gives an aura of respectability to a Lesbian that nothing else does except going het. The next best thing to being a wife and mother is to at least be a mother. That’s half of the male definition of “woman.” Motherhood gives surrogate wife status. It’s as close as a Lesbian can come to being heterosexual.14 Lesbians have been considered immature by patriarchy and its psychologists, but becoming a mother means becoming a full adult. Mothers of boys get even more privilege, because males are more valued. This increased privilege for Lesbian mothers is gained at the expense of Lesbian non-mothers.

Too many times we’ve heard Lesbians say that mothers should be particularly respected. The prominence of Lesbian mothers in the Lesbian media is an effort to prove that we’re acceptable by het standards — that we’re not alien, inexplicable, Dykey monsters and that we’re family, feminine, wifely, domestic, motherly, and normal. When mothers and ex-het Lesbians are focused on in this way, it’s at the expense of Butch, Never-het, and Life-long Lesbians. In effect, they’re saying, “We’re not perverts like them. Some Lesbians (us!) are real women.”

One of the highest compliments many Lesbians think they can make is to call someone a mother, even if she isn’t. A Dyke who’d never been het worked many years to help create female-only land. The Lesbians who admired her called her a “founding mother.” A well-meaning Dyke bestowed the term “mothers” on us because our political work meant so much to her. She intended it as warm praise, and we appreciated that, but it was actually a negation of all non-mothers. It’s a male lie that females’ potential ability to breed is the well-spring of our energy, spirituality, inventiveness, protectiveness, and kindness. All these qualities stem from our Dykeness. They’re female, not motherly, qualities.  It hurts us a people and culture when Lesbians continue male propaganda among ourselves by saying that non-biological mothers can become mothers through our creativity.

Part of mothers’ power comes from the myth of their being more wise, responsible, caring, loving, and unselfish than anyone else. “Only a mother knows.” The propaganda is everywhere. Try keeping a list of how many times you see motherhood promoted in the media. A newspaper ad showed a mother and baby with the caption “One of the most important jobs in the world ….” A survey of 1000 U.S. women found that 60% said motherhood is the best thing about being a woman.3 A magazine ad described the reverence given to pregnant women:

I felt this incredible sense of well being. There is really nothing like it. People beam at you. They offer you their seats on the bus. Total strangers walk up to you in the supermarket and ask you if they can touch your stomach. Everywhere you go, you feel like your stomach is announcing: “Here I am! I’m making a baby!” Your parents look at you differently, too. My mother was glad I was finally doing something constructive.

In an interview, one woman said, “Everyone pampers you — sometimes even complete strangers. Also, I felt more womanly while pregnant.”

Another said, “…when I was pregnant, I felt that it was acceptable to be ‘fat.’ For the first time, I really liked my body and that was truly liberating.”4

In another article, titled “Battle of the Bulge — When Pregnancy Feels Like an Enemy Invasion,” a woman says:

 “…the first time I ventured onto a bus with my infant son … a young man whom I would have gone out of my way to avoid on a dark street offered me his seat.”5 In another article, a woman who already has six adopted children says, “Actually making a baby is something very important to me. It makes me feel whole.” The writers go on to say, “The need to be fruitful and multiply is a thing of beauty, an impulse to be adored and respected.”6

These aren’t exaggerations. Motherhood is the primary way females are allowed to feel like someone important. In some cultures, like Nazi Germany, mothers are or were given medals by their governments when they produce a large number of children. In others, they’re given honorific titles as part of their names. In the US, a fundamentalist Euro-descent couple is repeatedly put on the cover of national magazines as they have yet another baby. At last count, they’d reached twenty. It’s obscene.

We know Lesbians who say their lives dramatically changed when they became mothers. As Cheryl Jones wrote about being pregnant:

“Strangers on the street talked to me for the first time in years. They were friendly … the difference was that because I’m a lesbian, no one had talked to me on the street for years!  What a strange experience to go from being ‘persona non grata’ to womanhood’s prime exemplar!”7

Those who have sons, especially, are treated with a deference they’d never experienced before, by men, het women, and Lesbians. They finally felt accepted by their families. Even those who identified openly as Lesbians said their neighbors became warmer and more welcoming. The ways they were treated by strangers were also dramatically different when they had children with them.

An acquaintance who became lovers with the mother of a five-year-old boy told us they took him apartment-hunting because landlords were so much more friendly when they presented themselves as mother, son, and friend. Whenever they went without him, they were treated with wariness and hostility.

We knew two Lesbians in a couple, a mother and a non-mother, who were treated very differently by the same food stamp worker, although they were equally qualified for assistance, came from similar backgrounds, and weren’t very different in appearance and behavior. The mother, who brought her daughter to the interview, was treated in a friendly way and assured that she would receive her food stamps as quickly as possible. The non-mother was treated harshly and got her food stamps only after obstacles and delays.

Non-mother Lesbians who are with children are usually assumed to be mothers and also get preferential treatment. Whenever one of us accompanied friends’ young daughters in public, we were astounded at how much better we were treated than when alone or with adult Lesbians. Women smiled benignly and acted comfortable with us, instead of being hostile. It made going out in public immeasurably easier. Even the most obvious-looking Lesbian becomes more acceptable if she’s with a child. As one Lesbian we know said, ”When I walk down the street with a friend’s baby, I’m no longer the fat Butchy Dyke I’ve been all my life.”

A Radical Feminist in one of our online groups wrote:

Mothers are privileged and I am forever frustrated at how other women who aren’t feminists are sucked into wishing for motherhood to obtain that privilege and attention. Last night, there was a whole group of what appeared to be coworkers at a restaurant I was at. They were celebrating a baby shower and everyone was excited and praising this woman for her pregnancy. Even the males present were excited and lavishing attention on her. There were children attending also and all I could think about was how every little girl at that table was seeing the admiration and attention that the pregnant woman was receiving, and how even the strangers at another table offered congratulations to her. It was one of those moments where discussions on this thread were playing themselves out right in front of me. This was all brought to a head by another female friend at the table looking adoringly at her boyfriend/husband and saying “I can’t wait to be able to be a mother.” It was horrifying, like some kind of love fest for this pregnant woman. It’s no wonder that women think they want to have kids. Look at the importance placed on it! It was ridiculous!

Mothers in public places frequently demand attention from everyone around them. It’s not unusual to see a mother in a store talking very loudly to her child while she looks around expectantly for compliments. Mothers of boys are more likely to act this way, but mothers of daughters sometimes do too. It’s a way of showing off to the world that they’re mothers. They take up a great deal of physical and psychic space with their demands for attention, expecting everyone, particularly other females, to pay homage to them. One example: In a doctor’s office, there was a mother with a young boy who was running around the waiting room, yelling. His mother commented loudly on his every move, announcing that he was going to be a doctor because he picked up a toy stethoscope. She could care less that people in a doctors’ office might be sick or in pain and needing quiet.

Another example: We were in a park, sitting by a pond with fish, celebrating one of our birthdays. Other women were drawing and talking quietly in this peaceful space, with plenty of room for everyone. Then a class-privileged-looking mother of a very young boy came up and sat so close that she touched one of us, even though there were other empty seats near the pond. She held her son out in front of her, literally pushing him in our faces, saying loudly, “Look at the fish, dear!” The boy looked completely bored. She repeatedly told him to notice the fish, while looking expectantly at us. We ignored her, which wasn’t easy, considering the noise she was making and the fact that she was brushing against one of us. Then she asked if she was bothering us. When we said yes, we’d rather not be shoved, she began yelling at us. We reminded her, quietly and politely, that she had asked us and we were only responding. She continued yelling, so we told her that we just wanted to be left in the peace that was there before she came. She walked away, screaming, “You must be Lesbians! You must be Lesbian Separatists! Well, I fuck men!” (The other women at the pond looked at her like she was crazy.) We’d said nothing to her about men, boys, het women, heterosexuality, or being Lesbians. We simply had refused to smile at her and her boy.

                                 “Don’t You Dare Talk Back!”

The pain a mother suffers is considered more important and serious than any other female pain. A ludicrous example is when a Lesbian we knew said that she was in emotional agony because “A mother’s pain is the greatest pain. No one else feels as much as a mother.” She wasn’t even a mother, but imagined she was because she had been trying to adopt a girl. Even after being denied the adoption, she was already identifying with the mother role and being oppressive to non-mothers. Mothers are also considered more important, as shown throughout the media, when it’s mentioned that a mother has been injured. Clearly the constant message is that non-mothers being hurt or killed matter less.

The main reason Lesbians believe mothers are more oppressed than non-mothers is because mothers use their privilege to demand special treatment. Their demands have quite an impact when they’re delivered in the authoritarian, shocked tones that mothers use for “naughty” children. It is, after all, the mother’s role to be obeyed without question. They use the same controlling behavior towards non-mothers as they use on their daughters. As the old saying goes, “God created mothers because he couldn’t be everywhere at once.” Lesbians who challenge mothers’ privilege are likely to be treated as if we were “disobeying” them, even when we’re a great deal older than the mothers. Mothers expect Lesbians, as well as their children, to treat them with the same reverence.

Few non-mothers have had the experience of talking to others in quite such condescending ways. As a US bumpersticker says, “I’m the Mom, that’s why!” Mothers have the authority that comes only from having total control and ownership of someone else, including literally having the power of life and death over their children. One mother we knew said she was exhilarated by the power she had over her daughter, joking that it would be easy to foul up her daughter’s life by teaching the wrong words for everything.

The powerlessness of young girls is one key to understanding the power of mothers. Motherhood also gives females power over males that non-mothers rarely have. A friend of ours said that raising sons made it possible for her to know about how to talk to adult male strangers as if they were little boys, and sometimes they would just respond without question as if they were obeying their mother. Knowing the power of mothers’ disapproval, the US Postal Service had an ad for “Mother’s Day” that said “It’s not too late to win Mother’s approval.”

It’s particularly unfair when mothers use the political language of oppression to manipulate non-mothers into treating them with deference. Caring, responsible Dykes often believe someone who claims to be oppressed, especially if they are accused of not understanding, because “you don’t know what it’s like to be a mother.” That is as outrageous as the class-privileged saying that poor and working class Dykes have no right to talk about class privilege because we’ve never experienced it. Some Lesbian mothers may be angry at the privilege they lost when they became Lesbians, and expect non-mothers to make up for it. But men are responsible for their Lesbian oppression, not Lesbians.

 Some Mothers Betray Their Daughters and Other Females for Males

Considering the amount of nuclear and other toxins, as well as imperialist racist oppression that European-descent christian men have spread across the earth, European-descent gentile females have a specific responsibility to not create more males. No matter how many horror stories that the mainstream media reports about the destruction of the earth, they rarely say to stop breeding. Even environmentalists keep churning out the babies. Most of the world’s forests are cut down, most water is contaminated, and entire species of animals destroyed forever. It’s happening now. How can anyone but the most selfish (unless they are from a people endangered by genocide), keep reproducing?

For those who say it’s natural to reproduce, disease and parasites are also “natural.” The crazed obsession that men and het women have with fucking and making horrible over-populated replicas of themselves is not natural, but is a sign of humans being way out of control in nature. Animals, including people, do not overpopulate unless the natural balance is very disturbed, and no one has disturbed nature more than men.  No other animal has created such an artificial environment all over the earth. Very little in hetero-patriarchy is natural. They even buy and cover themselves in stinking toxic chemicals because they believe it makes them more appealing.

Het women’s obsession with reproduction is so extreme that some women get pregnant even when they know for certain that their child will inherit an excruciating, fatal disease. That’s “love”?

Wanting the attention mothers get motivates women who clearly should not be having babies. One of us was put in touch with a “Radical Feminist” new in town, who turned out to be a pregnant homeless woman who refused to get an abortion because she compared it to killing people. This woman knew about overpopulation and so made up a story about being “Indigenous,” saying she was Irish-descent, but a little later admitted that she was genetically English. She wanted help to find a dry doorway in the rain to sleep and ended up going back to a railway car to join the homeless man who had gotten her pregnant. It never seemed to occur to her that any baby she had would be in danger and have a hellish life. It was all about her.

In order to keep their het and mother privilege, some het mothers selfishly collude in the rape of their daughters. There’s an excellent film about Canadian Shirley Turcotte’s journey to talk with her family about her father orally and vaginally raping her and her sister from the ages of five. Shirley’s sister said, “I was five when I first tasted his semen….dad went all the way with me when I was five. I remember that and mom came home and I was bleeding down there…. I keep wondering, well, why didn’t she take me to a doctor and get me checked up. Why?”  When she was in her teens, she became pregnant. “I tried to tell a priest that it was my dads’ baby…. The priest said, ‘No, no that’s not right. Don’t accuse your dad, you’re supposed to respect him: Honor thy father, honor thy mother.’” Shirley’s mother said about their father, “He could be very loving.” Shirley asked, “He was loving? When did he change?” Her mother answered, “ When you were babies. He didn’t like the crying.”8

Katinka, a Swedish Dyke Separatist said that in the Swedish Women’s Bulletin, a socialist-feminist mother said, “If we want men to share in taking care of girls, we can’t go around accusing them of incest.” She heard another mother say that her greatest fear about her daughter being raped is that it might cause her to become a Lesbian.

                             “Lesbians” Getting Pregnant???

How would you like to live in a world of 85% men?  (That’s what A.I. usually produces because the XX sperm are heavier, with more genetic material.)

Het baby booms often follow right wing reactionary trends. Political pressure is put on women to return to or stay in traditional male-defined feminine roles and accept male supremacy. “The lower the status of females in a culture, the higher the birthrate; the higher the status of females, the lower the birthrate.”Women who call themselves “Lesbians” started getting pregnant in the early Eighties.

Patriarchy and nationalism are intertwined, and motherhood is a key part of both. Right wing national trends were partly a reaction to the growing Lesbian and feminist movements, just as they were in 1930’s Nazi Germany. In an effort to destroy the growing German Feminist and Lesbian movements, the Nazis proclaimed women’s role to be “Kinder, Kirche, Küche” – “children, church and kitchen.” (US nationalism is epitomized by “mom, the flag, and apple pie.”) This pressure to reproduce was directed at so-called “Aryan” women, while Jewish, Roma/Gypsy, Slavic, and disabled females were killed or sterilized by the Nazis. In the US, females oppressed by racism and classism have been victims of enforced sterilization. Harry Laughlin, the “father” of US eugenics inspired the Nazis and they awarded him honorary degrees. (Bev: My poverty class aunt was sterilized against her will at sixteen by the US government, for being a “criminal.”)

As gentile Lesbians of primarily European descent, we recognize that Lesbians whose cultures have suffered genocide are under different pressures to get pregnant than more privileged Lesbians. But still, those who do choose pregnancy are oppressing all Lesbian non-mothers, particularly those who never got heterosexual privilege.

Like Lesbianism, resistance to motherhood exists in all cultures and is a powerful threat to patriarchy. This revolutionary resistance has been carried out in isolation and in small groups everywhere, in spite of punishment, including death. It’s sometimes been done with full awareness of its political female-loving significance, and sometimes out of intuitive self-love, in spite of feeling guilty for disobeying. In every case, it represents saying no to men and male rule. It is the stubborn survival of Lesbians’ love for ourselves and each other, against all odds.

This beautiful Lesbian determination deserves recognition, support, and respect from all Lesbians. Understanding the significance means understanding that Lesbian self-love and self-respect is the opposite of the male-defined femininity of wifehood and motherhood. The revolutionary quality of this resistance is often not noticed or appreciated because actions that do not benefit men and their het women agents are not honored. We need to recognize that men hate Lesbians not only because we say no to them and dare to love our own kind, but because we refuse to breed and make more men and more het women to produce men.

Many Lesbians had children when they were het, and some didn’t want to be mothers. Some women were raped and were not able to have abortions. A few women have given up their children. Some of the Lesbian mothers who gave up sons clearly did it to protect our Lesbian culture. (Ruston: I recall that almost every politically active Lesbian mother I met in Women’s Liberation and the Lesbian community in Aotearoa in the 1970’s had left her children, particularly sons.) In patriarchy, where women are considered to be of little value except as wives and mothers, this is a courageous act. Some Lesbians who gave up their children have been abused by both the het world and het-identified Lesbians. There are also Lesbian mothers who haven’t tried to bully non-mothers into taking care of their children and have done their best to reject mother privilege.

Many Lesbians’ reasons for getting pregnant mirror het women’s — it’s trendy and “everyone is doing it” – which are the same reasons for going het and marrying men. It’s a selfish, personal attempt to feel less powerless, as opposed to a political solution that might actually give us real power in our lives. Men are destroying the earth, raping and killing girls and women, while het women continue fucking and making more men. Then “Lesbians” in Lesbian communities started following. Very soon, the Lesbian media was making “Lesbian” pregnancy look fun and attractive. A Lesbian cartoonist even showed a “Lesbian” couple’s baby boy pissing on Lesbians as cute. (This same lauded cartoonist who was printed in many publications and published cartoon books over years, also drew semen dripping from a condom, but never once drew a Butch.)

Some of the Lesbian pro-pregnancy propaganda portray it as if it’s courageous, creative and revolutionary, but, like het motherhood, it’s the same boring, confining, reactionary, traditional, and right wing role for women, like all aspects of heterosexuality.

Motherhood has never caused great change and instead keeps women “in their place.” Yet non-mothers are pressured to feel guilty by their families and patriarchy. When Ellen DeGeneres first came out, she was asked if she was going to have babies and she said, “No, I’m too selfish.” What on earth is selfless about reproducing?  It’s the ultimate patriarchal mind-fuck. One Lesbian we know said apologetically that her reasons for not getting pregnant were “just personal, not political” since she hadn’t realized her own courage and the political nature of her resistance. Even popular het women stars are pressured relentlessly in the media to reproduce.

And then there is breeding as proof of a happy relationship, just like with het women. We heard a Lesbian actually say about her ex-lover, “I loved her so much and was so committed to her that we were going to have children, though I hate children.”

Lesbians aren’t voluntarily sexual in any way with men. The acts of welcoming semen into one’s body, being pregnant, giving birth, and breastfeeding are specifically heterosexual acts. Women who choose pregnancy are simply not Lesbians. They may yet become Lesbians or they may have been Lesbians in the past, but they’re not Lesbians while participating in the most heterosexual of acts. If they’re being sexual with Lesbians, then they’re bisexual. This isn’t a question of semantics, but of Lesbian survival.

Women who inject semen into themselves are subjecting their Lesbian lovers to the same dangers that other bisexuals subject Lesbians to, such as STDs, including AIDS.10 Lesbians are the least likely people to get AIDS from sexual contact, but “artificial insemination” does cause a risk and some “Lesbians” have been infected. Because many of these women used semen from Gay men, they’re likely to have a higher than usual rate of AIDS. The Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia Burgdorferi, has also been found in semen, and most Lyme is not diagnosed and is almost impossible to cure, so that means many men are carrying it. Semen itself is an immune depressant. Female bodies react to sperm as an invasion of foreign cells and send antibodies to kill them.11 There are other dangers as well. Sperm donors, including Gay men, have sued for “paternal rights” when they’ve found out that their sperm has impregnated women. Some have even become physically threatening out of possessive jealousy for “their” children. In most men’s minds, the bearer of “his” child is “his” woman.

Over 85% of A.I. babies are male.12 Women who become pregnant with male fetuses are doubly heterosexual. They live for nine months in more intimate contact with a male than het women experience when being fucked. They share blood, and the baby’s male hormones flow through the mother’s blood, affecting her mind and body. There is no act more heterosexual than creating men.13

Some mothers speak openly about their heterosexual bonds with their sons.  As one mother said, in a U.S. survey of how women feel about motherhood, “There is a romance between mother and son that doesn’t exist between mother and daughter. You can love your daughter, but you both love and are in love with your son.”14 In an interview, another mother said of her new son, “I don’t feel like I’m all alone any more. I have a significant other in my life.” Yet another mother said, “A mother wants a son to grow up early in life and be her advisor, escort, and extension of the men in her life. She wants her daughter to always be her little girl, not quite mature enough to make it without Mama’s help.”15

Some Lesbian mothers are also open about their het attitudes. In a poem to her son, one Lesbian mother said, “I see I am in love with you.”16 Another said to a Lesbian she considered hiring, “I want whoever does childcare for my boy to fall in love with him.” One “Lesbian” mother wrote about her sperm donor, “It took me six months to get pregnant. During that time Joe kept track of my cycle, would check to see if I got my period, and would write down in his calendar the days he was coming over to visit and jerk off. We had a corner for his favorite sex magazines. He used my pyrex cup as a receiving vessel. Even now I feel good every time I cook.”17 In an interview on a television news program, another said, “I looked for the right father for my child …. It was like falling in love with him … in a sense it was.” The “Lesbian” mother and sperm donor cuddled together for the television camera.18 Many pseudo-Lesbian mothers have surrogate fathers for their children. Patriarchy is father-rule, but you can’t have fathers or patriarchy without mothers.

Many Lesbians want to believe that women who choose to get pregnant are Lesbians if they say they are. (Many also desperately want to believe the bisexual and het women they love are Lesbians, but that doesn’t make it true.) Thousands of women are choosing to get pregnant, assuming that Lesbians will take care of them and their (majority) sons. As long as we accept these women as Lesbians, we’ll feel a responsibility towards them. Lesbians give them abundant physical and emotional care because they perceive them to be Lesbian mothers.

The role of mother is a heterosexual one. It takes tremendous work and commitment for a mother who becomes a Lesbian to stop identifying as a mother first and acting in a mother role. Even if she does stop, the privilege remains, although Lesbians can choose to not act out of that power and can try to have equal relationships with other Lesbians. For a Lesbian to choose to become a biological mother is to wholeheartedly embrace what motherhood means in patriarchy. Besides the pregnancy itself, the mother is now committed to devoting a major part of her life to nurturing and loving, in most cases, a male or future het woman. Her primary identity becomes that of Mother, as many have proudly said.

The het world has always exerted tremendous pressure on Dykes to become het, to accept fucking, femininity, pregnancy, and motherhood. Of course, hets want us to stop being Lesbians, to stop being a threat to patriarchy. Now het pressure is being exerted from within Lesbian communities as well as from outside. But Lesbians don’t choose to get pregnant any more than we choose to be fucked by men. Calling these women “Lesbians” contributes to defining Lesbians out of existence. Hets would love to believe that all Lesbians are really bisexuals or potential hets, and that Lesbians really need men to fuck them or at least provide sperm to make the babies that all females are supposed to want. That would prove that heterosexuality (submission to men) is the natural state of females. The “Lesbian” baby boom became widely known in the het world, as the headline “Lots of Lesbians Having Babies” announced in a San Francisco newspaper. The article even referred to the fact that some “Lesbians” get pregnant through fucking, not just A.I.19

How many thousands of Dykes feel betrayed by this het activity masquerading as Lesbianism? How many Dykes are finding themselves the only one in their community who objects to friends or lovers becoming pregnant and/or fucking with men, and are made to feel like perverted freaks as a result?

If patriarchy can’t kill us, get us to kill ourselves, lock us up, persuade us to hide who we are, or get us to become het or bisexual, then they try to define us out of existence. If anyone can call herself (or himself) a Lesbian, and if “Lesbians” fuck, have babies, and create and raise men, then what about those of us who are still real Dykes who love each other, love ourselves, and don’t want semen anywhere near us?

We’re saying that true Dykes are not disappearing, and we refuse to be divided and isolated from each other. No matter how men and their women collaborators try to dilute our Lesbian identities and politics, some of us remain Dykes and are working toward truly Dyke-identified communities.

It can be very hard for Lesbians who are alone in being against the “Lesbian” fad of getting pregnant. Often the mothers-to-be and new mothers are surrounded by Lesbians who dote on them, satisfying their every whim. Anyone who dares to question the situation is likely to be insulted and ostracized. We want Dykes in that situation to know that they have support. The following list has been helpful for those who are dealing with a lover or friend who wants to get pregnant.

                         Are You Considering Having a Baby?

Well, your decision affects all of us, and there are some things we’d like to say about it.

Becoming a Mother Does NOT Mean …

  1. … that you are a loving, unselfish individual.
  2. … that you are politically courageous.
  3. … that you will become more oppressed than Lesbian non-mothers.
  4. … that if you have a daughter she will become a Lesbian.
  5. … that if you have a son he will be the exceptional non-sexist male (the messianic mother complex).
  6. … that you aren’t bringing another rapist into the world.
  7. … that you’ll be able to relive your life through your children.
  8. … that you have a right to expect or demand that Lesbians take care of you and your children.
  9. … that you have a right to inflict another male on our Lesbian communities.
    10  … that you have a right to inflict another male on our world.

 But Becoming a Mother DOES Mean …

  1. … that you are treated with more respect and privilege in the world.
  2. … that you are treated with more respect and privilege among Lesbians.
  3. … that this increased privilege is at the expense of Lesbian non-mothers.
  4. … that your privilege is greater if you have a son.
  5. … that you’re fulfilling the male-defined role of femininity and Motherhood.
  6. … that you’re doing what you’ve been ordered to do since you were born. … that you’re participating in a reactionary choice to join the het baby boom which is part of a right-wing backlash against Lesbians.
  7. … that you’re sentencing yourself to at least an 18-year commitment.
  8. … that you have less time and energy to take care of yourself and other Lesbians.
  9. … that you have a primary commitment to your children that will take precedence over close Lesbian friends or lovers
  10. … that you’re contributing to more hardship in all of our lives because your babies will be our future competition for housing, jobs, resources, and possibly food and water.
  11. … that you will replay some of the same destructive roles you experienced with your family.
  12. … that you’ll be caught up in the circular trap of dependent and caretaker
  13. … that it’s likely your children will later hate you because they didn’t grow up with all the privileges of a normal nuclear family.
  14. … that they’re likely to hate you just because of the power you have over them as a mother, whether you wanted that power or not.
  15. … that you will be vulnerable to being institutionalized by them when they grow up.
  16. … that you’re most likely creating more heterosexuals.
  17. … that you’re burdening an already overpopulated world.
  18. that no matter what you do, if you have a boy, he will likely terrorize and assault girls and, later, adult women and Lesbians, and likely will be a rapist.
  19. … that if you have a son and a daughter, it will not be unusual for your son to sexually assault your daughter.
  20. … that it won’t be a rare if you are assaulted by your son when he gets old enough.
  21. … that you’re no longer a Lesbian because playing with semen, being pregnant, and giving birth are heterosexual acts.
  22. … that you risk getting AIDS and other STDs and passing them on to Lesbians.
  23. .… that you’re weakening and permanently altering your body, and shortening your life span, making it more possible to bleed to death, develop high blood pressure, have a stroke or heart attack, or develop diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.20 (The dangers of pregnancy and childbirth are a well-kept secret.)

                                      Boys Oppress All Females

Het mothers are notorious for worshipping their sons. “I was in awe that I could produce a male human.” When I look at my daughter, I see myself. When I look at my son, I see my son.” I think I will be more a friend to my daughter and be respectful to my son.” “It’s a new world seen through your son’s eyes, and for some reason we let them get by with doing things that we’d never let a girl do.”21

In an anthology, one mother whose adult son was living with her described picking up his shit-filled underwear and smelling it, saying how in love with him she is. With this level of adoration, if such a son raped her daughter or other girls or women, who would she protect?

Considering the amount of energy already poured into men and boys in this male-run world, why would any Lesbian want to give them more, let alone make more of them? The sons of mothers that already exist are enough of a threat to all girls and women.

Boys are voyeuristic and prurient towards girls and women from an early age. Too many mothers make their sons’ right to run around naked take precedence over girls’ and women’s rights to not have to see them, like when mothers bring sons into changing rooms where girls and women are subjected to seeing their erections. Like when adult men are naked, this is a threat of rape. Some mothers even allow their sons to masturbate in front of Lesbians.

Lesbians are sometimes concerned about the power they have as adults over boys, forgetting that boys have power given to them by adult males. In some countries, boys have power over all females, including their mothers. Many Lesbians have internalized the het women’s role to protect all males, even at other females’ and their own expense. When Lesbians have to defend ourselves from attacks by boys, we are vulnerable to reprisals from authorities as well as from Lesbians. Thinking of boys as kids or children denies the fact that boys have the power to threaten girls and anyone else they can physically intimidate. Boys also often have less concern about the consequences of their violence than men do, since they are almost impossible to prosecute for raping, torturing, or even killing, and they know it. They have the law and their families, including their mothers, to protect them.

When feminists proudly proclaim that anyone who bothers their “kids” will have to deal with them, do they include girls or women defending themselves?  One feminist proclaimed on her facebook masthead that “there is no greater warrior than a mother protecting her child” and elsewhere on her page wrote, “You mess with my kids and you mess with their crazy ass Mom…. be warned.”

Teenaged boys are more violent than any other age group of males, and boys in gangs are even more sadistic, which is why some dictatorships prefer having boys as young as twelve recruited into their armies.

Lesbians’ sons have attacked and raped girls, including their sisters and other Lesbians’ daughters. Many adult, able-bodied women aren’t concerned about boys’ attacks on girls because they smugly assume they themselves are safe, but females of all ages have been attacked and killed by boys. Girls and disabled women are more vulnerable to injury, but all females are targeted by males. And being able-bodied is a temporary condition. Sons also assault their mothers and it’s not rare for a boy to rape, beat, or kill his mother or other older female relatives. Some boys kill their entire families. Boys are increasingly becoming mass murderers.

Why do so few Lesbians remember their fear and hatred of boys who attacked and sexually harassed them when they were girls?

It’s dangerous to believe you can raise gentle, non-dangerous males. Socialization is not the problem since male violence extends across species. From an early age, boys exhibit a sadism, cruelty, and violence that is extremely different from girls’ behavior. (Girls who do attack others are often joining with boys.) Some boys may be considered well-behaved if compared to more violent boys, but even the gentlest boys show a viciousness when compared to girls. We always say, you never know what males are doing when alone with babies or animals. Yet this violence is considered the norm: “Boys will be boys.” Contrary to myth, serial rapists and killers are not “sick.” They measure on psychological testing as normal males. And girls and women are most likely to be attacked by males that they are close to, including relatives. Woman who think they can control the danger of their boys and men are deluding themselves, and the rest of us pay the cost.

It’s not mothers’ fault that their sons are rapists and murderers. But it is their responsibility to be aware that they might be. All mothers think that their sons will be the exceptional males, but Lesbians’ sons have inside information about our culture and communities, and no matter how catered to and shown that they matter more than any girl, woman, or Lesbian — because of that worshipping — many boys will be resentful that they didn’t get even more privilege or grow up in a “normal” het nuclear family. Some of them, like pornographer Tobi Hill-Meyer, was even brought to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival as a boy. Now, he damages our community by claiming to be a Lesbian and Butch (though he’s typically male-identified feminine), getting into power positions as so many men who claim they are Lesbians do, such as being on the board of Butch Voices, controlling and censoring our community. And this man who is actually accepted as a Lesbian, has posted photos and videos of his erect prick online.

Every boy and man who has beaten, raped, and killed a girl or woman has had at least one woman (if not many) in his life who loved, protected, and nurtured him, and who tried her best to keep him from being a brutal, dangerous attacker. It isn’t these women’s fault if the boys they loved are rapists and killers, but they do share responsibility if they continue supporting them. Choosing to nurture our attackers means becoming their collaborators. The mother who insists her son is an exception is inflicting her self-righteousness on every female he will attack in his life. She has no right to bring another oppressor into our world, and even less right to bring him into a Lesbian community and demand that we be forced to be around him or look after him.

Even Lesbian Feminists delude themselves. Some years ago, we went to a Lesbian Feminist event in another city that included a short film by a Lesbian that was supposed to be cute, but which was actually showing one Lesbian’s son assaulting another Lesbian’s daughter. They looked to be about eight years old. The girl was dressed only in a full body leotard, while the boy had on trousers, jacket, and cap. When the girl tried to talk, the boy put his hand over the girl’s mouth, punched her, and shoved her out of the view of the camera, which kept its focus on him. He picked up the girl, and when she yelled to be put down, he dropped her. He told her to climb on his back, and then he threw her down on her head. While still lying on the ground, he shoved his face into her crotch and wouldn’t stop, even though she kept yelling “Stop it!”  That was the end of the film. The girl looked increasingly embarrassed and humiliated in the film. It was excruciating to watch, but the audience of about a hundred Lesbians applauded and had laughed throughout, even though what they were lauding was obviously a sexual assault. We were horrified. If this is what a Lesbian’s son does in front of a camera, what does he do with no witnesses? Would the audience have been applauding if the film showed two adults instead?  Clearly, this was a boy much loved and accepted in that community, and would be able to get away with almost anything. Why did the girl not matter at all?

When we talked with Lesbians afterward, they were patronizing: “It’s just kids playing.” “That’s how they learn their roles.” (!!!) “It’s a heterosexual phase all kids go though.” (The “heterosexual phase” didn’t include the girl who did not agree to any of it. And those of us who didn’t like boys sexually assaulting us when we were girls must then be freaks or don’t exist.) We were told we were over-reacting and asked if we’d ever “worked with kids.” So we had to be experts to earn the right to object to girls being assaulted? The fact that we have clear memories of being attacked and injured by boys when we were little didn’t count. We even asked, “But don’t you remember what it was like for you as a girl?” and one of the Lesbians said she’d “learned to roll with the punches” from her bother and that it was “fun.”

The girl was objectified as not possibly feeling the way a woman would in the situation. Calling both the girl and boy “kids” removed the girl from recognition or sympathy she would have gotten as a woman. The boy was also identified as being different from adult men and therefore less dangerous and oppressive, though boys his age do rape and kill. Many of those Lesbians had to have been sexually assaulted as girls, yet they identified with the boy, betraying themselves, the girl, and all of us who are female.

What we learned is that Lesbians who love and protect boys can’t be trusted to care about how dangerous those boys are. Their loyalty is to boys first, just as most het women’s loyalty is. We’ve seen too many instances of Lesbians’ daughters and girls treated with harshness and contempt, while sons are fussed over with a respect that borders on reverence.

Het women are even more likely to delude themselves about their “wonderful” boys. It’s become trendy among the most class-privileged young Euro-descent women to convince everyone how sensitive and gentle their sons are. We met a woman like this who had a five year old boy. As she told us how he loved plants, the little prick was systematically beating her flowers with a stick, shredding the plants to death. She said tenderly, “No don’t do that, dear. You know you love flowers.” He continued killing the plants.

This “progressive” kind of motherly discipline of the past thirty years has produced an even more dangerous male. The mother gives her son the sense that the world revolves around him, and that he is allowed to do whatever he wants. She’s certainly never said no to mother’s little darling or let him know what pain feels like when she’s found him torturing, raping, and killing animals or beating and sexually assaulting girls.

How many girls will be beaten and raped, and adult Lesbians oppressed, before all Lesbians realize that boys raised by Lesbians are no less a threat than other boys?

Boys who rape their sisters and other girls are usually still accepted and loved. If there’s blame, it’s usually put on the girls, no matter her age, who’s accused of “asking for it” – even if she’s too young to walk or talk.

Because girls are growing up in Lesbian communities of 85% boys, the rate of rape and violence to girls has to be much higher. How can Lesbians as individuals and communities tolerate this.

Motherhood Oppresses Girls, but Heterosexual Girls Oppress Lesbians                  

A Lesbian baiting us about being against “Lesbian” pregnancy asked, “Well, where do you think little Lesbians come from?”  The reality is that most Lesbians come from the same place that we always came from: het nuclear families. Whether we are Lesbians or not is simply a choice. Some Lesbians talk about making little Amazons of the future, but no one can make a girl a Lesbian. It’s what we believe all girls would naturally choose if it wasn’t for the rewards or punishments given in patriarchy, but legally owning someone can’t force that decision.

Most daughters of Lesbians choose to be het for the privilege.

Patriarchy puts unrelenting pressure on girls to fit in and be “normal.” It can be horrible to devote twenty years of your life to a girl and then she decides to be fucked by men and be Lesbian-hating. The rewards for selling out are similar to why many Lesbians return to men. Most of the daughters of Lesbians we’ve known chose men. One of these girls would hang around with her men in public places and taunt Lesbians by name (patronizingly patting them on the head), who she knew from growing up in a Lesbian community, to humiliate them for the benefit of her men. The Lesbians who loved and raised this girl went through hell and risked imprisonment to get her away from her abusive father and to give her the best life possible.

We have a friend who almost lost her teaching job because a Lesbian-hating girl circulated a petition saying that our friend had sexually harassed her female students. The girl first got other girls to sign a completely different petition and then attached their names to her lie. When confronted, she admitted it was a lie and said she’d done it so our friend would lose her job. Het girls can be cruel and oppressive to Dykes of all ages, but Dyke girls are even more vulnerable to their Dyke-hating.

If Lesbians are really concerned about girls, why not try to help girls who are already Lesbians who are living on the streets or in shelters?  Many have been disowned by their families or run away from abusive families.

                   Fighting Mother Privilege is Dyke-Loving

If motherhood improved the world, the world would be in a much better state since it’s filled with mothers. Having a baby won’t enable you to relive your life and it won’t cause you to be a better person. It will likely do the opposite since it will give you the power to raise another person as property, to hit and punish and humiliate. And that kind of power corrupts. It’s bad enough that we are all taught to accept inequality and injustice as normal, because of the hierarchical families and cultures we grown up in. It’s hard enough to fight inequalities among Lesbians without choosing such an extremely unequal role. One mother said, ”I used to think a lot about how I would glow when I was pregnant, about how important I would feel to produce a baby that came from my own body. I imagined I would feel like a Madonna, holding a complacent infant in my arms. I loved the idea of having a baby completely dependent on me. That babies grow up never crossed my mind.”

The patriarchal system of family ownership can also be dangerous to mothers. Lesbians are already vulnerable to being institutionalized by Lesbian-hating family, but Lesbian mothers are also vulnerable to being declared incompetent and locked up by adult children and even grandchildren. Mothers legally have power over minors, but as they age, the power shifts to their adult children.

Many Lesbians who support het values do so out of passivity. Since mothers believe we owe them care, attention, money, energy, sympathy, admiration, respect, and even obedience, and then feel justified in demanding that and more. If we don’t refuse those het values, we’re likely to respond out of guilt for not being mothers ourselves, and perhaps with eagerness to prove we’re not too unnatural to have “motherly instincts.” By contrast, Dykes with little or no past het privilege are taught to expect abuse rather than respect. So it’s harder for us to expect help, much less demand it when we really need it, and other Lesbians are less inclined to organize help if we do ask.

We should never be accused of being woman-hating if we refuse to be mothers or refuse to help mothers. Motherhood bleeds our communities dry. Lesbians who choose not to be mothers should never have to pay economically, politically, or emotionally for other women’s choice to reproduce.


We highly recommend IceMountainFire’s blog and post on motherhood:

  1. Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d”Aujourd’hui (Amazons Yesterday, Lesbians Today) a wonderful Lesbian-only journal from Montréal, Québec, Canada, devoted an entire issue to the politics of motherhood (#20, “Motherhood Reviews and Rejected,” edited by Francine Mayer, June, 1988.) Dykes from several countries were printed and we especially recommend the articles by Katinka from Sweden, Marian Lens from Belgium, Hilary and Ruston from Aotearoa, and Francine from Quebec. This chapter is a revised version of an article that we (Linda and Bev) had printed in that issue, called, “Lesbians Choosing Pregnancy?” We greatly appreciate the courage of the AHLA Lesbians in printing these articles. Hilary’s and Ruston’s article was first printed in Circle, a Lesbian Feminist journal for women only, in Whanganui-a-Tara, 1983. As far as we know, these were the first articles that refuted Lesbian mothers’ claim of being oppressed by non-mother Dykes.2. Lewis Genebie and Eva Margolis, The Motherhood Report: How Women Feel About Being Mothers (New York, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1987). P. 422.
    3. San Francisco Chronicle, 16 Feb 1988.4. The Motherhood Report, p.102.

    5. Savvy, Feb 1988, p. 99.

    6. “Miscarriages,” Newsweek, 15 Aug, 1988, p. 49.

    7. Cheryl Jones, Motherlines,” Coming Up, Sept 1986.

    8. To a Safer Place, Frontline #609, originally broadcast on PBS television stations Sept 12, 1988. WGBH Transcripts,125 Western Ave., Boston, MA 12134.

    9. From an interview with Isaac Asimov on Bill Moyers’ “World of Ideas,” KTEH-TV, San Jose, California, 18 Oct. 1988.

    10. From Hag Rag, Vol. 3, #3, Nov-Dec 9988, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “In a survey of 388 doctors who do four or more artificial inseminations per year, The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment found that only 44 percent of the doctors checked semen specimens for HIV, 28% checked for syphilis, 27% for gonorrhea, 26% for hepatitis, and 6% for herpes.”

    11. Jacqueline Steincamp, Overload: Beating M.E. (Whatamongo Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand, Cape Catley Ltd, 1988, 154. “Semen itself is an immune suppressant and every new…encounter leads to an exchange of foreign antigens and possibly damaged immune complexes.

    12. Julia Penelope, “The Mystery of Lesbians II,” Gossip #2, p. 35.

    13. As Susan Cavin said in Lesbian Origins, Ism Press Inc. 54: “I suggest that the first enduring heterosexual relation is the mother-son relation.”

    14. As Cheryl Jones said about being pregnant, “I felt the same as other women in a way I hadn’t since coming out at 17. I knew more about what the majority of women in the world were doing.” Motherlines, “Coming Up,” Sept. 1986.

    15. The Motherhood Report, 288.

    16. Sue Silvermarie, “Seven Years Satisfied,” We Are Everywhere, Writings By and About Lesbian Parents, edited by Harriet Alpert, (Freedom, California: The Crossing Press, 1988), p.103.

    17. Lee Swislow, “J.J.”, Ibid, 198.

    18. NBC-TV new, 9 March 1987.

    19.  San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Jan.1989, A9.

    20. V. Beral, “Longterm Effects of Childbearing on Health,” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Vol.39, 1985, 343.

    21. The Motherhood Report, 300.



Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings | Tagged , , , , , | 46 Comments


                                               Chapter Eight


                                                       Bev Jo

                                                 Linda Strega


(I have updated this chapter, first published in our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes, in 1990. The statistics are from before that time, but the content is as relevant as ever. Because our book was originally for Lesbians only, the focus is on Lesbians, but family is destructive to all females).

Love and loyalty given to family is misplaced, and it weakens our bonds with each other. If our family has been abusive to us and we are still accepting that abuse as the price for contact, inevitably that hurt will be transferred to those we love. Some Lesbians will take out their pain on those Lesbians who are committed to loving them, while others end up damaged and with less love to share.

Family is the basis of patriarchy, where we are taught our first lessons in male domination over females.

Many Radical Lesbian Feminists who otherwise have very clear boundaries around people who hate and oppress us, seem to lose their perspective and politics when it comes to their abusive families. Instead, they allow people who would never otherwise choose to have in their lives or be friends with to have intimate access to themselves and often to their lovers. Even when male family has sexually harassed and assaulted them or female family who they love, too often feminists maintain contact, and sometimes give more commitment than they have even to their most trusted friends. Why?

There are many reasons that women betray themselves by loyalty to abusive family members (besides money and status for the most privileged.) There is the myth of family being more important than anyone else, in spite of the many and perhaps majority of males in families sexually assaulting female family (and all females who have families have been sexually harassed by male family.) There is the intensely propagandized idea of blood being thicker than water, and that only family really loves and cares for you, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Females are taught to betray themselves and all others on behalf of family, no matter how much they have been abused by them.  Even when immediate family is not as abusive, the structure itself is, and is the basis of patriarchy. Many Lesbians who have never felt truly loved by their families, are longing and hoping for their families to finally love and accept them.

This is a damaging trap. The myth of family is harmful and even lethal for females. Even loving female family can mean being locked into relationships with abusive male family. Yet so few women knowing this will say no to family.

Even Dyke Separatists can share one link with male cultures all over the world by being friendly with male and het relatives, and many Separatists do so. Every nation, culture, political ideology, and people we know of in the world reveres the Family. It’s the tie that binds all mankind together. Those who reject Family are outcasts everywhere. The fact that it’s considered sacrilegious in patriarchal cultures to even consider criticizing Family tells us that it’s revolutionary to do so. Only institutions that are vital to patriarchy are protected by such strong sanctions.

Families Are the Cornerstone of Patriarchy

How can we trust, be close with, or even want to be around someone who wishes the death of who we are and would make us het if they had that power? If their acceptance of us consists of saying, “We love you no matter who you are or what you do, whether you’re a Lesbian or a murderer,” then that’s not acceptance. Do they still question “what caused you to be ‘that way'”? Do they still wonder if it was their “fault” — asking were they “too close” with us or too distant,” “too lenient” or too strict” with our not wanting to be feminine, did they “push us towards boys too much” or “not enough”? These Lesbian-hating attitudes aren’t good for us. And what do they feel about males they love who are attackers and rapists — did they care for and protect them? Do they still, as families most often do?

In most cultures, the father and mother legally own their children. The father and other male relatives often terrorize, beat, and rape the little girls in the family. Those who don’t physically assault “their” girls still abuse them emotionally and psychically, and profit from those males who do rape. Mothers and other female relatives too often contribute to this by choosing to not notice if their daughters and other little girls are assaulted and raped by male relatives. Many refuse to believe their daughters when they tell them. Many don’t want to know, even when the girl suddenly shows clear signs of being extremely upset, terrified, and injured. And many still don’t want to know after their daughters are grown. In every case we know of where an adult Lesbian has told her mother what her father and/or brother did to her, the mother defended her husband and/or son and was verbally abusive to her daughter.

There are mothers who do care and try to protect their daughters, but they are exceptionally rare. In the U.S., women who send daughters who’ve been raped underground to the safe shelter movement are treated as criminals and often imprisoned by the male court system. A woman who spent seven months in prison for hiding her daughter from her ex-husband said that women who do this spend more time in prison than men who have raped children.1 There’s a growing network of females who support these women and their daughters. But the vast majority of women who courageously protect their daughters were already divorced when they discovered that their daughters were being attacked by their fathers. We’ve never heard of a single case where a mother acted to protect her daughter when the attacker was her own son. Women divorce husbands, but rarely choose to separate from sons.

We Are Told the Lie of Family Love, But Most of Us Have Lived the                                          Reality of Family Rape

We’re constantly bombarded with images of happy families in magazines, books, films, plays, etc. We’re told our lives are pathetically meaningless if we’re not part of a family. But families exist in order for males to be served domestically, emotionally, and sexually, and to enforce heterosexuality. Many of the Lesbians who return to men seem to be hoping that finally their hateful families will love and accept them.

Family is a small replica of patriarchy. It’s the basic unit — the single brick that makes up the patriarchal building. Family is based on hierarchy and inequality. The word itself comes from the Latin “famulus,” meaning “servant.”2  Family demands obedience and loyalty to those at the top of the hierarchy first.  A typical nuclear family consists of the Patriarch, second-in­-command Mother, and the sub-hierarchy of the children, with sons given more power than daughters. The oldest children are delegated power to boss and bully the younger ones. There is often an extended family with extended hierarchies. Every family has the “good” person and “bad” person, the in-group and out-group, the favorite and the scapegoat. Those accepted as “good” family members feel superior to the family outcasts and rejects. We get much of our sense of regard or disregard for ourselves and others through our family positions.

Those who don’t grow up in families are made to feel that they don’t really belong in the world. The lie of the “happy family” is particularly cruel to Dykes who grew up in foster homes or institutions. They’re told they’re less “normal” because they’ll “never know what wonderful experiences they’ve missed.” Sometimes even Lesbians spread these lies because they themselves believe them. Not growing up in a nuclear family doesn’t mean escaping the horror that’s common in families, either. It usually means getting all the abuse with none of the social privilege. It also means being abused by a greater number of adults because you aren’t the legal possession of one or two. Those who were adopted, or are from “non-traditional” families having only one parent, unmarried parents, or an alcoholic or drug-addicted parent, are also made to feel inferior.

If we’re “maladjusted” by the standards of the dominant society we live in (all Lesbians and Gay men are considered maladjusted, for instance), then that’s blamed on our family. The big lie is that everyone comes from a happy, wholesome family -­- except for us. The truth is that there are no happy families. Emotional and physical abuse and rape are a normal, commonplace part of family life. Who could expect anything different from living with males? And how can being forced to live intimately with het couples –our parents — for years, make us happy or teach us who we are as females and as Dykes?  Even having only female family, if they’re het, means growing up with emotional and sometimes physical abuse.

Individuals and groups who don’t live as part of families are treated by most patriarchal societies as having far less value than family members. Very often, people who speak out against the increase of poverty in the U.S. say how especially terrible it is that families don’t have homes or enough food, implying that single people or groups of friends aren’t worth caring about. Meanwhile, for those who actively reject their family, abject poverty is portrayed in books and films as a rightful punishment.

From “Family-Size,” “Family Rate,” and “Family-Style,” to insurance benefits, legal rights and neighborhood socializing, family members are told all the time, everywhere, that they belong, while we’re told we don’t. Try counting all the times family is mentioned as propaganda in the media. Even a television show about a disaster has the authorities telling people, “Go home to your families!” Of course that is geared to make those without families feel inadequate and worthless. Lesbians are treated as outsiders when we have jobs with hets, because we don’t talk about husbands or boyfriends — but if we talk about our relatives, we’re suddenly treated with more warmth and acceptance. It makes us seem less alien and more “human.” (This has changed since some Lesbian couples have gotten married and so can refer to their “wives,” which is part of the attraction of marriage, besides the many civil rights not otherwise possible to obtain, such as for immigration.)

Famous Lesbians who come out are bombarded with questions about whether they will reproduce, ignoring that over-population is destroying the earth. (“Zero Population Growth” as an idea and politics has been censored from the US media.)  Having children makes otherwise despised Lesbians appear more “normal,” which is why so many who were closeted have reproduced. Meanwhile, the Lesbians who are choosing to reproduce with “artificial insemination” are making 85% males, a patriarchal dream come true and a nightmare for the 15% girls forced to be around them in shared daycare, etc.

Both the right wing and left wing revere family as the center of their political ideologies. Right wing fascists, euphemistically called “conservatives,” preach for a return to “family values,” while leftists demand that women make babies for the revolution and be part of the larger family of their society. Both oppress Dykes. (Socialism is more economically fair than capitalism, but it’s still patriarchal politics. Radical Feminism encompasses the best parts of socialism.) Family is essential for patriarchal cultures to exist. Dykes are a threat to family because we’re a threat to male rule.

                                          Family Is Dangerous

Family is deadly. Over half the females killed in California in 1987 were killed by a male in their family, and the typical U.S. mass murderer is a man killing his entire family.3 As we’ve said before, the vast majority of physical and sexual attacks in families are by males, particularly adults, against females of all ages. However, physical abuse of children, especially of girls, by their mothers and other older females, is common, and most mothers tolerate and even encourage physical abuse (“punishment”) of their children by their husbands. (We define physical punishment of girls as abuse, from slapping and spanking to the most severe neglect, beatings, and murder.)  A very small number of heterosexual mothers sexually assault their daughters. Of course, this rare situation is unfairly focused on by the male media, obscuring fathers’ massive sexual crime rate. Now, adding to the abusive mix, are an increasing number of fathers who are later in life insisting they are women and even Lesbians. This female-hating mind-fuck increases the suffering of girls and women in families.

Teenage runaways are less likely to be abused by strangers on the streets than by their families at home.Five children are killed in the U.S. each day by their parents.5  These are just the known, proven cases. Many more children go missing and are never found — occasionally it’s discovered that their parents beat them to death and then reported them missing. “Over 80% of the violence in our society [Aotearoa] is committed within the family.”6 “The family is the most dangerous place in the U.S. The most likely place to be murdered is in the family home.”7  Victims are usually the most vulnerable — babies and little girls who can’t escape, and old, ill women. It’s very probable that many old women who die while living with their families have been quietly killed to get rid of them, with the death attributed to natural causes. Even when there aren’t murders, torture, rape, and other abuse are commonplace in families. It’s chilling to think about what goes on day and night right next door in our own neighborhoods.

We’re not just talking about “exceptionally cruel and violent” families. We’re talking about all families as an institution. Family structure and function are intrinsically rotten. Sometimes privileged Lesbians use racism and classism against less privileged Dykes who talk about being raped and/or beaten by their families — implying that more oppressed families are “especially terrible,” in order to protect their own illusions. But violence and rape occur in families of all backgrounds.

                                    God Is the Biggest Daddy of All

Many Lesbians who usually feel quite sane suddenly feel crazy around their families. That’s because families are enough to drive you insane. Brainwashing and cult mind control techniques sound familially familiar:

1) Those in authority control your environment;
2) they manipulate your environment;
3) you’re pressured to feel guilty if you don’t adhere to the values of those in power;
4) your reality is denied if it’s in conflict with the dominant ideology;
5) what you observe greatly contradicts the “truths” you’re told;
6) the explainers of reality constantly contradict themselves;
7) that contradiction is declared to never happen;
8) questioning is silenced by meaningless contradictory platitudes and clichés;
9) obedience is required of all members or else emotional and physical punishment is given.

If these techniques sound similar to male religion, it’s no coincidence. Family is treated as a religion, and belonging to a religion means belonging to a very large family. Family and religion are intertwined as a cornerstone of patriarchy. When someone claims “God made families,” families become even more inevitable and beyond question.

Families are intensive training grounds in accepting injustice and abusive relationships as the norm. Schools do this too, but for less time and in less personal and intense ways. Family life is usually our first experience in humiliation, oppression, rape, pain, and violence. That intimate betrayal from our “loved ones” teaches us self-hatred. “If the very ones who say they love me treat me in these cruel ways, then I must deserve it.” A little girl usually has no one to explain the truth and help her protect herself.

Our ability to know what’s good for us is diminished by these girlhood experiences. Family accustoms us to a sado-masochistic type of inequality in intimate relationships because our first experiences of physical closeness and affection are bonded with humiliation and pain. We often share connections and nostalgia with family members based on shared pain, witnessed pain, and inflicted and received pain mixed with pleasure and “love.” It would be easier in some ways if the people who brutalize you would be consistent. It’s heart-wrenching and confusing when the hands that feed and wash you and sometimes caress you lovingly are the same hands that hit and sexually assault you. There’s comfort with familiarity and then there’s the horror of the familiarity that’s forced on you against your will.

As a girl, you learn to expect inconsistency — kindness/cruelty, love/hate, pleasure/pain, and become addicted to the cycle. You end up believing that you can have love and warmth only if you pay with pain and humiliation. You’re trained to confuse your family with your very self. “We’re in this together.” “I am them, they are me.” How do you escape them when you can’t escape from yourself? How dare you think otherwise? Your survival depends on them. And if you share particular experiences and oppressions with your family that others don’t share with you, then it’s even more difficult and painful to separate and protect yourself. You feel guilt about your parents’ hard lives, but they usually do not want to know how they make your Iife hard.

                                       Ownership Is Not Love      

Children are parents’ proof of normality. Parents are often smug about their reproductive ability and bask in the inflated importance of carrying on the human race and the family name, as if reproduction were some rare talent rather than a physiological function. Inevitably, if you write that patriarchy could end soon, and the earth and countless species would be saved if women just stopped reproducing, the response is usually a horrified “But the human race will die out!” – which is not likely at 8 billion and growing. Humans will die out if they don’t stop reproducing. The illogical terror that some women might actually say no is revealing.

Family is each man’s extension of himself and his marking of territory. Ever notice how much space (and noise is part of space) families take up in neighborhoods compared to households without children? Parents love to advertise that they’re parents.

Parents try to use their children to do what they themselves couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Then parents make their children feel guilty for “having done so much for them.” It’s not the child as an individual person who matters, because the child is treated as a thing, a possession. If you get out of line by trying to be your own person, parents remind you that they created you from their bodies. “You’d better be good and obey your parents.” they tell you, just as many say, “You should obey god because he made you.” Parents saying they “sacrificed themselves” and “worked their fingers to the bone” for their children is outrageous. It’s a major source of Lesbian guilt towards parents, particularly our mothers. People know that if they choose to fuck, they might reproduce and if they do, then the children need to be looked after and provided for. Parents have children for their own benefit, not for the children’s. A little girl shouldn’t be blamed for needing food, clothes, shelter, and schooling. Parents too often emotionally leech off their daughters, using girls’ energy and vitality at the same time as they’re crushing it.

Belonging to family gives the illusion of belonging with them, a very hard feeling for Dykes to let go of, because we don’t belong anywhere in patriarchy. Many Lesbians believe that belonging to family is actually a “real, deep connection” with their family instead of just being a possession. But all feelings that come out of such a forced relationship are unavoidably distorted and deceptive.

Many Lesbians who don’t usually voluntarily relate to men make exceptions for male family members. Dykes who would otherwise never dream of welcoming men or boys into their homes to visit or stay overnight will welcome men from their families or their lovers’ families. Separatists who refuse to relate personally to males or even to het women often make exceptions for their female family members. A courageous few choose to not relate to any males or het women.

Some Dykes keep limited contact with male relatives in order to have access to money and other privileges to share with our communities. As long as these Dykes are able to limit and control the contact, the relationships are more like those they have with male bosses and co-workers. They’re from necessity, and carry no illusions of love or friendship. We support Dykes to not relate to any males when they have the choice, except for those kinds of situations. We also support Dykes who’ve broken off contact with abusive het female family as well, and we encourage all Dykes to limit their contact with het female family and to keep asking themselves if they truly are happy with the amount and kind of contact they do have, and how much is based on guilt or fear. If that sounds extreme, it’s because we’re upset at the damage that family, including female family, has done and is still doing to Dykes we love.

When Lesbians try to reclaim any of the terms relating to family, we’re accepting connections that are based on dominance and submission, where we have power only at another’s expense. Family is always destructive to us because it’s based on objectification, hierarchy, and violence. Apart from anything else, any heterosexual environment is a bad place for Lesbians to be. We’re expected to love our families, not because of who they are, but what they are. It’s not supposed to matter when family members hate us, have been abusive to us, and, in the case of the males, raped us — we must love them because they’re family. Family is the first lesson we learn in how to treat each other as things rather than as individuals we personally care about. Family dynamics train us to want to possess each other as objects because family is based on ownership.

How many Lesbians are still being emotionally or even sexually harassed by the same men who physically and emotionally abused them when they were little girls? (Sexual “jokes” and comments that many fathers and other male relatives make to us as adults is sexual harassment.) How many Lesbians are being emotionally abused by their mothers and sisters because they refuse to relate to rapist male relatives their female relatives still love and protect?  If anyone else urged you to visit and talk or write to someone who had raped and/or beaten you, would you even consider it? You certainly wouldn’t call that kind of pressure “love.” Yet your mother or sisters may insist they “love” you even while they are disregarding your feelings and the harm that’s been done to you. It’s extremely damaging for a victim of rape or any assault to be pressured to be around her attackers, to be told by female family, “He’s your father!” (or brother, uncle, grandfather, cousin, etc.) –“he loves you,” ”why won’t you kiss him?” “why aren’t you being friendlier to him?” For a little girl, her family is often her entire world, the only people she knows, who she should be able to trust and who should love and protect her. It’s an extension of the rape when they betray her. If the courts insisted that rape victims be forced to relate to their non-relative convicted rapists, that would be a recognizable outrage, yet this insidious family pressure is too often accepted. Having different expectations of victims of rape by male family compared to other rape victims implies family rape is less important, less criminal — when in fact it’s a far worse crime because of the vulnerability of the victim and level of betrayal.

The last thing a victim of sexual assault needs when she’s trying to recover is to be told “he didn’t really mean to hurt her/didn’t know what he was doing/did it only because he had a hard life or was very upset at the time or was only a boy/is a sick old man now,” or that she’s being “hurtful” and “selfish” when she refuses to ever see the rapist again. Even when you’re clear about saying no to forced intimacy with these men, it’s much harder to say no to the women in your family who you still love and who you desperately want to believe love you too. They may even love you in the shallow way that many het women allow themselves to love other women, but it is cruel and selfish to pressure you to relate to anyone you don’t want to relate to. We need to be allowed to say no at last. (Many women have not told family members that they were assaulted by a male relative because they know they will be disbelieved and reviled.)

                                         Families Hate Lesbians    

These are just a few experiences of Dykes we’ve personally known in Aotearoa, the U.S., and other countries: After decades of being a Lesbian, a Dyke says her mother is “very supportive,” yet she’s afraid to come out to her. Another Lesbian’s mother ridiculed her because she’s never been heterosexual, and asked, “Don’t people laugh at you?” Another Lesbian’s family had her incarcerated in a mental hospital at age 19, where she was subjected to electroshock “therapy” and has lost part of her memory — yet she still takes care of the mother who did this to her. Another Dyke was disowned by her family at fifteen when they found out she was a Lesbian, yet she is now expected to take care of her aging parents. Another Lesbian’s father slammed her head into a wall when she got a lover, almost killing her. Another Dyke came out when she was seventeen and her parents called the police, forcing her to leave town with no money and nowhere to live. We know many Lesbians who came out in high school who were sent to psychiatrists and forbidden by their parents from ever seeing their lovers again.

We know of a Dyke who was killed in a car accident, whose body was taken far away by her family, and her lover was prevented from ever seeing her again. No respect was shown for their relationship and the family buried her in a christian ceremony against her known wishes. “Loving Daughter” and her name are the only words on the tombstone, even though she had believed her family truly supported their relationship.

A friend of a Dyke we know was murdered by being shot. The official verdict was suicide, although there’s reason to suspect a male acquaintance murdered her. When her lover removed her own possessions from their home, the dead Lesbian’s het sister called the police to charge her with theft and denied her further access to their home.

Typical comments from Lesbian-hating family are: “I accept you, but please don’t tell your mother/father/grandparents/aunt/uncle, etc. because it would kill her/him.”….”What did we do wrong?” ….”You didn’t try hard enough with men.”…. “You’ll die alone and unhappy.”…. “You’re cutting off half the world.”…. “This is against nature and god’s law.” One of the most selfish was “Can’t you at least go and have a one night stand to give me a grandchild?” (meaning, “Can’t you find a strange man and get raped and perhaps STDs, including AIDS, because I’m so selfish?”) Too often, Lesbians are just grateful that the response isn’t worse, no matter how bad it is.

Making excuses like, “How could they know better?” or “They’re just scared,” hurts Lesbians. That’s the kind of excuse that used to be made for European-descent families’ racism. There is even less excuse now, decades after we wrote our book, when beloved Lesbians are daily seen in the media. Some Lesbians say family members are “too old to change,” which is ageist and ridiculous when the Lesbians saying this have mothers way younger than we are. Nor is their health “too fragile to take it” since the truth doesn’t kill, lies do. (It’s interesting that for Meg Christian’s first album — one of the first out Lesbian Feminist singers — she wrote “Song to My Mama,” where she sings how her mother must know that she’s a Lesbian, but “it would kill her if I told her so.” No woman sings that her mother would drop dead if she finds out her daughter is getting fucked by a man, but somehow love between two Lesbians is horrifyingly lethal.)

In our experience, exceptionally “liberal” parents remain obsessed with people’s reactions to their daughters’ Lesbianism. A group in the U.S. called “Parents of Gays” complained on television about the stigma of having a Lesbian or Gay child. Their support was for each other, not their children.

Families’ social function as a patriarchal institution is to enforce heterosexuality and maintain heterosexual supremacy. They’re better suited to do this than other institutions because they raise us. They teach us heterosexuality just as they teach us to talk, walk, and dress. Later, when we come out, families are societies’ first line of defense against Lesbians and Gay men and they’re in a unique position to punish us. It’s been estimated that a third of teenage suicides in the U.S. are because of being oppressed as Lesbian or Gay. In a study of 6,500 teenage suicides in the U.S. approximately 30% were found to possibly be Lesbian or Gay. About 2,000 Lesbian/Gay teenagers kill themselves each year in the U.S.8  

Misplaced Loyalties

Het women’s alliance and loyalty is usually to males first. The Family and patriarchy itself couldn’t exist if women didn’t act as paid agents in policing other females and spreading males’ lies and misogyny.

Our female relatives can choose to change, but there’s no way we can make them choose females over males. What IS in our power though, is to protect ourselves and each other. It’s especially hard to defy our mothers because it’s not just patriarchy that teaches us to revere and obey them – liberal/right wing feminist politics tell us how hard our mothers’ lives are, saying that we as Lesbians are in a privileged position in relation to them. In spite of the truth being the opposite, most Lesbians respect and value mothers far more than they do non-mothers. This is destructive family roles and makes it very hard to deal with betrayal by our mothers. It helps to remember that when we relate to our families in ways that hurt us, the harm will travel through us to our friends and lovers.

Love and loyalty given to family is misplaced, and it weakens our bonds with each other. Most families can never truly accept a Lesbian daughter, because that would challenge all the lies and illusions their lives are based on. It hurts us to love someone who doesn’t even respect us enough to listen to us and who undermines the positive choices we’ve made in our lives. If they say they love us but hate who we are as Lesbians, then they don’t really love us. Most het women don’t really know what love is. They have that mind/body/spirit disconnect that they learned from men. Usually, they explain that they were “born het” or choose to be because they are just not “sexually attracted” to women. Considering how grotesque and pornified “sexual attraction” is throughout patriarchy and especially in the modern media, who but males would feel it?  Being a Lesbian is a decision to be open to loving other women, which naturally leads to passion. But for het women so disconnected even from themselves, too often “love” ends up being a word to use, to justify demands, to manipulate and to explain commitments which don’t make sense.

The myth of “unconditional love” is very seductive, considering how lonely most females are in patriarchy. It’s hard not to lie to ourselves if we desperately want to believe that our families do love us. They insist they understand us better than anyone else, even though they obviously don’t know us at all. It can be easy to build up their few kindnesses in our minds while overlooking the many times they make it clear they hate Lesbians and wish we were someone else. Most assume we still belong to them because we don’t “belong” to anyone else. Only a man in our lives would count as a real relationship — certainly not our Dyke friends and lovers.

Family often don’t take our Lesbian lives seriously. Most hets believe the stereotype of the lonely Lesbian – It helps them feel smug about their dismal, desolate, sordid lives. It’s a projection onto us of their own deep emptiness and loneliness. Dykes are potentially the least alone of people. We may be outcasts, but what we have with our lovers and friends and communities is deep and intense. The stereotype is that old women will be lonely, yet in our Lesbian community, there are hundreds of Old Lesbians who regularly go out to dance and party. Sometimes so many things are happening at the same time that it’s difficult to know which event to go to. Since we don’t have women only spaces left, we usually meet in public venues, where sometimes the older het women see us and have a mixture of horror and envy on their faces, as they cling to their zombie-like men. Yet to our families we’re “just girls” together, no matter how old we are. (Bev: “When my mother looked back on her life, she referred to herself at the age of 45 as an “old lady” to explain why it had been too late for her to make her life better, yet she referred to me at that same age as a “just a young girl.”)  In patriarchy, family is all and friends are nothing. Very good friends are honored by being called “one of the family,” but everyone knows they’re still “just friends.”

Bev: My mother had a very lonely life, with no friends. She lived alone with and looked after a man she hated, who hated her, like her previous two husbands. He called her filthy names, gave her an STD, and was with her only to use her. Her first husband was an alcoholic boxer who beat her regularly. The second was my father, who was cold and distant, and ridiculed her for being uneducated, rural poor (though he also was poverty class). I gave her constant support for years to leave her last husband and make a happier life, including helping her find a place and move. But she went back the next day, continuing saying how she hated him. She’d had a few close female friends, but lost them by putting her men first. It didn’t help that her last husband tried to fuck every woman who visited her (as she told me).

My mother complained about how lonely she was, yet told me how sorry she felt for me because I’d been “all alone” during the “holidays” and on my birthday. She knew I hate nationalistic, racist, and christian holidays and haven’t celebrated them since I lived with my parents. My and my friends’ birthdays are our biggest celebrations, and I’d had a wonderful time on mine,with my favorite Separatist friends and lover. My mother knew this, but “those girls” didn’t count. They’re not real since they’re not men. And though then ages 41 and 31, they would never be adults to her since they were not wives and mothers. And, of course, they’re not family. (Why my mother glorified family is beyond me. Hers was filled with horrific abuse, growing up partly in foster homes and being sexually assaulted and forced to work in fields as a little girl because her mother abandoned her eight kids to run off with a man.) When I confronted her about trying to make me feel like an outcast, she explained that she meant I was alone because I wasn’t with my family. Yet she knew I could see her anytime I wanted and I chose to keep as distance as my only way to stop her constantly harassing me.

Often our female family, like so many het women, spend hours complaining about their husbands, even saying they’re about to leave them. But this is a trap, because they use our support and caring only as a way to release their anger so they can stay with their men. So our energy ultimately benefits those men. Some Lesbians are so intertwined with their families that they say they’re going “home” when they visit their parents. They make endless excuses for the cruel treatment they get from their “beloved family” and then take out their suppressed rage on the Lesbians closest to them.

In order to protect ourselves and Dykes we love, we should be aware of how our “loving” family treats our friends and Dykes in general. We shouldn’t expect less of relatives than we do of other het women, nor should we expect our friends and lovers to relate to or accept our family’s abuse. Dykes need our love and energy more than abusive family, because we have so much less support. When we’re injured from choosing to relate to abusive families, our Lesbian friends are drained by helping us recover.

Lesbians who’ve never felt accepted by their mothers are especially vulnerable to their mothers needing them now, hoping to finally be loved by them. For those who never had a more traditional type of family, this can be very attractive, but it’s like stepping into what seems to be a beautiful pool, only to find quicksand.

Bonding with family often means bonding with privilege. One of the main ways that race and class privileged people keep their power within their own groups is through nepotism. Bosses don’t usually place a “help wanted” ad when a prestigious, high-paying position is available. They use contacts from privileged family or friends, or from that other old-school familial network — the brotherhood and sisterhood of fraternities and sororities) in order to keep power among the select few. Most wealth and positions of power are inherited.

Lesbians who grew up in families where racial, ethnic, and/or class oppression made family solidarity necessary for survival are even more painfully oppressed by the institution of Family than more privileged Lesbians. As is often said, more oppressed Lesbians need the protective, strengthening alliances that family is supposed to provide in the face of a hostile dominant culture, but we do not get it. Rape, cruelty, hierarchies, and the devaluing of Lesbians in families cuts across all races, classes, ethnic groups, and nations.  As class-oppressed Dykes, we (Bev and Linda) know the pain of not “belonging” with family members who were once, by default, our most intimate partners in oppression and sometimes major allies in resisting classism. For Linda, as part of an immigrant Italian­-American family, this is even more true.

Dykes with chronic illness or disabilities also may find it especially hard to distance themselves from families who’ve provided vital assistance. However, it will be easier for them to be independent of family if able-bodied and/or moneyed Dykes provide ongoing, reliable assistance, which is the responsibility of our communities. Instead, many Lesbians who give physical care do so only for Gay men with AIDS, even though that is an STD some men actively seek out. (A Gay man I [Bev] know who has AIDS says he is constantly approached by Gay men who want to get it from him.)  We need to focus our caring ability on our own kind who are disabled and ill, and needing help. (In 2013, the “AIDS Lifecycle Ride” organization got $14.5 million dollars, much of it from Lesbians. Some of the male directors of such “LGTBQWTF” groups make $300,000 a year. This is outrageous. Lesbian energy and money otherwise is devoted to helping het women, as if het women’s issues are our own. Lesbian have the least and get the least.)

The more we try to get support from our families, the more power they have to further injure us. Privileged Lesbians who keep bonds with family may justify themselves by claiming that more oppressed Dykes have no choice but to maintain family bonds, yet the truth is that many racially, ethnically, and class-oppressed Dykes have had the guts to cut off those harmful relationships. For those of us who do keep some contact with het female relatives, we need to maintain control over how we relate to them. The best way we can get true solidarity and support, as many of us have already found, is with Dyke-identified-Dykes who share our oppressions.

Relating to Lesbian family members is more complex. Ideally, it’s wonderful to have someone in your life who knows your family as well as you do, who’s also a Lesbian with the potential for shared support in understanding your family’s dynamics. If your relative is strongly Dyke-identified, then it’s possible to have a true friend who’s also your family. But for some, it’s a constant struggle to not fall into old destructive familial patterns and rivalries, or to avoid pulling lovers and friends into them. It’s also important to resist the pull to automatically put Lesbian relatives before friends and lovers. Some Lesbians still feel trapped in an intolerable hierarchy with Lesbian relatives, including their Lesbian mothers, and decide to break off contact. Just because someone is a Lesbian doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily like her and want to be close. Still, there’s at least the possibility to have a close and trusted friendship with a Lesbian family member that you won’t have with het family.

One of the most forbidden things we can do is to decide to free ourselves from our family. It’s so unthinkable that the possibility never occurs to many Lesbians, including those whose families previously cut them off for years. Many of us have been so grateful our family “accepts” us that we don’t even consider we may not want to accept them.  After all, we had no choice in being owned by them in the first place. Saying “no” to family in any way is considered cruel, even though you’re saying “no” to cruelty. Making the decision to free ourselves from male relatives and abusive female relatives, or even just limiting our contact with the more decent female relatives, takes great courage and determination. It’s especially difficult for those who’ve been caring for a dependent relative, which often seems to be expected of Lesbian family rather than siblings. But that decision enables us to begin healing from the abuse we’ve suffered, including from rape by male family.

Those of us who had regular recent contact with our female relatives found there wasn’t one time when we visited them that they didn’t make critical comments about our Lesbianism or how our bodies and clothes look, and how we live. Freeing ourselves gives us a chance to break old destructive patterns, which also makes it less likely we’ll respond to old or very young Lesbians in ageist ways in the future, and can help Dykes who grew up in families to be less likely to be oppressive to Dykes who’ve never had a family. For many Lesbians, it’s also meant being freed from cycles of depression, suicidal feelings, and self-hatred as well. Freedom from family gives us more physical, psychic, and emotional energy to care for ourselves and other Dykes. Sadly, Lesbians are more likely to provide support and care for ill, abusive parents than they are for ill Dykes. Yet there are often other family members who are willing to help sick relatives, while sick Lesbians are more likely to have no one.

There are some wonderful exceptions, though. In 1987, there was a story in a Berkeley, U.S., newspaper about Ollie’s, a Lesbian bar community that supported a Lesbian named Jean, whose lover had recently died of cancer. “It’s a place where people will back you in any kind of crisis.” When Jean’s lover died, the bar was the second place she called. “Within fifteen minutes, the bar had emptied and several carloads of women arrived at her house. In the weeks that followed, Jean’s friends from the bar organized into shifts, taking time off from work so that someone was always with her.” Jean said, “The people at the hospice told me, ‘Whatever your connection is, I wish everybody had it.’” This kind of support has been traditional in some Lesbian communities.

For ourselves, the changes we’ve made with our families have greatly improved our lives. One of us had letter contact with only her mother and hadn’t seen or talked with her for many years. Another of us related only to her mother, talking with her occasionally on the phone and seeing her several times a year since she lived nearby. Another of us had extensive contact with family members until a few years ago when she began to remember her father had raped her when she was little, so she cut off contact with him. When she tried to talk to her mother about it, her mother was completely protective of her father, and harassed her about “maligning such a wonderful man.” She now refuses to relate to her family until they deal with her in a more fair way, and is amazed to find herself mourning the loss of them only rarely, thinking of them hardly at all. Whether or not she has very limited contact with her female relatives in the future, she’s determined to never be “part of the family” again. And she feels clearer in her friendships with Lesbians than she ever was before.

We were not casual about distancing ourselves from our families, but did not know how to stop being treated badly otherwise. It does help to share support about doing such an unpopular thing. We appreciate the Dykes who’ve written and talked about their experiences with cutting off contact from family members.

One thing we definitely recommend, from experience, is that if you do keep having contact with relatives, visit them only on your terms, deciding how, where, and when you’ll visit, and never stay overnight with them. It’s much easier to stop them from putting you back into your old family position if you don’t live together, however briefly. Never willingly relate to anyone who you don’t want to see or who’s still treating you badly in anyway. Don’t relate to a relative, even one you love, who pressures you to see, talk with, or write to anyone you don’t want contact with. A mother who will see you or be nice to you only if you relate to the father or brother who sexually assaulted you isn’t good for you. Her approval is not more important than your recovery. It’s also damaging to you to censor yourself from talking about the harm your family has done to you. Much of family power and control is based on secrets and lies. It might surprise you how much power you do have when you start to say no.

It’s important to explore the ties that bind you. What does your family want and demand from you? If they could make you become het, would they? That would mean that they want to break up you and your lover, and all your Lesbian friendships. Also, let yourself think about what would happen if you suddenly were living as a dependent (without legal rights) with your family – how much would they restrict your freedom?

What do you want and need from your family? Do you ever get it? What do you get? How much is hurtful to you and how much is good for you? What do you have to pay for the good parts? Can you get those things from the Dykes you love? How do you feel about your friends’ families and how they’re treated by them? Do you think your friends should be treated better?  Are you more willing to accept hurtful treatment from your family than you think your friends should from theirs? Would you protect your friends if you could? Are you more prepared to break off with Lesbians who upset you than with relatives who abuse and oppress you? If you don’t have the sort of close Dyke connections that would sustain you if you left your family, could making family distance create a space for those connections?

Thinking of your parents as a heterosexual couple (if they are) can help you think more clearly about the bond you have with them. Do you ordinarily choose to intensely, intimately socialize with het couples? Why should you think of your parents as any different? If you were raised by a heterosexual couple, you were intimately involved in their relationship and probably still are, if you visit them. Their primary commitment is to each other, no matter how much your mother complains to you about your father or claims you’re closer to her than he is. Would you so easily be manipulated by your het neighbors and co­workers?

Lesbians who’ve been around lovers’ and friends’ families for a long time may be accepted to some extent as “part of the family.” That can feel like an honor, because it’s so easy for us to value men and het women more than we value ourselves. But being part of a family, even one that’s not our own, means being treated in the same possessive way. They speak to you in those familiar, intrusive, critical, and callous ways that they would never use with their own friends. They’re likely to act parental and condescending, putting you in a child role. And it wouldn’t be unusual for your lover’s male relatives to be sexually suggestive towards you, including telling pornographic stories.

Let yourself pay attention to the horrible things your family says, because that lets you know what they really think. Don’t keep making excuses, remembering only the good parts.

                                       Let’s Not “Be A Family”

“Family values” means hating Lesbians. Why do so many Lesbians want to use the term “family” for ourselves? The drive to belong, be “normal,” and be accepted by the male and het world plagues Lesbians, which is why many try to present Lesbian and/or Gay culture as just another kind of family. That’s also why many Lesbians want to try to be part of male religions, and why christian-raised Lesbians celebrate christmas (sometimes in the guise of “Summer Solstice” in the southern hemisphere or “Winter Solstice” in the northern hemisphere — which is still clearly a christmas celebration when they don’t celebrate the opposite Solstice and other more important witch days such as Beltane and Lammas.) This quest for approval undermines us as Lesbians. No amount of proclamations at Gay pride marches about how we’re all “family” will make Gay men become our brothers and why should we want brothers, anyway?

The including of Lesbians into “LGBTQIWTF” against our will is another attempt to include us into a pseudo-family that is using us and is incredibly destructive to us. We’re also trapped by the het mystique of Family if we consider “sisterhood” with other Lesbians a better ideal than friendship. For many Dykes, their biological sisters are het women who’ve been, and still are, cruel and oppressive. There’s a hierarchy among sisters in most families, which means that for many Lesbians, the sisterhood they grew up with was anything but the “sisterly” ideal. Too often that inequality creates patterns that stay with adult Lesbians and interfere with our ability to get along socially or work together politically. We grow up without any model of justice and equality. Our closest female relationships with our mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and cousins, were usually anything but fair. Many Lesbians who keep close relationships with het sisters find their heterosexuality oppressive and hurtful, including the few who attempt to not be anti-Lesbian. Most heterosexual women are actively hostile to their sisters’ Lesbianism and try, like their mothers, to “turn them straight.” Even if our sisters try to be good to us, the male structure of family inequality is too powerful to not damage our interactions.

Adults often give elder sisters the power to boss, punish, and even hit their younger sisters. Older girls are expected to do some of the parents’ work of taking care of the other children, which should not be their job, but one way for them to rebel is by taking their anger out on the only people in their power — their younger siblings. Since boys are more protected, the youngest girls usually get the most of this unfair treatment. A Lesbian Feminist told one of us she felt badly for her mother when the mother beat the littlest girls, aiming for bare skin so it would hurt more, because “she must have been in such pain to do that.” As an older sister, she chose to identify with the authority figure, her mother, rather than with her younger sisters, the truly powerless ones who needed her support. She’s still doing it as an adult, using feminism to excuse her mother’s cruelty. Some older sisters do use their position to be kind and protective to younger girls, and in rare cases they will expose a male relative who’s raping the younger girls.

It can also be hard for mothers to avoid transferring to other relationships the experience they have had of being able to order and control their children, telling them when they can eat, sleep, etc. That sense of power often continues unconsciously, and mothers will treat other women as if they expect to be obeyed. The Lesbians who have not had the status of being considered “real” adults are particularly targeted and vulnerable to this. Lesbians who grew up having power over younger siblings or as teachers also sometimes continue expecting to have power in relationships, unless they are careful to be aware of that. That attitude of authority can be quite powerful, even if they don’t have that authority now. They may still unconsciously expect other Lesbians to be submissive and it can take constant vigilance to not act out that dominant role in their relationships. Many Lesbians who were older sisters do act in egalitarian ways towards others, but some are reluctant to let go of that past authority. If you were never in such a power position, being an only, youngest, or middle daughter, you may find some Lesbians acting condescending towards you simply because you refuse to use the body language and verbal games that define you as a person who’s been in physical and emotional authority over others. You may find yourself being treated as if you’re younger by someone the same age or younger than you. In many Lesbian groups, battles over dominance and submission go on not only because of differences in acknowledged areas of privilege and oppression, but also because of family positions.

Sometimes the only equal relationships we knew in our early years were with our friends who were also little girls. But too often family inequalities were carried over into our first interactions with non-relatives. Being trained in hierarchies at home encourages us to accept other hierarchies as well, including those based on race, ethnicity, class, nationality, ability, size, looks, age,  heterosexism, and male-identified femininity (how “normal” and feminine one girl is as opposed to how Lesbian and Butch another is).

Schools are no places to learn kind, egalitarian, female ways of relating because its structure gives some girls power over the majority of other girls. Most of us know what it’s like to be ostracized and ridiculed by more privileged girls in cliques (often based on classism) at school. Those who are excluded are usually the majority, but as long as the favored few are admired and sought after by the outcasts who hope to join the “in crowd,” the privileged group stays in power. That cruel pattern often divides Lesbian communities even now. Whenever a Dyke is slandered, ridiculed, patronized, or excluded from Lesbian political and friendship groups, the same malicious hierarchies are being played out.

Our yearning for “sisterhood” among Lesbians is a yearning for that true love and caring we should have received from our families but never did. We can’t have it as “sisters” or “family,” but we can have it as Dykes together.

                                   Dykes Are Home

As long as our family comes first in our allegiance, we can’t be truly committed to other Dykes. When Lesbians cut off friendships with other Lesbians over minor conflicts and differences, yet keep contact with family members who are vicious to them, they betray Dykes as a people. They’re literally allied with our enemy. We have only so much room and tolerance in our lives for difficult relationships, so it’s Lesbian friends who are more likely to be abandoned. Sometimes Dykes maintain contact with their families because no one else, friends or lovers, can be relied on to stay in our lives. The family may be brutal and hateful, but at least they’re “family.” If more Dykes put Dykes first in their lives, we will be available as friends and support for each other, and dependence on families will be easier to break.

There would be far more money in our Lesbian communities if most Lesbian money didn’t go to our families when we die. The fact that your family once owned you means they can own you again. They have legal rights to you and your possessions, which you don’t have to them. (Lesbians’ children have those “rights” over their mothers too.) Any of our family members, no matter how they’ve attacked us, can assert their right of access to us if we’re in the hospital. When we die, the family automatically has access to our bodies. If we’re very sick or injured so that we have difficulty communicating, they can take custody of us and imprison us and even deny us proper medical care. Some adult Lesbians have been declared incompetent by law so their parents or other relatives could resume ownership. That’s one way to deal with a “rebellious” daughter.

There are Lesbians still being held against their will, like Sharon Kowalski was, with their families trying to keep them from ever being with their lover and friends again. (Sharon, a U.S. Lesbian, was severely injured in a car accident in 1983. She was improving under the care of her lover, Karen Thompson, until Sharon’s parents took legal possession of her. They denied Karen access to her, and Sharon’s condition deteriorated. Sharon’s mother said, “I hate Karen Thompson like I’ve never hated anyone or anything in my life.”)11  After years of legal battles, they were reunited, but Karen believes Sharon will never recover as much as she would have if her father had not stopped her physical therapy.

It’s extremely important for Lesbians to make legal documents to try to prevent family from using their legal powers to make decisions about our medical treatment when we’re hospitalized or to incarcerate us in mental institutions, and to keep them from taking our property (including journals, letters, and possessions on loan from friends and lovers). Even then, families have been successful in overturning such contracts, but at least it gives us some protection. Lesbians who’ve made legal documents and whose families don’t know where they live are in the safest position. Legal marriages are also stronger protection, as well as giving immigration rights. As much as Separatists might be against marriage, we support it for the equal rights it gives. Of course everyone’s rights’ should be protected, whether married or not, but that is not within reach at this time, while marriage equality is. (For Radical Feminists adamantly against marriage, we question why they first don’t first try to stop het marriages.)

It’s also important to work out how we continue harmful family dynamics with our friends and lovers. Our girlhood is always going to affect us in some way, but we can improve things and try not to set up hierarchical pseudo-families in our own communities and relationships. With strong Dyke politics and support, we can and do recover from girlhood abuse, without resorting to therapists who often provide a hierarchical substitute for parents, continuing our dependence. We are our own and each other’s best healers. We should resist being in or wanting to be in elite groups, with their hierarchies of stars and scapegoats. We shouldn’t think of Lesbians in couples as being superior to single Dykes, whether ourselves or others. (It’s easy to relate to couples as if they were in authority over us, because many Lesbians in couples act parental and condescending towards single Dykes.)

We, as Dykes, have got to be there for each other with that long-lasting commitment that’s usually given only to families, with real love and caring, which means working out occasional difficulties. Then we’ll be better able to survive our families and patriarchy. We will be the enduring Dyke communities we long for.


I.  KGO-TV News, San Francisco, 6 May 1988.

2.  Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. (New York: Bantam/William Morrow and Co., 1972).

3.  KGO-TV News, San Francisco, 31 March 1987.

4. San Francisco Chronicle, 31 August 1988. Mark-David James studied 195 teenagers who left their homes and went to shelters in Toronto, Canada. He found that even the horrors of runaways’ street life –prostitution, hunger, and drugs — don’t outweigh family abuse. 86% had been physically and/or sexually abused at home, while 67% got the same treatment on the street.

5.  Nina Eliasoph, “Why Kidnap Stirred the Bay Area,” San Francisco Chronicle, 2 December 1986, A26.

6.  Information leaflet by Family Violence Prevention Coordinating Committee and Accident Compensation Corporation, New Zealand Listener, 19 November 1988, 61.

7.  The Unquiet Death of Eli Creekmore, KCSM-TV, San Mateo, 3 May 1988.

8.  KRON-TV. San Francisco, 29 March 1988.

9. Angie Cannon, “Reassurance for Gay Kids,” San Francisco Chronicle, 5 March 1988, A2.

10. “Cheers: Gay Days and Nights at Ollie’s, Express, Berkeley, California. 21 August 1987.

11.  Why Can’t Sharon Kowalski Come Home? by Karen Thompson and Julie Andrzejewski (San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute Book Co.,1988).


Posted in Additional Radical Lesbian Feminist writings | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments