LESBIANS FOR LESBIANS
Dyke Separatism Means Loving Dykes
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.
- 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.