When Is a Lesbian Not a Lesbian?

When Is a Lesbian Not a Lesbian?

Bev Jo

Recognizing who is actually a Lesbian and who is an imposter is crucial for us, our Lesbian communities, relationships, and sanity. Lesbians are harmed by women who choose to not be Lesbians yet pretend to be us in order to use us. If we recognize them, we can protect ourselves.

We already wrote about the impersonators who invade our lives in our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes, such as the men who claim to be Lesbians in order to demand sexual access to us and take over our communities, and the women who choose to remain het and bisexual while also wanting to invade and insult us.  These people appropriate and erase us, and are not allies (although a few caring het Radical Feminist women do support us.)

But there is another group of “Lesbian” imposters that I and friends have figured out more recently, which explains the missing part of what has gone so terribly wrong in our communities. Knowing this con completely changes our lives for the better, because, not only can we say no to being victimized and recover, we also can learn how to recognize the abusers and warn friends. Most importantly, thinking about the trauma politically rather than as our own personal problem can help us all. It is not our fault we have been preyed on. But it is our responsibility to warn others. Hopefully, knowing this will save Lesbians’ lives.

Suddenly, so much makes sense. These imposters are like parasites who get past body defenses and stealthily cause tremendous damage to us individually and to our communities, precisely because we accept them as Lesbians. These are Psychopaths and Sociopaths, and sometimes Narcissists (I’m including all three when referring to Psychopaths. An excellent online group I’m in says that people “progress” from Borderline to Narcissist to Sociopath to Psychopaths, but never go back.)

Lesbians love other women. Psychopaths will not or cannot love. Therefore, they are simply not Lesbians.

(The same is true for women who do not love women who claim to be Radical Feminists while being abusive. Psychopaths cannot be any kind of feminist, by definition.)

If only some of us realized this earlier, it would have changed everything in our lives. Some of the worst damage done to us because we trusted these women who use Lesbians but do not love Lesbians. Many of the psychopaths know that men won’t love and care for them like Lesbians do, so they target us. (Hating men does not necessarily mean loving women.)  In the process of breaking hearts, they leave Lesbians devastated, afraid, unable to trust, and worse. (I believe many of us would have avoided becoming chronically ill from the abuse if we had understood what was happening.)

The psychopath hits you with shame, accusations, isolation, manipulation, control, slander, games, silence, betrayal, gaslighting, lies, abandonment, criticism and then denies it all.

It can be difficult to try to think about this clearly because when we realize someone we have deeply loved and committed our lives to is a psychopath, everything we believed about our relationship and life with this person is called into question. If she can’t/won’t love, then were we ever lovers?  Was our relationship, sometimes of many years, just a lie? Often, by the time we figure it out, we know they were lying about almost everything, including their own history, and their final betrayal is beyond anything we can comprehend. The reality is that our love for them was definitely real, but they were using us, not loving us. (My focus is always on Lesbians and women, but men are far more likely to be psychopaths.)

Definitions are powerful and important. I see radical Feminists online despairing about how oppressive many “radfems” are, saying they don’t want to identify as radical Feminists anymore because of these cruel women. But real radical Feminists fight all oppressions. The women who deny basic feminist politics by saying that oppressions, like racism, classism, and Lesbian-hating, do not exist among women are simply not Radical Feminists. We don’t stop calling ourselves Lesbians because men say they are Lesbians. We need to keep our own terms. (I have never used the term “radfem” for myself or friends because it sounds trivializing, in-groupy, and I am not a Fem, but now I think it’s come to mean a woman who is playing at feminism and is actually liberal to right wing. “RF” is better way to abbreviate.)  Anyway, many of us draw other lines in terms of definitions, so why not say that women, including psychopaths who don’t love women, are not Lesbians and are not feminists?

                                                   MAKING SENSE OF THE MESS

Therapy doesn’t help them since they are very good at conning therapists. I’m wary of therapists in general since most seem to have a higher percentage of personality disorders themselves, but a very good, kind, and caring Lesbian Feminist therapist can help us recover. (They are rare though.)

Psychopaths isolate their victims in a number of clever ways (“I love being with you so much and you are so busy, can we stay home again and just be together?”) By making a private little world with us (which is what some of us also experienced with our parents) we have no one to talk with or get support from or even find out if what we are being told or experiencing makes sense.

It’s common for years to go by before we dare tell a friend any of it because we want to protect our beloved from the embarrassment of being exposed, especially since we believe she has suffered terrible trauma. We would rather suffer abuse than have the truth finally be known because we don’t want to hurt them.

This is why it’s so important to not promise to keep secrets that might be lies and that could harm others. I’ve been saying that I want no more secrets and therefore no more lies in my life. Both feed abusers. Most victims never dream that someday their psychopaths might not only deny that they abused us but will accuse us of doing what they have done, or even deny ever having been lovers with us at all – depending on what best suits their future schemes. Also, don’t blame yourself for having been so manipulated and conned. They do target certain types of Lesbians, not because of anything being wrong with us, but because we are open and loving, which ideally all Lesbians should be, and often because we have something of value for them to use. However, those going through trauma are more vulnerable to being targeted.

Psychopaths destroy our relationships, organizations, and social groups. Some also manage to con vulnerable, dying Lesbians to leave them their property and savings. Most of the Lesbians I know are very poor, but I had an old friend, R., whose property, that she’d bought with her lover, F. (who died a few years earlier), increased in value to a million and a half dollars. She also had hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings. R. found out she was dying and ideally would have wanted everything to go to Lesbian Separatist groups and also to the poor Lesbian friends who had been daily intimately caring for her to help her live as long as possible. (F., a strong Dyke Separatist, would have adamantly agreed.) But suddenly, X., a much younger woman appeared with a business scheme involving dogs that appealed to R. and talked R. into marrying her in spite of X. refusing to be lovers with her, so that X. could easily inherit everything.

I still don’t know how R. was so conned, especially since other friends knew about the psychopath, but X.’s technique was to pretend to be the victim of Lesbians she had victimized so her next targets protected her and refused to hear the truth. In my case, when R. called to tell me she was dying, she then shouted at me to promise to not tell my friend, J., who X. had victimized horribly (and who she still stalks) because R. believed J. to have been the abuser. (This was bizarre because just a few months earlier, R. repeatedly asked me to help her become friends with J.)  I asked R. what J. supposedly had done, which I always do when hearing such accusations, and R. yelled: “This is about me! I’m dying!  I won’t talk about it! She’s done terrible things to women!” I didn’t believe J. had done anything, but I was in shock about R. dying and reluctantly agreed.

We’ve speculated since about if anything could have reached R., who was so under the psychopath’s spell and likely in love with her, but I think we could have if she found out that X. had a secret lover and so was lying to R., and also that she was saying R. had dementia when she didn’t. (This was a major lesson in the danger of keeping secrets.)  I so regret not telling J. because then I would have found out that X. was the psychopath that J. had told me had been so abusive to her in the past. I didn’t realize who she was until R. died.

So, though the psychopath, X., was from a rich background, R. made her the trustee of everything, basically giving her the entire property and all the money that was supposed to go to R.’s real friends. Later, when friends asked X. about the will, her story kept changing, from lying that she was not the trustee, to saying months later that R. at the last minute whispered to her that she wanted K. to get everything, to saying that no money was left (even while she was still spending thousands of dollars on a tractor to damage the land that our friends had lovingly tended.) X. was so good at playing victim that she managed to not get arrested even when she deliberately tried to kill a man who owed her money to by hitting him with her car so hard that he flew onto the hood and then when the police came, she let her dog bite one of them and she still wasn’t jailed (you can guess her race). X. also had conned and stolen from other Lesbians and ruined their houses and property. (J. had allowed her to stay rent-free in her house, but after the water had been shut off because she didn’t pay the electric bill, K. began using one of the bedrooms as her toilet – no bucket, but just the floor, letting it pile up and basically destroyed the house. She also deliberately destroyed the yard.)

What is heartbreaking is that R. and F.’s house and land could have been used to home poor Lesbians into the future, which is so important since most Lesbian money goes to men or het women.

Too many of us have been harmed by women like this. Some of the psychopaths use identical techniques and strategies to manipulate that can be easily recognized once we know the patterns. They often con us with lies about having suffered horrific girlhood and/or later trauma and abuse (as X. did), so that we open our hearts to them.

My ex-lover, Anna, actually used those words, after telling her new “love” target that her best friend had just died so she would “to open her heart” to her. She wanted me to help her lie, as her previous lover had done when she targeted me ten years earlier. I was horrified and refused. She then proceeded to tell bizarre lies about me so that no one would believe me if I said that her “best” friend, who she hadn’t seen in over twenty years, was very much alive.

Anna used a much more elaborate, heartbreaking lie to hook me, based on information she had gleaned from our international Lesbian Separatist community about me, and from my personal chapter and other parts of our book. She knew I had recently been through one of the worst betrayals in my life and presented herself as my protector, outraged on my behalf, as well as pretending to be the perfect lover and friend I had always dreamed of. She was very skilled. It took me ten years to extricate. But now I can see the signs so easily, as well as the similarities with other psychopaths. Facing the painful truth is incredibly freeing.

Once we fall in love and commit to loving the psychopath (and they know how to make this happen very quickly), it becomes easy to excuse their abuse as being a result of their “trauma.” I just kept being relieved that she had survived the horrific abuse she described, though now I suspect it was all a lie, as do others who knew her years earlier believe.

Anna moved quickly to con me since we were in different countries, but that also helped intensify things. She also got her lover of nine years to help her, including telling the first tragic lie that hooked me. (Even though something seemed very wrong, both reassured me that our falling in love was fine for their relationship.) We actually “fell in love” on the phone, and then Anna visited me for nine seemingly perfect days before I went to live with her for three months in Ireland, which, in retrospect, was a nightmare. (She is English.) She was extremely convincing in “love-bombing” me, and she also deepened her original hook by distracting me with endless stories of her abuse and tragedies. She kept me so sleep deprived that I could barely think or function, all the while pretending to heal me from the pain of my previous lover.

Anna’s control of herself during her first visit was incredibly revealing because afterward she seemed to have no control at all, going into rages and ranting, injuring herself, shutting down with depression and bad moods, and being set off by anything imaginable. Whether it was something I said or didn’t say, or an expression I had or didn’t have, or even something someone else did (like an my ex-lover writing to me), it was always my fault and I was expected to make amends. She increased telling details of how she had been tortured so I thought about those horrors constantly and didn’t allow myself to name what I actually saw, which was that she was used to getting her way by constantly throwing tantrums. (At the time, I didn’t dare think such a thing about someone who had “suffered” so much.)

Never knowing when the latest drama would hit kept me always terrified, uncentered, ungrounded, confused, and unsure. Theoretically, we should have been in ecstasy, and sometimes it seemed like that, but then it would flip. We often couldn’t even have one good day without her making a crisis or drama. I remember thinking she was crazy, and luckily I had never been called “crazy,” because later she tried that when she increasingly gaslighted me. But as much as I loved her, I would not agree to anything I knew was not true. In retrospect, Anna was always testing to see how far she could go before I said no, which rarely happened. I still wonder if every single thing she did was calculated. The more she got away with, the more elaborate her stories became, and the more confident she became in abusing me.

Psychopaths target us carefully and are quite skilled at reading their victims so they can abuse us even while we try to protect them and help them “heal.” They also can have unusual powers, like what I saw Anna have with animals. In spite of her history of killing or abandoning pets when she grew tired of them (which I didn’t find out until it was all over), animals reacted to her with amazing love and trust. Once when she was ranting outside and literally frothing at the mouth, a wild little European robin kept landing on her shoulder to comfort her. After we lived in California, we had rescue rats. She went away for three months and when she returned, one little rat we had rescued only weeks before she left, literally shivered with excitement to see her again. (I still do not understand this power, but it’s important to know about since so many people believe animals can tell who is trustworthy, and she used this to manipulate. Rats are incredibly wise, but still loved her. She also had power with dogs.) She quickly won over my mother and appropriated her so that when my mother died and friends gave me a card, she was enraged that they “ignored” her because she said considered my mother to be her mother.

Though I am disabled with chronic illness, and the constant stress worsened my health, my worry was primarily about Anna’s health. She convinced me she was at serious risk for a heart attack, but refused to go to a doctor (supposedly because of her previous medical “trauma.”)  We’d be relaxing together and she would suddenly start drooling and whispering my name, saying she had terrible chest pain. She got me to wait on her endlessly while I spent many sleepless nights wondering if she was going to die. But the next day she often would go on long hikes with bricks in her backpack. Questioning her got me a torrent of verbal abuse.

Besides enjoying those games and power, such manipulation works well to have the victim always terrified, worried, and feeling guilty for causing their “pain.” Maybe my upsetting her would cause her to die? Another method of control they use is to find out what is most hurtful to us and use that. I’d told her early on that a lover withdrawing was terrible for me, so she frequently punished me by threatening to end our relationship, refusing to talk for days, etc. Of course the “making up” times were full of wild, passionate love-making. That was when she was most powerful, not as a lover, but as the one made love to.

Anna later admitted she had targeted me because she thought I had status as a writer and Lesbian Separatist activist. Psychopaths are drawn to anyone who can promote them or improve their status, and they are also drawn to radical politics or anything that can seem dramatic to them, so we meet them more than we should in radical Lesbian communities. It’s the same in other activist communities.

When Anna moved on to her next target, almost ten years later, she picked a Lesbian singer/songwriter who I’d introduced her to, so she both felt she’d won something off me as well as hoping the new lover would showcase her and help her get onstage. Singing was clearly was not going to work for her, so she tried comedy, which was a disaster too. One thing I had still trusted was Anna’s Separatist politics, that she had had for many years, but she betrayed that too. Her one “comedy” performance was at a “women only” venue that actually has a man who regularly “sings” off-key porny, Lesbian-hating songs. (This was the same man who had sexually harassed me when I was seventeen and stalked me into the Lesbian community, where he still stalks me.) Anna knew all this, but In part of her routine, she had several audience members pretend they had spent the night with her (to prove how “sexy” she was) and she actually included him as one of her “lovers.”

Anna then tried to get attention in the Lesbian community by making up an elaborate story that she was dying from cancer, using the name of my old friend’s oncologist for credibility (though she never even saw a doctor and knew she didn’t have cancer.) She got a lot of money until another psychopath in our community (one who was more successful) immediately recognized her con and laughed, saying that she should have picked an illness that takes longer to die from. (Anna actually had her new lover drive her to UCSF and wait outside while she pretended to be seeing the surgeon. But that target quickly grew fed up with her games.)

Anna then got involved with another psychopath who was also a sado-masochist, and who I later found out had tried to rape a friend of mine years earlier, but my friend fought her off. Last I’d heard was that Anna feminized herself by male standards and was playing a submissive masochist and calling herself “Annie.” Like many other psychopaths, she let me know she was stalking me, and, I believe she would happily have killed me if she wasn’t such a coward. But she finally had to leave the US.

To discredit me in case I told the truth about her, Anna told everyone that we had never even been lovers (why then did she move to the US, took great risks, live in my room for a decade, beg me to marry her, etc?). She told other lies about me that were projections of things she’d actually done. No one who spread her lies bothered to ask me or our longtime friends or even her family for the truth. Anna also tried to steal my life savings and did steal thousands from me. Her slander still affects my life years later.

She also lied about our friends who had helped her, including another old friend of mine who had been incredibly kind by giving her thousands of dollars and let her stay rent-free in her second apartment, hoping our being apart for a while could help us work things out. (I hadn’t yet told my friend about Anna’s abuse, still protecting her.)  When my friend got fed up with her and told her to leave, Anna told the community it was because our friend had fallen in love with her.

In retrospect, I feel like such a fool. I kept trying to reconcile the person who sometimes seemed incredibly loving with the violent maniac who physically abused me, yelled the cruelest things she could make up, and who deliberately injured herself. (Once, in a jealous rage because I’d gotten a letter from an ex-lover, she deliberately grabbed the base of my solid wood bed and slammed her forehead into it, full force. She got a permanent dent in her head and two black eyes, and likely fractured her skull. I took care of her). She also managed to get Lyme disease and a serious allergy to Poison Oak because she ignored my warnings. But then I excused her abuse by wondering if these and the numerous head injuries she claimed was done to her as a girl was why she would suddenly become another person.

I’m not sure when it all shifted for me and I suddenly realized the truth, but I think it was when I saw how much she was harming other Lesbians. It’s that point of realization that I so want other victims of psychopaths to come to, because that’s when I felt fully freed, no longer conning myself for her, no longer missing her, no longer remembering good times, and no longer able to be hurt by her. Free.


Psychopaths love to lie, often for no apparent reason, although usually they plan the lie for attention and status, and especially to deflect suspicion and criticism. When caught, they again blame childhood trauma, mental confusion from their past, including psychiatric “abuse,” etc.

I remember one “Lesbian” who was a very charismatic and extremely class-privileged, Euro-descent, ex-het Fem who bragged about past boyfriends even while pretending to be a Lesbian Separatist. She actually is quoted in a book about her old Chicago Lesbian community saying that she loved to pit women against each other because she enjoyed seeing the reaction. She also loved to collect lovers and friends, even referring to some Lesbians as her “working class pets.” She could get almost any Lesbian to go along with her flirting. I’ll never forget her smirking at me over the shoulder of new friend of mine that she was intensely flirting and snuggling with at a dance, in spite of my friend’s lover being right there. It was such a cruel game because my friend hadn’t often been treated as attractive and so was more vulnerable. Of course the psychopath soon snubbed her.

Part of psychopaths’ ploy is to get several women devoted to and even in love with them so that they have a group who will protect them at all costs from being confronted and identified. Then they play fragile victim while their followers do their dirty work in trying to destroy other women.

In the beginning, the psychopaths use intense love-bombing to hook you, and then love-bomb friends and family to have everyone in your life impressed with them. This often can mean wanting to make love with you as much as possible, which is the deepest hook of all. They also isolate you and try to destroy your friendships and make your friends theirs. When they turn on you, they try to erase and hurt you in every way imaginable.

If someone seems too good to be real, they are. Do NOT overlook abuse of any kind. Do not overlook feeling afraid of them, upsetting them, or their moods. Finding the book “Walking on Eggshells” was the beginning of my realizing that if someone truly loves you, why would you be so afraid of them?

Mistakes can be made, but if someone deliberately says anything cruel, notice and remember it. Never “forgive and forget.” Question them and examine the response. (Be careful to not misinterpret class or cultural differences though. Someone is not being cruel if they show justified anger. Cruel is hurting for the sake of hurting and being patronizing, and using ridicule and name-calling rather than respectful disagreement.)

Keep a record of everything that seems off or doesn’t make sense, any double standards between you, and notice if there are contradictions, including in the stories they tell.

One way to find out if someone you suspect is a psychopath, try saying no or disagreeing with them, even in a minor way, and watch the reaction. It enrages them. Ask them to apologize for something they’ve done that harmed someone. Unless you are their current target for love-bombing, they are likely to reveal themselves with outrage. Since psychopaths will never apologize, they will try to make you feel guilty and be responsible for everything that goes wrong between you. Also don’t blame yourself for inadvertently helping them con others like I did when I believed Anna really did have cancer.

If you’ve been traumatized by a psychopath and start realizing how conned you were, it can be tempting to start seeing psychopaths everywhere, so it’s important to not make accusations without being very sure. So don’t start accusing, but do watch for others falsely accusing. If you do talk about it, be wary of those who then start projecting what they are doing onto you — like when Radical Feminists talk about misogyny, suddenly the men desperate to silence us start calling us “misogynists.”

On the other hand, do let yourself notice and learn, and figure out how you so dismissed obvious evidence in the past, to make sure you never do that again.

This is an increasingly selfish era where once the focus was on caring for each other rather than being all about the individual, so that now abuse and injustice are ignored when it happens to someone else. We need to reclaim our sense of radical Lesbian Feminist community where we care for and protect each other and hold abusers accountable. I’ve been saying that it’s like if someone was literally murdered, few would care these days, as long as it doesn’t affect them. Middle class culture bombarding us with platitudes about “forgiveness” and “karma” haven’t helped. Forgiveness helps abusers keep abusing.

I now think that it’s better to have no secrets than end up helping psychopaths con other Lesbians. If everyone knows everything, within reason, then it’s very hard to lie. Any of us who are radical Lesbian Feminists are constantly taking risks with our safety and constantly being slandered, so why not have the truth be what is known and in the open? I always say, if you hear anything upsetting about me, ask me. I have nothing to hide, and neither should anyone else.

Remember that it’s essential to say no to believing that a psychopath, sociopath, or narcissist is a Lesbian if they can’t or won’t love Lesbians. If we don’t protect Lesbians, who will?

About Bev Jo

I’ve been a Lesbian from my earliest memories and am proud to be a Lesbian. Lesbians are my people and my blood. My life’s work has defending Lesbians and our culture and existence against those who oppress us. Working-class, ex-catholic, mostly European-descent (with some First Nations, probably Shawnee, ancestry), from poverty class culture. I’m a Lifelong Lesbian, born near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1950. I became lovers with my first lover in 1968, became part of a Lesbian community in 1970, and became a Dyke Separatist in 1972. I helped create Radical Lesbian Feminist and Separatist community and worked on some of the earliest Lesbian Feminist projects, such as the Lesbian Feminist Conference in Berkeley in 1972, the newspaper “Dykes and Gorgons” in 1973, the women’s bookstore, Lesbian coffeehouse, and taught self defense to women and girls for ten years. I’ve been published in journals and anthologies, including “For Lesbians Only,” “Finding the Lesbians,” “Lesbian Friendships,” “Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes Aujourd’hui,” “Mehr als das Herz Gebrochen,” the Journal for Lesbian Studies, Lesbian Ethics, Sinister Wisdom, Trivia, and Rain and Thunder. With Linda Strega and Ruston, I co-wrote our book, “Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics for Lesbians Only” in 1990. Our book and my more recent articles have been updated at my blog https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/ I’ve been disabled since 1981 with ME/CFIDS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.) I love nature and plants and animals — and especially the animals who are feared and hated and killed by people who don’t even know them, just as Lesbians are. I’ve learned to love rats especially, who I do not consider inferior to humans. I’m a spiritual atheist, but I’ve found out that there is definitely life after death because a little rat returned from the dead for three days to comfort us. These hated little animals are so kind and loving, and willing to die for someone they love. I say, in our fight to protect the earth — distrust all “truths” we are taught by patriarchy. The true truth is often the opposite.
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