The L in LGBTQIA+.
Lesbian is a term used to refer to female homosexuals. You’ll be most likely to hear this word as part of the sentence, “I’m not a lesbian!” from straight women/allies and queer women alike.
“I often hear from lesbians I know that they don’t like the word lesbian. But just like women who say they don’t like the word “feminist,” it has more to do with what they think those phrases mean to the world, and they are seeing them with the negative connotations that they (and we all) could be working to dispel every day.”
The above quote by Trish Bendix made me rethink my own tendency to flip flop between identifying as queer and lesbian at other times. Needless to say, we inhabit a predominantly patriarchal society and being a lesbian is the furthest you can get from what is the idealized (also idiotic) version of a woman in such a system. Lesbophobia, it’s a thing – look it up. Either way, these are some of the most common questions that I have been asked multiple times over since I have been out. It’s a wonder my eyes aren’t permanently rolling backwards in exasperation.
Do you think this might be a phase? This is a phase, no?
Listen up, it’s hard enough as it is to come out and open oneself up to the looming possibility of discrimination and homophobia. So, would you please stop downplaying my sexual identity as something frivolous because it might be making you rethink the boxes that you neatly categorize people in.
Did you go to a girls’ school? Is that why?
If I were to follow that logic, there’d be a whole lot more of us. I was probably the only one in my batch. Sorry to disappoint you and your lurid myths about girls’ schools.
Do you own flannel shirts? Do you only wear boy clothes?
There is no one way of being a lesbian. You can be one in a dress or a saree or overalls or a suit or a potato sack or anything you very well happen to wear that day or every day. And yes, I do own some flannel and I love unisex clothing. Speaking of lesbian stereotypes – you forgot comfortable shoes!
Aha, but you have short hair. Do all gay – I’m sorry lesbians have short hair?
You got me there. It’s like this, not all short haired women are lesbians and not all lesbians have short hair. It’s hair! Women like most people like to wear their hair in a number of ways.
How exactly is it possible for two women to even have sex?
Thank you for taking an active and unhealthy interest in my sex life. We have sex more or less like everyone else. But since you’re asking me this question, I’m guessing we might just be more imaginative.
So you’re technically still a virgin, since you haven’t been penetrated?
Whoa. What a limited and boring way to think of sex. I can’t help you there. Sex is far too complex and varied to explain with a simplistic fixation on the in and out motion. That is one of the ways to have sex, yes. /jazz hands/
Which one of you is the man in the relationship? Which one of you wears the lipstick?
No one is, that is kind of the point. Do you always think in binary? Let me try to answer this in an unpredictable way: sometimes we both are and sometimes we both aren’t. We both like wearing lipstick now and then too. Basically, we get to do whatever we want without adhering to outdated and predetermined gender roles.
Have you ever been with a man? How would you know for sure if you haven’t?
Have you ever been with a person belonging to genders that you’re not attracted to? No? That’s because it doesn’t work that way, romantic or sexual attraction is something which is innate and eventually discovered or explored further by the individual in question. What I was sure of even as a young person without the vocabulary to define myself – was that I was different from the people around me; the difference being I wasn’t straight.
Why do you sound so angry? Are you one of those, one of those man hating angry feminists – I mean lesbians!
My orientation has little to do with hating the alternatives. It is a beautiful, complex, realised truth all on its own. The same way you figured out your innate sexuality. Now that we’ve established that, let’s move on to angry. I am, yes. You’d be too, if I took away some of your rights and denounced your personal choices and ways of expressing that as illegal, immoral and unnatural. Repeatedly. I don’t mind being angry about that at all. I laugh easy too. Call me a loud, book loving, stationery hoarding lesbian next!
What kind of porn do you watch?
There’s more to us than just sex, you know but then again I have to entertain the possibility that all you know about lesbians comes from your favourite porn website. No? Phew. But since we are on the topic, women in mainstream porn perform in movies made by men for the male gaze and so lesbian porn appears somewhat ridiculous to actual lesbians. Porn is a matter of preference; personally I like watching guy on guy.
Does being a lesbian mean you’re attracted to all women around you, even straight ones!? Do you like me?
Nah ah. Adhering to a different sexual orientation from the norm isn’t the same as hyper-sexuality. I’ve liked a variety of people over the years but for vastly different reasons not because they identified as women and happened to be in the same room as me. I think reading is sexy though, don’t you think? Do you read?
So, when are you getting married?
See answer to the first question. This is addressed to the somewhat well-meaning but ultimately conservative people in my life who are in severe denial about all kinds of relationships that do not adhere to heteropatriarchal norms and treat mine as not legitimate or serious in any way. I’m not so sure about marriage, for me it has always appeared as an institution that excludes and discriminates against people like me. Coming back to reality, the country I happen to live in is decades behind on all kinds of human rights let alone rights for its LGBTQIA+ citizens. On the off chance that was a genuinely well-meaning question, I’d like to say – someday.