Ladies who like ladies
by Jillian Drinnon
The Rural Gay Columnist
Everyone wants a community. Everyone wants to feel like they belong. These are some pretty fundamental truths of humanity, and that is why making diverse communities visible is so important.
Lesbian Visibility Day is April 26th, and as a lady who likes ladies, I’ve been thinking about what it actually means to be a lesbian.
This is a tricky question because, in one respect, lesbianism is a word that really just means “girls who like girls.” It is simple and easy, but by saying that lesbianism is only that, it ignores the culture and history of the community.
When I was coming into my lesbianism, I was so curious and excited about the new, huge world of queer lady culture. I got wildly into punk music, Ellen and Oprah became of great interest to me, and all sorts of books and movies came flooding into my life. This rush of culture that is unfortunately sequestered to special corners of the internet and public library led to my discovery of lesbian history, which is amazing, but also unsavory at times.
My adoration of lesbian culture slowly transmuted into shame of lesbian history. I was so angry with some of the people I was associated with. These lesbians, who were white and cis, who didn’t like anyone else that wasn’t white and cis-gendered, made me embarrassed to be titled lesbian.
I was already fighting with some of the labels that get attached to many queer folks. Words such as “pedophile,” “pervert,” and “sinner” rushed around in my mind. After learning about the isolating history of lesbianism, I began to buy into some of those hateful words and phrases. I thought that perhaps I was a man-hater. Maybe I was another angry lesbian. I didn’t feel like I was, but if there were lesbians who could say such awful things about people, maybe I could too.
It took me far too long to realize that every community has bad eggs. I thought that when I came out of the closet, I would be magically consumed with gayness. I assumed that I would adore anyone who was gay, but like any other group of people, the gay community is complex.
The lesbian community is composed of all sorts of different people. It’s beautiful, but this also means that a spectrum of values and beliefs are represented. It is essential to treat everyone with love and respect, but it is simplistic to say that being lesbian automatically drafts gay women into being friends.
It was also important for me to accept and move forward from the less than perfect history of the lesbian community. Being shameful and quiet because of the actions of the past is foolish. Rather than silently rejecting the lesbian culture that is already repressed in so many ways, I now hope to represent the lesbian community in a way I can be proud of.
On the surface, lesbianism simply means “women who like other women,” but in looking closer, lesbianism is a word steeped in culture and history. It isn’t perfect, but like any culture, it is growing and changing all the time. It is a diverse community of country bumpkins and city slickers, cis and trans women, black and white women, and any other type of woman under the sun.
As long as we act with empathy, we can cultivate an even more wonderfully diverse community.
Copyright The Gayly. 4/26/2020 @ 9:00 a.m. CST.