We’re Here, And We’re Lumped Under ‘Queer’ – Lesbian Erasure

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This is the lesbian flag – one of quite a few. There is also one with varying shades of pink that has been categorised as the femme (or ‘lipstick’) lesbian flag, although it isn’t necessarily just for femme lesbians to use, and more recently butch lesbians have added one in shades of blue. Surprisingly, this is fairly uncommon knowledge unless you are in the lesbian community – and I mean specifically lesbian, not just queer/WLW spaces. The vast majority of the time, we are lumped under the rainbow flag with gay men. Which makes sense to some extent. After all like gay men, we experience exclusively same-sex attraction.

However, there is a problem with this. While we share several experiences with gay men (as we do with all LGBT+ people), lesbians have our own culture, our own history and our own issues. All facets of the LGBT+ spectrum do, which is why bisexual, trans, intersex, ace, genderqueer, pansexual, etc. have their own flags. The recent Pride Month post from Tumblr staff showcased some of these – but completely left out the lesbian flag. Last Pride (and this was the Manchester Big Weekend, not a small-town affair), the only piece of merch I could find that had the lesbian flag represented was a fabric rose – and I was told by friends that Leeds and Liverpool were the same. Most people (even other lesbians) aren’t aware that we have our own flag. I didn’t until another lesbian pointed it out to me. And to be honest, that makes me sad. Like I said, we have our own history: Rita Mae Brown, Gladys Bentley, Patricia Highsmith and of course Storme DeLarverie who threw the first punch at Stonewall and patrolled the streets to prevent other lesbians being attacked… Lesbians have paved the way for the rights not only of gay people, but of women in general. Lesbians fought long and hard for queer women to be included in the women’s movement in the first place.

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Art by : terrabellum.tumblr.com

In a similar vein, it is important to have a flag separate from the rainbow flag as lesbians not only face homophobia but also misogyny. Of course, all queer women do deal with that intersection, however a lot of lesbophobia comes from this insidious belief that men must play some part in a woman’s life. Lesbians more than any other group subvert that ideal, which is why lesbian intimacy is so often marketed as existing for male pleasure (see basically every lesbian porn vid ever created). Lesbians are seen by straight men as nothing more than a challenge; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been harassed and groped in clubs when I’ve been dancing with and/or kissing another girl, to the point when I’ve had to fight to get away because no one was listening when I practically screamed at them that I am 100% gay and no, they aren’t going to change my mind and no, they can’t watch me have sex with a woman. I’ve been filmed and photographed without my consent while I’ve been dancing with other women, drunk and just trying to enjoy my night. And this isn’t a rare occurrence; this is basically every time I go out.

If there’s one thing I know from experience – and from the experiences of the very few lesbians I know personally and the few more lesbians I follow on tumblr – it is that being a lesbian can be a very isolating experience. More and more people identify with ‘fluid’ sexualities, and while there is absolutely no problem with that it does mean that there are very few spaces for women who are exclusively attracted to women (or women-aligned folk). Which is why I hope the lesbian flag gains more momentum. I don’t know the figures, but I would say that we are a smaller subset than orientations that are attracted to multiple genders – but we are still here, and we deserve a symbol of our culture, our struggles and our identity to be visible in the community rather than just be lumped under homosexual, just like any other group under the LGBT+ umbrella. Oh, and this is DEFINITELY inclusive of trans lesbians. TERFs can stay away.

Blessed Be )0(

Tackling Transphobia in Witchcraft

trans witchHappy Pride Month everyone! In celebration of this month, I wanted to write about another thorny subject in the Witch community – transphobia and cissexism in witchcraft. A little disclaimer: I’m not trans, so I’m also going to link some witchcraft blogs run by trans folk if you want more information. I’m also covering this from a Wiccan point of view, so I’m not speaking for every branch of Paganism or witchcraft and there will be things I miss out. I’m always learning myself, so please bear with me!

Wicca has the reputation of being very LGBT+ friendly; seeing as we don’t have any Holy Book written when being queer was culturally seen as wrong, there’s nothing telling us that gay isn’t okay. Also, most Wiccan traditions don’t stigmatise sexuality (whether straight or not) in the way a lot of more mainstream religions do. While a lot of those religions see sex as something purely for procreation, sex for pleasure is a big part of its importance for most Pagans. As I’ve said previously, pretty much the one solid rule in Wicca is ‘do what ye will, and it harm none‘ – which as far as sex is concerned translates as ‘if everyone involved is a consenting adult, do whatever you like’. So it might come as a surprise that in recent years, Wicca has come under fire for transphobia and cissexism. I certainly was – but reading about it, I definitely agree that we have a problem.

One of the most glaring issues is the equation of genitalia with gender. A lot of  imagery of Wiccan rituals involves phallic and vaginal imagery (the most obvious being the Maypole – traditionally buried in the earth during Beltane celebrations to represent sexual union bringing new life). In itself, this isn’t necessarily a problem. But a lot of Wiccans – and New Agers in general – like to refer to ‘male’ and ‘female’ energies when using this imagery, and therein lies the problem. For one thing, not all men have penises and not all women have vaginas. For another, it completely erases the existence of non-binary witches.

Furthermore, I’ve seen criticism towards Wiccan worship of a God and a Goddess as enforcing a gender binary. Again, I agree with that if taken literally. The God and Goddess are two halves of the Divine All, and presenting them as two opposites erases the fact that gender is a spectrum and there are many, many more than two of them. However, I see God and Goddess as convenient terms for two energies that balance each other out. I don’t see them as gendered beings – it doesn’t particularly make sense that they would be, as part of a genderless entity! A lot of imagery in the more traditional rituals equates the God and Goddess with phallic and vaginal, and this is problematic for the same reason as above. Not to mention I personally find it a little bit odd to focus on what your deities’ have in their pants.

As I’ve already mentioned, using phallic and vaginal imagery in itself is fine – it’s a handy way to represent fertility, union and a host of other things. But what Wicca – and a lot of New Age religions – need to abandon is imagery that supports the conflation of genitals with gender, and enforces the idea of gender as a binary structure. Transphobia and cissexism are already very present in our lives, and getting rid of these ingrained opinions is difficult. But if Wiccans truly believe in doing no harm, then we need to collectively let go of these practice that alienate trans members of our community.

Blessed Be )0(

Trans Witch Blogs:
sapphic-witches.tumblr.com
lgbt-witches.tumblr.com
magicalboyslovingboys.tumblr.com
trans-cendentalwitch.tumblr.com