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


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.

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(


Re-coming out?!


I came out as bisexual about two years ago – actually, I dived out of the proverbial closet in a cloud of rainbow glitter and was about as open about it as you can possibly be. Seriously, I was out to everyone from my hairdresser to my French teacher. I didn’t really give anyone an announcement – I just started to casually talk about female celebrities I found hot and then told people when I had a girlfriend. No one was surprised. In fact, it turns out most people knew before I did. I know for a lot of people coming out is a difficult – sometimes painful – experience. But I loved it. Sure, it was harder with my family and there was a large element of fear involved, but the more people I came out to, to more connected to myself I felt. People were finally seeing me for who I was. I was finally figuring out what these horrible, confusing feelings that had messed me up all through high school meant – and I realised there was nothing wrong with me…

So what happens when you start questioning all over again?

Identifying as a lesbian has been a recent thing – literally as of about two weeks ago. I’ve known since the start I was mostly attracted to girls, often explaining my bisexuality as ‘97% into girls, 3% into guys’. You wouldn’t think going up another 3% would be a big deal, but for me it really was for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it was such a struggle for my family to accept that bisexuality even existed that I almost felt like they would feel vindicated in that belief if I re-came out as a lesbian. The idea that my experience perpetuates the idea that bisexuality is a ‘phase’, or bisexual people are ‘confused’ was something I hated, and still do hate. I have never experienced any particular difficulty identifying as queer, but identifying as bisexual caused me some problems. Biphobia is such a real issue. In fact, most of my family were under the impression that I was a lesbian from the start, purely because it would cause so much drama trying to explain bisexuality to a lot of them. It was frustrating, but one advantage is that I don’t have to now re-come out to them!

Another reason it took such a lot of struggling to re-come out was the fact that a lot of my friends would make a lot of comments like ‘Are you sure you aren’t a lesbian? You might as well say you are, you like girls way more than guys’. And it pissed me off. People shouldn’t assume that they know more about someone’s sexuality than they do. It’s no one’s business but mine how I choose to identify. Having so many people say these sorts of things meant that I spent a lot of time wondering whether considering identifying as a lesbian was the result of being told I should so often. Something else I hated the idea of. I pride myself in being independent-minded. I didn’t want to be subconsciously pressured into something. It took a long time to decide if it was truly me who was making the decision behind re-coming out. I am very, very stubborn. I don’t let myself get pushed into these things, and again – it was the idea of the people who had made those comments thinking they were right to do so. It isn’t right. Maybe once would have been okay, but when I say ‘No. I’m happy identifying as bi.’ just leave it alone! Heteronormativity and the constant brainwashing of a thousand other societal values makes it difficult enough to make an informed decision on what you choose to identify as. I don’t need the people I care about to make it any harder.

I realise there will be people reading this thinking what’s the big deal? It’s just a word! I don’t need to restrict myself to a label! But here’s the thing; some people can go through their lives not using labels, or using something more all-encompassing such as ‘queer’. And that’s great! But there are people who like the clarity of having a word to claim. People like me. I am concise with my words. Hell, I’m a writer! Words are important to me! So I need the right one for something as intrinsic to who I am as my sexuality. And I need to make sure it is my choice. So it feels like a huge relief to be able to say proudly that I am a lesbian, that identifying as bisexual was no more or less valid, and that people need to let people to come to that decision on their own.

… Although all that being said, maybe ‘homoflexible’ is better. I might be a lesbian, but if an offer came up from David Tennant I wouldn’t say no!

Blessed be )O(