by Julie Bindel
Tuesday, 21
April 2020
Debate
15:25

Don’t let the word ‘lesbian’ go out of fashion

We fought for years to make it a word we could wear with pride
by Julie Bindel
Me (top left) after we had broken into the showhome at the Ideal Home Exhibition to protest the comments from Margaret Thatcher about how lesbians with children were just “pretend families”. Credit: Julie Bindel

It is Lesbian Visibility Week and, as I never tire of saying, I love being a lesbian. I came out when I was 15 in 1977 and was beaten up and harassed on numerous occasions, mainly by men who took offence at me rejecting them sexually. These were hard years, but I found feminism and through that the lesbian liberation movement which demanded that women should be able to determine our own sexuality and not be forced into heterosexuality. I soon developed enormous pride in being brave enough to wear T-shirts and badges with slogans such as How Dare You Assume I Am Heterosexual? (Spoiler, nobody really did because I hardly adhered to feminine dress codes).

As we moved into the 1980s, as well as Gay Pride parades there were Lesbian Strength marches for women only, named as such because it was recognised that to be an out lesbian in those days required certain amounts of courage and tenacity.

There were always women around that would not use the word ‘lesbian’ because they thought it sounded yucky. Partly because the porn industry had made an entire genre out of girl on girl action that was about as lesbian as Jeremy Clarkson, and also because of the popular stereotypes of lesbians as being so butch we could kickstart our own vibrators, many women rejected the word, thinking it too crude.

But bit by bit, those of us that campaigned for lesbian liberation overturned those stereotypes to a degree, and shook off the sad, spinster image of the woman too ugly to get a man. I would often get hassled by men in bars if I was with one or more women because they couldn’t understand why we were without men. “What are you lovely ladies doing in here on your own?” some drunken bloke would ask. I would reply that it was difficult to be on my own seeing as I was with other women, but he always meant a male chaperone. When he inevitably started shouting that I was a “filthy dyke” or some such thing I would respond by saying that if he was the alternative, lesbianism was a choice every woman would make.

Today the word has yet again become stigmatised. It would appear that young lesbians are under pressure to call themselves Queer, non-binary, or even become trans men. Some more conservative women refer to themselves as gay, which has always struck me as rather bland. We fought for years to make ‘lesbian’ a word we could wear with pride. I would hate for it to become extinct. As the old insult used to go, ‘Lezz be ‘aving you!’

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Homer Simpson
Homer Simpson
2 years ago

Notwithstanding the absolutely laudable battle for sexual equality, being “proud” of one’s sexuality itself is like being proud of how many legs you have, or being proud of enjoying jaffa cakes. Surely one should only be “proud” of something which requires an active choice and sacrifice or effort, rather than a preference or hard-wired characteristic which one is born with?

J Cor
J Cor
2 years ago
Reply to  Homer Simpson

This does require active choice and sacrifice in a way, though: active choice to come out and be what you are openly, and sacrifice of work stability, family acceptance, all sort of those kinds of things. One can’t just stumble around unaware of oneself in that situation.

John Jones
John Jones
2 years ago

You’re absolutely right Julie. In a world beset by a pandemic, with a world-wide economic depression waiting in the wings, with an opioid crisis killing thousands (mostly men), with the climate becoming unstable, the issue that really deserves our attention is whether homosexual women should be called lesbians or gay.

Thank you for drawing this abomination to our attention.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Yes, it’s a hugely important issue that ought to be the lead on every news bulletin. I myself have shared this article with everyone I know.

Mike Dixtulong
Mike Dixtulong
2 years ago

I’m outraged.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Dixtulong

And I’m shocked to discover that Jeremy Clarkson is not a lesbian. Who knew?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Dixtulong

Me too. I would get out there and protest were such activities not banned for the foreseeable future and possibly longer.

Peter Kriens
Peter Kriens
2 years ago

Does Unherd really pay for these solipsistic articles? Why would anyone care if the author calls herself a lesbian or queer? Or what other people think of her. At trying times like today, this is s subject that deserves attention in any possible way?

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
2 years ago

I guess the solution is not to define yourself by your sexuality.

J Cor
J Cor
2 years ago

Nice idea, but when the law doesn’t let you marry and people beat you up, put you in mental institutions, subject you to conversion, or fire you for your sexuality, you’re sort of being forced to, aren’t you?

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
2 years ago
Reply to  J Cor

Well, as you say, only ‘sort of’.

David George
David George
2 years ago

Just what is the actual difference between lesbian porn and regular lesbian sex?
Asking for a friend.

anassim
anassim
2 years ago

I think we are entering much more challenging times. A vast number of people in the service industries of the USA – 22 million at last count – have lost their jobs. The same is happening everywhere else. Most service and customer-facing jobs are done by women.

What can I say? The media is very quiet about this. They are promoting the hysteria and they are also promoting alternative lifestyles. But the former destroys the latter.

It is obvious that whether we like it or not, we are going back to some sort of classic family arrangement. The slack is no longer there in the economy. The socialist model of Europe will fail. All European countries are bankrupt to some extent. I am sad to say that there will be a big reaction against minorities of all sorts. That is what usually happens historically.

sapioscripturient
sapioscripturient
2 years ago

I love the word lesbian, I love being a lesbian. The more I see young women and girls bullied into using the word ‘queer’ or goaded into transitioning, while the only people encouraged to use the word lesbian are males, it breaks my heart. I’d give anything for a lesbian strength march through the middle of London, same-sex banners and adult human female flags waving. People that aren’t watching their sexuality be turned into bigotry will never understand what it’s like to see a part of you be handed to someone else against your will.

dagale
dagale
2 years ago

Lesbians seem to be under attack at the moment and not from the usual suspects but from within the LBGT community, yes I did put the T there deliberately because transgender people have taken over the LGB part and it’s all about them now, anyone who defends women only places are called bigots and anyone who supports them are called the same, I can’t believe this hostile takeover and the silencing culture that has infested every walk of life

lehmannmileslehmann
lehmannmileslehmann
2 years ago

It is easy to see why so many gay and bi-sexual women would rather call themselves ‘queer’ or ‘gay’ rather than ‘lesbian’ when you consider what the majority of radical feminists are like. The word ‘lesbian’ has been dragged through the mud by these women and now conjures up very negative images in the mind. Because of this, I think it is quite understandable why a large portion of gay and bi-sexual women want to distance themselves from the word. Radical feminists need to take a look closer to home for their answers to why the word lesbian is not being used as much as it use to be.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

Well I did have a comment in mind that ties the subject of the piece quite nicely into lithe lockdown, but I would probably be banned from the platform. So I will let discretion be the better part of smut.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

I have just had a look at my DVD collection and I can assure you that the word ‘lesbian’ has not gone out of fashion.