Co-opting the L: Homophobia & The Thought Police

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"Forcing people to deny reality, is not a human right. An ally would never require lesbians to suspend their own reality."

*As seen on Huffington Post (2017) & Afterellen (2018) *This is the updated 2018 version

Dear Lesbians,

I’m not supposed to be saying any of this, but as long as I can, I will.

Where to even begin? Last year, when I spoke on the phone with the founder of one of the few lesbian publications still remaining, I asked how many lesbians she had on staff. She said “one.” One lesbian. At a lesbian publication. ONE. A couple of weeks later, one of their writers headlined an article with—”Lesbians…We should be using condoms. Yes, CONDOMS.” She called herself a “sexpert.” And in the body of the article, she explained that lesbians should be using condoms for PIV sex (penis in vagina sex). The “We” in the headline, implies the writer is a lesbian… But just weeks before, she’d written publicly, online, “I’m not a damn lesbian.”

I did some digging and realized something scary… Lesbians are now the token at so-called ‘lesbian’ publications. Non-lesbians are doling out advice to young lesbians, under the guise that they’re lesbians. Lesbians have been excluded from our own publications and organizations in the name of “inclusion” (something I’ve written about a few times before). Worse still, most lesbians have no idea it’s happened. Or to what extent. How could they? The information we get on the left is controlled and censored.

In 2017, when I first published the  Huffington Post article, below (updated to reflect the shift of time), it was promoted. Then something odd happened… It was demoted. It still existed… just not as something that would come up in a search. Non-lesbians reported me. My voice, as a lesbian, writing on issues as they specifically pertain to and affect lesbians, was reported as a thought crime:

Up until the new millennium, we were called the ‘LGB,’ and having short hair was so common among lesbians, it almost felt like a prerequisite—That, and one of those rainbow freedom-ring necklaces. A lot has changed since then.

Lesbian culture is under siege.  There are only a few lesbian bars left in the United States. Nearly every mainstay of lesbian culture has vanished. Lesbians were told their fears and concerns were irrational—But just look around. Our once vibrant cities are now rubble and dust.

“Spaces and events that once billed themselves as by and for lesbians have ‘changed their names and focus to avoid controversy and be more inclusive.’”—BuzzFeed

As of late, under male-dominated rainbowrulership, lesbians have faced an onslaught of homophobia. And more recently, lesbians and gay men alike, have been hit over the head with homophobic rhetoric from within the community.

In 2017, gay men were finally served a sliver of the phobia-pie, and, as a result, heart-to hearts started to happen—And lesbians needed men to listen and speak up. Because in 2018, soon to be 2019, men still have to say something first before anyone will take it seriously.

A couple of years ago Autostraddle wrote—“We’re often on the brink of not existing anymore.” In 2016, The Daily Beast pointed to media misrepresentation of lesbians“…a group that still feels ‘unwelcome and invisible’ in 2016.” It’s almost 2019, and that feeling (unwelcome and invisible) has only gotten worse.

Given the campaign of psychological warfare that has been waged upon lesbians, it’s amazing any of us are still standing. ‘Butch’ women have forever been accused of wanting to be men, and a ‘femme’ woman’s attraction to a so-called ‘masculine’ women, must mean they’re straight.

And misconceptions have only gotten worse, as male-dominated media continues to portray a sexist and rigid idea of womanhood. TV continually tries to recreate lesbians into something more palatable to the masses—A tired male-fantasy, a bruised male-ego.

“..The L Word …represented butchness as “the B word” that dare not speak its name. Despite the fact that the character of Shane drew heavily on the history of butch sexiness, she never could claim that history, name it, or own it.”AfterEllen

Have they finally succeeded in brainwashing the next generation into believing that the ‘androgynous’ component of womanhood is so threatening, so disgusting, that they should just disappear? And when they disappear, where exactly are they supposed to go?

“When a butch character was introduced [on LWord]…they quickly transitioned to trans leaving the category of butch stranded like a missing link, like a bad memory to be expunged from queer representation.”AfterEllen

When news hit, that L Word was scheduled for a reboot, the media immediately began praising the ‘no butch’ policy, by spinning the misrepresentation of lesbians as “Femme Visibility.” But the sentiment at the time, was that the groundbreaking show “not only dismissed the possibility of butch identity, it ridiculed it.” And that in denying lesbian ‘masculinity,’ they denied “a major part of what has made lesbian cultures so fascinatingfor hundreds of years.” 

So—Can we please get it right this time? Women can be the epitome of ‘feminine’ beauty while wrapped in a shirt and tie. *no smoky eye-shadow required. Equating ‘womanhood’ with ‘femininity’ is about as sexist as it gets. And equating ‘femininity’ with a particular style is damaging to womanhood.

“Our current social order…with or without gay marriage…is the one that rendered the butch as the anachronistic, useless, dowdy misfit in the first place.”AfterEllen

What the mainstream still can’t seem to grasp: The style and confidence of a Shane may catch the eye, but it’s biology that drives a lesbian. It’s a merciless same-sex magnetic pull, of scent, taste, sound and female pheromones. It’s animal. It’s criminal. It’s unapologetic. It’s innate and unstoppable.

The desire is in the unwrapping—The appetite is for what female heaven awaits beneath. It’s an exclusive club by nature—and we wouldn’t let them in—so they huffed and they puffed and they blew our houses down.

Katherine Moennig as Shane, in the opening credits of LWord
Katherine Moennig as Shane, in the opening credits of LWord

Gay men’s spaces still thrive, but the homophobic shift has begun to target them as well. In June of 2017, two Boston Pride Parades were threatened with a boycott after gay men called out the homophobic comments of trans spokesperson Juno Dawson who said—“I think there are a lot of gay men out there who are gay men as a consolation prize because they couldn’t be women.” Gay men can call out homophobia and they did, but lesbians don’t have that liberty.

“A binary label like ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ starts to feel somewhat stale and stodgy…is it closed-minded—or worse, harmful and exclusionary—if you identify with a label that implies you’re only attracted to one?”BuzzFeed

A whole generation is being taught that being gay or lesbian is potentially “closed-minded” and “harmful.” But has anyone stopped to think about the harm this homophobic rhetoric is doing to young gay and lesbian people? The Trevor Project reports, “The rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGB youth…”

When you first discover that mainstream ‘LGBTQ’ feminist media platforms are teaching the next generation that homosexuality is no more than a whimsical “preference” that can be “unlearned,” it kinda feels like you’ve stepped into an Orwellian novel.

“..if you were to say that you’re only attracted to people with vaginas or people with penises, it really feels like you’re reducing people just to their genitals… Gay ‘conversion therapy’ has been proven not to work. But you can unlearn your own prejudices; it just takes time and conscious effort.”—Everyday Feminism

When did same-sex “preferences” become a “prejudice” that can be fixed?

“If you met someone who was extremely attractive, had a great personality, but didn’t have the genitals that you wanted, you might be surprised to find that it isn’t a dealbreaker.”Everyday Feminism

(Said every parent in denial ever)

“Some lesbians…are still all too eager to write off [people] because of “genital preferences,” which means they have incredibly reductive ideas…”—BuzzFeed

This Orwellian novel comes with a hyper-vigilant Thought PoliceDemeaning words and acronyms are sanctioned through media use, even when they’re associated with silencing females, using threats of violence, rape and murder. Those who express different views, risk harassmenthumiliationexpulsion and job loss through the ‘no platform movement.’ The very existence of entire groups of people within the ‘LGBTQ’ community are being completely denied“I don’t think it does anyone any favors to act as if we don’t exist…”—detrans LGBT activist, Carey Callahan.

In July of 2017, award-winning trans reporter, Gretchen Hammond, released a statement to the Chicago Dyke March organizers—“You attacked, humiliated and robbed me of a job.” Hammond’s big crime: Breaking a story. Women were thrown out of  the Chicago Dyke March by the Dyke March organizers, for carrying a Jewish rainbow flag. Hammond reported the story and was consequently fired.

Call-out culture serves to attack anyone who doesn’t fall in line. This was also when I began to compile copious notes, lists of who was writing what and where, who was running publications, organizations, where the money was coming from, who those people were, where they contributed, how much, the changes that came about as a result, changes to the medical and psychiatric fields, changes in law, etc. I traced and traced, and when I finally saw the ripple effect, I panicked. I was crushed with an indescribable sense of hopelessness… The vast majority had no idea what was happening. It was the unraveling of bliss, the kind of bliss that only comes with not knowing.

Gretchen reported on antisemitism. But no one reported on the anti-lesbian sentiment—That lesbians, in general, were told not to come to the Dyke March. Not unless they shared the organizers’ personal beliefs: That “not all dykes are women” and “plenty of lesbians like d*ck.”The Dyke March organizers more specifically targeted butch lesbians on the Chicago Dyke March media page, and defended the degrading posts as attempts to uplift “femmes frustration with masc-of-center people” and their “internalized oppression.” This homophobic sentiment is still occurring across the map.

Ironically, The Advocate wrote, “The culpable Dyke March organizers claim that they are inclusive and fighting for social justice, but only if the participants believe like them and support their politics…”

Lesbians have been routinely dragged in the mainstream… Not only has mainstream television consistently contributed to the abuse of lesbians, in the last few years ‘LGBTQ’ publications have been doubling down on misogyny and anti-lesbian sentiment. We can only exist if we exist theirway.

Lesbian bloggers, with enormous youth followings, are often bullied into pandering and apologizing for posts on biological same-sex attraction—which is not something lesbians can somehow fix. Several lesbian bloggers began speaking out on being thought-policed. In 2017, lesbian leader, Lacy Green, wrote—“Bullying lesbians, censoring papers, politicizing research…This movement is unrecognizable to me right now.” 

In 2014, Curve Magazine wrote “..lesbians from their 20s into their 70s…worry that inclusion often just ends up meaning that men end up in charge,” but have since changed their tune. At campus ‘LGBTQ’ meetings, lesbians are told they can’t use the word “vagina“—To use “front hole” instead. There’s a growing list of things we’re not supposed to say anymore. At campus meetings, lesbians are told it’s insensitive to bring up their periods, yet in the mainstream we’re now “bleeders” and “menstruators,” and a whole host of dehumanizing labels that have been imposed upon us. The decisions are made without discussion or approval. Those of us who won’t abide by compulsory language, face actual real consequences.

In 2015, Cosmopolitan wrote “..why is it that it’s women’s institutions that seem to be the only ones facing these issues, and what does it say that men aren’t being asked to be as accommodating or open?” The writer was hounded. From the outside, LGBTQ appears unified, but don’t be distracted by all the pretty colors waving in the air. Our letters are tacked on, as though we’ve unanimously signed off in agreement, but more and more, we’re finding, our beliefs and ideologies don’t always align.

“If intimacy with someone who has a penis is triggering for [lesbians]…Take your time to heal and work through your trauma at your own pace.”—Everyday Feminism

Through all this upheaval, lesbians are somehow still standing—We are, after all, resilient warriors. And we won’t go down, on anything other than clit, without a fight. We can still say that, right?

It’s been a year and a half since I published a version of this article. And the answer is: Not really. We can still say it, but it’s considered a thought crime. There are consequences.

What we’re being told is that lesbians are no longer allowed to discuss issues as they specifically pertain to and affect lesbians. That if 10 you-tubers put up a video telling young lesbians that same-sex attraction is a “preference”and “exclusionary,” and “bigotry,” lesbian leaders like Arielle Scarcella aren’t ‘allowed’ to post a response to explain to young lesbians that same-sex attraction is innate… that we don’t need to ‘fix’ it or ‘think’ our way out of it. What we’re being told is that when lesbians are called “vagina fetishists” with “genital preferences,” AfterEllen (the LAST remaining mainstream lesbian publication) isn’t ‘allowed’ to address those issues, as they specifically pertain to and affect lesbians.

The consequences of speaking up can mean a decline in emotional and/or physical health, unemployment (financial loss/poverty), intimidation, doxing, threats of violence, actual violence (to name a few). Doing the right thing can be scary, but, for some, doing the right thing is the only thing we know how to do. Lesbians are warriors. We’ve been the most vocal. We do not bow down to dick-tatorship. We are, by far, the bravest letter in the acronym.

Stormé DeLarverie
Stormé DeLarverie, cut from the movie, his-story rewritten as usual…

When journalists, publications, you-tubers—anyone in a positions of influence—put out information telling young lesbians that same-sex attraction is a “preference” that can be “unlearned,”  lesbian leaders have a moral obligation to explain that innate same-sex attraction is not a “preference.” It can’t be “unlearned.”  When people in positions of influence call the cotton ceiling a “myth,” lesbian leaders have a moral obligation to point to the heavily documented evidence-based reality, and stand up for the young lesbians who are depressed and isolated and filling our inboxes. Lesbians are warriors.

Lesbians appear as though we’re on board with our own destruction. We’re not. And the popularized slurs and buzzwords being flailed at lesbians, have done extensive damage. They’ve been employed by the very organizations that were set up to protect us, as a means of silencing the L with a quickness. It creates a pile-on mob effect. That mob effect threatens businesses into a state of complicity. That complicity creates an illusion. Maintaining that illusion requires deep level censorship.

But here we are. And I have the copious notes, the numbers, the real-deal reality. When I dig to see who’s behind the comments, the slur-shouting trolls are non-lesbians. There’s typically one or two lesbian stragglers who seem genuinely uninformed. And the vast majority of those “liking” and cheering on our right to exist, our right to autonomy, our right to discuss issues as they specifically pertain to lesbians, are lesbians.

Lesbians are massively outnumbered and unrepresented. The ripple effect is so wide, it could fill the pages of a novel. But the starting point is here: When ‘lesbian’ becomes an ‘identity’ rather than a definable term with a universally understood tangible definition, absolutely anyone can ‘identify’ into ‘lesbian.’ It’s how we end up with ONE lesbian on staff at a “lesbian”publication. It’s how we end up with ONE remaining mainstream lesbian publication still afloat. Lesbianshave been strategically excluded in the name of “inclusion.”

Forcing people to deny reality, is not a human right. An ally would never require lesbians to suspend their own reality. Our once vibrant cities are now rubble and dust, but somehow, despite the massive ongoing campaign promoting a specific brand of homophobia that exclusively targets lesbians, we are still standing. We. Are. Warriors. And f*ck the thought police, I’ll say it again—We won’t go down, on anything other than clit, without a fight.


جوليا ديانا — JD Robertsonis an award-winning author, and a contributor for Huffington Post and AfterEllen—A first generation Arab-American, who grew up between worlds, and currently resides somewhere in the middle with a bird’s eye view. 

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