I recently read a thread on Facebook on Echange Q about LSD (a lesbian speed dating event) taking place in Montreal which spiraled into miscommunications, accusations of erasure, politically vapid queer semantics, and frankly, nonsense. I read this discussion as an obvious extension of the lesbophobia and transmisogyny that is very present in the Montreal queer community. I am going to try and break this trend down here because I believe solidarity is much more powerful than division and I dont believe that these conscious attacks on lesbianism and transfemininity (which I fully understand as false consciousness) are going to help achieve that solidarity by making way for some truly radical “queer” revolution.
If we choose to project any one or any number of our anxieties onto some faulty abstraction, I believe that we are choosing to fuck ourselves over. Lesbianism is, as far as I understand, a catch all term for diverse sets of social, political, and sexual practices of love amongst women. By “woman” (although I prefer “sister” immensely) I mean an extremely diverse category which is constantly in flux. Lesbianism is not, and correct me if I’m wrong here, an oppressive economic, political, or ideological system backed up by the power of the State and its material structures. Since lesbianism is not a system, but sets of practices, then I have to wonder why we so readily conflate lesbianism with actual oppressive systems such as transmisogyny or white supremacy and flat out shit on anything lesbian related?
This conflation not only ignores the fact that innumerable lesbians happen to be transwomen, racialized, and/or both, but maybe more importantly, that many forms of lesbian practice actively resist these oppressive systems and are engaged in radical projects of social transformation. When we lazily reduce lesbianism to this naive conflation, it is easy to see how it has become a focal point into which queer organizing channels its anxieties, hatred, and long drawn out eye rolls. Every time we participate in devaluing lesbianism we are wasting time and energy doing basically nothing. Eradicating lesbianism would not eradicate oppressive social relations, nor would we better off as queers without it. These are false beliefs. Lesbophobia is divisionary nonsense which reifies oppression and pits us against each other. It prevents us from engaging in effective collective action geared towards systemic change.
What’s more, while it would be a tragedy on its own to lose the many rich histories of solidarity, resistance, philosophy, desire, and love that lesbianism has given us, it would be absolutely devastating to lose the empowering potential and radical possibility that lesbianism continues to offer in the present. This is not to say that lesbianism and lesbians have not hurt people or participated in bullshit, because clearly they have. The impact of certain so called “feminist” philosophies which terrorize transgender people (for example) has been devastating and has unfortunately become accepted discourse in some lesbian communities. However, this is the result of systemic transmisogyny and transphobia, not lesbianism in and of itself. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, transmisogyny. is. Fucking. Everywhere. Lesbianism is not unique in that sense. That’s just how power works. It’s insidious and highly mobile.
If we continue to center brutal TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminism) ideology or lesbianism’s most embarrassing moments, it has the result of obscuring the truly radical side of lesbianism. How the fuck did TERF’s make us forget about the Combahee River Collective? Or Audre Lorde? Or Gays and Lesbians support the Miners? Or Act UP? Or Julia Serano? Monique Wittig? Or the countless marginalized women organizing everyday for our lives?
Also, and I would hope that this is obvious, but lesbianism is not going to go away anytime soon. It is a practice that is currently valuable for many people. It exists in our social world and is very very real. This does not mean, however, that lesbianism is anti-revolutionary or committed to the maintenance of oppressive social relationships that regulate our lives. In fact, lesbianism is so large that you find all kinds of communities within it. Some of these are reactionary and conservative. Some of these are truly and deeply radical, meaning, concerned with political, economic, and social change beyond simple sexual freedom and are embedded within other resistance movements.
I find lesbianism to be an empowering practice as a transwoman. Certain subsets of lesbian feminist philosophy have helped me feel liberated from transmisogynist cullture. Not only that but fucking other women as a lesbian has been incredibly hot, like beyond anything I could have imagined before. I feel good as a lesbian, I feel more like me. I think this is the case for many people. While it is true that my sexuality is very open, I feel the most inspired understanding myself as a lesbian. To me, lesbianism is all about solidarity. That’s how I understand my life, as a person committed to acting in solidarity with other people.
Lesbianism has always been pushed to the side, repressed, devalued, and invisiblized. If we continue to shit on lesbianism amongst our friends we are continuing with this project. If we discourage lesbianism and lesbian projects from happening in our communities we are continuing with this project. If we think of lesbianism as some homogenous TERF and racist whole we are continuing with this project. If we don’t allow lesbians space and encouragement to organize, express themselves, and fuck each other we are continuing with this project. If we secretly think lesbians are passé we are continuing with this project. If we lose our shit whenever women try to get together on their own we are continuing with this project.