After seeing yet another post about how to be an ally to anyone but women, let alone lesbians, I wondered – what would you say about being allies to lesbians?
Is this even the right way to approach the issue?
These are the collective thoughts from my wall and a public FB group – names removed to protect the innocent* but I’ve tried to keep women’s words….
Don’t see what you would say? Add your thoughts in the comments section or email me at email@example.com.
How to be an ally to Lesbians:
- Stop centring men over women.
- Stop censoring us when we talk, and particularly do not censor us when we talk about things like the contents of this post.
- Some of us ARE Separatists and put other Lesbians and born female women first and foremost in EVERY aspect in our lives..including spiritually. Stop considering that a bad thing or belittling it and us.
- Don’t only talk about us when we’re dead or celebrities… *snort* yeah, us too kthx.
- Don’t measure us against media-fuelled, patriarchal (heteronormative) beauty standards. the media (and capitalism) is BS – we all know that.
- Don’t judge a lesbian by how butch she looks. Don’t say shit like “you’re so pretty though!” to a more feminine looking lesbian. Fuck off with judging by appearances ever, okay?
- Do NOT put down Butches and accuse us of being “wanna be men” or on the way station to transitioning. Many of us are fierce FEMALE PROUD Butch DykeAmazons and been in the trenches fighting FOR Dykes and womyn for DECADES!!
- Women – support your gender non-conforming sisters whether you are lesbian or not.
- The damn obsession with men and their penises – don’t ask lesbians if they’ve been with a man, or tell them they haven’t found the right man or offer to fuck them straight. Just fucking don’t.
- Don’t assume we have been with a man. Don’t assume we haven’t. Just don’t assume.
- Preaching to us about who we should be obligated to sleep with is fucking rapey…
- Don’t tell us we are bigots for being lesbian, for attraction only to other women. It’s bloody homophobic. And don’t apologise to or soothe men who are upset when we say this.
- Don’t accuse lesbians of being “shallow” for not wanting to sleep with someone who has a dick.
- In fact, Don’t. Try. To. Invade. Our. Spaces. Or. Our. Bodies. Ever.
- Don’t tell us we are going to hell. Our spiritual lives are our own and we have our metaphysical shit in order.
- If you’re a straight man, don’t act like we’re trying to steal your gf/wife.
- And don’t EVER assume that what you see in “lesbian” porn bears any relation to most actual lesbians, or that it was created for us.
WHY WE ARE LESBIAN
- Don’t tell us we’re pretty enough to get a man if we tried. We are not with women because we can’t “get a man”. We don’t WANT a man.
- Don’t assume we’re lesbians because someone hurt us. In other words, don’t assume our lesbianism is a symptom of trauma or that it is a pathology in itself.
- Don’t assume being lesbian is a phase. But DO remember that we were socialised to heterosexuality so it can take time to work free of that.
- Don’t assume being a ‘political’ lesbian means asexuality or het-women-trying-to-be-‘gay’ (sic).
- Don’t assume we were born this way. Don’t assume we weren’t. We’re lesbian now and that’s what matters.
- Don’t rely on the born this way script. Compulsory heterosexuality is a fucking thing. Look it up.
REALITY AND NAMING
- Remember that biological sex actually fucking means something and is a reality that women, even lesbians!, cannot fucking escape.
- Don’t tell a woman she isn’t ‘lesbian enough’ or buy into the ‘gold-star lesbian’ type thinking. pls and thx.
- Don’t use words to describe lesbians as insults. Dykes are awesome, thank you very much…
- Stop harassing mental health professionals who attempt to help women with internalised lesbophobia and misogyny.
- Do not assume we wish to be called “queer”, in fact do not argue with us when we refuse to be called queer or gay. These are male-centred concepts that render us invisible, and many of us reject them, even if your lesbian BFF thinks they’re ok.
- Don’t call men lesbians.
- Particularly, don’t think that if lesbian porn turns you on that you, as a male bodied person, are either a lesbian or a woman! (This suggestion came with sources to show it wasn’t a paranoid “fantasy”.)
- Don’t think that disagreement about who is and isn’t lesbian is transphobia. Lesbians have a right to self determination and to resist appropriation.
- On that note…
APPROPRIATION – JUST DON’T!
- Let lesbians define their own fucking reality. Don’t appropriate words, misuse them or muddy them with superfluous meanings that have nothing to do with lesbianism. Call out people who fucking do this.
- Don’t redefine “lesbian”. Transwomen aren’t lesbian.
- Let us speak for ourselves and our experiences – we don’t need heterosexual spokespersons.
- Question & even object when you see panels representing the “LGBT” that have few IF ANY Lesbians on them. This goes for LGBT community events, parades and festivals.
- Respect lesbian space. Actively defend lesbian space.
- Defend and demand workshops for and by actual Lesbians
- Stop considering us the scary ugly feminists that you distance yourself from. Has anything really changed since the days of the lavender menace?
- Do not ever insinuate that we want to be men or need to transition. Nope. No way.
Don’t say stupid shit like “who is the man/woman in the relationship?”
- Do not put down those of us who are primarily Butch on Butch or “what a waste of a good Butch.” Lesbian sexuality is way more diverse than Butch/Femme or two lipstick types together.
- In fact, don’t rely on stereotypes or sex roles to understand us. We’re actual individuals. There might be common culture but we are wildly diverse. Don’t reduce us to a 2 dimensional cartoon.
- If we somehow look to you like we fit a stereotype, don’t assume our choices have anything to do with those stereotypes. We aren’t cartoons, we’re real people.
- Don’t portray us as weak, sad, terminally ill, pathetic, two-dimensional, perpetual victims and lost. We are strong wonderful women.
Don’t expect our relationships to be just like het relationships just with a strap on.
We are not failed attempts at straight people.
- Don’t assume you know anything about lesbians because you watch OITNB.
- Don’t assume I know that other lesbian you met one time… you know, the one with the long brown hair? I think her name’s Tracy or Sarah or something. You even kind of look like her, isn’t that weird?
DON’T FUCK WITH US
- If you’re not a lesbian – and you’re sure about that – don’t flirt with us just because you think it will be some harmless fun.
- Don’t assume visible/butch lesbians exist to affirm your desirability. Don’t assume we’re perpetually DTF.
- Upon being informed that a lesbian is with her partner, DO NOT ask if you can watch (hey… it’s happened more than once, ok?). Don’t joke about that either. It’s not funny; it’s creepy.
When a lesbian says “no” that doesn’t give you the go ahead to harass her for not sexing herself to entitled pricks.
- When you see lesbians being abused, intimidated or sexually harassed, don’t look away. Get involved and stick up for us, particularly young lesbians.
- Do not assume that we are excited about “gay marriage” or that by supporting it you are doing us a big favor. There is more than one way to think about this!
- Monosexual privilege is not genuine. We live in a heteronormative world where homosexuality and femaleness is punished. No other sexuality is regarded as fair game for those outside of that sexuality. Our sexual boundaries alone are considered invalid. There is nothing privileged about this.
- Stop using Lesbian organisations to funnel money to non-lesbian causes that work against lesbian interests…
Don’t think that violent misogyny and lesbophobia in the LGBT community is OK just because the whole community is marginalised. Don’t silence the L – this just promotes and facilitates abuse…
LESBIANS AS A DERAIL
- Don’t use lesbians as your token “but women rape too!” in response to women talking about rape and other forms of male sexual violence.
WHAT I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO SAY
These things happen around the world, including in YOUR country…
- Lesbians are murdered for being lesbian, for shaming their family, for leaving husbands they didn’t want and for rejecting men. Don’t think it only happens somewhere else.
- Corrective rape is evil and horrifically common. It’s a combination of compulsory heterosexuality and male sexual entitlement. It’s an act of power, a punishment for not centring men.
- Systemic disadvantage and discrimination is everywhere…. Legal same sex marriage in a handful of countries doesn’t fix this, no matter how welcome it might be in those countries.
- Representation is almost non-existent and what we see is mostly misrepresentation.
- When you see news stories about hate crimes against lesbians, don’t shrug and ignore them. This apathy enables the invisibility of crimes against us.
Don’t prioritise and centre men. Most of this flows from systemic male dominance, and the violence and subjugation used to reinforce it…
Every time I think the list is complete enough, another suggestion comes in. I’m aware this is far from comprehensive, which says a lot about how lesbians are regarded and treated around the world.
So the pointers from lesbians around the world on how to be an ally really made me wonder…..
WHAT DOES BEING AN ALLY EVEN MEAN?
Is this concept even worth using? What does being an ally mean to you?
Articles like the one that triggered this one seem to be about performance of socially required (and superficial/unquestioning) support more than any genuine commitment or action that demonstrates actual solidarity. The articles seem to be about visible ways to look like you are guilty about your privilege and identify as supportive, rather than outlining really practical ways to help change the world behind the scenes.
Does this help any group or is this kind of two dimensional tokenism merely about paying lip service rather than demonstrating solidarity and working to make the world better for those who are marginalised?
There’s certainly an expectation that women demonstrate allyship by quashing their questions, indulging in self flagellation – classic female socialisation. Femsoc tells us to genuflect before the needs of others, and ignore that voice telling us that we are betraying our own needs.
Genuine solidarity does not require this. Genuine solidarity should be based on analysis that can be challenged and debated. Genuine solidarity does not ask you to harm yourself.
This is all of a piece with identity politics which prioritises identification and performance over reality. Identifying as an ally replaces being an ally. Once you have identified as an ally to whichever group, irrespective of your actual actions, you can dispense with the culturally created guilt (usually of women), congratulate yourself on a job well done with honour satisfied and carry on being self righteous about those not liberal enough to be allies. Despite everyone paying lip service to supporting the marginalised group, nothing actually changes.
And this squanders the good intentions of many people, who may well read the articles and want to be supportive. It also provides a get out of jail free card to those who don’t much care but want to be seen to do the right thing…
Either way, perhaps the concept is too shallow to be of any use.
LISTEN TO LESBIAN VOICES
Regardless of the validity of the “ally” concept, the list of what not to do to lesbians is pretty clear. Each one of those points was written based on personal experience of being abused, exploited and erased, on the basis of being lesbian.
If you want to take anything to heart, listen to what lesbians have said here and don’t re/name us, don’t redefine us out of existence. Don’t harass, belittle, or dismiss us. Don’t appropriate us. Support and encourage us to focus on each other, on women, as women. And help us fight to change the structures that enable and benefit from our eradication.
If you have anything to add to this, please share your thoughts in the comments below or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* I tried to keep original wording but names were removed. If you would like credit for your comment, please let me know and I will add your name in. 🙂