Tag Archives: compulsory heterosexuality

Thoughts on the words “queer” and “lesbian” from a twenty-two year old who only connects to one of them

Thoughts Essay Photo - Erin

Guest Post by Erin

It started in 6th grade with an offhand comment to a classmate I thought was my friend. We were in our one shared class, gym, talking about – as girls of this age often did – boys. I never understood why so many hours could be spent talking about them. Sure, some were cool, and they were my friends, but why are we always talking about them? Aren’t there cooler things going on?

Confessing this confusion was my first mistake. An offhand comment led to a rumor that persisted in at least some form for seven years and led to nearly a decade of strong and unrelenting self-hatred. “Who do you like?” she asked, as we did jumping jacks in gym. Unable to pick a random boy fast enough, I answered simply “I don’t like boys yet.” Spoiler alert: even though I pretended to because girls are supposed to like boys, I never did start liking them.

This wasn’t so strange, right? I was only eleven. Didn’t I have better things to worry about then whether or not the cute boy that sat next to me in math looked at me? Was it so strange I was more interested in staring at numbers than boys?

Yes. It was. Soon after this small conversation in the middle of warm-ups in our tiny gym, I first heard it. “Lesbian,” they called me. I didn’t understand why. Of course I knew what a lesbian was. My parents were pretty progressive and didn’t shelter me from things like this. A lesbian is a girl who only likes other girls. But that wasn’t me. I just didn’t like boys yet. That didn’t mean I liked girls. This logic didn’t stop them. They continued, among other taunts, to call me a “lesbian,” the most common taunt.

I started liking boys. I pretended to, at least. I was so good at pretending that I fooled myself. It didn’t matter that I barely knew these boys. Every other girl liked him. I did too. It didn’t matter the thought of actually talking or getting close to him created an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. That was just the butterflies, right? Easier to pretend with were the few boys I was friends with. I was mostly comfortable around them, and I liked talking to them. That’s all a relationship was supposed to be right? We were friends. I could like him and not have to do anything about it for fear of “ruining the friendship.” Just because I never did anything about these crushes didn’t mean I didn’t actually like boys. I was just shy.

The taunts continued. I still didn’t understand. I had relented; I was behaving like a normal girl should. I could point to a growing list of crushes as evidence. This was when I began to understand. I was using the wrong definition of the word “lesbian.” Their definition, the definition they were trying to communicate when they threw the word at me with a sneer and hate in their eyes, was much darker. To them, a lesbian is a girl who only likes girls. But that’s not all they meant. A lesbian is also gross. She’s dirty. She’s wrong and predatory. A lesbian is someone unworthy of love or kindness. The only part of this they didn’t know or care to communicate was the “girl who only likes girls” part.

I understood now. I was gross. I was dirty. I was wrong and predatory. I was unworthy of love and kindness. When this definition became known to me, it’s the one that started to bury itself into my brain every time I heard the insult. Every time I saw one of the ones that called me it. I started to withdraw. I talked less. I stopped hanging out with friends so much. I began to see myself as they did. At age eleven, I began to believe I was gross, dirty, wrong, and predatory. I didn’t deserve love and kindness.

When you are eleven, and your brain is still developing, it develops with the environment you are in. Despite a loving family, I was losing friends and surrounded by hate for most of my day. So I started to internalize it. I isolated myself from the love I believed I didn’t deserve. I hated myself, most of the kids at school hated me, even my friends started forgetting about me the more I ignored their texts and invitations.

All of this started because I was known as the lesbian of the school. I was terrified of this word. It was scary and ugly every time I saw it. It reminded me of all the torment I faced at school, and later online. There are never positive stories about lesbians. They’re beaten up or murdered in the news. They are a porn category for men online. They are mocked in public. They are predatory monsters in movies and television Every time I saw the word lesbian, I believed more and more than lesbian meant someone dirty, predatory, and unworthy.

Fast forward seven years and I’m in college. I don’t know anyone here. No one here knows me. I don’t have to be what I’ve been told I am all these years. Then something terrifying happens. A couple friends I reconnected with take me to a meeting of the campus LGBT club. Suddenly I’m surrounded by people who are what I’ve been called all my life, and they don’t fit the definition of “lesbian” I had had forced upon me. They are women who like other women. They aren’t gross or predatory or unworthy. Scarier still, I realize I may be like them.

Years of telling myself I was all parts of the definition of “lesbian” except the only true definition caught up with me. I avoid this word at all costs. I am pansexual. No, I am asexual. No, I am bisexual. No, I am bisexual with a preference for women. No, I am bisexual with a strong preference for women. No, I am bisexual with a very strong preference for women. No, I…suddenly realize I am what I’ve been avoiding.

I am a lesbian. So, what does this word mean now? Does it still mean dirty, predatory, and unworthy? I don’t know. I don’t think it does, not anymore. At least not fully. I am nineteen now, and the fears I held at age eleven aren’t so scary anymore. I begin to reach out. I follow lesbians online. I look for positive representation in media. I start to identify with the word bit by bit.

But then, I’m back in school after winter break ends and there are people all around and now the fears I held at age eleven seem more real. I start throwing up every day and making jokes about my sexuality. If I make jokes about it then it’s not so scary and I can maybe eventually confront it, right? But the jokes don’t stop and neither does the throwing up. I wasn’t okay. But I was trying to be.

I begin to have more lesbians in my life. I follow more lesbians on Tumblr and other social media. I join some lesbian-centric Facebook groups. I find a musical celebrating what it is to be a butch lesbian. I watch rom-coms where lesbians get to end up happy. I listen to lesbian singers. I meet and work with lesbians at my summer job, and see them being happy and secure.

Lesbian begins to take on a whole new meaning for me. These women I know, through work or the Internet, through stories on stage or screen, aren’t what I’ve been told and internalized a lesbian is my whole life. They are not gross or predatory or unworthy. These women are strong. They are powerful. They are full of love and light and confidence in who they are. They have people who love them.

And I am like them. I am strong and powerful and full of love and light. I am worthy. “Lesbian” is no longer a scary concept for me. I am a lesbian, and no one will take that away from me ever again. Being a lesbian is a beautiful thing to be. I am proud.

But as I began to assert my new proud identity, words like “gay” and “lesbian” and “bisexual” started to disappear. The new word that took their place was the word “queer.” Originally meaning words like strange, odd, ruin, and spoil, the word became used as a slur against the LGBT community. Slurs typically have a way of becoming reclaimed. They are taken from the negative group and turned into a war cry.

Suddenly, so many things are becoming queer. More and more people are dropping more “standard” LGBT identities and choosing to identify as queer. There aren’t lists of lesbian, or bi, or trans, or gay, or LGBT musicians – there are lists of queer musicians. The formerly “gay & lesbian” section has become the “queer” section. The LGBT groups are disappearing, and queer groups are taking their place. In retrospect, this isn’t such a bad idea. Reclaiming slurs can be a powerful concept, and reclaiming them on such a large scale can show more power. But forcing people to identify with the term, even accidentally, isn’t powerful – it takes away their personal choice.

I never identified as queer. To those that do, you have my full support and your identity should be celebrated. But your identity isn’t my identity. I spent eight years hating myself for even being assumed a lesbian. I spent another year terrified when I discovered I actually was. To me, lesbian is a powerful word. Lesbian is a word that can be twisted into something so ugly if you let it. And I let it. But then, I twisted it into something beautiful, and I became something beautiful.

I spent seven years being called a lesbian in the worst way by people who did not know me. I let them take the best way, the true way, away from me to. The day I decided that I am a proud, bold, unapologetic, unafraid lesbian was the day that I forgave my childhood self for being so miserable and self-hating. It was the day I found myself. It was the day I fell in love with myself. It was the scariest and most freeing day of my life. No one will ever take this beautiful, bold, proud word away from me again

Queer is like this for so many people. Queer is their identity. It is their support system. It is their connector with other people who are like them in a world that is not kind to people like them. An identity like this is so important for a person’s wellbeing. We need to connect with people like us, because it is hard to survive in a world that doesn’t want people like us.

Expecting everyone to identify with this word is when it becomes dangerous. Calling everyone who falls under the “not cis and/or straight” umbrella queer erases all these other beautiful, powerful identities. So much negativity is placed on words like bisexual, transgender, pansexual, gay, and lesbian. Proudly identifying with these terms is powerful. It is taking our power back from those who tried to take it from us. Queer is also a word that was made negative, and is now being used in a positive way.

Continue to take back the words they took from us. But let everyone do it in their own way.

I am twenty-two now, and the fears I had at eleven and later at nineteen no longer hold power over me. I still hold them, and I still remember them. On my worst days, they try to creep back into my mind. On these days, I remember the miserable girl I was at eleven. She survived and blossomed. On these days, I remember the terrified woman I was at nineteen. She survived despite her fear and fell in love with herself. On these days, I know the woman I am at twenty-two. She will survive, and become the person the miserable eleven year old needed, and the terrified nineteen year old found.

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South Africa: Lesbian raped by her father, uncle and friend to ‘make her straight’

Mubizana

A lesbian has said she was raped at the age of 15 by her father in order to ‘make her straight.’ The South African woman, known only as Mubizana, also accused her uncle and his friend of raping her on the same day, when her grandmother had left home to visit relatives in Dennilton, Limpopo, in the north-east of the country.

The heartbreaking Twitter thread comes as South African LGBT people struggle to come to terms with multiple horrific attacks on the community, including the torture, rape, murder and burning of married lesbian couple Joey and Anisha van Niekerk.

Continue reading at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/07/31/lesbian-raped-father-uncle-friend-make-straight/ (Source)

Uganda: Lesbian facing deportation from UK despite fears of persecution

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Lazia Nabbanja had claimed asylum in the UK on the grounds that she would face oppression in her home country, but her bid was rejected by the Home Office last year. Despite her providing evidence of her sexuality, Ms Nabbanja’s lawyers told The Independent that Home Office officials used alleged inconsistencies in the details of her relationships to suggest they did not believe she is gay. Photos and videos of her attending gay pride marches have been widely shared on social media and she has been featured in Ugandan newspapers, prompting fears she could be arrested or attacked as soon as she returns to her home country.

Continue reading at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lesbian-uganda-women-deportation-home-office-lazia-nabbanja-gay-laws-a8123581.html (Source)

Being a refugee and a lesbian is difficult, says Somali woman

September 11, 2017 –Haji says that after lunch when the ceremony started she stood up and shouted that she would not be getting married because she had told her foster father already that she was attracted to women. She says other guests at the ceremony shouted at her and her foster father assaulted her. Her brothers took her to hospital. She decided not to lay a complaint with the police as her friends suggested, but rather to flee.

Continue reading at: http://www.mambaonline.com/2017/09/11/refugee-lesbian-difficult-says-somali-woman/ (Source)

What it’s like to live life as a Muslim lesbian

Zayna says she was beaten, humiliated and threatened because of her sexuality – but throughout her tormented formative years she refused to deny who she truly was.

Growing up as a young Muslim lesbian in Pakistan, the graduate says she came up against both physical and mental abuse from those that she believes had misinterpreted the messages of the Qur’an.

Continue reading at: What it’s like to live life as a Muslim lesbian – Manchester Evening News (Source)

‘A Lot Of Girls Would Probably Rather Die’: In Russia’s Chechnya, Lesbians Tell Of Suffocating Existence

The young woman was riding in a taxi to the airport when she decided to make the call. She had just left her home in Russia’s southern Chechnya region — for good, she thought, first on a flight to Moscow to pick up emigration documents and then on a plane out of the country.

But the taxi driver was eavesdropping. And when the woman told her friend she had run away, he locked the car doors and drove her back home, fearing potential consequences for his role in her planned escape.

The 22-year-old woman was a lesbian who claimed that her relatives had beaten and threatened her with death after learning of her sexual orientation. Within a week of the fateful taxi ride, she was dead.

Continue reading at: ‘A Lot Of Girls Would Probably Rather Die’: In Russia’s Chechnya, Lesbians Tell Of Suffocating Existence (Source)

Kerala, India: Inmate ousted for being lesbian

Thiruvananthapuram: The Sree Chitra Home for Destitute and Infirm here has no room for lesbians. Therefore, it ousted Shilpa, an inmate, alleging that she had lesbian tendencies.

Continue reading at: Kerala: Inmate ousted for being lesbian (Source)

Facebook, Google, Starbucks join in Georgia lesbian’s US Supreme Court fight

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Starbucks and Viacom have joined 71 other companies in an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief supporting Georgia lesbian Jameka Evans in her efforts to ask the US Supreme Court to hear her case. Evans claims she was harassed in the workplace and fired from her security-officer position at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah because she is a lesbian and wears her hair in an androgynous style. Lambda Legal is seeking a nationwide ruling affirming that sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Continue reading at: Facebook, Google, Starbucks join in Georgia lesbian’s US Supreme Court fight (Source)

Indonesia: Stop Raids on Homes of ‘Suspected Lesbians’ | Human Rights Watch

National police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian and President Joko Widodo at Karnavian’s inauguration in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 13, 2016.
 
© 2016 Reuters

(Jakarta, September 6, 2017) – The Indonesian government should urgently investigate the September 2, 2017 police raid on the homes of 12 “suspected lesbians,” Human Rights Watch said today. The raid and ensuing forced evictions violate the rights to privacy, non-discrimination and basic due process.

The police raided a residential compound in West Java province’s Tugu Jaya village in response to complaints from local Islamic youth groups and religious leaders that the women’s cohabitation was “against the teachings of Islam.” Police demanded that the women immediately relocate from the area without providing any legal justification for the order, according to authorities, Human Rights Watch interviewed.

Continue reading at: Indonesia: Stop Raids on Homes of ‘Suspected Lesbians’ | Human Rights Watch (Source)

Atlanta: Lesbian Reverend helps honor defrocked clergy with ‘Shower of Stoles’

Rev. Kim Jackson knew as a child she wanted to be a pastor.

Raised near rural Cowpens, South Carolina, in a small Baptist Church, she said the people in her home church “nurtured me in the faith, encouraged me to participate in children’s and youth ministries.” When she expressed at age nine she wanted to become a pastor, she was told that was impossible.

“I was told that I couldn’t become a pastor because I was a girl,” she told Georgia Voice.

She moved to Atlanta a decade ago, when she was 22, where she came out as gay, another blow, she was told, in her journey to become a pastor.

Continue reading at: Atlanta church honors defrocked LGBT clergy with ‘Shower of Stoles’ (Source)

Jewish lesbian speaks up after being ‘fired’ as a church volunteer

Carmen Hix, the Texas woman who was let go as a relief volunteer following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, recently spoke to GSN about her experience of discrimination.

Hix was told she was no longer allowed to volunteer at a Houston church’s food bank after church officials discovered she was both Jewish and a lesbian.

Continue reading at: Jewish lesbian speaks up after being ‘fired’ as a church volunteer (Source)

Nigeria: Thugs attack ex-wife suspected of lesbian affair, victim flees to Canada

A Nigerian woman accused of lesbian sex has escaped to Canada after surviving an attack by thugs who she said were sent by her ex-husband. The attack and her escape occurred after she was released from police custody following her arrest on homosexuality charges at her ex-husband’s instigation.

Continue reading at: Nigeria: Thugs attack ex-wife suspected of lesbian affair | 76 CRIMES (Source)

Nigeria: Study reports harassment, expulsion for committing lesbianism on university campuses

A Nigerian researcher, Kehinde Okanlawon, has released a report on the experiences of gay and lesbian university students in Nigeria, detailing harassment they experienced.

The report, titled “Homophobic bullying in Nigerian schools: The experiences of LGBT university students,” was based on interviews with 14 gay and lesbian students at a university in Nigeria and on accounts of Nigerian LGBT students’ experiences compiled from other sources.

Continue reading at: 14 Nigerian university students talk about being gay on campus | 76 CRIMES

Chechnya: Reports of high domestic violence, “honor killings” of lesbians

chechnya_ramzan_kadyrov

‘Gay men who are taken to prisons, it was a kind of massive attack against those homosexual people. Homosexual women are treated differently.

‘So it’s considered that families should take responsibility for them, so there is a lot of domestic violence and we’ve heard there are a lot of honor killings of those lesbian women.’

Continue reading at: Chechnya: Lesbians, bi and trans people now in firing line (Source)

ARAB and GAY PRIDE? I was on the cover of the London Evening Standard and here’s why I’m lucky.

Rola
Poetic Hands

“What is hard to see behind the sheer pride in my eyes is the journey I embarked on at a very young age as a gay Lebanese woman, and the destination I eventually reached which not many others in my shoes, particularly Middle Eastern women, are lucky enough to attain.”

Continue reading more of Rola at: ARAB and GAY PRIDE? I was on the cover of the London Evening Standard and here’s why I’m lucky. – Poetic Hands (Source)

India: Bangalore Mirror ‘outs’ women, one woman fired from job

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A day after Bangalore Mirror reported the shocking police complaint filed against two women for informally marrying each other, it has emerged that one of the women has been fired from her company.

“The company (gozefo.com) people called me in the morning and asked me if I want to continue in the job or not. They asked me to talk to my parents and get back. I told them I’ll talk to my lawyers and get back. When I called them back at 5.30 pm, they said HR had decided that you leave the company since they know that it’s me who is making rounds in the media from morning. This is totally unfair,” said the younger woman.

“No one can just claim that it’s her and throw her out of the company. They told her it’s very evident from what the TV channels have showed in the visuals, and did this. We did not get married at all. In fact, I’m related to her and we live in the same house. This is really not acceptable,” the other woman said.

Continue reading at: ‘They called at 11 am and asked if I wanted to continue in my job. By 5.30 pm, they had asked me to leave’ – Bangalore Mirror (Source)

Lesbians and the Sexual Politics of Wimbledon

Mauresmo is a two-time Grand Slam champion and Olympic silver medalist who is also known for coaching Andy Murray. After she beat top seed Lindsey Davenport in 1999, she came out as a lesbian—and her body became a rhetorical battleground. She was repeatedly described as bulging, muscular, and intimidating—and Davenport’s bitter mention that playing her was like “playing a guy” was repeated in coverage of her game.

Continue reading at: The Sexual Politics of Wimbledon | JSTOR Daily (Source)

Lesbian and gay black leaders speak about finding their place

“Each time, I thought ‘I can’t really be out because I’ve got enough trouble. I’m black and a female, do I really want to add another one so I can actually really get the door slammed in my face?,’ ” the business consultant and affiliate faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies told a crowd at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum. She was part of a panel discussion titled “Not A Trend: The Truth.”

“Gay was not a term that fit me because of the other stereotype, gay people are white they are not black. That is a prevailing understanding,” Dunlap, 70, said. “The other struggle for me was, of course, my community and my church. It is difficult, very, very difficult to sit in church and hear these sermons that were so condemning.”

Continue reading at: Gay, black leaders speak about finding their place | Tampa Bay Times (Source)

ERASURE: THE NEW NORMAL FOR LESBIANS BY @VABVOX

A Room of Our Own
A Feminist/Womanist Network

Victoria Brownworth
Daily Disquisitions

“Lesbian sexual identity and choice is being eroded, erased and elided. This is being done by the literal obliteration of lesbians by state-sponsored violence, by the “corrective rape of lesbians” (imagine the 12 year old Pearl Mali being given the worst sort of reparative therapy by her very own mother), by the harassment and violence, by the firings (lesbians face more job discrimination than any other group within the LGBT alliance), by the enforced and compulsory heterosexuality of every society on earth. Aderonke Apata has been forced, by men, to provide not just spoken testimony and a pending marriage license, but also a sex tape of her having sexual relations with her partner to “prove” her lesbianism to the men who want to erase that aspect of her identity–the very identity that puts her and millions of other lesbians at risk of imprisonment and/or death.”

Continue reading Victoria Brownworth and other contributors to A Room of Our Own at: Erasure: The New Normal for Lesbians by @VABVOX – A Room of Our Own (Source)

AND MORE Victoria Brownworth at: https://www.victoriabrownworth.com/

Lesbian couple Ymi and Cha, on getting punched by man who refused to accept “No”

“Minutes after, he got into a heated discussion with Ymi when she confronted him directly and asked him to go. It was when Ymi threw a tissue at him that he snapped and threw two punches at her (during this time they were outside Saguijo’s gate). I ran to them and tried to pull Ymi away, he punched me on my left cheek before giving Ymi another punch. This was when roadies and other Saguijo people ran to us.”

Continue reading at: Lesbian couple Ymi and Cha, on getting punched for standing up for their rights | Lifestyle | GMA News Online (Source)