Forget the LGB: 21st Century Gay and Lesbian Politics is Like a Return to Ancient Greece

This is something I’ve been thinking on for a while. In the West, we’ve seen rapid changes in the rights and perceptions of gay and lesbian people throughout the last decades of the 20th century and into the 21st century. This has been a positive thing, that has resulted in gays and lesbians achieving levels of equal rights under the law in ways that were well nigh unthinkable even just a few decades ago. However, I also think this rapid cultural and political evolution has led us to a situation where the previous configurations of attitudes to gay and lesbian people have changed so much that thinking in terms of the old LGB alliance, based on an assumption of overlapping interests, has become irrelevant.

The most pertinent fact here I think, is that gay men have finally been able to negotiate their way into the Men’s Club with all its accompanying patriarchal power, whereas previously they were largely locked out due to being disqualified, as it were, because of their sexual orientation.

That’s not to say that homophobia against gay men no longer exists; however, I think any analysis of contemporary political media and pop culture will show a great deal of visibility for gay men and their issues, largely portrayed in a sympathetic and positive light. Portrayals of gay men have also moved on from the often stereotypical and sensationalised depictions that existed during the 90s and early 2000s (think Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Birdcage, Queer Eye for the Straight Gay etc.) to showing gay men more as being regular men with various interests and personality traits who happen to be gay (the way Kevin from popular show Riverdale is handled is a good example of this).

Meanwhile, despite theoretical legal equalities, things have gone backwards for lesbians in real terms. Lesbians have less acceptance and visibility than previously, to the point where we have pretty much lost the right to association, and are back to underground style secret meetings as used to happen for much of the 20th century.

That’s why I think it’s no longer useful to think about the Ls and the Gs as being in any sort of alliance. The cultural and political landscape has shifted so much that those areas of overlapping oppression we used to share have largely disappeared, and gay men have shown themselves perfectly happy to side with other men in order to throw lesbians under the bus.

I really do feel our current situation in the West is more like Ancient Greece, where men being with other men was perfectly acceptable, whilst lesbianism was still unacceptable due to men wanting to control women’s bodies and reproductive and sexual labour.

We are at a junction now, in 2018, where lesbian spaces have been consistently targeted and destroyed for over a decade. Lesbians are increasingly shamed in different ways by both the Left and the Right for experiencing same sex attraction, and are often bullied out of womanhood altogether by being convinced they need to transition or identify as nonbinary.

Young lesbians, instead of finding a flourishing lesbian culture, are being shunted into trans/queer spaces that are inherently hostile to lesbians. They are shamed for their sexual attraction to other women with extremely lesbophobic language that pathologises lesbian sexual desire – particularly the phrase ‘vagina fetishist’. They are shamed for their gender nonconformity and encouraged to disidentify from womanhood and become trans or nonbinary. They are shamed into dating male bodied persons and engage in sex that is at best ambivalent and at worst corrective rape.

Any sort of publicly advertised lesbian only event is accused of being exclusionary and transphobic and shut down, almost always by left-wing activists. This leads to many situations where lesbians are alone and isolated and completely unable to connect with other lesbians at all.

While the gay male community has also experienced some infiltration from trans individuals and their legions of supporters, the numbers tend to be much smaller, and the infiltrators are often not taken seriously or listened to as they are biological women attempting to tell biological men what to do, and that simply doesn’t fly in a patriarchal system where power is always weighted towards favouring men over women.

The issue is that the vast majority of men gay men, not being as affected by the trans issue, and also enjoying greater social visibility and acceptance, simply don’t care about what is happening to lesbians. In fact, almost the only time we hear gay men speaking up about this issue, it is to chastise lesbians for not opening up our spaces to trans identified males, or telling lesbians that indeed ‘transwomen are women’ and we should just get over ourselves and our transphobic vaginas and get on that ladydick.

Viewing this behaviour of gay men with the understanding that we live in a male supremacist culture, this does actually make sense. Gay men are supporting their bros who want to fuck and colonise lesbians. Why wouldn’t they? Of course their allegiance is going to be to another group of men, and not to women. That is how patriarchy survives and perpetuates itself. Indeed, given that gay men have only recently begun to enjoy the full rights of patriarchal masculinity, they may in fact be MORE EAGER to prove their allegiance to other men who have granted them this honour. Meanwhile, trans identified males also let gay men off the hook of having to accept trans identified females (transmen), because TiMs are not concerned with supporting women, not even when they’re deluded women who have caught the trans bug and think they’re gay men. Instead, TiMs respect the rights of other men to define their sexuality and their boundaries, in this case gay men.

In the rapidly growing area of trans identified children and teens, the numbers of girls who are presenting with trans identities is far outnumbering boys. Undoubtedly there are young boys being transed who would grow up gay if left alone, but the latest numbers suggest that, again, it’s the next generation of lesbians who are being disproportionally affected by this, as well as numerous other girls who don’t ‘identify’ with the current degraded status of the female condition.

So given all these factors, I really think it’s time to accept not only that the LGBTQ+ is a failed political experiment on a grand scale, a twisted nightmare of authoritarianism in which straight people get to colonise and police gay and lesbian identities in disturbing ways, but that the LGB itself is also dead.

Lesbians need to get over the idea that there is any solidarity or political safety left within the concept of the LGB. There isn’t. We’re effectively in Ancient Greece, not 80s or 90s era USA, and our political strategies need to reflect that reality. Similarly, I think that heterosexual allies who want to support lesbians need to realise this as well. Yes, we absolutely need to get rid of the LGBTQ+ movement, but supporting a return to the LGB is not the way to go either, because the cultural and political environment has changed too much for that to be a meaningful concept. Gay men are being increasingly integrated into mainstream acceptability, whereas lesbians are being increasingly targeted and destroyed. So forget the LGB and support lesbians. Understand that lesbians are an extremely small minority with little visibility or political power who have been on the front lines of this aggressive misogynistic roll back of women’s rights longer than any other group of women.

Also: to all the lesbians out there – you are amazing and we will get through this, just as we have every other attempt that has been made over thousands of years to erase us. This latest steaming pile of shit will not bring us down.

17 thoughts on “Forget the LGB: 21st Century Gay and Lesbian Politics is Like a Return to Ancient Greece

  1. giuliaalexis says:

    Reblogged this on ANTHRO FEMINISM .

  2. Em R says:

    Why do you say LGB when you don’t even mention bisexual people once? Also, your example of Riverdale is very strange as one of the main characters, Cheryl Blossom is a lesbian in the same manner that Kevin is gay.

    • weirdward says:

      Been waiting for this question, I knew someone would try to make it all about the bisexuals sooner or later, haha. First of all with regards to Riverdale – The most recent episodes are not even yet available where I live (it’s oppression, I’m tellin’ ya), so as far as I’ve seen, Cheryl has only just come out to Toni. Second of all, there’s a lot of differences in how Cheryl and Toni are portrayed vs. Kevin that pretty much just back up my argument. Kevin’s sexuality is accepted by his family, friends, etc., no one makes an issue of it, he’s out to everyone, he’s even on the wrestling team with a bunch of straight dudes. Toni is presented to us first as a potential love interest for Jughead Jones before revealing she’s more interested in girls … But all this does is reinforce the idea with the audience that even girls who like girls are still potentially sexually available to men. Cheryl is presented to us basically as the psycho bitch throughout the series (although it does a somewhat better job of exploring why compared to most teen dramas, granted), so having her be the psycho lesbian bitch is just more negative stereotyping.

      Neither Toni or Cheryl are presented to us as out lesbians from the get go, known and accepted as such by everyone in the show. At least as far as I’ve seen, the word ‘lesbian’ hasn’t even been mentioned, and I doubt it will be.

      As to why I didn’t talk about bisexuals – well, for starters, the article is primarily about LESBIANS, and not everything about lesbians has to centre fricken bisexual women, my god, I am so sick of seeing this happen every time a lesbian opens her mouth to say something specifically about lesbians.

      Second of all, I know bisexuals like to pretend they’re all special with the ‘biphobia’ and shit, but most of what I’ve seen called biphobia is actually dating woes, more or less. It’s not phobia if someone makes a rational decision not to date someone, or even to exclude an entire class of people (like bisexuals). As for the other usual sob stories that get pulled out – particularly social isolation and worse health outcomes – well guess what, lesbians ALSO have those problems. In fact, lesbians as a demographic are studied so little that often we don’t even know what we don’t know with regards to lesbian populations, and that is only getting worse now that everything is about ‘self-identified women-loving-women’ or whatever other nonsense criteria is used that actually serves to erase lesbians and our specific experiences.

      The thing in, in terms of structural oppression (which is what I care about, not personal feefees about how the mean lesbian wouldn’t date the poor bisexual) bisexuals will be perceived and treated by society at large as gay/lesbian if they’re in a same sex relationship, and perceived and treated by society at large as heterosexual if they’re in a straight relationship. There has never been a law in any country that I’m aware of that has specifically targeted bisexual sexuality. Most laws made against gay people were about targeting behaviour, specifically same sex sexual activity, they weren’t laws that targeted anyone’s internal sense of identity. Has there ever been a country that has said, you know what, it’s okay for our population to engage exclusively in opposite sex activity, and it’s okay for our population to engage exclusively in same sex activity, but it’s not okay to do both. We’re gonna legislate against that and lock up the people who do it. Never happened.

      But yeah, I mean, since I want lesbians to have our own movement, I’m perfectly happy to say I don’t want the B’s either. I’d say the B’s should go and make their own movement, but when bisexuals try to organise together on their own behalf, whether it be socially or politically, it generally fails (don’t know if there’s studies on that, probably not as academia loves the B’s, but anecdotally I know of plenty of cases where that has happened. In itself this is interesting as it suggests there’s actually NOT enough of a shared identity, shared political oppression etc. for bisexual people to come together on their own behalf). There was little of relevance about the bisexual demographic to mention here since it was about shifting cultural and political power relations vis a vis gay men and lesbians, but since I was talking about the movement as a whole, I called it the LGB movement as that’s what it was for many years before the T got added.

      Also: just as a general fyi to anyone reading – the way bisexuals constantly attempt to guilt trip lesbians and make us responsible for their actions or their outcomes in terms of who they do or don’t end up with, or their own poor mental health, or their feelings of loneliness and isolation, and the way they turn up to police lesbian conversations every time we talk about ourselves, these are all reasons why I don’t think bisexual women belong anywhere near lesbians. Most bisexuals don’t realise it, but they have a narrative of entitlement towards lesbians, making US responsible for THEIR lives and blaming us for everything they think is wrong. It’s a narrative that was probably originally developed within the realms of heterocentric academia, and it’s lesbophobic at its core, but bisexuals love it because it gives them a sense of power, a reason to feel indignant and hard-done-by, and they never seem to realise that if they’re going to be constantly shitting all over the demographic they claim they want to date and hang out with, then a lot of that demographic is going to sanely and rightly walk away.

      • Em R says:

        This was a really long post that still didn’t answer my question. But it really did demonstrate that you have some weird and deep and unresolved issues with gay people, with bisexual people and obviously with trans people. It’s sad. Yikes.

      • catt09 says:

        Here, here! Thank you for saying what so many of us lesbians have been thinking!

      • weirdward says:

        You have no reasoned response to anything I’ve said so you insult me. Classic. I also notice that you have failed to understand the notion of structural oppression and equate me analysing the power relations between different political classes of people to me having ‘weird and deep and unresolved issues’ with individuals – hilarious. But since we’re on the topic, I do in fact have a problem with people (meaning political classes of people, though I know that distinction will be lost on you) who oppress me, and I’m going to speak up about it. I give zero shits about performing femininity or being nice or putting everyone else’s needs before my own. Behaving the way men and male-supremacy supporting women would like me to behave (i.e. being a properly sweet feminine woman who is nice all the time and never stands up for my own rights) in this world is the fast-track road to lifelong doormat status, and I’ll say a big fuck off to that. The fact that your go-to insult is to pathologise my problem with being oppressed says a lot more about you than it does me.

        Also: for the record, I find your comments extremely tedious. I am responding only for the sake of my readership, particularly any lesbian readers out there, so they can see and understand the flawed techniques on display that are being used to try and silence a lesbian perspective.

        Like really, your response boils down to 1) what about bisexuals, and 2) you’re a psycho lesbian bitch. Like, remember when I was talking about negative stereotyping of lesbian characters and how ‘psycho lesbian bitch’ was one of the stereotypes I specifically mentioned? Kinda funny how you, with absolutely no self awareness, immediately use it against me, because I am speaking bluntly and unapologetically about how lesbians have been screwed over by all the other letters in the alphabet soup.

  3. Jean Cross says:

    Excellent point re how gay men are now accepted as part of the boys club. Actually, lots of excellent points. You are so right, we dykes need to look to our own issues at the moment. We need a focused lesbian based movement, we need our own spaces to articulate what is happening and we need to re group around our own women’s culture.

    Thank you.

    • weirdward says:

      Yes, we need to stop being nice and taking care of everyone else. Sadly that has backfired against us. We’ve given all of our energy away to everyone else and those same people have then turned around and stomped all over us. We need to regroup, focus on ourselves and tell everyone else to back off from our spaces and stop talking over us and for us.

      • fmnst says:

        Yes, agreed! Unapologetic lesbian spaces. Bravo.

        I prioritize women in my politics, and life, it’s men I’m not comfortable with and do not trust, as they just have no clue from their extremely different socialization what women do, so I have never supported the LGBT, and never thought it made sense for lesbians to join with men of any kind. So I’m happy to read this.

        I am happy to work with lesbian, bisexual, and straight women, but there also need to be strong, lesbian-only organizations, unapologetically.

        This essay really hit a nerve for me, talking about lesbian spaces being infiltrated and shut down, and the incredible loneliness and isolation this causes. We need this to end. If people want to go and create more inclusive spaces of bi’s, gays and trans, let them. But we have a right and need to create our own spaces.

        Thank you for this fabulous essay.

  4. Renee says:

    Excellent article! And very articulate and all around awesome responses to the bisexual commenter complaining and insulting you unfairly.

  5. FeistyAmazon says:

    Reblogged this on FeistyAmazon and commented:
    Right on, sez it like it is for us Female Proud Dykes!!!

  6. FeistyAmazon says:

    You said it SisterI have fought this foght the last 25 to 30 years, and NEVER thought we would lose it to our own communities!!! Or that other Lesbians would sell us out to the trans juggernaut!
    Ive always known gay men worship the MALE, and can be just as sexist as any other men!!!That really us and gay men have very little in common. We Lesbians worship lust and love Females, and our OWN strong Female spirits, energy and womonspaces where we feel Most free!!

  7. bullydawg says:

    Hitting the follow button…

    This is soooo good. Heartily agreeing with everything said in support of lesbians here. The community that existed in the underground when I was a teenager–the community that saw the light of day only briefly in the last fifteen years of the last century–the community built by lesbians for the support, protection, and security of lesbians–has been dismantled by people who scream “Inclusion!” but do not contribute to the cause. Everything we built has been destroyed, and we cannot even begin to put it all back together without someone whining and crying that they’re not allowed in when we try to gather as a group, labelling us ‘phobic’ and hateful.

    Yeah, that’s someone I want to spend time with in a space I helped make.

    How about the Bs and the Ts go off and make their own space together and validate each other, huh? You all go together so perfectly anyway…

    • weirdward says:

      Thank you! I have been very irregular about my blogging, but perhaps I will have to try and step it up, and I’m glad this post has resonated with so many lesbians! Yeah, I was in my teens and 20s in the late 90s/early 2000s and despite the fact that I was living in pretty rough communities with a lot of old style straight up homophobia/lesbophobia, I actually don’t think it compares to the epic mindfucking of what today’s young lesbians have to endure. Plus having a strong community to join made a big difference, where we gave no fucks about straight people and focused on living our lives and doing actual proper activism. I remember having so much fun! Honestly today’s WTF Alphabet soup movement seems so miserable and authoritarian … They behave like they’re living in Puritan America.

      • bullydawg says:

        Blogging–yeah, I’ve let mine slide, too, working on other things that support lesbians in a broader way.

        I’ve lived in the Deep South for nearly my whole butch life, and you’re right. The delusional lies being forced on lesbians today is disgusting. I reached ‘peak everything’ last year and I’m old enough now that I really don’t give a flying fuck what people think of me. I’m talking the talk and walking the walk, and if that hurts anyone’s feelings, that’s just too damn bad.

        I was lucky enough to have a large, fun-loving lesbian community in the 80s, we had such a good time! We built it together and we came to depend on it. It was important to us, it was where we could be ourselves with no judgment and no bullshit. And I miss it.

  8. weirdward says:

    I’m just going to leave this link here as it’s an article talking about how under-researched lesbians are and how under-funded we are too. This is specifically about Europe, but these problems exist everywhere. Feeds into comments I made above.

  9. This piece is still great 7 months later.

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