Part of my feminism is helping women discover their love for women. In the conversations I have with ‘het’ women in person and online, it’s easy to see that many women are only with men because it’s what they know, what they were taught, what’s expected of them. Many women, having been hurt and abused and gaslighted all through their relationships with men, don’t actually like men very much, for good reason. I talk about my own experiences: being molested at a young age, getting into relationships with men to help me escape other men, taking in all that male-identification and misogyny, despite considering myself a feminist. Had I been born a lesbian, my molester wouldn’t have cared, the same cycle of events would have been set in motion. As it is, I’ll never know what I was born as, because my reality was erased and derailed from the time I was born onward, and that ONLY stopped when I turned away from all men altogether.
I hate that lesbians have left radical feminism because of political lesbianism. We can’t afford to lose a single woman’s voice. I do fear the misrepresentation of PL on tumblr (the idea that it is a ‘new fad’ is insulting and misinformed). Second wave lesbians spearheaded the idea that all women could choose to reject men and be with women (intimately, sexually, whatever was ‘right on’ for the individual lesbians involved). That no woman is born straight. I don’t really question the idea that born lesbians are just that. That isn’t my experience but I see it enough. But I don’t think that because some women are lesbian from word go, that means some het women are born het. Lesbianism is MORE than just hetereosexuality but with women. They are not comparable, especially under a political lens. Heterosexuality is a political institution that benefits men. Women need to recover from it.
I do understand the sort of knee-jerk of “once bi always bi” or whatever, but I think it’s really gross. Women are not tainted by men, they are exploited. Women who choose PL are radical women, women other lesbians should be able to trust. Lesbians should trust political lesbians to: not derail conversations about born this way or lifelong lesbian issues; not fetishize gold star experiences; listen to lesbians’ concerns about PL as a political ideology; give lesbians safe spaces; be respectful in shared spaces.
Should the label be dropped altogether? A political lesbian is someone who comes to lesbianism through political radicalization. She wants to be with women, exclusively, intimately. The self-descriptor allows her to express both her history pre-radicalization and her promise to women not to repeat it.
Like I said above, my feminism means reaching out to women and letting them know they aren’t alone, yes men really are that terrible, and yes you can be happy with women if that’s what you want, as long as you are honest and real. I was lucky to have a total stranger care enough about me to point me in the right direction and save my life. Gradually I understood I was a lesbian and would always have been had it not been for men.
I did experience privilege as a perceived het woman (I was married to a man). I was never harassed for my sexuality (unless people knew I was ‘bi’), I was a social default and received benefit from that. Heterosexuality itself is not a safe place for women, though. I was also raped and abused within straight relationships, a cycle that kept me from women for much of my life. Women don’t belong with or to men, none of us—our place is side by side with women in revolution.
I believe all women are derailed by men and by the socialization we receive as females. We are the babymakers, the caretakers, the vessels. Not all women withstand the pressure. If, as a PL, you deny all privilege granted someone perceived as the default approved sexuality, you are doing a shitty thing. But this isn’t opting into oppression. It’s opting out of heterosexuality and discovering you have something to offer women, and being prepared for the backlash from society that any ‘rebellious’ woman faces. And maybe there are women who aren’t ready for the double dose of misogyny and lesbophobia, but radicalized women don’t go back to men and it’s beyond cruel to dismiss women in this way. There is abuse of PL, apparently—women who claim the title while still fucking men or planning to. These women are not lesbians and they are doing significant damage to radical feminism, mainly in the form of causing other lesbians to abandon the movement. So stop doing that.
My lesbianism is political, it is personal, and yes I do want to recruit.