Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ashamed of who I am. I am gay gay gaaaay. I have a girlfriend whom I love, I have a rainbow flag on my bedroom wall, and I am SO PUMPED for my university’s pride week—seriously, we’re getting Laverne Cox!!!
I’m gay, I’m in love, and I’m me. Nothing feels better than holding my girlfriend’s hand downtown or sneaking a kiss in the lineup at the grocery store. I’m fine with all of that, just so long as you don’t call me a lesbian. There’s just something so cringe-worthy about the word. For a long time I thought it was lingering shame from my internal-homophobia days, but that just doesn’t line up with the way I’m living my life… especially not the fact that I can easily say that I’m gay. It’s not shame that turns me off, so what is it?
Maybe it’s the stereotype. You know what I mean. It’s assumed that if someone is a lesbian they:
- wear flannel
- love cats
- play sports
- are either butch, or femme (there are only two choices… obviously)
- are vegan/ vegetarian
- don’t shave their legs
- hate men
- were tomboys as children
- have short hair
- and on and on and on
Well guess what! My hair is long, I’m really more of a dog person, I love steak, and I don’t see anything wrong with shaving my legs! I’m neither butch nor femme, and I have nothing against men as a general category, Yes, I do wear flannel, but that’s not because I like women, that’s because I like flannel. And guess what else! I have straight friends who love cats, were tomboys as children, and play sports. Hmmm, I guess this definition isn’t so accurate after all… and if I don’t fall under the categories of what way too many people think it means to be lesbian, then why would I call myself one?
I think something a little more specific to me and my rejection of the label of lesbian is the way people have said it in my past. I can remember the not-so-hushed tones of my fellow junior high school classmates, gossiping over whether or not some girl was lesbian. It was said with such disdain, like a dirty secret everyone wanted to share and share until the poor girl was completely ostracized. I heard them in the hallways while I texted boys I had “crushes” on and refused to watch House because Olivia Wilde gave me butterflies, because I was not one of those girls; I was not a lesbian.
On a lighter note, Ellen once said that the word lesbian sounds like a disease, and I mean really, we’ve been out of the DSM for ages. We’re gay, not sick! This isn’t actually something I would have thought of on my own, but I think it’s pretty funny so I figured I would just add it to my list of reasons.
The final reason I’ve come up with that I hate the word so much is that it’s a noun. I know what you’re thinking. Who is this girl and why is she talking about grammar? But hey, I liked English in high school, and it turns out that it served me well because I can identify when something is just plain stupid. A noun is a word used to identify a class of places, things, or, in this case, people. Conversely, an adjective is a word or phrase naming an attribute of some person (or place or thing).
Just think about this for a second, and realize that while lesbian is a noun, gay is an adjective. Why? Why is it that we say someone is “a lesbian,” lesbian as a noun, lesbian as an all-encompassing identity, but we say that someone is “gay,” gay as an adjective, gay as a describer among many others, gay as one single piece of who a person is? And why why why is there only a noun for female gay people? I don’t know the answer to that (please let me know if you do!), but I do know that I am not “a lesbian.”
I am not “a lesbian,” because I am more than my sexual orientation. I am not “a lesbian” because I am a multitude of other things besides. I am gay, because gay does not exclude the fact that I am happy, creative, or smart. I am gay because I am also curious and excitable. I am not “a lesbian” because my sexual orientation is not all-encompassing, it is not all I am.
HOWEVER, if you identify as lesbian then that’s great! The great thing about self-identifying as one thing or another is that you get to self-define. I don’t like the word lesbian for a whole slew of reasons, but you may love it! It may give you a sense of belonging, of community, and that is truly wonderful. To say you are a lesbian is to say you are as you define lesbian, and to that I say all the power to you!