I feel I can speak to this because after I came out …nearly 40 years ago, my spouse and I moved to Northern California and almost immediately were welcomed by some women there and dissed by others, for what seemed to be the same reasons. We were welcomed as a a newish lesbian couple, only about 3 years together at the time. We were welcomed as neo pagans, even though we weren’t describing our spiritual practice as women’s religion which many, many women were then, instead of calling their practice pagan, heathen, Wiccan, magical, magickal, or using other terms.
Then we hit the kind of walls this author seems to be describing. Btw, no one I know or knew at the time used the term cis-gender, people were labeled, oh yes, people were roundly labeled but they were heterosexual/straight, or homosexual/gay/queer, or homosexual/lesbian/or occasionally, queer for girls, a long time ‘favorite of mine-not, or or was bisexual… pansexuality was not much talked about then, either… not in and around Oakland and Berkeley and San Francisco California where we lived and worked then.
We hit a wall first because both of us being pretty new to being out as lesbians, we would talk openly about having the capacity to admire male beauty in movies, in shows, in art, and so forth. The wall said, no, no, no! You can’t call yourself a lesbian and find a man, any man, anywhere good looking or in any way admirable! YOU MUST BE BI- AND BI IS SOMETHING NAMBY PAMBY CAN’T MAKE A DECISION… AKA JUST PLAIN WRONG! Yes, I’m shouting because this argument was ALWAYS shouted at us. A ‘real lesbian cannot find any man or any men, or anything men have ever done or said handsome, beautiful or admirable. ALL men are to wicked, ruthless, barbarous, cruel, illegitimate children.
Then we hit a wall saying we couldn’t be a couple if one of us was not lesbian under the definition given above. Sigh. It was so much fun to find a community we knew we belonged to telling us we didn’t belong there, either. One of us would surely, the wall said, destroy or at the very least, abandon the other for some man at some time. One of us would certainly ‘wake up’ some day and realize we weren’t treasured, we weren’t loved, we weren’t cherished as a woman, we were just ‘an aberration’ in our lovers’ pattern. One of us would go off some day and be ‘straight as hell’ in order to make it clear our being together was a meaningless interlude.
It was painful and it was enraging. I was as disgusted then as I am now when I find people who are already being labeled and lined up for the box cars by those who have no experience in common with a lesbian or bi woman, being labeled and lined up for exclusion by those who SHARE those experiences. I already knew where some people thought I didn’t belong. I didn’t know I would continue to find … to run into those same walls reading ‘you don’t belong here’ in so called communities I believed I do belong to. Now I know and it is still painful and it is heart rending. Can we stop dividing ourselves even further than those who don’t know us and don’t want us are already trying to divide us? Can we? I don’t know.
I am a lesbian with a spouse of 1 month and 4 days who is also my partner of 37 years, two months and 21 days. I am a lesbian who is perfectly capable of appreciating both female and male beauty and achievement. I am a woman who is perfectly capable of seeing the flaws and failings in myself and people of all genders. I am a long time seeker who has investigated paths that have included Reform Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Liberal Catholicism, women’s religion and Wicca, all of which make up who I am now, today. I am many things because I am a human being and we are a delightfully and damnably complicated species. I don’t fit in boxes. I don’t fit in closets. I don’t fit in labels. I try not to fit other human beings in them, either. I do try.
I do know that if I have ever disrespected a bisexual or pansexual person, I am ashamed and I am repentant and I will be and I will do better. We need each other. We truly do. We don’t need labels, boxes, lines or box cars amongst us, when there are still those who would so gladly do that for us.