This post is for the bisexual women (and the same discussion could apply to pansexual or any other non-lesbian women) who wonder why some lesbians want nothing to do with them.
Not all of us think you are lying cheaters. Not all of us are worried that you will leave us for men. Not all of us think that you are sexually confused or trying to dupe us into a threesome with some boyfriend we don’t know about yet.
On the other hand, there is more to being a lesbian for some of us than for others. Some of us think that you being a female is not enough.
Some of us are attracted to women who are only attracted to other women, attracted to a shared sexual orientation.
Some of us are attracted to women who expend as little energy as possible on men, especially something as energy-intensive as a romantic and/or sexual relationship.
Some of us think that being a lesbian is about more than an interest in the female sex – some of us are also lesbians in the sense of being wholly committed to women, and, in a world where men are our oppressors, that commitment to women may include a refusal to engage men on as many fronts as possible, including a vicarious engagement through your sexuality.
How, you might wonder, does a romantic and/or sexual relationship with a bisexual/pansexual/etc. woman force us to engage with men? If we welcome you into our lives, we also invite your attitudes into our lives. We invite someone who enjoys, has sought, or will seek, sex with men, despite the fact that sex with men is a major arena of patriarchal oppression. We invite someone who is willing to invite men into an intimate facet of her life, despite the fact that intimate involvement with men is one of the surest ways to become a victim of violence. We invite someone who remains optimistic that she can find a “good man,” optimistic about dating men in the face of all the date rapes, optimistic about an equal partnership with someone from the class that is raised to think of itself as superior from birth onward, optimistic about honest men in the face of a whole culture of lying and acting to get into women’s pants, willing to trust male strangers in a world where women cannot even trust their own fathers, brothers, and uncles to respect, honor and refrain from hurting them, because they are women.
We may roll those ideas around in our minds a bit, and that’s where the engagement with men (specifically, the bullshit they perpetrate in their romantic/sexual relationships with women) comes into play. Some of us have a little trouble respecting the perspective of someone who is so optimistic. Some of us just can’t understand how you can deal with men. Some of us just think you are crazy for doing so, given that you have a choice not to deal with them, and some of us just find your attractions to be…well, unattractive. We ponder this, we ponder that. How do you negotiate the power dynamics in your relationships with men? How do you go about trusting this guy or that guy, how do you keep yourself safe? Do you care if he’s a feminist? Do you behave differently depending on which sex you are in a relationship with? This stuff is important. If you are in our lives, you and your perspectives are important.
Does the need to entertain these thoughts arise with other lesbian women? Not so much. There’s the lack of those questions, the shared sexual orientation – the details may differ from lesbian to lesbian, but they add up. Sometimes, they add up to us wanting to stick with lesbians.
1. Re-define “woman” as a “gender identity.” It will never do to allow “woman” to continue to refer to an adult female, as people who do not fit the biological profile of an adult female will never be able to claim to be women. Do not dwell on the fact that this re-definition gives no information whatsoever about what it is exactly that someone so identified is saying about himself; the vagueness makes the word easier to claim.
2. If absolutely necessary, back up this re-definition by explaining how hopelessly vague the meaning of “woman” currently is (ignoring the fact that it’s never been so vague as to include men, of course), that language is fluid and changes over time, or that strict definitions are inherently oppressive. Do not mention that none of these shortcomings lead to your re-definition. With skill, it is even possible to argue that “woman” should be re-defined to include “mtfs/transwomen” because otherwise, it excludes “mtfs/transwomen.”
3. Convince people that gendered pronouns exist to reference “gender identities,” as opposed to biological sexes. Bonus points for convincing people that the proper use of pronouns is determined by feelings.
4. Continue with the brainwashing phase, pretending that “woman” was a gender identity all along, or should have been, at least. Try to avoid being dragged into discussions about why it should be that way, except to assert that the alternative is transphobic.
5. If anyone refers to the common meaning of woman (an adult female) in any way, slur them as biological essentialists. Throw in “transphobic” for bonus points.
6. Pretend that everyone who refuses to accept you as a woman is specifically ignoring/disrespecting your “gender identity,” despite the obvious fact that most people don’t know what “gender identity” is, don’t care, never use the phrase/concept and have no need of it, and obviously don’t agree with your self-serving re-definition. Be careful not to frame such situations in terms of a difference in definitions, as this will draw attention to your tactics. Instead, frame it as ignorance of/transphobic refusal to admit what woman “really” means.
7. Reinforce the conceptual superiority and cultural hipness of your re-definition by talking about educating people/raising awareness about it.
ADVANCED APPROPRIATION: If possible, convince people that “female” is a gender identity. This tactic will allow you to skip straight to appropriating femaleness, and will even make appropriating womanhood easier.