georgetown photograph

September 2010. At Georgetown University, where I’ve taught women’s studies since 1996, I join excited students and faculty at the new LGBT Center’s welcome-back reception. The center represents a very hard-won victory at this historically Catholic and Jesuit campus, located in otherwise liberal D.C.; Georgetown long resisted hosting any officially recognized gay or lesbian student groups, and spent most of the 1970s and ’80s in court to battle such inclusion. But, happily, Georgetown has softened its former hardline stance on LGBT identity. […]


Students, faculty, and staff all mix at this event, and the center is garnished with bright “I AM” posters portraying the diversity now free to flourish at Georgetown, Handsome photographs announce I AM a gay man, a queer woman, a bisexual, an ally. We’ve come very far at Georgetown, I think. But it doesn’t take long for me to notice that absolutely no one, on any of the posters, declares “I AM a lesbian.” It’s the only identity not advertised here. […]

Listening to the terms most popular among students at this celebration—identities including queer, gay, bi, trans, or ally—I realized they were all either gender-neutral or male-inclusive. These terms embraced masculine possibilities, or relationships with men, in ways that lesbian of course did not. “Lesbian” was the one identity that suggested an orientation toward women alone. […] Because lesbian now seems rigid in its exclusion of males (and/or transwomen), hence oppressive, the L has been remaindered in the bin of LGBT visibility.