on being a young butch lesbian at Pride 2017
This year I went to my first major pride festival in a very queer-friendly city. Amongst the many groups and vendors being advertised I managed to find one solitary lesbian group. It was comprised of older women, just a social club, nothing political. I enjoyed speaking with them and moved on. Meanwhile I noticed many people who looked very much like me with organizations for transgender health and nonbinary awareness etc. This was also very good and I enjoyed speaking with these people, most of whom were closer to my age. I had a great time but I was left wondering where my people, the twenty something butch dykes, were.
For all its silliness, some good things have come out of modern queer politics in my book. With the huge emphasis on hyper-proliferation of new identities, it seems that many younger people feel more comfortable than ever expressing themselves. Self definition can be liberating. And I suppose that is the goal. But I must admit that I find it extremely isolating that no one who looks like me calls themselves a lesbian anymore. At least, not people of my generation. I meet female people who date women and who are gender non conforming and more often than not they are trans men, or nonbinary, or some other identity with considerable and deliberate distance from womanhood and from lesbianism. I would never want to take away someone’s ability to self define nor would I ever want to disrespect it. But there is no doubt that I have more in common with other female, gender nonconforming people who love women, regardless of whether they view themselves as lesbians or not, than I do with any other group of people. My main point of mourning I guess is not the new identities themselves, but that the proliferation of new identities for gender non conforming female people has made it near impossible (and a social taboo of sorts) for us to discuss and even admit our similarities. That is, in many ways, the purpose of these alternate identities. Delineate yourselves from womanhood and lesbianism to become something else, quite literally. I yearn for lesbian community but community with other gender non conforming female people would absolutely be sufficient if these people, my peers, were willing to admit how much in common we have despite our terminology difference. Denial of this viewpoint seems to be a priority. I am more than willing to respect their identities if we could just talk about our overwhelmingly shared experiences.
There is an added sting, of course, when I meet nonbinary and transgender female people who feel bent on letting me know that my identity as a lesbian is less radical than theirs. I can’t think of anything more radical than women wholeheartedly loving each other, what I consider to be the most central part of my lesbian identity, but at the end of the day I am not ultimately concerned with being the most radical (or interesting), just the most happy.
The whole ongoing fiasco with Chicago Dyke March made me realize more than ever that people, even those in the queer community, really do not believe that lesbians can exist. In straight society lesbians still just haven’t met the right man; in queer society they are simply proto-trans men, something not-quite a woman, or, just like in straight society, had better be waiting for and open to the right man. In this day and age, where the number of women who openly and proudly call themselves lesbians has dwindled, the illusion that lesbians do not exist is more threatening than ever. There is no doubt in my mind that pervasive attitudes of lesbian erasure and devaluation of lesbian experiences have a huge effect on us and play a role in the disappearance of the lesbian community.
Here is the thing though: I am real! I am a butch lesbian and I am real! I love women who are also real! I am dysphoric and I am real! I am a woman and I’m real! A full blown fleshed out set of stereotypes plus some added extras, a butch dyke! I exist and people like me will always exist!