The AfterEllen.com Huddle: Lesbian Problems

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This week The Atlantic wrote about “the quiet crisis among queer women,” which they say is our overall well-being. We face financial woes, feel unsafe in today’s society, and struggle with finding a “purpose in life.” Depressing, huh?

Other sources have reported recently we are more likely to be obese, and, on the plus side, having the most orgasms. So what is truly our biggest problem? Surely we all can agree, right? (Not!)

Marcie Bianco: Our biggest problem?! That we are no longer “lesbian” but “QUEER.”

Lesbian & Gay Pride London 1985

Elaine Atwell: Man, it would be really easy to write something funny, like “the proliferation of lesbian haircuts among straight women” as our biggest problem, but this seems like a good time to be more serious. The biggest problem for queer (yeah, I said it) women is the growing factionalism in our own movement. For a long time, our enemies were so big and so strong that we were — or we at least felt like — a united front against bigotry. But now, we look a lot like the wreckage of second-wave feminism. That is: white, middle-class, American gay women got what they needed out of gay rights. With the resources to advocate for themselves financially, legally, and medically, and to ensure their personal safety, many queer women have effectively joined the mainstream. (Not that there’s not still important work to be done, but you know what I mean.) While they (we, really because I check all those boxes except being middle-class) celebrate, other communities of queer women are left behind and in danger.

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Even the act of forming communities online is more difficult now, as young people who identify as non-gender conforming or pansexual or a host of other subsets, are condemned by their elders as turning gay rights into alphabet soup. On the opposite side of that equation, many of the same young people are so militant in their discourse that dialogue feels like a minefield that nobody wants to walk through.

It breaks my heart to see us coming apart at the seams over trivialities. I consider queerness to make us all family, and I wish we would focus more of our resources on helping those of us in our own communities and around the globe who need it most.

Grace Chu: The lack of community spaces — even in large cities. I’m not even talking about lesbian bars or ladies’ nights, although those are dropping like flies. Unless you happen to come out in a liberal arts college and enroll in a bunch of gender studies courses (which I do not suggest if you want to make a living wage), it’s harder to find lesbian spaces than, say, gay male spaces, which seem to be everywhere.

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Dana Piccoli: Well I guess my “international flannel shortage” joke is going to land kind of flat now.

Seriously though, I think that the major issues facing lesbian and bisexual women are the same issues that we’ve been fighting for years. Sexism, homophobia, threats of physical and sexual violence…these haven’t gone away. They anonymity of the internet has allowed many to spread a message of hatred and inequality, with no consequences. Our agency is constantly taken away from us, just look at this nude pic horribleness with Jennifer Lawrence and others. A woman speaking out against the treatment of women in video games is being threatened with rape and dismemberment. It’s the same old story, just a new format. We need to continue to stand by and protect each other.

Lesbian & Gay Pride London 1983

Erika Star: When I worked in Portland’s now defunct lesbian bar, The ERoom, we had a Melissa Etheridge poster on the wall. Last night at The Abbey, I was able to talk to a girl who didn’t know who Melissa Etheridge was. Feel free to either take a moment of silence or light a candle and watch the “Come to My Window” video, whatever feels more natural.

Kim Hoffmann: The Lavender Menace brought forth one colossal, radical movement into what it means to be a feminist lesbian. The need to preserve our herstory in every single way, which we do, through film and literature and seminars, classes and music and arts festivals, it remains really important for younger generations. Why? If I had been a 12-year-old with any comprehension about who Karla Jay is, whoa… I think I would have been way more on point with figuring out my sexuality. More confident. Yeah, I played Indigo Girls on my cassette player, but I needed to be radically inspired, and motivated. I’m positive we are and always will be in need of a new, fresh wave of revolutionary thinkers who rage, create, manifest, defend, educate and protect each other.

Dykes ignite on woman's hat, Gay Pride march London UK 1988

I don’t JUST want to know that my rights as a human are equal to every other persons’, or that I can have long hair and wear lipstick despite every single male thinking I must be straight, or be vigilant in holding my girlfriend’s hand in a parking garage late at night, or turn the page in a text book and see a passage by Rita Mae Brown, I want to know that our convictions are in line with what the women who pioneered the movement wanted, and that we are current and forward thinking at the same time, “forward thinking” to me means continuing to normalize stigmas and stereotypes and bullshit ideas and opinions about women who love women. Who doesn’t love women by the way? That’s a problem.

Dara Nai: During the couple of days I was thinking about this topic, Joan Rivers died. The outpouring of remembrance from friends, peers and fans all mention her resilience and perseverance. During her career, she was heckled, mocked, fired and dismissed. But she never gave up. A husband’s suicide and a shunning from the great and powerful Johnny Carson didn’t stop her. Age didn’t stop her. And it was that approach to life that enabled her to blaze a path for others to follow, and leave her daughter $290 million that she earned all by herself.

If we score low on a Gallup well-being poll, our biggest problem isn’t how many states still ban gay marriage or who was fired for being a big ol’ dyke. A poll is made up of individual responses. Too many of us are dissatisfied with our lives. It makes me wonder if our biggest problem is ourselves.

Heather Hogan: Remember when Bill O’Reilly had that full-on meltdown on election night in 2012 when it became obvious that President Obama had destroyed Mitt Romney, and how he kept flipping out about “the white establishment is now the minority!!!” And he literally said the words “white establishment.” And the confirmation that the “white establishment” was the minority was like the worst thing he’d ever heard of in all his life. Politically, the last several years have been nothing but old straight white men clawing at the power that is slipping away from them. It’s the Supreme Court siding with Hobby Lobby in the birth control fight. It’s state legislatures making it impossible to get abortions. It’s these unbelievably racist voter ID laws. It’s the (again, disgustingly racist) rhetoric that allows Congress to cut $8.7 billion in food stamps.

The biggest problem lesbian/bi women face right now is that O’Reilly’s precious white establishment would rather watch the world burn than give up their power over minorities. And we’re at least two kinds of minority.

Also we face the problem that all humans face, in that three generations from now there aren’t going to be lesbian/bi women around to argue over the homogenization and labels because there aren’t going to be any people around to argue about anything because we are systematically destroying every single inch of this planet.

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Trish Bendix: Illegitimacy haunts us. Being seen as moldable human beings that, as women, are already seen as “less than” and thought to be interested in women because we were abused or felt unloved or that we just haven’t met the man of our dreams yet — these are the things that lead to our being attacked. The more we come out and own our identities, the more we create characters in our likeness and visibility of our lives, the more respect we will gain. Safety, especially in places like Africa or Jamaica where lesbians are vilified and mocked, is a continuous issue, one that can only be demanded from those who have the power to hold rapists and murderers truly accountable and pass preventative legislature. We cannot be quiet and hope for the change in our lives to come; we need to follow in the footsteps of those who came out in even worse societal conditions and make it happen for ourselves and the generations after, even if that means standing up for yourself to a homophobic family member, friend or stranger at the supermarket.

Lesbian & Gay Pride London 1986

What do you think is the biggest issue lesbians face?

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