Editors Note: This article by Chloe Curran was first featured in November of 2015. But lesbophobia is still just as real, and her insight on this topic continues to be relevant.
Lesbophobia is the unique hybrid of homophobia and sexism gay women experience. Lesbophobia is prejudice, discrimination, and abuse of gay women. Expressions of lesbophobia range from disdain (“Ew, I could never do that with another girl”) to abuse (“Fucking dykes”) to sexual harassment (“I like that—don’t stop!”) to sexual violence (“I’m getting my dick out.”) Lesbophobia is a thing every lesbian experiences. As women, we are taught to ignore this. We are taught to pretend not to hear or quickly move away. We are taught to run and take it. We are asked to like it.
As a Guardian article explains, lesbophobia is often perpetuated by “Men who are so invested in a cultural narrative that requires a heterosexual female support act–real and imagined–that they label women who transgress this social rule as legitimate targets for abusive behaviour.”
If you’ve come across this concept as a skeptic—perhaps a bit burnt out by the seemingly endless litany of suffrage explained by minorities far and wide—I feel you. Adding another term to the already exhaustive(ing) list might initially strike you as unnecessary. But it’s not.
To dismiss lesbophobia as a symptom of excessive sensitivity or special snow flake syndrome is to play your own part in the chronic dismissal of gay women. To say “all homophobia is the same” is to dismiss lesbians as an unimportant extension of gay men, unworthy of individual consideration. To ignore lesbophobia is to ignore the uniquely vile strain of sexually charged aggression gay women experience every day, just for being openly gay women in front of heterosexual men. Straight people taking holding hands for granted. Lesbians don’t always have that privilege.
When gay men kiss in public, even in this modern age of gay marriage and alleged tolerance, they risk straight people expressing disgust. When I kiss my girlfriend in public, men jack off and yell, “Don’t stop ’til I come.” Is this really better? Am I supposed to be flattered? Because that seems to be the mindset of my heterosexual friends. “Guys think it’s hot when two girls kiss,” they say, “It could be worse.” Everything could be worse, but frankly I’d prefer revulsion than the chronic unwanted sexual aggression that has rendered me unable to kiss a girl in the open without experiencing a shiver of fear. I look around, and I see men watching me, pushing themselves into my dates with gaping smirks and pornographic catcalls.
Lesbian couples are never alone. We are subject to unwanted participants, whom we are supposed to laugh off or pretend not to hear. Lesbophobia doesn’t happen every time I hold a girl’s hand, but it happens often enough that I have been conditioned to fear holding a girl’s hand. Straight people don’t get why gay women are still afraid in this day and age; but just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I have had drinks poured on me and dicks shoved onto my car and countless cries of “Don’t stop—that’s hot!” ringing through my ears. Those memories are how I know lesbophobia is real, and different from homophobia, biphobia, and sexism. That’s why I’m telling you lesbophobia is real.
“That’s terrible,” you’re thinking, perhaps taking a sip of coffee and shooting off a text before bracing yourself to finish this unpleasant article. “But maybe you’ve just had bad luck. After all, I’m gay, or my friends are gay, or I dated a girl after college, or my cousin is a lesbian, and I’ve never heard such extreme stories.” That’s fair. Maybe I am unlucky. Or maybe I’m tiny and delicate, the kind of girl men don’t think twice about hollering out to. After all, what am I going to do? I also favor shorts and wear my hair long. Such free expression of the female body often solicits unwanted male attention. Combine that with kissing girls—can you really blame them for stopping to enjoy that Pornhub bookmark fortuitously come to life?
Yes. I do.
Every gay women I know has experienced sexual aggression from male onlookers. These gut churning moments are so common, we often don’t think twice. Here are real experiences of lesbophobia, documented in the popular tumblr Lesbophobia Is and Everyday Lesbophobia.
I hate the fear lesbophobia has instilled it me. I hate that my girlfriend tells me not to let it bother me. I hate that it bothers me. Lesbophobia makes me feel helpless and dirty.
I’m making too big a deal of it. I should stop. You should crack jokes about how silly “lesbophobia” sounds, and dismiss this as the ramblings of another bitching dyke.