Lesbians and Bisexuals are Gay People, Too


Last October, actress Rose McGowan caused a stir when she was a guest on Bret Easton Ellis‘s podcast and spoke about how she felt gay men were “as misogynistic as straight men.”

“You wanna talk about the fact that I have never heard nobody in the gay community, no gay males, standing up for women on any level?” she told the out gay host. “I think it’s what happens to you as a group when you are starting to get most of what you fought for. What I would hope they would do is lend a hand to women.” She said she felt like she “fought for the right to stand on top of a float wearing an orange Speedo taking Molly.”

When her quote was pulled and posted on several websites and decried by fans (many of whom are gay), saying Rose was generalizing the community. She later wrote an apology that appeared in The Advocate. An excerpt:

Where does it say that because of a man’s sexual orientation, I don’t get to point out a character defect that some of them may have? When equal pay for women was voted down by every male Republican, there was no LGBT outcry. I wondered why that was. After all, lesbians are women—this affects them too, right?

It does. So I agree with Rose in saying we need more gay male feminists. Now I wonder if Patricia Arquette will find herself making similar clarifications now that she’s facing similar criticism. After taking the stage for her first Oscar win (Best Supporting Actress, Boyhood), feminists cheered as she used the time at the mic to demand wage “equality and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” 

Last night, reports came out about her backstage elaboration, which is now creating some much-needed dialogue around intersectionality:

“The truth is: even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are applied that really do affect women. And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

As Rose McGowan noted in her apology, lesbians are women. And bisexual women are women. Black women are women. Trans women are women. Latina women are women. And so on. To use these terms “gay people” and “people of color” is to fall into the traps that many other women before her have, which is what some call White Feminism, or the idea that certain issues affect all women the exact same way without taking other facets into account, specifically those that affect women of color, queer women, disabled women, or women of a low social class.

I like to give someone like Patricia, who has a trans sister and seems to be an LGBT ally, the benefit of the doubt that she did not mean we aren’t women, but still, what she said speaks volumes about the kind of equality she is speaking of. And like Rose, who feels she has been supportive of equality for communities she might not personally belong to (people of color, LGBT), she wants solidarity and power from those she’s given hers to in the past. 

Lesbian & Gay Pride London 1985

In an interesting parallel, Patricia won during a year that the Oscars was very white and had little to no lesbian or bi women involved, outside of Tegan and Sara and Lady Gaga’s performances and Liz Feldman‘s backstage cameo. We are still given crumbs when it comes to visibility, and even though Neil Patrick Harris is an out gay man and homosexual-themed The Imitation Game won for Best Screenplay, queer women were still largely ignored. In Oscars past, maybe one film, like The Kids Are All Right or The Hours, would be up for awards, but those years are still few and far between. As gay as Hollywood can seem to be at times, it’s still not very lesbian.

The problem isn’t just in movies, either. This week AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead introduced the first gay male character, Aaron. Several headlines boasted the show had its First Gay Character, and sometimes they’d even mention out lesbian Tara in the actual story as some kind of throwaway afterthought. And despite having been part of the cast now for two years, Tara is still often relegated to background plots and left out of promotional materials. Since the show returned a few weeks ago, she’s not had much to do or say.

We’ve been all too aware of lesbian/bi erasure on television in the last few years, with our beloved characters being killed off to further plot points for their straight counterparts, and it hurts even worse to see it reflected in real people—real women—who forget we exist because we might fall into some of the other “sections” they don’t. As queer women, we aren’t allies to women; we are women. Women of color: They are women. The “people” that are keeping us from equality is not “gay people” or “people of color”: It’s misogynist, most oftentimes white, men. And sure there are some women who are anti-feminism and believe a woman’s place is in the home and might have no interest in furthering equality for herself or others like her, but I can almost guarantee you that most LGBTQ women are not those people.


As long as the women’s movement has been going on in the United States, lesbians and bisexual women have fought for a respected seat at the table. We’ve demanded acceptance from NOW, stood next to our straight sisters on picket lines and demanded reproductive rights and abortion laws that might not affect us as much as it does them. We’ve been just as active in women’s issues as we have in LGBT issues because these are OUR ISSUES. And we need allies—allies of all kinds. We wouldn’t be as successful as we have been without our allies, so I understand where Patricia Arquette is coming from when she’s asking for support. She just needs to open her eyes and see who is already here, Tweeting about her and applauding her when she says “equal means equal.”

But this does beg the question, could we be doing more? As LGBT people, we have our “own” causes, but we should not bow out when it comes to the other kinds of equality that affect us. LPAC says part of their mission is “furthering social, racial, and economic justice for all Americans,” and the National Center for Lesbian Rights also seeks to help queer women out of economic disparity, especially those affected by intimate partner violence and workers of color.

Are we doing enough? It’s hard to say, because we face very powerful detractors. The best thing we can do, as women, is know what we’re up against and continue to show up even louder so no one can say we’re not here. 

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