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Outdated and insufficient: it’s time to retire the “lesbian” label

In their viral tweet, @motherjuniper says “Let Lesbians Have Electricity In Their Movies!!!!,” a statement that I stand by. This is a subject that has gained recently gained traction in the LGBTQ community: why are all lesbian films based in the 1600s? While this is something that is worth exploring, and I would totally love some more culturally relevant lesbian movies, there is another point that needs discussing here. What did gay women do to deserve the title “lesbian” in the first place?

 Disclaimer: I am totally into gay girls. In fact, I am one. However, the word seems both unfair and grammatically illogical. It’s a noun, for crying out loud. It is not customary to call someone “a gay,” “a transgender,” or “a bisexual,” actually, it’s rude. But here I am, a lesbian. The word gay should be enough: someone who is sexually attracted to their own sex. It’s pretty simple. I don’t understand why there has to be a whole new, really serious sounding noun for women who like women rather than an adjective.

This is actually a common opinion among the LGBTQ community. In an article for Refinery29, Kasandra Brabaw explains that she is okay with being gay, and that it is actually a fact that she loves to share about herself; however, she has never used the word “lesbian” to describe herself. While she recognizes that the word describes a woman who is sexually attracted to other women, and she is, technically, a lesbian, she prefers the terms “gay” or “queer.”

Katherine Meraki also shares the opinions of members of the LGBTQ on the word “lesbian” in an article for Medium. One gay woman said that she felt the term is “too full on and intense,” and a transgender man responded by saying that it reminded him of, “an older butch woman.”

These responses both resonate with me, and this is because the word “lesbian” carries some heavy (though inaccurate) stereotypical baggage. Brabaw touches on this as well, explaining how there are two stereotypes that come to mind when considering the “L” word: there’s the “unkept and unattractive woman who’s only a lesbian because she’d supposedly never attract a man” stereotype, and the oversexualized, wildly attractive woman whose only reason for being gay is to turn straight men on. This does not leave much room for middle ground, which is where most gay women, and human beings, actually lie.

Additionally, the word lesbian is not inclusive to today’s LGBTQ community. As a queer woman, you can be sexually attracted to a lot more people than just other lesbians.

It is not surprising that young women today try to distance themselves from the word, fighting to create their own identity as queer women. In her article for Slate, Christina Cauterucci recalls her and her friends’ experiences as young, non-straight women. She says, “we were convinced that our cool clothes and enlightened, radical paradigm made us something other than ‘lesbians,’ a label chosen by progenitors who lived in a simpler time with stricter gender boundaries.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with the “L” word, rest assured that you are not alone. We all have the ability to decide our own sexual identity, and we can call it whatever we want.

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