When I first became interested in feminism, I was still living as a heterosexual, in a heteronormative relationship. I was even engaged at one point. That relationship has been over since last year and I ended up keeping both engagement rings afterwards (which I’m planning to re-sell to make me a bit of money). I am so glad I never fell into the trap of marriage thanks to feminist consciousness-raising. Now I know it would have been a serious restriction of freedom.
I know that in this interview by Pisaquari I’d said that I had ‘no sexual orientation’ because I believed that orientation was a social construct. Now my views have somewhat changed on this subject. I now believe that heteronormativity is a social construct and that heterosexuality is an institution, maintained by male supremacy to ensure that women remain divided and conquered. Besides, heteronormativity sucks! Who knows better how to make another person happy than someone of the same sex anyway?
To quote Adrienne Rich:
The assumption that “most women are innately heterosexual” stands as a theoretical and political stumbling block for many women. It remains a tenable assumption, partly because lesbian existence has been written out of history or catalogued under disease; partly because it has been treated as exceptional rather than intrinsic; partly because to acknowledge that for women heterosexuality may not be a “preference” at all but something that has had to be imposed, managed, organized, propagandized and maintained by force is an immense step to take if you consider yourself freely and “innately” heterosexual. Yet the failure to examine heterosexuality as an institution is like failing to admit that the economic system called capitalism or the caste system of racism is maintained by a variety of forces, including both physical violence and false consciousness. To take the step of questioning heterosexuality as a ”preference” or “choice” for women–and to do the intellectual and emotional work that follows–will call for a special quality of courage in heterosexually identified feminists but I think the rewards will be great: a freeing-up of thinking, the exploring of new paths, the shattering of another great silence, new clarity in personal relationships.
“All women are lesbians except those who don’t know it,” said Jill Johnston in her book Lesbian Nation. Well, I believe that most women experience lesbian feelings at some point in their lives. I am a lesbian. My very first lesbian feelings were during my early teenage years. I remember of how much I had to repress those feelings or to not let them be known to anyone because of hetero-patriarchal indoctrination. That did not stop me from having occasional lesbian flings with a few women I had met when I was clubbing during my early 20′s. It’s a shame I have never stayed in touch with them.
Now, I would like to elaborate on two points: why I have now chosen lesbianism & separatism and why I have not yet come out in real life.
I have chosen lesbianism because I am so attracted to women and I love them so much. Feminism has taught me that I could see lesbianism as a political choice, as a way of relating to women even more. Through lesbianism I am able to extend female identification. Lesbian feminist consciousness is a way of breaking the heteropatriarchal barriers that divide us among women. I believe that we have got to open our minds to each other, break away from the systematic brainwashing that conditions us to identify with the culture of men. This world desperately needs more woman-identified women.
I had been looking at other women my whole life, even when I was living as a heterosexual, but expressing my lesbian feelings had always been somehow ‘prohibited’ by a society that sees heterosexuality as an absolute norm.
Moreover, I feel how awfully oppressed women are under male dominance. I would so much love to find a space somewhere in which we would be able to find a better way of sharing our experiences as women as well as a deeper emotional support for each other.
I have chosen separatism as a way of protecting myself from misogyny and male domination in my personal life. Although I do believe that masculinity is a social construct, I can see everyday that the vast majority of men don’t seem to change. It is extremely rare to find a (pro-feminist) man who would give up on male privilege and who would not expect women to conform to oppressive feminine norms & roles which are inherently antithetical to radical feminism.
I broke up from my last heterosexual relationship because I was fed up with living within constraints. Separatism is also removing the burden of having to look for the ‘needle in a haystack’ kind of guy who doesn’t use porn or does not viciously reap the benefits of male privilege that a patriarchal society has given him. That said, I do know some radical feminists online who have chosen to carry on living in heterosexual relationships. I think that, well, if they have indeed found some men who can really treat them right, then fair enough. But I have chosen differently.
The other day, I watched a talk by Sheila Jeffreys online. It can be found here, a lecture on the 40th anniversary of Kate Millett’s book Sexual Politics which I highly recommend you to watch. I really enjoyed listening to Jeffreys’ acute analysis of this woman-hating culture. I am fully in agreement with the fact that Millett’s book is still relevant today; it hasn’t aged one bit. Malestream society is just as woman-hating as it was 40 years ago, if not more; the only difference being that the multi-billion dollar image-based pornography industry has nowadays become ten thousand times more popular than the pornographic literature which Millett was analyzing at the time.
This reminded me of how much men hate women. They never say it out loud, but they do hate women. It is a real shame that many women have no idea of how much men hate them. But I do know, and I do not want to be attracted to the people who hate my own kind anymore. I want to separate from the oppressor. I am indifferent to men because it simply does not look like they are about to give up on their *precious* porn and their *precious* rape culture soon. Therefore, I care about women, not men, because the oppressed, first and foremost, have to become liberated from male oppression, an oppression that does not seem to end. Of course, if more and more men changed, then maybe I would argue that there is a gleam of hope somewhere, but this isn’t what is happening right now: patriarchy dominates the world and misogyny is present in so many elements of contemporary culture.
I agree with Julie Bindel in this article here when she says that in the rape culture in which we live, lesbian separatism seems like a great solution for female freedom.
With this post, I have now come out publicly online, but not in real life yet. I am a lesbian. Everyday, I realize that I am not attracted to men anymore (I had merely been socialized to heteronormativity). I am so, so, so much attracted to women.
But I am still closeted in real life. Why? Because (1) I am so afraid of lesbophobia and (2) I am a very shy person IRL. Lesbophobia, another form of hatred that a patriarchal society has created, unfortunately influences some women – and I never know which ones in my surroundings will have been influenced by it. I am so scared of suffering prejudice and hostility when I will be coming out. Plus, my parents would never accept my lesbianism; they are so brainwashed by homophobic/lesbophobic patriarchal religion.
Last year, I have been re-connecting with some feminists for real life activism. Those feminist friends and I, we see each other once a week. I know that, as feminists, they’re not supposed to be lesbophobic – therefore it would be a great idea to speak first to this little group about my lesbianism than any other people. Maybe? But I will have to find the right moment.
I always wonder how it must feel like, to a lesbian, coming out in real life. I miss so much the lesbians I had known in the past, wondering where they are now and how silly I was to not keep in touch.
I am feeling so lonely as I am disappointed that this patriarchal society is making sure everyday that most women won’t become lesbians. Most women are het because they’ve been trained to be het and even to stay het. I look at women around me everyday and I’m reminded that I am not allowed to be with them – because they are under the power of the heteropatriarchal institution.
I often daydream about a society in which women would be able to freely express their lesbian feelings, where we could freely relate to each other and reach deeper human connections amongst women. I constantly have woman-centered thoughts about lesbianism: I believe it should be freed from gendered roles and norms (e.g. “butch/femme” copying masculinity & femininity); we do NOT have to conform to the humanity-constricting gendered rules that men have created.
I once heard someone tell me online that I will never meet another lesbian as long as I am closeted. Therefore I will have to come out. This will not be easy. I wish I knew what would be the right first step…