At the gates of lesbianism

by Heather McNamara

Welcome to lesbianism! And congratulations on your decision to give up dating men. They can be fun sometimes, but I can tell you from experience that lesbianism is way way more fun. For starters, there are boobs. More on that later.

You’ll want to get started right away so let’s get busy on the orientation. We have a lot of stereotypes to roll our eyes at, six seasons of The L Word to get through whether you like it or not – don’t look at me that way – and of course you’ll want to know how to answer all the stupid questions you get from straight friends and family. You’re also going to want to find yourself some lesbian gathering places, but please avoid the temptation to check Craigslist. We’re not as big on the bar scene as our queer brothers are, but you’ll find there are plenty of drum circles, softball teams, and Facebook groups.

Oh uh. There’s just one little snag.

You probably noticed all those people standing at the gates, didn’t you? Yeah, they’re uh… they’re a thing.

If you came over from female heterosexuality, you may never have seen anyone at the gates, flung wide open as they tend to be. It’s funny how ogling girls and making out with girls hardly gets anyone kicked out of female heterosexuality, isn’t it? Especially since, well, if you check to your right over there you can see that the great camo print gates of male heterosexuality are guarded by teams of NoHomo militia. If you came from female bisexuality, you might have a little more experience, mostly in the form of pushy relatives and mansplainers who love to tell you that it’s just a phase. Lucky you didn’t have to deal with the gates of male bisexuality, though! I don’t think anyone’s gotten through there except maybe David Bowie but not all of us can afford helicopters. I’m pretty sure there’s just a trap door out front and a slide that drops you into male homosexuality.

Might as well get to it. Our first layer of gatekeepers you’ve probably already encountered. They’re your friends and family who for some reason still want to tell you that it’s just a phase and you probably haven’t met the right man. I know you probably heard these types are only at the gates of female bisexuality. It’s true there are more of them there, but this one pretty much never goes away unless and until you settle down with a man. The funny thing is that even if you’re totally dissatisfied with men and don’t like having sex with them at all and don’t get anything out of it, this layer of gatekeepers will still try to tell you you’re straight! Patriarchy is a hell of a drug.

The second layer of gatekeepers is a lot worse. I’m really sorry about this one. They weren’t invited. They just showed up one day from the Michigan Women’s Music Festival and we can’t get them to go away. The bad news is they’re going to want to check down your pants to see whether you have a penis or a vagina. But the good news is we managed to set up some rules where compulsory pant-checking is officially Not Okay so they mostly just glare at crotches. They can’t actually tell without checking down your pants, but they think they can, so if you have a penis you can just tuck and they’ll literally never know. If you want to take that route and go through that gate, we can, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: we actually don’t have to. Yep, we can go right around it! They’re not in charge here at all. Oh and make sure if you run into Cathy Brennan you show her a fake ID because she’s got a website and… you know what? Never mind. Let’s not worry about that right now.

This third group here is a lot like the second group, but don’t get them confused. They don’t care what’s in your pants so much as they care what’s in your partner’s pants. You may recognize that one as Laci Green. She’s new here, but she immediately fit right in with all the gatekeepers on this layer. They like their dogma. They say a lot of things like “homosexuality is same sex is same genitals” and “lesbians with penises are just creeps who want to convert us to straight.” You may be tempted to sympathize on account of all the people on that first layer trying to shove everyone over to female heterosexuality. I mean, it’s a hell of a gauntlet to walk. But don’t be tempted. Most of us deal with the pain from that gauntlet by hanging out in our drum circles and doing yoga together. This group, however, is a bunch of jerks. They’re not content to be surrounded by queer women, healing and kissing and touching boobs. No, they decided their life’s calling is being the Pants Police.

You may have noticed there are a lot of people at this gate who aren’t lesbians at all! They outsource and trade with some of the goons from the NoHomo militia over in male heterosexuality. Here in lesbian, though, they hand out pamphlets about female bisexuality and try to convince you that you don’t belong. If you ever get together with a lesbian who has or once had a penis, you’ll notice this gate seems to migrate around the place, popping up left and right, surrounding the lesbian bowling league and whatnot like a bunch of anti-abortion activists at a Planned Parenthood. They can be pretty exhausting, but I’ll tell you another secret: They’re not in charge, either! What’s more, their ideas aren’t even based on reality. Their sophomoric pet theories on what constitutes homo-, hetero-, and bisexuality are compiled from hot takes in Teen Beat magazine, YouTube, and Fox News. So we can just go right around them.

Now don’t look so downtrodden. I know it can be tempting just to pretend you’re into dudes or whatever so most of these cretins will go back to leaving you alone, but the community gardening group and gay moms club wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without us. And besides, if queer people gave up every time we faced resistance from willfully ignorant armchair psychologists, we never would have gotten to where we are today.

So come on in, all you lesbians with penises or vaginas who have girlfriends with penises or vaginas. There’s an L Word viewing party on and you’re absolutely going to hate Jenny.

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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2 Responses to At the gates of lesbianism

  1. You’re awesome, may I say. Transitioning in my 50’s has meant a whole lot more “lived experience” than I would like, I can tell you, youngster! But lesbian is the only country for me, and mostly undiscovered…. You’re a hoot!

  2. Kat says:

    Very witty and true article. I especially liked description of male bisexual gatekeeping as being like “a trapdoor and slide that drops you straight into homosexuality” (and of course, the Bowie reference). Fuck the Pants Police and the NoHomo Militia; good people will eventually drop their insecurities, give up on identity border patrolling and realise life is much more fun when you welcome all comers. Well said, Heather!

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