Why I have a problem with the word "lesbian"

Published on : 4/25/19
  • For as long as I can remember I have always had a bit of a ‘thing’ about using the word Lesbian; especially when describing my own sexual orientation. I have deliberately chosen to describe myself as a ‘gay’ woman if ever it comes up in conversation.

    For much of my childhood I can recall that use of the word Lesbian was never used with affection or met with any positivity. The most common scenarios of the word being branded were;

    “Oh you play hockey – you must be a lessssbian??”; “Omg have you seen her short hair she must be a lesbian”; “Oh you go to a girls school – you must be a lesbian?”; “Can’t believe you didn’t want to kiss that boy – are you a lesbian?”
    The list goes on.

    The word ‘Lesbian’ was used to purposely offend and humiliate girls who didn’t fit in with the norm – those who dared to be a little different or wear something different.

    So why had this word become a tool to shame?

    Then of course you had Section 28 to contend with.

    Margaret Thatcher introduced Section 28 in 1988; The clause, part of the Local Government Act 1988, banned the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities and in Britain’s schools.

    Section 28 marked a disturbing backwards step for tolerance and inclusivity after the strides made by the British LGBT+ movement since the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1967.

    The clause endured until it was repealed in Scotland on 21 June 2001 and in the rest of the UK on 18 November 2003.

    The number of LGBT+ teachers rose from 5 per cent to 9 per cent between 2014 and 2018, according to new data from Teach First, with many motivated in their choice of career explicitly because of their own experiences as children being unable to address their own sexual orientation.

    Anyone who was LGBT+ during this time was dealt a huge injustice.
    In my mind; a place of education is designed to shape you are a person, help educate and prepare you for your adult life.

    I am almost certain that I wasn’t the only person in school during the 90’s who identified as a lesbian, bisexual or that was experiencing gender dysphoria (this is a person who experiences discomfort or distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity). It would have been great to get a bit of a heads up that in about 20 years’ time it will become apparent that the way you are is just exactly that: THE WAY YOU ARE – which is actually pretty normal.

    There is somewhat of a culture shift in schools now and I’ve heard some real positive stories from LGBT+ Teens and young adults about a more inclusive environment which allows them to express themselves.

    But I would also challenge what we doing as parents, what is the messaging we share at home? Sometimes saying nothing re-enforces that belief that it’s not ok.

    I am a parent myself and have, despite my sexual orientation made a conscious effort to raise my daughter open house where sexual expression and orientation is very much talked about.

    Having a simple conversation won’t in any way influence them or their sexual orientation. It’s not like heterosexualism is a choice?

    I guess to summarise: I have learnt, quite recently in fact, that I should embrace the word lesbian and the use of it because after all that is what I am. I refuse to allow negative affiliation in my early teens to change this nor will I allow it to affect me any longer.

    I am a lesbian, and proud of it too!

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