Friday, May 09, 2008

What Constitutes a "Real Lesbian"

From an Australian online gay paper by Katrina Fox (followed by my response):

Keeping Abreast
Wednesday, 07 May 2008

I’ve been accused of being a fake lesbian on several occasions.

Well, not a ‘real’ one anyway, which I suppose technically could mean I’m some kind of lesbian, just not the real deal. It began in the late ’80s when I ventured onto the London scene, full of joie de vivre, expecting to be swept off my feet by Greta Garbo or Joan Crawford lookalikes – or at the very least women who would appreciate my efforts to emulate these glamorous icons of the silver screen.

Instead I attracted short-haired dungaree-clad dykes for whom make-up was akin to poison, and who thought I should be much more concerned with admiring their new boxer shorts than the intricacies of how to achieve Bette Davis’s lipline in All About Eve.

My floor-length sparkly ballgowns, stick-on eyelashes and five-inch heels, combined with my attraction to/obsession with women with similar tastes (yeah, I’ve heard all the jokes about narcissism and wanting to fuck myself, thanks very much) apparently meant that I was not a ‘real’ lesbian. I was never informed what kind of lesbian I actually was, just not a real one.

Fast forward to Australia 2007 and not only am I not a real lesbian, I’m not a lesbian at all, in some circles. I refer to the case brought by my partner Tracie O’Keefe against Sappho’s Party for publicly advertising an event for lesbian feminists which sought to exclude trans women such as Tracie and anyone else who didn’t fit their particular criteria of what a lesbian feminist should be.

During the tribunal, I sat and heard that my relationship with my girlfriend of 15 years was not a lesbian one, according to the women of Sappho’s Party and their legal representative.

Now it seems we’re all in the same boat. Residents of the Greek island of Lesbos have trumped us all by declaring that only they are the ‘real’ Lesbians (with a capital L!). So outraged are they by the seizure of their island’s name by muff-divers the world over, that they’ve launched a lawsuit against a local organisation – the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece (OLKE) – to prevent it using the word ‘lesbian’ in its title.

According to AFP, Lesbos residents suffer “psychological and moral rape” from dykes pretending to be Lesbians. The man spearheading the case, publisher Dimitris Lambrou, claims that the word ‘lesbian’ when used to refer to a woman’s sexual orientation violates the human rights of the islanders, and disgraces them around the world.

“My sister can’t say she is a Lesbian,” laments poor old Dimitris, who insists that this is a question of identity, and has nothing to do with sexuality. If their case is successful, the residents may start to reclaim the word internationally.

So, to all the women who ever questioned my sexuality and right to define myself, I say this: YOU’RE NOT REAL LESBIANS!! Ah, that feels good.

Petty I know, but sometimes it’s the little things that can make or break you.

Katrina Fox
Email me at

written by Stephanie Jones , 09 May, 2008

I had to laugh at your coming out story, which is pretty similar to mine! I also came out in the late '80s (in Austin, Texas) and, yes, expected to find a heretofore secret world of glamorous lesbians a la Garbo, Dietrich, and Crawford... Wrong! Instead I found the same lot of dykes as you seem to have - not to mention the mockery I constantly got for carrying a purse!

While I never wore fake lashes or 5-inch heels, I certainly did wear makeup and fix my hair and dress up to go to nightclubs, unlike many of my "fellow" lesbians who seemed to have come straight to the bars from the softball field - often still in shorts and pony-tails tucked under their baseball caps. Ugh.

I also got a lot of flak for being much more attracted to the much more, to me, glam and sexy trans women! I can't decide which the stereotypical dykes were more threatened by - men or trans women. In either case, there was a steady drumbeat of psychological pressure on "femmes" exerted by the dykes who dominated the scene: If you don't like women who look like men (i.e. "us"), then you're not a "real" lesbian. The dykes' insecurity was blatant and ridiculous, and as controlling as the mens' behavior they claimed to decry.

I've always said: If I wanted a man or an "Oliver Twist"-type waif (another popular identity mode among some lesbians), I'd be with an actual man or teenage boy, not a knock-off!

The recent Isle of Lesbos lawsuit is, indeed, ridiculous - but as you wrote, no more so than the equally paranoid and controlling efforts of Sappho's Party to deny your girlfriend her rights AND very identity.

By the way: My Joan Crawford obsession of 20 years ago now takes the form of the website I've devoted to her:

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