Last week I experienced lesbophobia in a space I had previously thought of as ‘safe’. Big deal, we’ve all been there. However, this was different. It wasn’t violent – they expressed their hatred in words and they were good enough to speak at a reasonable volume so that’s a plus. What was different about it is that this person didn’t think they were homophobic.
I’ll summarise this conversation for you briefly.
Her: yadada yada yada relationship chat.
Me: Oh yeah I live with my partner.
Her: Oh how long have you lived with your boyfriend.
Me: I’ve lived with my girlfriend for just over a year. Recently we moved together which felt like a bigger deal than moving in together or maybe it was just more stressful haha.
Her: Oh I didn’t like to presume *looks at me quizically with a face that says ‘but you don’t have horns – you look just like me!‘*
Her: *insert awkward rant about sin* followed by this line
I have lots of gay male friends. I get they can’t help being gay but you know it’s different with them *pointed look at me*
So I cut that down and paraphrased a lot but the gist was that it’s ok to be a gay man – they just can’t help themselves because, you know, men are pretty or unstoppable sex machines or something. On the other hand, women should know better. Lesbians are doubly deviant. They have the audacity to be women and always banging on about equal pay or some other awful fight for rights and they are lesbians always asking to get married. Married! ‘The nerve of them’ heteropatriarchal society says to me.
Is lesbophobia homophobia I hear you ask fictional reader?
Well yes and no. I often use the term homophobia as a catch-all term for lesbophobia, transphobia, queerphobia and biphobia as well as the traditional use of the term for homophobic attitudes to gay men. However, using it as a catch-all term may not work when it is also used to refer to one group of gay men.
After experiencing this lesbophobic abuse I text my girlfriend to tell her I’d just experienced homophobia because my first thoughts were that’s what it was. I don’t believe this lesbophobe’s discussion of gay male friends was a simple ‘Oh I can’t be homophobic because I know this gay/met one once/saw one on TV and wasn’t repulsed’. It was much more disturbing. She was telling me that men have the freedom to love who they like but women should be grateful to be loved by men and stop messing things up for all the other women.
This got me thinking that maybe I shouldn’t use homophobia as a catch-all term because there are times when we aren’t all in this together. Don’t get me wrong, I love the inclusivity of the queer and LGBT communities but sometimes I experience specific lesbophobia and queerphobia. When I’m told I don’t need a smear test because I’m a lesbian, that isn’t homophobia. When I’m out with my trans friend and we need to find a different pub because there isn’t a bathroom they can use (or they get kicked out of one), that isn’t homophobia. When I hear for thousandth time that so-and-so is ‘actually’ gay but they think being bisexual is more socially acceptable, that isn’t homophobia. When I have to defend my definition of queer lesbian yet again because I’ve been too honest with someone that likes the gender binary more than real people, that isn’t homophobia.
Of course we should tackle homophobia but we should remember that there are situations that homophobia doesn’t always cover depending on your definition. There is also a bigger issue here that knowing that one gay person or being gay doesn’t mean you can’t be biphobic, lesbophoic, queerphobic, transphobic or homophobic. Although I love queer communities, I have found LGBT groups can be pretty biphobic, transphobic and queerphobic.