image is from here
For this discussion and often on this blog, “Womyn” and “Lesbians” means the following: human beings raised in patriarchal environments to be girls and women; women who, from birth onward, were identified, labeled, and mis/treated as female human beings are meant to be mis/treated according to patriarchal will and ways; women who were mis/treated as girls throughout their childhoods; intersex people who were raised to be girls and women and who were mis/treated as girls and women by men in their communities and the larger societies in which they have lived and died.
As a gay male, I see the destruction of Womyn's and Lesbian community as a key strategy to keep heterosexism strong and powerful. In the last 25 years it is Radical Lesbian community and activism that has been one of very few on-going oases of revolutionary political activity against the male flood of patriarchal hostilities and oppression, including hostilities and oppression organised and maintained by gay men.
Currently, in my experience, elite/privileged het and trans activists control or try and control discussions about what oppression is, what privilege is, and what bigotry is. Nowhere in those discussions do I see any regard or respect for Radical Lesbian or Womyn's community and it's value (the necessity of it) to revolutionary action to end CRAP. I know a few region-, race-, and class-privileged trans and queer people have spoken out about the need to respect Womyn's and Lesbian spaces. But that doesn't go far enough, in my opinion.
One of the most pernicious lies about Radical Lesbian and Womyn-centered community is that it only exists in the US and that it is only or all white. Neither is the case but it may well also be the case that for many reasons having to do with survival, we will not be hearing from most Radical Lesbians. For one thing, most Lesbians do not speak English as a first or only language. For another, Radical Lesbian politics and practice has been so intensely put down and marginalised out of any Western Queer Theory and Practice that it appears to me to be the case that contemporary White and Western Queer Theory and Practice is virulently anti-Lesbian and anti-Radical. Meanwhile, it is positioned or promoted as being anti-human, meaning, anti-male and anti-trans. Why it is that pro-male supremacist and pro-trans activists don't challenge one another's anti-Lesbianism and anti-Womyn practices is a matter of revolutionary significance, in my view.
Anti-Lesbian homophobia, or lesbophobia, and racism, classism, misogyny, and heterosexism are woven into or embedded in contemporary public Queer discussion (academics call this “Discourse”). Het society has never regarded Radical Lesbian Politics as anything other than man-hating and “too extreme”. To write off a key site of political organisation and resistance is one way to ensure that revolutionary political movement won't take root.
How could it be that less and less Radical Revolutionary Lesbian Politics is “good” for us? If the us is Lesbian and Gay, how does it serve our interests to understand our contributions to Queer discussion and action as “only transphobic”, “too extreme”, and “man-hating”? We already know that the man-hating charge is perhaps the most successful het- and male-privileging and het- and male supremacy protecting political accusation leveled at Womyn and Lesbians.
The charge of “transphobia” in some marginalised groups, has social capital in ways that the charge of being anti-Lesbian and anti-Womyn does not. Why is that? Ought we know why that is? Ought we openly discuss it in Queer groups?
Hostility to Radical Feminism is as old as Radical Feminism. Hostility to Radical Lesbian Feminism is at least as intense. Het men across race, sexuality, and region, demonstrate an abiding hatred of Lesbians, Womyn, and anyone regarded as a girl or a women, whether or not they are (such as, for example, so-called 'feminine' men and gay men. Het men also demonstrate a virulent hatred of het and 'feminine' and butch women, Lesbian or not.
Where is the organised opposition to this profoundly entrenched misogyny? I can tell you one place it isn't: within and among gay male communities and activists. Needless to say, organised opposition to anti-Lesbian and anti-Womyn misogyny doesn't exist in het-dominated communities either.
I have had the unfortunate and on-going occasion to witness how some grown male family members mis/treat their young male children. A portion of a day does not go by without rigid and oppressive policing of the male children's presentation of their maleness as identified and understood by the older men around them. The boys are publicly and privately ostracised by male family members if the boys do not “man up” properly—according to the standards and practices of homophobic and misogynistic men. So if a boy doesn't firmly and strongly shake a grown male's hand, or flaps his hands by his side as he walks or runs, he is scorned and ridiculed in a systematic effort to get him to be a “proper male” which means, necessarily, being anti-gay and anti-woman (as well as anti-Lesbian and anti-Womyn).
Anti-gay and anti-lesbian practice is like CRAP-affected air: it is all around me and it is a potent pollutant I endure and do my best to ignore. Metaphorically speaking, when I open my eyes and lungs to this toxin, my eyes sting and my chest burns and constricts. It is difficult to convey in words exactly how overwhelming and hateful this heterosexism is. It is difficult but not impossible for me to imagine how hateful the combo of heterosexism and misogyny is. It is difficult but not impossible for me to imagine how hateful the combo of heterosexism, misogyny, anti-Lesbianism, and anti-Womyn attitudes and behaviors are. Add to that racism. Add to that classism. Add to that the oppression by white Westerners of those who are not “First World”, or who are immigrants of color, or who are speakers of ESL. Or elderly. Or disabled.
Nowhere in my dysfunctionally heterosexist family is there any regard or respect for Womyn, for Lesbians, or for anti-patriarchal, anti-het or Womyn- and Lesbian-affirming attitudes and behaviors. Nowhere. Not in any minute of any day. While some lip-service is paid to liberal feminism—rarely—no such respectful acknowledgment of Radical or Revolutionary Lesbian and Womyn-centered community and resistance to woman-hating is noticed. This is only partly because it is not allowed in any dominant media, so my family has no idea it exists. They do know transsexual people exist and while they will demonstrate little else other than misunderstanding and fear, they do not believe transsexual people ought to not exist. They do believe this about Butch women, Lesbians, and Womyn-centered womyn—who they understand to be not much more or less than heretics and pariahs.
My family is Christian and white. Also poor and working class. Their level of protection and privileging of hetness is so intense, so unrelenting that no one in my family who has considered gay or lesbian existence for themselves has been able to talk about it with anyone other than me—or so they say to me in private. (A publicly het male cousin, for three years, summoned me to have sex with him in motel rooms. I complied and obliged. It's not something that was “not pleasurable”. It's also something that I do my very best to avoid engaging in ever again because it was so invisibilising of me.)
So while I know that within the last three generations there have been non-het and non-feminine women, and non-het and non-masculine men, it is not discussed or tolerated or—whitemaleskygod's heaven forbid—celebrated and actively supported.
The lack of celebration, respect, regard, and support for Lesbianism, for Womyn-centered existence, for Revolutionary anti-patriarchal practice, cannot be overstated.
My concluding questions for now are these: Why does a similar level of disdain and disregard for Lesbians and Womyn who are politically engaged in the project of protecting and supporting Lesbian and Womyn's space, community, theory, and activism, exist so strongly in contemporary elite/privileged Queer spaces, communities, theories, and activism? Why is there no systematic and on-going elite/privileged Queer opposition to the theoretical positioning, the liberal political practice—of naming Lesbians and Womyn as primarily or only oppressors to Queer and Transsexual people?