Gillian Jacobs Lesbian Kiss

Gillian Jacobs Lesbian Kiss (Photo credit: LesMedia)

This is one of the big things that has been on my mind lately, and is part of the reason I haven’t written a post in a while.  Well, that and I have already harped on a number of issues that I don’t see a need to touch base on again.  Honestly, life comes with difficulties.  We all know this, or at least any sane and mature adult does.  But, for me, when those difficulties come from something I can’t control, and are because of a form of cultural oppression… Well, then that is a whole different ball game.  I really have found much solace in settling my sexual orientation, and other such things.  And in being a lesbian I don’t use it as a restrictive label, but as one that makes a good adjective for a woman who is attracted to only women.  But the problem I have is that things like heteronormativity and cisnormativity really muck with dating, especially if you are a woman.

Girls grow up with these “cultural standards” and many of them grow into homosexual adults still operating under many of those heteronormative banners.  Things like, as a woman, if you “actively pursue” potential romantic or sexual partners you are a slut, a whore.  Slut shaming is no new thing, but it is something I find subconsciously ingrained into women in our culture as GLBT people.   But the problem with this is that… Well, if you are a lesbian looking for love… You are both going to be women.  If you can’t see where this is problematic for dating let me boil it down for you.  If neither partner is comfortable actively pursuing a partnership with other women that creates something of a double bind for lesbians.  There are many lesbians who break with heteronormative catch phrases, but there are so many who don’t.  So what you end up with in some lesbian clubs is a room full of wall flowers, if they were to adhere to heteronormative behaviors.

This isn’t really pertinent to the post, but I thought it would be nice to put in. It’s a recent piece I touched up because I had some issues with the original. Being a lesbian though comes with it a particularly special affinity for finding the female form rather beautiful.

A heterosexual woman can count on one thing when it comes to dating… heteronormativity will have little to no negative impact on her.  Men generally actively pursue women as part of heteronormativity, and women are passively awaiting a man approaching them for dating.   This also makes it difficult for lesbians to date bisexual women, because they will most likely be pursued by more men than by women (some lesbians avoid bisexuals like the plague).  Lets not even mention biphobia, though I’ll probably address this later.  But the characteristics of both cisnormativity, and heteronormativity play a role in how, and why dating as a lesbian is so problematic.

Women under cisnormativity’s grasp are fostered to be sociable, which actually helps this.  But they are also supposed to be shy and reserved, and unless you actively work to undo that programing that does become a problematic issue when dating women.  The problem with shyness is that two people who would make great partners could be sitting right next to each other, like each other, be eying each other, and never talk once all night.  I mean, I can totally understand shyness.  I am shy, but it’s not because that was how I was taught to be, I just am.  But that is not the point.

I don’t believe that shyness is an “intrinsic feminine quality”, and I think the classical model of femininity can die in a boat fire.  So women, and girls who will later come out as lesbian are taught to be something behavioral and something that would make being a lesbian or bisexual woman more difficult.  Heteronormativity and cisnormativity just don’t work if you are a homosexual woman, and so many women are woefully unaware of this very same complication of those very forms of this condition.  I think to some degree the cisnormative factors are largely overlooked by a lot of cis people.  But I can tell you one thing, shyness is not inherently feminine and thinking is so is disabling just as with many other such words.  These dichotomies don’t just hurt cis women, they hurt cis men, and they hurt the entire aspect of what we refer to as “dating”.  Heteronormativity and cisnormativity are very, very harmful concepts when it comes to people being internally genuine and finding genuine partnership.

Cisnormativity coupled with similar aspects of heteronormativity also has a lot of vile connotations about gender normative behaviors that are both wrong, and overtly oppressive to a specific group of people (Transgender and Transsexual People).  And in this it is especially slanted against trans feminine spectrum people all the way from trans genderqueer to androgynous all the way to trans women who identify as binary.  I am not going to get into how binary and non-binary gender is a false dichotomy now, but it was worth mentioning in this.  But the social consensus is that “queerness” is okay for women, but not okay for men or pretty much anyone born male.  When it comes to hate crimes most of the time its gay men and trans feminine people who are being assaulted, murdered, raped, tortured, et cetera.  I know that a lot of this comes from the intrinsic Judea-Christian aspect of Westernized Culture.  Before the 20th century it was hardly so neolithic, but during the cold war and several other events in history the “Christian-ness” of America really started to take shape.

This plays in it because the Bible is particularly hateful to men when it comes to male homosexuality, and by proxy male born transsexuality.  It’s also a very pronounced part of heteronormativity, which is quite frankly much more lax for female born people.  And here is where the sad part of that for female born persons is.  It’s not because they see females as better people, or more free but because of some subversive paternalistic, sexist, and patriarchal reasons.  I’d say the largest and possibly most vile part of that is the sexualization of women’s bodies, and therefore of female homosexuality.  It’s not that people find female homosexuals more acceptable, but because the see it as a fetish, a sexual fantasy to watch or join two women in intimate sex.  And by them I am referring to men, more specifically to patriarchs and all those who are paternalistic towards women.  Women themselves are also less homophobic and more open statistic to female on female intimacy, possibly because of the fact that it’s sexualization has made it “more acceptable”.

(Update:  The cultural view of homosexuality is more lenient against women, but the patriarchal aspect reviles exclusive female homosexual behavior as it rejects male privilege to sex with women or “compulsory heterosexuality”.  It creates both a sexualized aspect which helps mitigate social aversion to the behavior in women, while also being under the expectation that “Men can join whenever they like” within that compulsory admonishment.  They sexualize female homosexuality as being “for their entertainment or enjoyment purposes”.  I just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t refuting the position that patriarchal power over women operates on the assumption that woman = for men to enjoy within it’s objectification of women.)

Sappho of Lesbos, depicted in a 1904 painting ...

Sappho of Lesbos, depicted in a 1904 painting by John William Godward gave the term Lesbian the connotation of erotic desire between women. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another element of this is that on a whole women are infantilized, or treated in a why that is reduced in status or faculty, and in that way are less “culpable” of being homosexual.  “Oops, honey! I cheated on you with a woman!”, likely granted a pat on the head and an ‘okay’ from some types of misogynistic, infantalizing man.  But what does this have to do with cisnormativity and heteronormativity specifically?  A lot.  It plays a role in the simultaneous asexualization and hypersexualization of trans women specifically, while overall overlooking or ignoring transmen.  This is problematic for anyone who is a trans woman, and a lesbian.  And to top that off, there is a double standard when it comes to trans feminine homosexuality.  The perception of some is that the only purpose someone would have to “become” a woman is to “sleep with men”.  It’s part of that patriarchal “oppressive and compulsory heterosexuality and sexual availability for men”,  and part of one of the most vile threats to all of womanhood… “Rape Culture”.

Another double standard in this is: (Lesbian Woman = Sexy, Cute, Desirable, Not Culpable, Acceptable) and (Lesbian Trans Woman = Really a Man, Pretender, Undesirable, Vile, Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, Closet Rapist, Child Molester, Culpable, Confused, Unacceptable).  What’s even worse about this is that many lesbians support or endorse that sort of thinking.  The worst kind of lesbian you can be is a transsexual one, and is by far the hardest class to occupy when trying to find partnership.  It pushes peoples tolerance level when it comes to dating, so any inadequacy, any personality quirk that might not ordinarily dissuade someone from seeing you as a possible partner now grows from a mole hill to a mountain.  Furthermore, some women, and many more lesbians look “gender variant”.  There is the risk in “dating a trans woman” as a lesbian that you’ll be read as trans too, should your partner be read as trans.  There is a host of problems that come with being a lesbian and being trans takes the fucking cake.

And this is where the cisnormativity comes into play.  Cis people under it aren’t supposed to date trans people, and in a way it contributes to transnormativity, which is cisnormativity’s vile, ugly, nastier cousin.  For a trans lesbian, you now have to deal not only with obstacles of heteronormative behaviors not shed when a woman comes out, cisnormative expectations placed on women, you now have to deal with every single trope that comes with being trans now too.  For a trans lesbian, if you don’t “pass” as a woman (Passing being the word that makes me want to scream “FUCK YOU” at the top of my lungs), then you’ll have an extra hard time finding a date with a cis or trans lesbian.  There are lesbians who will date you, but its way harder than it should be and it is oppressive logic.  It’s what the “Cotton Ceiling” fiasco that happened recently was about (I still don’t like Cotton Ceiling, and find it a little derogatory), and that is about the way queer trans women are treated within the queer community, and the tendency to see us at “pretenders, and closet rapists” looking to get at lesbian women.  I understand the need for discourse about how people see trans women’s bodies, but wish they’d pick something else, seriously.  I tell almost all the people I meet and befriend that I am trans, but it isn’t a topic that comes up in conversation often.

Lesbian & Gay Pride (192) - 25Jun11, Paris (Fr...

Lesbian & Gay Pride (192) – 25Jun11, Paris (France) (Photo credit: philippe leroyer) The photo was just do adorable to not add.

I say almost because sometimes I don’t remember who I tell sometimes because I have a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) that affects my memory coupled with my sleep disorder.  I realized the other day that a few people on my face book didn’t hear it from me first, and didn’t find out from looking at my timeline at the umpteen million posts I have about being a transsexual, or that I am friends with several well-known or famous transsexuals.  I am still concerned at realizing this who on my friends list whom I haven’t specifically told, and I have suspicions but with my memory I am always afraid to ask.  And that is where I am clear if asked, if I add you to my Facebook I want you to know I am transsexual, even if I didn’t specifically tell you.  I identify as me first, then as a lesbian, who just happens to be trans.  I was talking to a friend on Xbox Live while playing Hello: Reach-around (Halo: Reach).  She made a comment that alluded to me that she didn’t know, so I asked, confirmed and immediately came out to her that I was.  She was really awesome about it, but not everyone is.  Everyone I’ve added on Facebook as been that way so far though.  However, while I tend to choose disclosure for myself, I am under no obligation to tell anyone unless we are going to become intimate (in my opinion, though it certainly does come up with I talk about my body specifically).

I do it because I am doing so to make a statement, to not be silent, to not be erased which is in my best interests.  My genital anatomy is my business, with that one exception.  This all comes on the coat tails of probably the worst sleep issues I have had in 3 years, though not as bad as it was then.  Every once in a while it seems like my sleep disorder “flares up”, and it’s usually when my joints hurt the most and when I have my “phantom arthritis”.  It makes my memory issues particular pronounced and awakens or unmasks the complications of having a TBI.  I forget things moments after the occur, and have what I call “Reset Flashes”  where I’ll be out somewhere doing something and like a strike from the blue I suddenly lose mental faculties I normally have control over.  To Clarify:  I am suddenly confused, unable to remember what I am doing, unaware of where I am, unable to gather my bearings and unaware of how I got to where I am.  It only lasts seconds, but it is most disconcerting and was connected to a series of non-epileptic absentee seizures I had about 3 years ago.  It’s just a part of why I am disabled.

And that is where I get to the last piece of this.  It’s not just my position as a lesbian and the cultural dilemmas to lesbian dating, but the intersectionality of my disability, orientation and my gender status that makes life just a little more difficult for me.  I “pass” (pukes in mouth a little), which is all the more reason why I have people who are friends on Facebook with over 100 pictures (mind you 30 or so are artwork) of me and don’t know I am trans though to me I feel kind of “obvious”.  But I do my best to make sure that I understand what is obvious to some is not to all.  Being disabled and trans is really difficult, because it’s a one, two punch in the gut when it comes to a lot of things in my life.  It’s why I have no car, and why I am at home… A LOT.  It’s not from being anti-social… Far from it, though I am an introvert (possibly partly environmental considering I used to flip both ways being ENFP and INFP primary for a while ‘MBTI – Myers Briggs Type Indicator’).  Either way, I am finding dating as a lesbian, especially for me pretty difficult, problematic and unfortunately lonely and insular.  I did date a man for 6 month during my “bi-curious” phase, but I haven’t dated a girl in 4 years.  So, I guess that has weighed on my mind particularly heavy lately.

Shyness

Shyness (Photo credit: roeyahram) Photo referring to the aforementioned shy and meekness imposed on women under patriarchal power archetypes.  Why else would men who want to control women wan them to behave shyly and meekly?  That should not need explanation.  Also it’s important to notice that most times you search photos of shyness you’ll see a woman indicating it’s gender biased attribution.

Being truly, and nearly exclusively gynephillic really left me feeling lacking dating a man, even for as wonderful as he is.  So I am left here to deal with the oppressive social dynamics of dating that come in so many layers it’s like an onion.  And I am trying to cut this onion, and there will most likely be tears.  Dating is already tough sometimes, but there is no reason we need to pile on the oppression.  So to list: I have transnormativity, heteronormativity, and cisnormativity all working against me when a nice side helping of ableism on the top.  I am sure I will eventually cut through all this and find someone who loves me just how I am, and is okay with the conditions which are my life as a queer woman.  But it’s tough to not feel kicked when one is already on the ground by things like this.  My discussion here today is hardly and all-inclusive list of the difficulties to dating as a lesbian, of those for being trans, disabled, or their intersectionalities.  What is important to take from this is that old cultural dichotomies of sexuality, gender, and expression are tainting the GLBT community.  Couple that with patriarchal power, paternalism, and other male centric/genital centric trappings and you have a bad recipe for lesbians all around.  It’s why feminism exists, and why transfeminism also exists.  I don’t identify with feminist anymore, though I identify with the goal of gender equality.

Really though, none of that really matters to what this post is really about.  It’s just me venting again about how much dating sucks when oppression exists, and you are the target of said oppression.  It is just my goal to eradicate that, and find a partner myself.  I seek to bring awareness of these issues towards that end, and hopefully I’ll reach a few people.  Hopefully a few lesbians will be more open to thinking about these things and doing things in their own spaces to stop the oppression, not just their own but the internalized and external oppression of others.