I’m not alone in that I don’t like to use the word ‘lesbian’ to refer to myself. Technically speaking, it does fit, but the fit is uncomfortable. I’ve asked some other gay pals and they agree: sometimes the word ‘lesbian’ chafes and pinches. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of reasons why.

It’s a noun

Seriously. Ever refer to a gay man as ‘a gay’? Hello, pleased to meet you, I’m a gay. The word lesbian manages to make you into an object. Whereas a word like ‘gay’ is used to describe a particular trait or set of traits and behaviours, lesbian is authoritatively taking over the whole person. Saying something like, “That is a lesbian,” sounds kinda gross to me – like you’re narrating a creepy nature documentary.

It sounds like an obscure diagnostic term

Maybe this comes from years of siphoning off endless homophobia, but the word ‘lesbian’ has connotations of sickness and disease for me. When it’s paired with a person, the fact that it’s also a noun just makes it sound like somebody is a walking STD.

Too many syllables and it sounds awkward

Just by referring to yourself as gay instead of lesbian, you’ll save up to 45 minutes per year.

It’s difficult to divorce the word from its stereotypical baggage

The word ‘lesbian’ immediately conjures an image that is usually unflattering and grossly misrepresented. Nobody wants to be affiliated with that shit. When you’re reduced to a stereotype, your humanity is disrespected.

Tumblr automatically flags the tag “lesbian” as NSFW, for fuck’s sake.

It’s fetishised

Search “lesbian” in Google and let me know what you find after you climb out of the vagina avalanche you’re gonna get buried under. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

One time I typed in “Lesbian career advice” and all I got was “LESBIAN GETS ON THE D FOR A DOLLA”. So, this might illustrate why words other than ‘lesbian’ serve us better.

Tumblr automatically flags the tag “lesbian” as NSFW, for fuck’s sake.

The word ‘lesbian’ has become shorthand for a category of porn rather than a sexual identity alone. Searching for lesbian content online is just going to lead you down the yellow brick road right into a stiletto-repurposed-as-dildo party. No thanks.

Something about it sounds pejorative

Growing up, I heard ‘poofter’ and ‘faggot’ in reference to gay men quite a lot – but the difference between gay men and women is that the slur and the descriptor have clear separating lines for gay men but not women. Nobody shouts, “UGH GAY MAN!! YOU’RE A GROSS GAY MAN,” but are far likelier to shout, “UGH LESBIAN,” or something to that effect.

For gay women, the slur is ‘lesbian’ or ‘dyke’ – same as the descriptor. That’s where the discomfort comes from.

I think that when you hear the word ‘lesbian’ weaponised like that, it’s hard not to feel like reclaiming it is incredibly difficult to do. After all, gay men don’t need to refer to themselves as faggots, but gay women generally are referred to as lesbians.

One time I typed in “Lesbian career advice” and all I got was “LESBIAN GETS ON THE D FOR A DOLLA”.

Your mileage may vary

I used to hate the word ‘gay’, but now I feel neutral about it. My favourite is ‘queer’ because I feel it’s the most apt for me, personally. I don’t see myself coming around to the word ‘lesbian’ because I think it’s too far gone into fetish land to be easily retrieved, but of course, my views and the views of my friends don’t represent every homosexual. We just noticed a trend about the ‘lesbian’ label thing and figured it was still worth talking about.

Bonus round

If you’re a heterosexual and you meet a woman who refers to herself as gay, don’t correct her by saying, “don’t you mean lesbian?” They may just be your last words.

This Week

On Wednesday June 28, head over to The Sly Fox on Enmore road for the return of Birdcage’s epically dorky party, Nerdcage. Grab your books, your spectacles and your long cotton socks – Birdy is getting Nerdy. triple j’s The Kick On host Shantan Wantan Ichiban gracing the decks along with NatNoiz, Mowgli May and Maple Behaviour. Entry is free.

On Thursday June 29, head over to The Shift Club on Oxford street for The Real Housewives of Sydney Drag Tribute Show. Presented by Lay’d Girls and hosted by Polly Petrie, let yourself be treated to a musical extravaganza with a stellar cast of queens including Fran Gipanni, Annie Mation, Burley Chassis and Sunday Best. Rumour has it that a Real Housewife might show up, too. DJ Kirby will be on the decks all night after the show. Admission is free!

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