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This Lesbian Visibility Day, We Are Reclaiming ‘Lesbian’

Robyn Exton

Apr 26, 2023

This Lesbian Visibility Day, We Are Reclaiming ‘Lesbian’

Happy Lesbian Visibility Day to trans and non-binary lesbians!

The TERFs who stole “lesbian”

Lesbian Visibility Day is on April 26. This year, we’re snatching back the term “lesbian” from the clutches of TERFs and bigots who’ve tried to hijack it to fuel their transphobia and hatred.

TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical “feminists,” harbor some of the most twisted and erroneous beliefs about feminism and what being a lesbian can or cannot entail. They insist that only those assigned female at birth can be lesbians.

These rad-fems create a ruckus on Twitter, Giggles, AfterEllen, and pretty much any platform that skips a basic background check before hiring them.

Their harmful and transphobic mentality negates the experiences and identities of our trans and gender non-conforming community, fosters their marginalization, and contributes to discrimination and violence.

Besides being sad, hateful clowns who spew out a lot of misinformation, TERFs are also a genuine threat to the LGBTQIA+ community. And that’s just not going to fly here. 

Authentic gay liberation is inclusive. It recognizes that an assault on one member or group within our community is an attack on us all. It’s about elevating the voices and stories of those living at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, with love and acceptance as our driving force.

So, let’s talk about how in the world we got here and what we can do to honor the trans and gender non-conforming lesbians on Lesbian Visibility Day and in our daily lives.

A brief history of the word “lesbian”

The word “lesbian” has a complex history. And it hasn’t always been a term of pride for queer women and non-binary folks. 

In the early 20th century, “lesbian” was used as a hurtful slur to stigmatize and pathologize sapphic attraction. It wasn’t until LGBTQIA+ liberation movements began to gain momentum in the mid-20th century that things started to change. 

Queer activists, radical groups like the Lavender Menace, and the Stonewall Riots of 1969 helped our community reclaim “lesbian” as a powerful and empowering identity. 

Since then, “lesbian” has been embraced by countless queer women, including trans and non-binary people, as a way to express their sexuality. 

So, how, after all of the incredible work that queer and trans activists did to make “lesbian” a word with a positive association, have we arrived at where we find ourselves today? Where trans women and non-binary people are being made to feel unwelcome by members of their own community? How did things go so south? 

Let’s first state the obvious, which is that some people are transphobic bigots full of hatred, who will latch onto any controversial topic in hopes of getting famous. However, it’s also worth noting that elements of this shift are more complex. 

For one, the radical feminist lesbian uprising happened alongside a gender-critical movement in the US and the UK. The gender-critical movement was not purely a queer movement, though. It calls itself a “feminist” movement, clutching their shared string of pearls and trying to make us believe that women & children need to be protected from big scary men coming into bathrooms. 

So now you have people like the lady of transphobia herself, J.K. Rowling, as the face of a hateful, noisy movement. Even worse, though, we see LGBTQ haters calling from inside the house, regurgitating anti-trans talking points in the hopes of going viral on TERF Island. You see, on TERF Island, irrelevant has-been lez-beans are desperate to ascend to the ranks of Candace Owens, where minoritized bigots get even juicier book deals by lying and sensationalizing desperate, harmful narratives that get them clicks.

But lesbians are not being erased by trans people. And nobody with any common sense or love in their heart believes them when TERFs cry wolf. In fact tearing down the community rather than building up its intersections is the single greatest risk to the lesbian identity right now.

What does the future of “lesbians” look like? 

It’s heartbreaking to think of a world where, after all our progress, the word “lesbian” is used as a weapon of exclusion. 

Millennials and Gen-Z are increasingly skipping over the “lesbian” label because of its rising association with anti-trans views. Instead, opting to identify as “gay” and “queer.” 

According to the Gallop Survey of 2022, 7.2% of U.S. adults identify as LGBTQIA+, and Gen-Z’s are driving those numbers, with 19.7% being a part of that percentage. 

I genuinely believe that we’re seeing more and more young people come out and exist outside the gender binary because of the efforts so many have made in deepening our acceptance of all people and varying identities. 

While it’s beautiful and moving that we’ve come so far in a million different ways in the past thirty or so years, our work is far from done. We need to stand together against the TERFs, fascists, and bigots who are halting the possibility of us reaching more inclusive tomorrows. 

The future of lesbians is trans. It’s non-binary. It’s inclusive. If this is a threat to you,  if an inclusive intersectional future is a threat to you, please, at this point, just take it back to TERF island and lament your fragile egos there. 

This brings me to… 

#SorryNotSorry to Gender Critical queens: I can’t hear you over the sound of your bigotry

TERFs are tearing up our rainbow flag. 

Sure, tensions within our community are a thing, but TERFs have taken it to a whole new level of toxicity, blatantly targeting, harassing, discriminating, and doxing our trans and non-binary siblings. They’re basically doing the dirty work for conservatives and misogynists. And they’re proud of it? Seriously?

By working together to reclaim lesbians and uplifting the voices and experiences of trans and gender non-conforming lesbians, we can and will remove the transphobic connotation that the word has held and turn it into something empowering. 

We need to come together more than ever before. 

No TERFs on HER – and we mean it!

I created HER because I wanted a dating app made for queer people, by queer people. From day one, our mission has been to establish a secure, inclusive, and intersectional haven where queer women, nonbinary and trans folks can flourish.

It’s essential that every queer woman and non-binary person on HER feels in control of their space. And we’ll never achieve that if we allow even a hint of discrimination.

We have never shied away from evolving with the times, and that will never change. 

There’s absolutely no room on HER for TERFs, transphobes, or bigots. Am I bothered if that ruffles some feathers? Nope, because love and acceptance will always triumph over discrimination and hatred.

I challenge other companies to step up today, and every day, in solidarity with our trans and non-binary siblings. Not just to reclaim “lesbian” from the shadows, but to be fierce, unapologetic champions for what’s right.

It’s everyone’s duty to sow the seeds of a more intersectional future. No voice is too small, and no platform is too big.

We can’t afford indifference in times of injustice. 

We must all affirm trans and non-binary lesbians.

We must all become better informed and put in the work.

We must all speak out against the TERFs that are endangering our community.

We must all make it our mission to ensure that trans and non-binary folk feel safe to be exactly who they are. 

“Lesbian” is ours 

FLINTA, you can be whoever you want to be! 

If you’re a trans or non-binary lesbian, know that your identity is valid, and you are cherished and supported by your community.

I’m genuinely sorry that TERFs and other bullies have tainted an identity in which you should feel secure and proud.

To our allies, remember there’s a right and wrong side to history. The world is changing, and it’ll keep changing—hopefully, for the better. So, hop on board!

All of this to say… 

TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical “feminists,” have alienated trans and non-binary people from the community with their baseless belief that trans women are “erasing” cis women. They’ve spewed transphobic rhetoric under the pretense of “feminism,” oversimplifying womanhood into a single experience. While this isn’t new, it doesn’t have to be everlasting.

On Lesbian Visibility Day, let’s ensure that all lesbians are seen, celebrated, and embraced—regardless of their gender.

There’s no such thing as a “real lesbian.” But being a genuinely lousy human? Oh, that’s a thing.

Join us in honoring trans and non-binary lesbians today and forever.

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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