Someone asked me why lesbians would need lesbian only space after I reblogged something about it. The fact that someone would ask after reading the article is an indication of straight privilege. To me there are two indicators that privilege might be a problem, one would be that anyone has to ask why anyone would want to be with group of people like themselves when that group is in the minority and the other is, if you have to pass or can be assumed to be passing, you do not have privilege. Majority groups don’t ever have to think about having to pass or wear a mask or change their language when dealing with other members of a majority group.
Sometimes people assume you are part of the majority group because they assume all people are like them and why would someone not want to be part of their group? Surprise! We don’t. We have our own culture and our own traditions, most of which are invisible or at worst, nonsensical to the straight population.
Anyone who has been an out lesbian since the 70’s or 80’s here in LA remembers going to women’s music concerts as many times a year as you could afford to go. Why? because it was the only place you could go where you might see large groups of lesbians and sit for a few hours and not feel defensive or out of place. Bars only held a few women. Camps and softball or sports teams were usually mixed, but the concerts were heaven. We filled the Wiltern or the Wilshire Ebell theaters or Royce Hall at UCLA. Lesbian women dressed to the nines in their very best Dyke Chic.
We had the Dyke Picnic down at a park in Long Beach. Men would often stand outside and yell at us things like, “who’s the man?” and we would just laugh because as a large group we could. It was one of the only times we could laugh it off. In smaller groups it would have been dangerous.
We had the West Coast Music Festival every Labor day and it was the only time for some lesbians that they saw any lesbians at all. The years I attended there were more than 3,000 women there. We could relax, be ourselves, no one was going to call us lezzie on a street corner. We could buy women made things from other lesbian vendors. Early in the Dianic spirituality movement it was the only place you could get goddess themed clothing or jewelry. It was a huge thing to get to go up and we traveled in packs and so hard to come back down to the mundane world. It was diverse with women of all colours and sizes and shapes. Women with disabilities, clean and sober dykes. The Girl Scout camp lesbians who could put their camp up in the dark and not think about it rescued many a first timer from a tent with no instructions. If you couldn’t afford to pay the entrance fee you could sign up to work, and everyone worked at least one shift anyway. It was part of the deal and it was instant community. We’ve all been socialized as women to help others and at Fest we got to be all facets of being a woman. Child caregiver, nurse, cook, capable carpenter,firefighter, security, camper, friend, lover, top or bottom, Priestess, music lover and performer, any skill a person could possess could be used without being allegedly tied to a gender. If something needed to be done and you could do it, you did it.
A person who isn’t a lesbian or a gay man will never understand the power and delight of “gaydar” or its function in the culture but it does exist and a lot of women might never have found each other without it.
Lesbian only space is necessary because sometimes you don’t want to have to use your “gaydar”. Sometimes you just want to be with women who walk like and look like you do. You want to not guard your speech from the hets and to speak freely and use the correct pronoun instead of skirting around the issue and having to use the word “they” instead of “she”.
I miss things like women’s concerts and the West Coast Women’s Music and Comedy Festival. I’m going to miss the possibility of attending Mich Fest. I miss being in the midst of women listening to Cris Williamson, ALix Dobkin, Meg Christian, Dierdre McCalla or Holly Near or any of the other beautiful women we would fall in and out of love with in the hours listening. Women whose music reflected our lives and loves and not having to change the pronouns in a love song to have it fit.
I miss being with women that never will define themselves by their relationship to a man. Women who are free. Women who stride the earth free of encumbrances like skirts and makeup unless they choose to but don’t have to do it. We don’t expect it. We can choose to do it and it becomes more like drag and for fun but not because it is necessary to our identity or what some guy expects us to look like.
I can usually tell a lesbian even in a dress by how she walks. There is a freedom there that other women do not have. Straight women tend to make themselves small and to try to take up as little space as possible. Lesbians don’t. Lesbians tend to look you right in the eye and rarely drop their gaze. Lesbians usually don’t defer to the men in the room or subconsciously fall in behind what some man has suggested. Men are unnecessary to lesbian culture and our world and that makes some men really hostile. Lesbians can be a challenge to some men’s need to be superior to women. And it can make some straight women feel uncomfortable about their life choices because we don’t choose to live our lives by society’s alleged norms. Sometimes it’s just a lot of work to reassure straight women that all paths are fine.
Now those spaces can be hard to find and lesbians get shamed for not wanting to share their space with non-women born women but we have a right to be with our own kind especially since there are so few of us compared to gay men or bisexuals. I don’t know a single other group that wouldn’t be allowed freedom to associate but that is what we are being told and that “Cotton Ceiling” crap is just that, crap.
So yes, sometimes need women born women only space.