Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gayness Thrust Upon Them

"Some are born gay,
Some achieve gayness,
And some have gayness thrust upon them."
--Shakespeare, sort of.

"The lesbian personality manifests itself in independence of spirit, in willingness to take responsibility for oneself, to think for oneself, not to take 'authorities' and their dictum on trust. It usually includes erotic attraction to women, although we know there have been many women of lesbian personality who never had sexual relations with one another."
--Elsa Gidlow, quoted in Surpassing the Love of Men, pg. 385

Yes folkswagons, I've finished Surpassing the Love of Men. There are way too many quotes that I want to share with you. One amazing thing about the book is that it gives you gaydar. Since I started it, I suddenly see lesbians everywhere. I don't know how to explain that. Someone even thought I was a lesbian, which has never happened before, to my knowledge.

Anyway, magical powers aside, it's the end of the book, about the modern lesbian, where Faderman's more unusual ideas come into play. Lesbians, she seems to say, are not a sexual orientation, but a socio-political category. She divorces lesbians from gay men entirely, and wonders what feminist in her right mind wouldn't seriously consider becoming a lesbian. I have to say, I admire the abandon with which Faderman rejects the defensive "we were born this way!" credo that every minority sexual orientation hangs onto. Like Faderman might, I also believe that the obsession for finding scientific "causes" for our orientations are just distractions from our acceptance. If you're not looking for a cure (yuck!), why bother with a cause?
Saying that you choose to be a lesbian because you hate the patriarchy is the biggest screw-you to hetero norms that I can imagine. I have to give that mad respect. Faderman also takes sex out of the lesbian equation (like Elsa Gidlow above), which I appreciate. But what is the implication for everyone else's orientation? Faderman would probably call me a lesbian, because I'm a feminist (and the most logical choice for feminists is to be lesbian) and I see her book's "romantic friendship" as my ideal. Never mind that my few experiences with attraction have all been with men, I'd probably be a lesbian anyway.

Maybe when you're sexual, it's easier to change the gender of your desire than to produce desire that was never there. I wouldn't know. I wish I could say, "I choose to be asexual!" but I can't, because I was definitely born this way. I've tried to manufacture attraction, and I couldn't do it. Does it make sense that asexuality is inborn (at least for me) but lesbianism is a political choice?
Cause is probably, like Shakespeare might say, a multi-faceted thing. We may not choose to be asexual, but choosing to identify as such is just as much a socio-political stance as the choice to be a lesbian. As asexuals, we're also independent spirits who want to choose our own destinies. If we weren't, we'd pretend to be straight. Faderman emphasizes all the things that lesbians gain by so identifying. Asexuals tend to focus on the negative-- but we have just as much reason to hold our heads high as we surpass the love of...well, everyone.


Queers United said...

sexuality is not a choice, lesbian or asexual, I think the choice is whether to embrace the lesbian political life, which would be to fight for queer rights.

M said...

This is not a comment in direct response to your post, but rather in response to your search for a slogan - Jacob and I came up with "Asexuals do it with buds" and thought the pun was clever enough to send it to you. :D

Anonymous said...

This would explain why people keep mistaking me for a lesbian, other than the whole asexual thing. I don't know... it's an interesting concept, but I think putting the term lesbian to it might not be the most accurate. Personally, I think being strong and independent is just another facet of being a person in general, though I do have to wonder how much of my perception matches up with real life.

Anonymous said...

I never read the book, but I kind of understand that sentiment that lesbianism and feminism sort of go together... well, at least for women (my being a feminist asexual male). But, it's not a unique perspective. Adrienne Rich has said the same thing... and, I can understand that, for women, casting their lots with gay men might not always serve the cause of feminism. I have met gay men who have no problem with gender or with patriarchy, as it exist, and little interest in women's rights, or in women, for that matter. They may be a minority... but, I definitely see the point of making a distinction between the lesbian/feminist and gay communities. This maybe was more true in the 1970s... if people of all sexes and orientations are really embracing the idea of 'genderqueer', nowadays, I really think that's an improvement. I hope that one day the very idea of gender will be anachronistic. Until then, I'll be admiring my cats, for their lack of it.

Anonymous said...

it's really incredible in sister love not to say lesbian love. and it's incredible to enter your blog since i'm now in china and you in the US.

Anonymous said...

Amazing as always

Ily said...

Thank you!!