Today is Lesbian Visibility Day! Last year on this day, we published a roundtable asking our writers who identify as lesbians to talk about why they chose that label and how it affects the way they move through the world. This year, we asked: What are you most proud of about the lesbian community/our history? If you also identify as a lesbian, we’d love for you to share your answer in the comments!
Riese Bernard, Editor-in-Chief, CEO, CFO & Co-Founder
I think historically, even before we had any hope for lesbian representation or to have out lesbians to look up to — let alone vote for or work for or see on the teevee —it was lesbians who often pushed forward the idea that it was cool and sexy as hell to be powerful and bossy and outspoken and empathetic. We have been at the front lines of so many civil rights and political and social change movements. We have been abolitionists, environmentalists, Warrior Princesses.
I’m proud of the women who were openly lesbian even when it meant losing everything and the women who wore “men’s clothing” when it was literally illegal to do so. These days, I’m proud of the other lesbians who participated in the “Not In My Name” statement we released last year. If you’re an ally to les/bi/queer trans women, TERFs are very eager to declare that your publication cannot possibly have any lesbians controlling or writing for it. This has always been bizarre to me — we are 100% lesbian owned, 4/6 of our Senior Staff are lesbians, and as this roundtable displays, we are chock full of lesbians. And yet! All of us believe trans people belong here too.
It felt really good to stand up with a bunch of other lesbians in media and be like, fuck y’all, trans women are women, the end. We haven’t changed, we’ve evolved.
Heather Hogan, Managing Editor
I’ve been thinking so much lately about lesbians whose lesbianism was very nearly erased from history by the men around them. Anne Lister set me off on it when I started reading her diaries again to prep for the HBO series. Then I went down an Emily Dickinson rabbit hole. I mean, Emily’s brother’s mistress literally erased Emily’s lover’s name from so many of her poems and even when it was restored in recent years due to forensics and the tenacity of one lesbian scholar, critics still try to explain it away as gal pals. (So many straight women out here writing poems about burrowing into their friends’ breasts.) Even Sappho! Sappho! Her legacy endured a century of straightwashing! I’m so proud to belong to an ancient community that people have tried to make invisible since its inception, but we’re still here and louder and prouder than ever. And personally, I’m proud to wear a label that the religion of my childhood and early adulthood demonized; I wear it like a badge of freedom.
Drew Gregory, Writer
I don’t know the lyrics to any songs. Anyone who knows me will confirm this. I happily sing-a-long incorrectly and after I’m corrected revert back to my made up lyrics almost immediately. But before I came out as a woman and a lesbian I already knew all of the words to “Ring of Keys” and “Changing My Major” and pretty much the entire Fun Home soundtrack. Did it raise a few eyebrows that a cis straight guy loved Fun Home so much? Or was well-versed in Cheryl Dunye’s filmography? Or didn’t care much about his Judaism except as an excuse to discuss pre-Holocaust Berlin? Sure, a bit. But it was just art. It was just history. It was just stories. And those stories were there for me until I could start telling my own. So I guess what I’m most proud of about the lesbian community is how much we care about our history, our personal histories and our ancestral histories, and how eager we are to share it with others. It’s such a generous gift to all those in the closet who will someday do the same.
Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor
When I think about lesbian history and lesbian community, I feel really proud of the way we have always told our own stories. The very first article I ever wrote for Autostraddle was about the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and the headline proves my point: “The Lesbian Herstory Archives: A Constant Affirmation That You Exist.” A few months ago I wrote about the Archives again; this time the headline read: “The Lesbian Herstory Archives Guard Our Past, Give Us Hope For Our Future.” And that’s kind of exactly what I am so proud of when it comes to our community. Lesbians have always been motivated to tell our own narratives because we couldn’t trust that anyone else would get it right. We self-published zines, magazines, books, newsletters, directories. We took photographs of the direct actions we performed, of our lovers in bed in the early morning light, of late nights at leather bars, of concerts and camping trips and every day living. We sent journals and love letters and button collections and leather jackets and bits and pieces that, when put together, made us whole, to the Lesbian Herstory Archives so future generations could hold our herstory in our hands and understand where we came from, and what that means for who we are today. We’ve told our story on Autostraddle for ten years, and we’ll keep telling our stories for forever. We know it’s important, and we know that only we can do it right.
Identifying as a lesbian is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, no? It’s very chic and sexy and unique to identify as one at the moment, on Instagram and other various social media platforms. But I’ve been one in practice for long enough to know this hasn’t always been the case (at least in my experience) both within our community and outside it. When I came out in 2004, it was not cool to be or call yourself a lesbian. Around 2010, it was cool to be a lesbian but it was not cool to call yourself one for reasons that if we’re being honest were unclear to me but have also since been abandoned. Around 2016, it seemed everyone was experiencing a burnout about what was or wasn’t offensive to identify yourself as and so everyone just existed in this catch-all existence that radicalized a bunch of terrible people who missed the point entirely. And now three years later it is semantically and conceptually cool. Good for us! I guess where I’m going with this is it’s an identity with a complicated history, but holding it at its foundation as we figure it out are some of the most resilient people you could have on your side. I feel proud to be associated with them!
Molly Priddy, Writer
I’m proud of being lesbian because that wasn’t always an easy identity to have! I came out just before college, so around 2003/4, and it was a scary thing to do; I’d been raised thinking lesbian was almost a bad word, and the world treated the word like a punchline, something to be mocked. That wasn’t a cool feeling, but I was what I was: a lady who liked ladies. It’s been interesting to watch the explosion of gender and identity in these recent years, and I’ve enjoyed watching the word lesbian make a comeback. But it’s also still a rare bird, as there are so many options of what and who we can be. I’m still a lesbian, have been for my entire life, and I’m proud that I’ve always been able to find community and support within that identity, no matter what the outside world thought of us.
Al(aina) Monts, Writer
I came out as a lesbian in 2004 on MySpace, came out as a bisexual in 2007 to my mom, came out as trans in 2016 (?), and then decided I’m a lesbian again sometime since then. Being a lesbian is a huge part of my identity. When people talk about me, I want them to know that my affinity is towards WOMEN first and foremost. Do I only sleep with/feel romantic towards women? No. But do I think women aren’t centered enough and want to do my nonbinary part to center them? YES. That’s what I’m most proud of about the lesbian community, that in this stupid world which loves to shit on women, especially trans women, we’re like HEY FUCK YOU WOMEN ARE PERFECT AND BEAUTIFUL AND WE LOVE THEM A LOT. Society does not respect women, but that’s the whole thing about lesbianism. Women are literally the whole thing. Loving women, thinking women are hot, supporting women, fucking women, building communes with women. Women are my foundation and they are the foundation of lesbianism and lesbians and I just think that’s great.
Valerie Anne, Writer
It should come as no surprise to you that my answer will be representation on TV. We’ve come so far since The Puppy Episode, and while of course we have so far to go, every time a character calls themselves a lesbian on TV I get a surge of pride. From the off-hand remarks like, “Now might be a good time to tell you I’m a lesbian,” mid-fight in Wynonna Earp, to the broader implications of Anissa being the first black lesbian superhero on TV, we’re a long way from the days where queer TV coverage was made up of mostly subtext ships one single-episode arcs. We also have more out lesbians behind the scenes, whether it’s actors or writers or creators, and it makes me feel powerful to know that people like me are helping shape the stories the world sees.
Carrie Wade, Writer
I still remember the revelatory moment when I realized that being a lesbian means I will well and truly never need a man for anything. I can invite them into my life and enjoy their presence there (and I do), but they will never be the point and I will never owe them that. What a relief. I feel very similarly to Al here, I think, and they say it better than I can. I am so proud that lesbianism means making women — women’s ambitions and victories and feelings and communities and ideas — a priority in my life. That’s the life I’ve always wanted to lead, as it turns out, and it’s because of my own circle of badass women that I know I’m getting closer to that goal all the time.
Historically speaking, I’ve also always appreciated how lesbians stepped up and fought back during the AIDS crisis.
Alexis Smithers, Writer
Hello being a lesbian has been one of the greatest gifts God has bestowed upon me, amen. There are many reasons being a lesbian is the best but among them is just finding out things about myself that I knew couldn’t be true. Before, you couldn’t pay me to care about love stories. I was the very annoying person who couldn’t pretend to be #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob because the entire time I was like love is a lie who cares, though actually maybe Twilight isn’t the best example, let me try this. I was one of those people who was like I guess it’s cool for Troy and Gabriella to get together if that’s a thing we’re gonna believe here, but I don’t see how that’s true love. When I came out? OF COURSE IT MAKES SENSE SANTANA AND BRITTANY ARE IN LOVE I WILL FIGHT YOU TOOTH AND NAIL FOR THIS LOVE. After coming out as a lesbian, I realized I’m a ridiculously sappy and hopeless romantic forever longing for everyone to have epic love stories and it’s made life a shit ton more fulfilling. I’m not going through life like I guess we gotta put up with each other and call that happiness, I’m going through liek YOU GET LOVE and YOU GET LOVE and YOU GET LOVE WE ALL DESERVE IT. Being lesbian teaches me that you’ll only learn about the parts of yourself you suffocate once you feel safe enough to let at least one of them come up for air.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Writer
Like a lot of folks here, it was not always easy for me to identify as a lesbian. Something finally clicked shortly after college for me, and I finally embraced the identity I so often celebrated in others (I was reading lesbian theory during a lot of the years that I identified as “straight” lmao) for myself. Lesbianism goes way beyond who I date and love. It’s a centering of women in all aspects of my life. I’ve had incredible lesbians as mentors for my entire life, and the resilience and passion within this community is constantly astounding me. Finally identifying as a lesbian radically altered my life even just on a very personal level—it was suddenly easier for me to cry, be physically close with people, and open myself up.