WNBA Player Sheryl Swoopes Is Now Engaged To A Man

Even people who don’t follow basketball, or sports at all, think they know at least one thing about the WNBA: all those women are gay, right? In 2005, when Sheryl Swoopes came out as gay, that suspicion seemed like it was confirmed. But now it’s 2011, and Swoopes has announced that she’s no longer with Alisa Scott, her former partner, and is now engaged to marry a man.

In some ways, this news isn’t a surprise. When she first came out, Swoopes didn’t shy away from the word “lesbian,” but she also said something a little unusual – she didn’t believe she was born gay. For most people in her position – had a child with her highschool sweetheart, separated and fell into a long-term relationship with a woman who she met through basketball – the narrative would be of someone who had always been gay, and had hidden it from herself for most of her life until this moment. But that’s not what Swoopes said to ESPN:

“I can’t help who I fall in love with. No one can.…I didn’t always know I was gay. I honestly didn’t. Do I think I was born this way? No. And that’s probably confusing to some, because I know a lot of people believe that you are…Discovering I’m gay just sort of happened much later in life… I’m content with who I am and who I’m with. Whether people think that’s right, whether they think it’s wrong, I don’t care.”

Or later, in an interview with Outsports:

“I’m not bisexual… I don’t think I was born [gay]. Again, it was a choice. As I got older, once I got divorced, it wasn’t like I was looking for another relationship, man or woman. I just got feelings for another woman. I didn’t understand it at the time, because I had never had those feelings before.”


So if she’s not a lesbian, and didn’t identify as bisexual, what’s going on? Swoopes’ life as a gay woman has made so much sense, and seemed like nothing short of idyllic for a top athlete who risked being taken even less seriously than female athletes already do by coming out. She was the Most Valuable Player of the WNBA the year she came out, and since then has remained a force to be reckoned with while maintaining family life with her partner and her son; she was a spokeswoman for Olivia Cruises and is reported to have “frequently appeared at LGBT fundraisers.” It appears that no one in the industry even knew, except for quiet rumors, that she had split with Scott and was now dating her current partner and fiance, Chris Unclesho.  How do we describe the change? It seems like a significant number of headlines are going with “not so gay after all,” which is not entirely unfair, if a little derisive.

Swoopes doesn’t seem to have a word for it herself – she seems to have no interest in going through another sort of ‘coming out’ process as not-gay. ESPN writes that “Swoopes didn’t seem to want to have — for lack of a better way to put it — a ‘coming out as straight again’ interview. She wasn’t renouncing homosexuality or saying she wished she hadn’t said what she did in 2005.” There’s no indication that she considers her relationship with Scott a mistake or, worse, a “phase.” All the evidence, what little of it there is, indicates that Swoopes is exactly where she said she was in 2005: in love, and wanting to be honest about it without compromise. Her words then were “I’m tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person I love.” Is this different?

In 2005, Swoopes was described as “the first African-American professional athlete to come out while at the top of her game.” Six years later, she doesn’t seem to be the out-and-proud lesbian face of basketball that many had wanted. But maybe she’s something else, something that could be even more groundbreaking. Even minor gay characters in media or TV used to be viewed as major progress, but now there are major gay storylines in shows as mainstream and popular as Glee and Grey’s Anatomy. Now the boundaries are being broken by characters like Franky in Skins; where pop culture once was barely ready for men with lisps, now they’re taking on a genderqueer pansexual kid. In 2005, seeing a successful and wildly talented woman risk everything she’d won by being honest about who she loved was big news. But in 2011, maybe we’re ready to see this as a story about being honest about everyone you love and have loved, being honest about the weird and indescribable ways love works inside you by refusing to really try to describe them at all. For a culture as obsessed with labels as ours is, that’s truly brave and transgressive. And for anyone else who doesn’t feel like they were born into a label, Swoopes may now be a real role model – the question is whether everyone else will be able to accept those terms, or whether “not so gay anymore” is the story we’re going to stick with.

Editor’s Note Update: Comments on this article will be moderated as normal. Thanks for contributing to a healthy discussion! 

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. She never said she was a lesbian. You even acknowledged that in the article. So why the title? Seems like “same gender” loving would be appropiate here.

    • “In some ways, this news isn’t a surprise. When she first came out, Swoopes didn’t shy away from the word “lesbian,” but she also said something a little unusual ”

      Plus, she repeatedly referred to herself as “gay”.

    • Rachel wrote: Swoopes didn’t shy away from the word “lesbian,”

      Since it’s clear now that Swoopes isn’t a lesbian I think the title is bad, but she did say “lesbian” a lot though she seemed to specifically use “gay”(not same-gender loving) to describe herself.

  2. I’m just here to say that I miss the fuck out of her on the Comets. Or, you know, the Comets in general.

      • Reading this article I couldn’t help but think “bisexual erasure” and then I experienced seven different kinds of guilt for wanting to force people into a box. Swoopes is awesome and she doesn’t need to label herself and nobody else needs to label her. But I won’t lie… I’m a little disappointed she didn’t say “SURPRISE I’M OMNISEXUAL” while confetti fell around her and jets flew by in formation. Like, every year I have to explain to my (very loving) family that I don’t magically become a monosexual when I’m not actively participating in an orgy.

        P.S. “Swoopes” is the best name.

        • “Omnisexual” = is that like having sex with gods/deities? Because that’s an epic name.

          • I’m kidding by the way. I know that it really means you have sex with all the things, which is still cool. And…tiresome, I bet lol

          • It does sound epic, eh? :) I kind of want to rock that now, and tell everyone I am attracted to pure energy and make love to supernovas. Their reaction will be how I screen new friends.

        • Sounds like she’s more sexually fluid than anything else. I understand her discomfort with the idea that all queer folk are “born this gay.” That model, although comforting for many, doesn’t describe *everyone’s* feelings and development.

        • Maybe a little belated, but I wanted to say spare yourself the guilt, I think it’s both normal and inescapable for our mind to sort the world into the categories we are familiar with. It’s the second movement, where we either question our initial assumptions or follow them blindly, that’s critical… and you certainly seem to be succeeding there :)

          And, I also think it’s normal to want role models or public icons, it’s not like omnisexuals are a widely represented group… especially not ones who come delightfully packaged with confetti and jet planes ;)

    • In some ways I think it’s not cool to act like we know more about someone else’s business than they do… but at the same time I really hate how people don’t want to say bisexual. I mean, fuck, I don’t want to say it either and I refer to myself as queer.

      • Aside from the stigma from the word that has sprung up from “Katy Parry” types, I think bisexual implies something specific that not everybody is comfortable with — namely that it seems to describe an equal or same attraction to two genders. What about attraction to those outside the gender binary? What about people who are attracted to both men and women, but differently, or with different intensities? What if someone can fall in love with a man, but not enjoy sex with him, or enjoys sex with women but doesn’t feel an emotional bond with them? What about the person who exclusively feels attracted to men for a period, then exclusively feels attracted to women for a period, then perhaps goes through another period of dating men? Sexuality is way too complicated (for many people) for “gay,” “straight,” and “bi.” I think we only cling on to those labels for simplicity’s sake.

        • I’ve always assumed that heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual refer to one’s attraction to the biological sexes. To me, bisexuality means you don’t filter your partners based on their private parts. I think of “bi” as the spectrum between “hetero” and “homo”. I am certainly not gay, and I’m certainly not straight, therefore…

          As a bisexual I’m also attracted to the “T” and “I” in our queer alphabet, although that probably makes me a pansexual. But try to explain pansexuality to a group of people without lapsing into an hour-long lecture on human sexuality in general. Most of the people I know can barely escape from the “girls like pink, boys like blue” view of the world, so “bisexual” is the best label I can think of right now.

          I’ve tried the “I don’t believe in labels” thing or said “I’m queer” to people before, but then they act like I’m not interested in the opposite sex which is infuriating. I believe that the world at large needs to hear more about bisexuality, even if it isn’t the best term we’ve got.

          It’s like… teaching art students about the primary colours first and then teaching them about all the other ones in-between later. At least, this is how I’m approaching things with the people around me.

          • I’m the same: I usually identify as pansexual, bisexual and queer depending on who I’m talking to.

            I think it’s complicated partly because people have very different outlooks on the world. I’ve read people express how they feel that bodies can be neither masculine or feminine, to whatever degree, and I do not see it myself. I accept that people have genuine, real non-binary identities that can be neither masculine or feminine, but I do not understand how it is possible for a body to not belong the biological gender spectrum; I’m trying to understand this perspective better.

            Of course, there’s a lot more to attraction than that, but like you I see my bisexuality as the biological component of attraction. I don’t believe in the soul, so I think that frames my perspective on this a little.

            I respect and believe in non binary identities, but I struggle a bit when my sexual orientation is presented as an identity and then labelled and boxed up by other people. It’s not a contradiction to me to be bisexual and pansexual. It’s cool if people feel the label bisexual doesn’t suit them, but frustrating when they qualify what it can be for others, based on their perspective.

          • You’re absolutely right — I didn’t at all mean to define the term for *you*, or for anyone else who chooses to use it. I apologize if it came across that way. It probably would have been more appropriate to say “bisexual CAN imply..etc etc.” Really, my point is more that everybody has a specific definition for whatever labels they choose to use, and that they aren’t always the same. And exactly like you said — you do sometimes have to shift which label you choose to use based on your “audience” in order to avoid misunderstanding. Some might understand bisexual to mean the same thing as pansexual. Others might adhere to an “equal attraction to men/women” sort of definition. Some might think of it another way altogether. And it gets even more confusing when you consider changes in attraction over time, or different KINDS of attraction. That’s just the problem with that word, and with other labels as well — they might be communicating something you don’t intend. That’s more what I meant with regard to discomfort about the word. Sorry if it felt like I was boxing you up!

          • Except that it is a terrible piece, because her definition of bisexuality does reinforce the binary and she completely missed the point.

            No one else gets to define my body. It is mine.

          • Except that it is a terrible piece because her definition of bisexuality doe reinforce the binary and police other people’s bodies.

  3. Word. When I was reading the last paragraph of this article, I was reminded of the E.E. Cummings quote:

    “To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

    I think we’re lucky for people like Swoopes, who are brave enough to just be who they are, despite society generally not accepting that what they are is a legitimate thing to be. I feel like those people open up a space of us for the rest of us to be things we haven’t legitimately been able to be before.

      • Yeah me either. I think our discourse is caught up in a messed up dichotomy of nature vs nurture / choice (in which the natural is afforded privilege and ‘choice’ is somehow sinful or fake or whatever) and when someone comes along who fucks with those categories, people just don’t know what to do with it. I hope it will be different someday.

        • I just feel like we’re being heterophobic here with suddenly stripping her of her “lesbian” label. Like, seriously, we’re stooping to the same level by judging her by whom she’s sleeping with. Who gives a fuck if she’s happy.

          • Good point – thank you, I wouldn’t have thought of that if you hadn’t pointed it out. I forget what study I read this in but a surprising number of self-identified lesbians do continue having sex with men… reality is more complex than our labels allow.

        • Hard to gauge whether you’re joking or not – if not I do have to ask why you’re meeting my thoughts on binary conceptions of sexuality with assumptions about my own?

  4. idk what’s the big deal she was in a relationship with a woman and she was in love and proud of it. now she’s with a man. We all want to be accepted for who we are and who we love but bisexuals and sexually fluid people seem to get the short hand of the stick on both side…if we’re so close-minded that we can’t accept the fact that someone may fall in love with men and women how do we expect to be accepted ourselves?

  5. What does it mean???


    It means she’s human.

    And again you probably shouldn’t do commentary on stuff like this because like your Lindsay Lohan piece you are kind of off. Was this an impulse piece???

    You seem to expect a lot from famous people. Like anyone who is gay or has display gay tendencies HAS to beat a certain drum. Most people famous or not just want to be themselves. Without labels. And without expectation of being a leader of the pack.

    Like some of the other commenters, I think everyone actually benefits when people in the spotlight say ‘hey my sexuality gay or straight is no big deal’…

    • I’m not sure if you read the entire piece, let me help:

      But in 2011, maybe we’re ready to see this as a story about being honest about everyone you love and have loved, being honest about the weird and indescribable ways love works inside you by refusing to really try to describe them at all. For a culture as obsessed with labels as ours is, that’s truly brave and transgressive. And for anyone else who doesn’t feel like they were born into a label, Swoopes may now be a real role model – the question is whether everyone else will be able to accept those terms, or whether “not so gay anymore” is the story we’re going to stick with.

  6. From what I read in AfterEllen, a lot of women seemed more upset that SS identified as “gay”, only to become engaged to a man. So that’s what the big deal is.

    On another note though- I am really getting tired of the label nazis screaming “OMG UR ASHAMED 2 SAY UR BISESHUL” @ people (of a fluid nature) who choose other IDs (ie- pansexual or queer) or no labels at all.

    A person who outright admits that they’re attracted to multiple genders is far from ashamed of who they are. As long as they’re honest to their loved ones, that’s their business.

  7. Whatever, seems to me like she just wants to get attention. Why would anyone have to hold “court” every time they changed partners? – unless its,TA-DAH a different gender. If she doesn’t think he sexual preference is such a big deal then whats the point of making a spectacle of it,,,Cynthia Nixon did the opposite (went from having a long term relationship with her bf and two children with him, to separating and dating her now girlfriend) and never went the PR route, makes ya wonder,,,,

    • If she’s engaged to this dude, something tells me that she didn’t just start dating this individual. It’s kind of hard to hide a marriage, and so.

  8. Sheryl Swoops was never gay and this doesn’t surprise me. She said she “chose” to be gay — I remember the hoopla after that statement — and any gay person knows it ain’t no choice. She’s clearly a super un-self-aware bisexual who chose a relationship with a woman, but can/has experienced love and lust for both. Honestly, it pissed me off to hear her going around telling people she chose to be gay. Hopefully people will now see how full of shit she was. (OK, I realize not every has the self-awareness and insight to understand their sexuality the way I do mine, but I think for someone like that — a celebrity that everyone is looking to be be the spokeswoman on an issue — to come out on magazine covers implying people can choose to be gay was poor judgment.) I wish her the best in her life and she should do her, but I hope I don’t have to hear about it or her views on how people “become” gay anymore.

    • I think you may be overthinking this. Let’s think of it this way: She said she wasn’t born gay because she didn’t “grow up” gay; I can see the rationale in that (not to say I agree with it). She “chose” to be gay because she “chose” to act on her attraction to a woman, which previously she never had and was unaware of. Plus, she also “chose” to be public about it and to label herself as such.

      At the same time, your argument is equally valid. And the only person who really can make judgement on it is obviously IFC. (jk – It’d have to be Swoopes herself)

    • Also, because I hit Submit too soon, I don’t think she was making that same statement about other people. She said that she wasn’t born gay; that doesn’t mean she said that it’s not a biological thing.

      Bottom line: we’re arguing about semantics that just aren’t specific enough to satisfy either side. “Choose” and “born this way” can mean vastly different things for different people.

    • And you’re clearly far more aware of HER feelings and attractions and sexual development over time than she is.

      What’s the big deal if some people feel they were born gay, and others feel they later became gay, or even chose to be gay? Is that really so threatening to your own identity?

      From the linked AfterEllen article:

      “We all make choices each and every day regarding our sexual behavior and the image we want to project in regard to it. We choose to come out, we choose to stay in, we choose to ignore, we choose to try to change, and the list goes on. Why is it ridiculous to think that some of us can choose our sexuality?

      The political climate now practically begs us to ask, Why do we resist the idea of choice so strongly? Why do we reject the opportunity — the privilege — to be responsible for who and what we are?

      If we, as a community, said to the Christian right today, “Yes, we choose to be gay!” What would happen? If we said, “We choose this life over one that others want to force on us, over one that’s less comfortable for us. We choose to love our partners and build families together in the face of great opposition, not only because some of us believe we were born gay, but because we all have free will and the right to love whomever we want,” what would the downside be?

      The only reason the “gay is a choice” argument works for the Christian right is because they believe homosexuality is a sin and therefore are able to argue that gay people choose sin over righteousness. Bad, bad gay people! Evildoers!

      By running from the “gay is a choice” idea, is the gay community doing itself a disservice? If we took the religious right’s number one argument away from them, would it not make us stronger while weakening their position?

      Taking the position that we can’t choose to be gay is actually quite a negative one for us hold, politically and personally, and it’s one that’s not forward thinking. While it affords us the opportunity to say, “God made us this way,” it also robs us of our integrity, a chance to own ourselves.

      We’re all going to be sinful in the eyes of the religious right regardless of whether or not we’re born gay. If a gay gene is discovered, the religious right is not suddenly going to say, “Oh, okay, you’re born gay. We’ve been wrong all along. We’re very sorry.”

      If we want to show the world that being gay isn’t a horrible thing, then let’s stop saying that we can’t help it.

      Now, I know that most gays and lesbians don’t see homosexuality as a defect; we see it as a result of a prenatal lottery, similar to being born with blue eyes, for example. But if you think for one minute that if and when a gay gene is discovered, the religious right won’t rewrite their talking points and call homosexuality a birth defect, I believe you’re mistaken. So, what’s wrong with calling their bluff now?

      What are we so afraid of that Sheryl Swoopes isn’t?”

      • The thing is, a choice or genetic is whole other debate about which is better for the gay community. My argument is that genetic is clearly best in terms of social acceptance and legal acceptance, but I would say to see the recent Autostraddle post about a new study that reinforced theories that it’s genetic for full discussion on that. My other beef is that I just think that’s false — I’ve never met a gay people who thought it was a choice. What Swoopes did was choose to be with a woman, not to be gay. I mean, she’s marrying a dude, so clearly she was never gay. So it may be a semantic argument, but I remember being so disappointed when she said that she chose to be gay — that’s was the big headline. Gay = choice. It was like, “Oh god, now my mom is going to ask me why I don’t just date a boy and be straight since I can choose it.” I think the notion that it’s a choice is ultimately damaging given the climate and attitudes of society right now, especially since we know that’s not true and we know how dangerous “therapy” to “cute” homosexuality is — it’s not Swoopes’ fault she doesn’t get it. But it disappointed me and frustrated me when she said it, for sure. To see that she’s marrying a dude really justifies the way I felt before and I hope people will see it and think twice about accepting that she “chose” to be gay.

        • OMG. So many fucking typos. You guys need an edit function, or I need to start pre-typing all responses in Word. *Cure, not cute. And about 10 other typos.

          • Haha, I’ll suspend typo judgment.

            I get what you’re saying, and I *absolutely* agree that there is a strong genetic component. I also believe that for some people, there can be circumstantial and situational influences or changes over time. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe her statements about choosing to be gay were with regard to herself — not blanket statements about all gay people everywhere.

            It isn’t really apparent here if for her it’s a semantic issue or not. Obviously if she is defining “being gay” as self-identification and behavior rather than as attraction, it would much more indisputably involve elements of choice.

            But perhaps she isn’t. Perhaps she truly, honestly feels like she made a choice to notice and be attracted to women. I don’t know exactly what she was feeling, but it isn’t remotely in my right to try to tell her, or to impose a label upon her. It isn’t fair to invalidate her feelings because we don’t like them. If it’s what she feels, then it’s valid for *her*.

            I also think it is inaccurate to say “she’s marrying a dude, so clearly she was never gay.” Even if it isn’t relevant to you, the concept of sexual fluidity is a reality for many people. She may or may not have felt very strongly for a specific period of time that she was, indeed, gay — and then perhaps again felt attraction, or allowed herself to feel attraction, to men or a man at a later time in her life. You might dismiss her as being un-self-aware, but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. It could have been more of an organic process for her.

            I don’t know, I just get frustrated when people try to tell others that their feelings are somehow incorrect or invalid. Feelings are feelings — they’re true to whoever is feeling them. Same with self-identification. She may have a million reasons that “bisexual” didn’t feel like an accurate descriptor. It’s not our job to place her in the box we feel is most appropriate for her.

            I also still fail to see how the concept that *some* people might choose to be gay is so damaging. Yes, there is clearly a strong genetic/hormonal influence. I don’t think that’s really in question. But shouldn’t we also be free and proud to choose to recognize and act upon (or even have) those feelings? There’s some strength in that too.

          • I don’t believe sexual orientation is fluid anymore than ethnicity. The thing is, with sexuality there is a behavioral component as well. There’s no behavioral component to being, say, Asian. You just are Asian. You look Asian and a blood test will show you’re Asian. It’s provable, no matter how you behave. We don’t have that sort of identifier for sexual orientation (yet!). So behaviors can change, but I don’t believe true sexual orientation can. So if you wanna debate this, I don’t think we have the means. There’s not really proof either way; we know that efforts to “cure” gayness are bullshit and dangerous, but whether it can change of its own, I am extremely skeptical, but again, I have no irrefutable proof.

            The damaging part of saying sexual orientation is a choice is that then it’s no longer a protected class. But far more importantly, it’s the social aspect. It provides a lot more empathy and understanding from, well, everyone. If someone says, “Well, gosh, just stop being gay,” they are going to keep thinking every unjust thing a gay person deals with is entirely their own fault for choosing to keep being gay. But if they realize it can’t be changed and look at it from the perspective if they were gay too, they’d say, “They can’t help it. It’s just who they are,” and then they are more likely to want to protect them from what is unjust. It’s a pretty simple thing to understand so much that I can’t possibly fathom this is a point of controversy among any gay people. When America has viewed homosexuality as a choice, we have lost. As people view it as biological more, public support of gay rights goes up. It’s a simple fact. It’s like, if you’re in a narrow hallway and someone is in front of you walking super fucking slow, you’re pissed off and you want them to hurry the fuck up and think they are an idiot. But if you find out that person has a permanent disability they were born with that means they will never be able to walk at a normal pace, you don’t mind the fact that you need to walk slow behind them. Why? BECAUSE THEY CAN’T HELP IT. Yes, I realize that it shouldn’t matter and people should be respected whether they chose being gay or not, but that’s just not how it works. We can talk about idealistic fantasies, or we can talk about reality. I’m more interested in reality.

            Anyway, if you’re a celebrity and you care even one iota about gay rights, don’t go on magazine covers talking about how being gay is a choice. If you’re not sure, or even if you’ve deluded yourself into believing you chose your sexuality, just shut up. Kthxbye.

          • There are protected classes that are not innate.
            There are genetic things that are not protected classes.

            Also, saying sexuality is a choice for some people is not the same as saying it is a choice for everyone.

            And sexuality is fluid for some people. All the evidence we should need is their testimony of their own experiences. Deal with it.

            And screaming that it is never a choice just reinforces the idea that if it were a choice, queer people would deserve to be punished for making it. That rhetoric is what is damaging.

    • http://www.queerbychoice.com/

      (Don’t 100% agree with some of the viewpoints on this site, but it kind of refutes that “any gay person knows it ain’t no choice” statement. Unless we want to play the No True Scotsman game, which I don’t.)

      • a) The site is “queer by choice,” not “gay by choice.” b) Being gay isn’t like being black — you can’t see it or get a blood test that proves it. People can claim to be gay or straight and no one ever really knows either way. I don’t think sexual orientation is a choice. I think a lot of things can happen that can affect attitudes or understanding of one’s own sexuality, but there’s no choice in feelings of sexual attraction. I flat-out reject any notion of that. I think most people agree.

        • I just want to add, there is a website for everything. I could link you to a site called queeratbirth dot com (made it up) and that wouldn’t prove or change anything. I saw this website where this woman falls in “love” with man-made structures like bridges. I think she “married” a bridge. It was the weirdest fucking thing I have ever read. Side note: That’s another reason why I’m really perfectly happy with narrow labels like “lesbian.” The weird bridge-loving lady can never be a lesbian, but is she “queer?” Well, maybe. The P.C. police can come after me: I think she is a fucking loon and I want nothing to do with whatever the fuck she is.

          • Um how dare you, the love that I share with my bridge is real.

            (isn’t anyone else bothered by queerbychoice.com and its, um, “graphic design”? my eyes feel assaulted every time I look at it)

  9. Yeah, it would be cool if bisexual women stopped misrepresenting themselves as lesbians and continuing to call themselves lesbians even whilst they’re riding a cock. You preach about bisexual erasure but ‘lesbian erasure’ is more accurate, the label ‘lesbian’ has lost it’s meaning because of these women who, for whatever reason I cannot fathom, call themselves lesbians when they’re bisexual and perpetuate the stereotype that lesbians really do need to just find the right man/being a lesbian is just a phase and women who are 100% into other women sexually and romantically do not exist.

    Oh and before anyone accuses me of hating bisexuals, which I’m sure someone will (if only to deviate away from the points I’ve raised in this post), I’m not, I have no issue whatsoever with bisexuals except those who wrongly label themselves as lesbian and damage the lesbian community as a result, as a real lesbian that bothers me… a lot.

    • Ugh, go away. I’ve had to yell at like 14 incarnations of this same “lesbian exclusive” shit so think carefully before painting sexuality in Black and White. Excuse the fuck out of us if we don’t have enough labels for your convenience.

      • Sexuality isn’t black and white, but the labels that describe them pretty much are.

        • I know, so why are people so uppity over people using the same word if it doesn’t fit THEIR specific definition. This is where the mantra “You Do You” means a lot.

          • I kind of understand the frustration though. Female sexuality is stereotyped as something that is consistently mutable, and that lesbians can be changed if the right guy comes along. So whenever a situation like this occurs, this just feeds into that stereotype.

            The majority of lesbians who are irritated at SS probably want their orientation to be respected and seen as something that is a permanent part of their lives. Sadly, not many in society do this- especially straight men, who think they can sway them to team hetero with the power of the phallus…

            Although I believe that SS was in love with her ex GF during the course of their relationship, I thought that she made a mistake in taking on such an immutable label like “lesbian”.

          • It’s a stereotype, maybe — but for some women, it *is* mutable.

            We often choose the label that is closest to what feels right, even if it isn’t 100% fitting. Lacking more descriptive labels, what other option is there? Maybe “queer” might have felt more accurate to her — but even if it did, that’s not really a word that’s understood by the general public. Perhaps it’s time for some new terminology more fitting to the vastly varied experience of human sexuality. But then I’m not sure there could even be enough words to cover it all.

          • Yeah it is mutable for some, but not for all. I acknowledge that it’s definitely mutable for me and other women I know, but I respect those whose orientations aren’t mutable.

            And I get what you’re saying about labels. That is why I do not use any for me. While on a technical level I would be called “bi” I feel that this label is inaccurate for me. And though I have periods of straightness and gayness, I am too fluid to fit into either of those boxes. Also- I identified as straight for years, and yeah…that didn’t work out so well.

            So there is no label that is right for me, so I choose not to take any on.

          • We’re completely on the same page in that regard. For some women, sexuality is mutable. For some, it is not. I think a lot of people, however, are trying to speak in blanket statements that just aren’t going to be descriptive of everybody. Everyone’s experience of sexuality is different, but like you said, there are only a few labels to choose from. Many folks choose expediency and pick the label that’s closest. Some choose to pick no labels. Both will get flak from from folks who either think their label is no good for them, or it’s too confusing, or they need to “just choose something already.” By these rules, you can’t win, unless you are already a perfect fit in one of the neat little boxes.

            Labels are used for communication and baseline understanding. If a woman were a Kinsey 5, has always exclusively dated, loved, and made love with women, and intends only to date, love, and make love with women, but very occasionally, now and then, feels attraction to a man — would it be more descriptive of her to call herself lesbian or bisexual? Which would communicate a *more* accurate descriptor of her feelings and behavior? I think if she said she were bisexual, that would tell people something about her that was untrue — much more untrue than if she called herself a lesbian. If, years down the line, after only ever dating women, she surprised herself by falling in love with a man — I’m sure many people would be up in arms insisting that she change her label. But *she* might not have changed at all, just others’ perception of her. If, on the other hand, she continued dating only women, even if she did feel occasional attraction to men, nobody would have a problem with her lesbian self-identification.

            That’s why I get frustrated with those who insist that someone’s chosen identity is wrong. When people like “The Oracle” claim that only people who have ONLY ever felt attraction to women are “allowed” to call themselves lesbian, and everyone else is essentially less than human, a less valuable member of the queer community, less self aware, less honest, less worthy, and not only that, but dangerous, “reckless,” “selfish” bullies if they do choose a label she deems inappropriate — that is FAR more damaging to the community and to the individual than anybody bending definitions a little bit for the sake of simplicity.

      • I agree with them that the term “lesbian” should be used only for people who fit the actual definition of “lesbian,” should I “go away” too?

        If you can’t tell, commenters telling other commenters to “go away” really rubs me the wrong way.

        Except for that one guy who commented on a NSFW sunday to say that he had a boner. He can get the hell out.

        • You’re not attacking anyone and judging other people like this misnomered poster. It’s all about presentation of the argument.

          • The Oracle’s opinions on Sheryl Swoopes or her opinion on the label “lesbian” in general is not a personal affront to you and the last thing The Oracle did was “attack” anyone. If “judging other people” pisses you off, I would gently recommend you get off the internet altogether because I’m pretty most discussion is about judging people and things. Actually, maybe that’s just life.

        • What is your “actual definition” of lesbian? Does that only include women who have never in their lives and will never feel any sort of attraction to any man ever? If that’s the case, then frankly I know damn few lesbians.

          What is your “actual definition” of bisexual? Does that only include women who feel an equal and same attraction to both men and women (perhaps even at the exclusion of individuals outside the gender binary?). If that’s the case, then frankly I know damn few bisexuals.

          And if your definition of bisexual is broader than that, but your definition of lesbian is not, then I question your perspective as clearly one-sided and skewed.

          The definitions are flawed. And varied. The “labels” are limited. This whole exclusionary REAL LESBIANS ONLY clubhouse attitude is damaging to the community, more damaging than a woman calling herself a lesbian and then at some point in her life loving a man.

          • Oh crap, I am going to have to go and break it to the lesbian couple I live with that they are in fact not lesbians. Their constant expressions of desire to make sweet love to Johnny Depp when we watch Pirates are solid proof of this fact, despite their strident identification as lesbian women and their long-term relationship.

            Weirdly, the most ‘committed’ lesbian I know is a so-called ‘lesbian identified bisexual’, i.e. she says she was born bisexual and has chosen to be a lesbian for political reasons. She doesn’t fit what many on this thread would call the ‘actual definition’ of lesbian, but really she plays it more convincingly than the ‘actual lesbians’ I know. Not sure what this means for people’s arguments… hmm, maybe that reality is more complex than our stereotypes allow ;)

          • That was to Brianna’s original comment! (Got lost in all the replies, maybe)

      • The lesbian-identified bisexuals are the ones who need to go away (this is the polite version of what I’d actually like to tell them to do), they don’t even give a shit about how much they’re damaging the lesbian community because of their selfish desire to label themselves inaccurately.

        Stop trying to change the definition of lesbian, if you’re into men and women you’re bi, it really is that simple. You’re just a garden variety bisexual, nothing new or special, sorry.

        And as much as you’d like me to go away, more ACTUAL LESBIANS like myself need to stand up for ourselves against overly PC bullies like yourself who insist on forcing your sexual orientation onto everyone else and attacking anyone who challenges you about your damage to the lesbian community.

        • Wow. You are exactly what is wrong with some slices of the lesbian community. A bully is not a person advocating inclusion and acceptance. The bully is the person being exclusionary and dismissive, threatened by anyone different, forcing people into boxes, telling them they’re worth less as people because they don’t feel precisely the same way that you do.

          Enjoy that “gold star.”

          • Is “gold star” supposed to be some kind of insult/slur? Some of us always knew who we were, not going to apologize for that.

            Bisexuals are the true bullies here, expecting genuine lesbians to just sit back and say nothing while they perpetuate every negative stereotype about lesbians we have been trying to fight against for years. I’m not forcing anyone into boxes, it’s bisexuals who are so intent on putting themselves in the ‘lesbian’ box when they don’t fit in that box. If you’re sexually/romantically attracted to men call yourself bisexual, queer, no labels etc., but calling yourself a lesbian is just selfish and reckless and conveys your blatant lack of respect for the lesbian community.

            Are some bisexuals really so ashamed of being bisexual that they have to misrepresent themselves as lesbians? Internalized biphobia, much?

          • No. It’s not an insult or a slur. But you know what else it isn’t? It isn’t a gold star on your report card. It isn’t a symbol that you’re better than other people. It isn’t a license to police your fellow queers and tell them what they can or cannot be.

            Yours is the same small-mindedness that leads to folks trying to exclude transwomen from Mich Fest because they aren’t “woman enough.” Real lesbians. Real women. Real prejudice.

          • You know what’s a bad stereotype about lesbians? That they hate bisexual women and you know who’s reinforcing it right now?

          • Not to be rude, but I think there are worse stereotypes lesbians have to deal with. I can think of one off the top of my head: that we sleep with men.

          • I don’t find it rude because I do not identity as a lesbian. I’m a proud Bisexual ( at least there’s on of us, eh?). I think what a lot of lesbians dislike about Bisexual women is what straight women dislike about bisexual men they just can’t get over the fact that we sleep with men and they find that thought to be repulsive so let’s stop beating around the bush and be straight up about it.

          • Yeah, you may be right. I dated a girl who would say she thought certain guys were hot and it grossed me out to be honest, hah. But that isn’t what’s we’re talking about here specifically. We’re talking about bisexuals who claim to be gay, which I don’t think is cool, personally. I think it’s great that you identify as bisexual. I don’t know why some people reject labels so strongly (I guess that’s why this thread has caught on fire!) but I really like them. I think it’s cool you own your bisexualness. I’m sure a bunch of people were offended by my first couple sentences and I think I’m starting to take things off topic… *Quietly sneaks away*

    • I share The oracle’s frustrations and I get that “sexuality is fluidity” and “we need to embrace all orientations and identities” and blah blah blah, but why is it so wrong to think it reflects poorly on what it means to be an actual lesbian when people who aren’t lesbians claim to be lesbians? I understand some women go through transitional periods of understanding their own sexuality and may change labels as they come to acceptance, etc. But I think she’s talking about bisexual women who claim to be lesbians. Specifically, I would say people in the public eye should be more accurate about it. Look, if a bisexual woman is in a five-year monogamous relationship with another woman, I guess I can understand calling herself a lesbian at times for the sake of easiness, but there’s so much misunderstanding out there still, I think anyone in the public eye reaching middle America needs to be far more careful.

      Maybe part of it is I don’t understand what’s so hard about knowing what orientation you are and choosing an accurate way to describe it for the mere means of communication. So many people here on AS are all about no labels and labels outside of lesbian, straight or bi, but what the original poster said doesn’t seem offensive to me. If you’re going the route of picking a label and you pick lesbian, you should be an actual lesbian. How is that an offensive sentiment? Shrug.

      • Like you I also share the frustrations The Oracle has and I agree with you, but you have to admit they did end up being unnecessarily hostile. I wish we would have been able to have this discussion without telling anyone to go away or that they need help, etc.

      • True. But at the same time it’s kind of irksome whenever I hear someone complains about how they feel left out the queer country club cos they have a husband, 2.5 kids, a Bassett hound and a house w/a white picket fence. That’s not going to do anything to prove the existence of fluid sexuality either.

  10. Sheryl Swoope’s action is not groundbreaking. However, it is predictable. Years ago, when she came out, I posted on another site that I would not get too excited we were seeing some significant representation of a LGBT athlete coming out because she would end up with a guy. Among the details in the coming out were how her Mom’s difficulty in handling it, how this was affecting Sheryl, Sheryl’s religious struggles and Sheryl’s odd statements in the interview as described above, statements which had an Anne Heche feel to it.

    The want to be accepted by a parent is something significant and seemed to be a profound burden on Sheryl. This burden coupled with her comments had me raising an eyebrow. If Sheryl has found happiness good for her. However the question has to be raised whether she found happiness or if she is taking actions designed to make others happy. Only she will ever know but she is now where I always figured she would be based both on her answers so long ago and that importance of her relationship with her Mom.

    The Oracle will no doubt be shouted down. There is a belief that many in the LGBT community are biphobic which renders what is thoughful discussion into assumptions of prejudice. However The Oracle does touch on the problems of how certain actions can trivialize lesbianism to the many. It is no different than the way certain celebrities, who we never see with a woman, can trivialize bisexuality when they state they are bisexual. Does that mean they are bad or horrible? Of course not. But when female celebrities who have never been with the same sex in a public relationship proclaim bisexuality, it is reasonable that their statements be questioned. The same goes for women who proclaim they are a lesbian only to end up with a man a few years later.

    These are difficult subjects to discuss but the rush to call people biphobic and to shout down people who question these celebrities does not accomplish much more than create a divide between people.

    • I don’t think that’s fair that a woman has to be with another woman in order to be “legitimately” bisexual.

      I also have a question that is genuine: If Sheryl is only marrying a man to satifsy her mother, would that then undo the “oh so she’s not gay afterall” argument?

      • “I don’t think that’s fair that a woman has to be with another woman in order to be “legitimately” bisexual.”

        This is exactly what I mean by overreacting at discussing and questioning certain actions. You seem adverse to any discussion. Sorry but this is a forum and when a female celebrity states I am bisexual in some interview yet we have never, in all their years, once seen them in a public relationship with a woman while they have been in plenty with men – I am sorry that raises some questions. There is a part of me which did not buy into the past Megan Fox story of a stripper which did indeed turn out to be made up. That does not mean my bisexual self is attacking bisexuality. It means I am doubting the sincerity of someone. Some people take everyone at their word. Some people don’t. For example, when Michelle Rodrigues announced she is straight and loves “sausages”, I will question what she is saying.

        You really seem to have a problem with discussion which is intriguing since this is a forum. Your comments to The Oracle for example express an unwillingness to allow other opinions.

        “I also have a question that is genuine: If Sheryl is only marrying a man to satifsy her mother, would that then undo the “oh so she’s not gay afterall” argument?”

        I would not be shocked in the least if she was, in her heart, a lesbian. When she came out years ago, she really seemed to be wrestling with her sexuality, how it went with her religious beliefs, and her Mom’s feelings. That she entered a relationship with a woman despite all those obstacles seems like a big move to make if one did not have attraction to women. The guilt, the shame, and other emotions may have seemed subtle at the time but they were there. Sadly, I think there is a good chance she was unable to resolve those and may have not had the strength to handle the conflicts in her family and in terms of her religious beliefs. She would not be the first lesbian to be guilted by a parent into doing what the parent ultimately wants.

        Anyways, please stop with the hostility and allow discussion.

        • Really? I’ve read this thread and I’m not seeing the hostility that you claim Paper0Flowers has engaged in. Nor has she prevented or stopped you from having a discussion in any way so the whole ‘allow discussion’ is also not accurate (and just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they have a problem with discussion). By the way, if you’re going to accuse people of hostility, you shouldn’t presume bad intent on people’s part just because they don’t agree with you or another poster.

        • (Thanks @kd15 )

          Chris, I don’t know where you see me shutting down your opinion. This issue is a very personal one for me, so I’m outraged that you think you have the right to dismiss someone’s sexuality.

          I’m young. I fell in love with a guy early, and we’re still together 6 years later. Only 2 years ago did I realize that my obsession and infatuation with women was a sexual thing. Do I have to break up with my boyfriend and sleep around with women to validate who I am? To prove to you that I’m just as sexually attracted to women as our Token Gold Star Oracle? If you think that I have to ruin something special and unique (he’s been the only guy I’ve ever been attracted to, for the record) just so that YOU don’t have to be suspicious about my sexuality, then I think you need to be less cynical and close-minded and understand that not everyone has the opportunity in life to parade around the women they love.

          • You call yourself a lesbian yet you’re in a relationship with a man at the moment and have been for six years? You need help.

          • Also, I don’t know how you have the audacity to come to a site like this and preach to those of us who are actually lesbians about how we should feel about lesbian-identified bisexuals and their impact on the lesbian community when you do not face any homophobia in your HETEROSEXUAL RELATIONSHIP. How dare you say you “don’t see the big deal” about SS’s mislabeling herself, you don’t know anything as you’ve likely never experienced discrimination in your comfortable hetero world, ugh.

          • “you don’t know anything as you’ve likely never experienced discrimination in your comfortable hetero world”

            that actually makes no sense whatsoever, notwithstanding the fact you don’t know anything about the person you’re speaking to.

          • Look, before you start ripping me apart for not being “special” in your world, I get it. I really get it when I have homophobic friends tell me I can’t be a lesbian or that I’m not actually gay because I’m with a guy. You don’t think these same arguments haven’t been bouncing around in my head? But here, on Autostraddle, I have learned so much about sexuality and gender and that it’s okay to be who I am. I can call myself whatever I want. I can march beside my gay sisters in Pride and not feel like I’m “faking” it because I go home to a guy instead of a girl. I’m allowed to be different and to be accepted, which is why my life is indebted to this website. You obviously have not been active on this site longer than your vile hatred towards me, so you need to educate yourself before you decide to police how I interpet myself and how others interpret themselves. Do you not have anything better to do?

            And you know what – being in a heterosexual relationship while not being heterosexual isn’t as easy as you scoff. It’s been very difficult for me to find the balance, so thank you so very much for reducing me to shit because your experience is different than mine.

            “you don’t know anything as you’ve likely never experienced discrimination in your comfortable hetero world, ugh.” You’re discriminating me. Right there, right here, is just as ugly as any homophobic slur someone could throw at you. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

        • I’ve been reading this thread and the most hostility I’ve seen so far is from Oracle, someone who is angry as hell and came here for some reason to tell everyone why they are Bad Lesbians. It is a shame she couldn’t have come on here and expressed her point of view in a way that would have led to more productive discussion–I doubt she would have gained many agreeing to her way of thinking, but at least we could have heard each other better.

          I am probably one of the older members of this AS group. When I read about popstars yakking away about their bisexuality yet are seldom seen with a same sex partner, I think a few things–one is that while it is ok in Hollywood to say that now, it is not OK to be with same sex partners. So it is hard to know what ‘stars’ are just running their mouths and what ones are too afraid of losing their careers therefore they are sure to be seen with the opposite sex. But I can also appreciate more known people in popular media saying it because there are a lot of younger readers on this site and it might help some of them. Hey, it helped me–being on this site helped me rethink a lot of beliefs I had about bisexuals–some I didn’t realize I even had until I started reading AS articles and posts.

          Now, I may have missed this along the way, but what damage exactly does Oracle feel is being done to the Lesbian Community? Like I said, I’ve been around for while and I this is the first I’ve heard of it.

          • I guess it depends on what side of the argument you’re on. I’m pretty sure the very first response to The Oracle was, and I quote, “Ugh, go away,” which is a pretty fucking rude way to enter a discussion if you ask me. Honestly I love this site but I also feel like the P.C. police is gonna flip out on me if I don’t account for every possible gender and sexual identity when I make a post. I mean, labels are pretty fucking useful. Liking them and finding them to be a strong way to communicate and understanding that they mean very specific things to straight world and how they view the gay community doesn’t make someone a bad person. I agree that Sheryl Swoopes is not a lesbian and it was a big mistake for her to go around saying she chose to be gay. I never said she can’t feel how she feels, but she is a celebrity and she went around talking to magazines about this. She opened herself up to criticism and my opinion the second she did it, and no, I’m not judgmental for it. Ganging up on people who’s minds are not so open their brains fall out is really annoying. There is conformity and rules and labels in society. That’s just how it works, and in the battle for social and legal acceptance, it’s actually pretty important to the gay community.

          • I wasn’t referring to your comment, I smiled when I read it. Oracle was just so mad, and that’s fine but she went too far in her condescending, superior comments. I have said before I don’t like to making sure PC police don’t come down if I don’t preempt every sentence with things so no one can possible take it the wrong way–in general I like pure responses. But in her case it was continual nastiness.

            It’s obvious on this thread and on AS that this labeling and fluidity (sorry I cannot get on board with that term, it makes me laugh but then I work in a hospital so I have a very bad sense of humor) is very important to many. I am not on much of any side of this argument, in terms of ‘what makes a Lesbian’ and SS. I don’t know her. But obvs it is different for different people, different for a culture of people now than maybe 20 years ago.

            However, I hope in the spirit of the ‘you do you’ there is room for your comment “Liking them (labels) and finding them to be a strong way to communicate and understanding that they mean very specific things to straight world and how they view the gay community doesn’t make someone a bad person.”

  11. so I’m not allowed to be bisexual because I’m in a heterosexual relationship? That’s a shame. guess i will have to stuff all my feelings for other women in some dark box in a corner. oh, and don’t tell any of the women I’ve ever been with that I’m not actually bisexual. It might hurt their feelings.Especially if they are Real lesbians.

    what happened to loving a person for the person they are,not what’s between their legs?

    i do understand the importance of labels in most situations. i also understand the people who fight against labels of any kind, having had them forced on them so that society can try to make them conform. the labels are there for a reason, we just might not all like the reason(s) for them. if it makes it easier for people to accept me by putting their own labels on me, go right ahead. i love me. you can love you too, and when you do, we will too.

  12. Hi everyone! I’m so glad that everyone had so many feelings on this article and Swoopes’ story prompted so much discussion. I do have two things I’d like to add:
    1. Swoopes hasn’t called a press conference or made an announcement about this, so any criticism of her for ‘announcing she’s marrying a man’ but not also renouncing a lesbian identity may be unfounded. All the information about this story came from industry speculation and reports, not her own statements.
    2. I think her story is really interesting to think about, and can be useful in discussing the ways we think about and define identity, but I’m not super comfortable with anyone making definitive judgments about Swoopes’ identity in particular, because none of us have the information necessary to do that, or using her story to make sweeping generalizations about other groups – i.e. “I hate all the ______s who call themselves ______ but do ________ like that, they’re all disrespectful and confused.” That doesn’t seem productive to me. In terms of comment moderation, I’m going to unapprove any comments in that direction, although I think strong feelings around this are really interesting and great!

    • I hope the arguments have been settled, but that’d be a nice change to see around here. I’ve made this same argument 5 times in the past 3 months and it’s getting aggravating and hurtful.

    • Thank you for everyone’s feedback on this! As Riese posted below, this approach to comment moderation would be a change to our usual policy, and it’s good to know what you think of it. No one’s comments have been changed or deleted or kept in the queue, and after having taken into account your feedback, I don’t plan to. This thread has been one of the first and most intense instances of conflict within the reader community of queer ladies, as opposed to visitors who don’t normally read AS coming to the site to debate gay issues, so it’s a new experience for as far as moderation. It’s disappointing to me that the discussion has unfolded such that anyone feels personally victimized or dismissed, but based on your feedback I’ll leave the thread as is unless it devolves into hate speech or threats. As always, I hope you’ll let me know any thoughts you have on our policies in this regard at rachel [at] autostraddle [dot] com. I appreciate your caring enough about this article to comment on it!

  13. I wonder if this comment will even go through moderation. Anyways!

    Here lie my problems with Miz Swoopes’ statements (and please keep in mind I wish her all the best with her new relationship):

    1) We are not at the point in our culture/society where we are at the liberty to adhere to the concept of ‘choice’. Trans*folk are still being murdered. Gay men are still being brutally bashed. Lesbians are still being ‘correctively’ raped.
    If we try to adhere to the ‘I chose my fabulousity!’, then that opens us up to a can of worms: ‘You chose it–now choose back.’. The only people who truly believe that Gay is a Choice are the fundamentalists who would cure us.
    Don’t think that preferring to identify as label-less/queer/pan/omni/bi/ect/=D will help you. In the eyes of the Religious Right, we are all sexual deviants, and if they can ‘encourage’ us to ‘choose’ heterosexuality, they will.
    After all, we have our very own Bellatrix 2012 running for Prez, and you can bet that she believes that you choose gayness.

    2) We should consider that perhaps this ‘choice’ of hers is motivated by factors other then her own will. After all, we know that pro sports, especially in womens’ leagues, are generally pretty -phobic. We know her mother had ‘difficulties’ accepting her. It is entirely possible that she simply bowed to the pressure and took the road of least resistance.
    Cynical? Maybe. But ex-gay is a thing, and we’d be silly not to consider it as a possibility.

    I would MUCH rather be born this way–it means nothing can change me, and so consequently, it is the world that must change. I understand–some people can choose to ACT on their inclinations, or not to–but the underlying inspiration is there. Noone wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I think I’d like to get five fingers in a cootchiesnorcher today. And just for funsies, I’d like to be a minority and second-glass citizen!”

    In addition–I’ll bite the bullet and go on the record as agreeing with Oracle. I get it. Some people are super awesome and don’t have labels cuz they’re for cans and all of that–but that’s your you. Don’t yuck someone else’s yum. If I choose to identify as a lesbian, with the label, then that is my perogative.
    What truly gets my goat is being told that ‘everyone is sexually fluid’. And it’s the weirdest thing! The first person I heard that from wasn’t an LGBT person–it was from the straight man in a club who tried had his hand up my underwear (without so much as a by-your-leave). How -funny-!
    What gets my goat is this: For every ‘lesbian-who-sleeps-with-men’, there are ten men who firmly believe that you can convert a lesbian. I’m a feminine presenting woman, and if I had a penny for every time I heard, “Aw, well all you need is a good dicking”, from the boys who grab my ass or try to follow me into the cab or stalk me from my place of employment—well, suffice it to say, AutoStraddle wouldn’t have money issues and I’d be a major donor instead of a broke-ass college lez.
    So I guess it’s alright if people have feelings about sexual fluidity and catch shit about it and hate being marginalized because they have the proclivities for both. But I’d like to make the point that it’s just as bad from the other end of it, too, and being told to ‘Go on, git out’ is about as helpful as a kick in the cooter, and just serves to silence people.

    Wow. Many feelings.

    • Not everyone is fluid in the gender they are sexually attracted to; but everyone is different. And everyone changes over time, through challenging their own world view through discussions like this, and from meeting wonderfully interesting people.

      And words are clumsy ways of expressing feelings, behaviours, attractions.

      The behaviour of the men who sexually assaulted you is disgusting.

      The behaviour of the men who sexually assaulted you is their fault. It is not the fault of a woman who at some point has slept with a man, or who at some point in the future might – no matter how she chooses to label her own sexual identity.

      I do not read your response as implying that their behaviour is her (my imaginary woman’s) fault. I now read it as expressing your frustrations that some men are predators who try to justify their behaviours with offensive words. When I first read your response it seemed you were. I apologise for that misreading.

      • I completely agree—their behaviour was vile. I had a Hollaback moment, though. I don’t let people get away with it, and the last ‘gentleman’ who tried a stunt like that got an eyeball-full of perfume, courtesy of a mini Juicy Couture sample. (Hate the smell, but it stings like a fierceness.)

        My feeling on the matter is that yes, sexual fluidity exists–but that maybe not everyone is sexually fluid. Like red hair, I guess. I guess it just rankles when I hear “Well, everyone’s sexually fluid!”, because it reminds me of the LGBT version of the fratboy “All you need is a good dicking” or whatever. I know they’re coming from completely different intentions–one’s trying to foster openness and community, and the other is trying to be a sexually predatory prick–but it seems, sometimes, that they end up in the same middle ground.

        But that just be my feelings about ‘ALL’ statements. They’re never really accurate. I’m not by any means blaming the actions of a few grotty-ass dudes at a bar on a woman who decides to follow her heart where it may lead.
        I respect that path immensely, since I imagine it’d be very hard. My only problem is, I guess, from a PR perspective, right? Those guys are getting the message from their ‘lesbian’ porn that ALL lesbians (there’s that icky generalization again!) are sexually receptive to men. So in their creepster misogynist minds, they think that any lesbian would welcome their advances–and one of the few bits of armor that a lesbian (like myself) has in that situation is to throw my complete and utter DISattraction to them back in their faces as a sort of massive ‘f u’. But what happens if the goalpost gets switched and suddenly the term lesbian encompasses women who AREN’T adverse to sleeping with men (though admittedly probably still not THIS hypothetical creepster, cause in my mind he’s grotty and very drunk-nasty). Then there’s this grey area that I suspect you and I could manage because we’re conversant in the theories and have thought about it—but that these guys are totally incapable of understanding the nuance.

        All they see is ‘This chick says she’s a lesbian, but my brah totally banged this lesbian chick’–and then they get aggressive. I mean, I’m a femmity femme femme. So when I go to bars to dance, the boys pay attention. If I tell them I am straight-and w a boy, they back right off. If I tell them I’m straight-and w/o a boy, they pursue, but there’s a different approach.
        Now, if I tell them I’m a lesbian–taken OR not, I get friggin CHALLENGEFACE.jpg. And it’s scary. So I know a word-label is a flimsy shield, but at this point we need all the help we can get?

  14. And I’d actually like to say something else, before I completely lose my nerve:

    I try to be open minded and am naturally pretty PC and respectful cause I’m a total marshmallow and genuinely hate distressing other people/hurting feelings.

    But it is likewise pretty hurtful to see stuff like this: “In terms of comment moderation, I’m going to unapprove any comments in that direction, although I think strong feelings around this are really interesting and great!”
    I know you’re a mod, Rachel, and I totally respect/appreciate the work you do around here–but it’s incredibly distressing to see that sentence and know that it basically translates to “We totally love your feelings–now shut up about them and if possible, try not to have them.”
    In the words of the wise Whitney Mixter, sometimes, feelings are like, completely illogical. Whitney wouldn’t lie.

    And Paper0Flowers, I’ve also seen your comments around and generally think they’re pretty bang on: but in this, it seems like you took something super personal when it probably wasn’t meant to be.

    In short: I always really loved Autostraddle. It was sassy and on the point and no-holds-barred, but lately I’ve felt that if I don’t toe this sort of…invisible PC line, my opinion isn’t wanted. Which is, frankly, kind of a shitty feeling to feel, especially on a site that says it’s for all lady-loving-ladies.

    But I don’t know. Having people like Dizzy baldly state up-thread that ‘a bunch of self-identified lesbians still sleep with men’, and posters like Paper0Flowers tell another commenter to just, “Ugh, go away” when someone raises what they think to be is a valid (albiet unpopular and dissenting) opinion? Personally speaking, it makes me a little nervous to even comment. I don’t want people jumping down my throat if I say something. So, if we’re going to moderate discussions, Rachel, can we do that, too? Make sure that everyone’s opinions, even the unpopular ones like mine, are respected? Not just the cool ones?

    • hey, i just got back from being out of town about 30 minutes ago so i’m out of the loop on this — but the rule for my realm is that we don’t moderate conversations unless they include overt hate speech. to the best of my knowledge we’ve never moderated for content/pov/opinion before EVER (except on the calendar girls posts now where we say that only positive things are allowed. That hasn’t been violated though, so we haven’t actually had to do it). some comments get caught in a spam filter if they have lots of links in them, but we don’t moderate like that.

      we moderate for hate speech and threats of violence or other really grossly offensive things.

      I too have concerns about “the most politically correct option” = “the absolute truth” — there should be a way to acknowledge that we can all vehemently disagree and all still be good people and that fighting for a “right” or a “wrong” — like a thing has to be one or the other is precisely what tips us into the “well, whatever’s the most PC is right.” There sometimes is no right or wrong, and I wish things could get hashed out without anyone feeling unwelcome.

      Everyone should be allowed to BE WHO THEY ARE here and as long as there is no hate speech or condescending bullshit I do think there are often people on both sides who are good and have good points and part of wanting to be accepted for who you are and how you feel means respecting other people are and feel differently, and that’s valid, even if it means you wouldn’t be their friend or girlfriend. we’re all still a valuable amount of space in this community.

      in short — everyone’s perspective on this issue is entirely valid and entirely right for that person. if you’re queer, you’re allowed to have an opinion on these topics.

      I love you all

      • Thanks Riese–and ain’t that always the way! You go away from computer for a fifteen minute coffee break or something, and the world implodes.
        I appreciate you replying to us, though. It’s just a concern I’ve had for a while, and I was telling myself that I was just being a special snowflake and that I should put on my big girl panties and get over it.

        But it’s just an icky feeling. I love AS, and I routinely mention you guys on my radio show (legit!). But it’s gotten to the point where I feel afraid to even read the comments, never mind actually COMMENT, because I feel like I’m going to get shouted down, or worse, told to just get out, because maybe my opinion doesn’t line up with the others.
        I was always taught that a healthy debate allowed for civil disagreement, and while I know that LGBT peeps get invested in their positions (I totally do the same), it’s still a scary thought.
        And the thought of being moderated for having an unpopular opinion just made me cringe–it seemed so.. completely different from the ‘you do you’ mentality.

        Like, I respect Paper0Flowers madstyle, but can see where we’d come to disagreement. Same as I can disagree with The Oracle about stuff. I just want to feel comfortable and know that I’m not gonna get stinkeye (via the internet, no less) for having an opinion that might not be the totally PC-est or whatever.
        I hope that made sense. It’s 4am here and I think my brain is jello.

        PS: I can totally see the rationale for moderating for hate speech (obvs) and for body snark on the calendar pages. People get weird when models and photos are involved, and forget that there’s real people walking around with those faces.

        • Ava,
          I just wanted to make a quick comment: I share your unpopular opinion in this thread and I’m also a comment moderator. As Riese said we aren’t trying to shut anyone out or stop dialogue; it’s the personal attacks that we want to put a cap on.

          If anyone has concerns like this in the future you can always get in touch with Rachel or myself. She is rachel [at] autostraddle dot com and I don’t have a fancy email address but if you’re registered you can message me on here.

      • Yes thank you Brianna.

        We set out to develop a more open conversation model by doing some things very differently than other lesbian sites such as the fact that we don’t ever moderate for content/opinion or ask anyone to leave except for that man who yelled at me on the Google Instant post when I ran out of xanax.

        The first comment we ever moderated was someone telling Tila Tequila she was a whore who should get run over by a car and raped, and that was in December 2009, so that’s about 10 months of existing before we even moderated comments at all.

        We also don’t require registration and don’t prohibit anonymous commenters. We hoped this would create a space for open dialogue.

        So the fact that people feel like this:

        “But it’s gotten to the point where I feel afraid to even read the comments, never mind actually COMMENT, because I feel like I’m going to get shouted down, or worse, told to just get out, because maybe my opinion doesn’t line up with the others.”

        Is upsetting to me. I don’t want you or anyone to feel that way — I don’t want PaperoFlowers to feel aggravated and hurt and i don’t want you to feel anyone will tell you to get out b/c you have an unpopular opinion. To be honest nobody should ever tell anyone to GET OUT here, because this is sort of my house, goddammit, and I’m not kicking anyone out unless they’re being really really really offensive in a way that transcends opinion (aka hate speech).

        Now, as CEO/EIC of this website, I often have to bite my tongue when my opinion is unpopular as well.

        So I guess what I’m trying to figure out is — how can we (we = me, brianna, rachel and laneia) ensure that everyone from the people who swear by the politically correct bible to people who eschew it altogether , feel welcome or able to read comments or comment?

        All our policies are in place to encourage “no-holds-barred” conversation and even though I don’t directly participate in PC-policing, ultimately it is “autostraddle” that is blamed for the tone of the conversation. SO is there something we CAN do to ensure we remain “no-holds-barred” besides just assure you that nobody’s opinion, despite rumor, has ever been censored? If this is worth a larger discussion I’d be happy to open up an ASS thread for us to all hash it out.

        • Man, I hate running out of xanax.

          Anyway–regarding the ‘what can you do’ question. I think you should remember that you are not the problem. I am grown enough to recognize that if I go on a site that has a majority view (of those that post) and I differ, people are going to go off a bit. And I can separate that from the name of whatever site. It is the internets, for crying out loud.
          I guess what I am trying to say is that reiterating your moderating policy is enough, you can’t make everyone feel good all the time or everything ok for everybody. Nor should you–let them talk (post?) it out.

          • Even just having Riese be like “Srsly guys this is my house, only I can tell people to gtfo” makes me feel better. I mean, I didn’t know I’d cause so much trouble with my feelings and now I wanna crawl under a rock and hide for a bit.
            But like Mkr says: just keeping the moderating policy clear would work. I agree, this is the first thread where I’ve seen feelings get more then bruised. I like AS. I’m sure it’ll get fixed.
            We’ll make sure, cause if not, we won’t have all the nice things, right?

    • Ava – maybe we can talk about why my comment bothered you? I stated it b/c it was in a study I read for university, I can go through my old course guides if you want the article / book so you know I wasn’t just talking from my preconceptions or trying to be hurtful.

      As I think I said upthread it surprised me when I read it, I wasn’t expecting to come across something like that. It made me rethink the assumptions I had about who is and isn’t a lesbian. In much the same way that other stuff out there about women who say they were happily straight for most of their lives and then found themselves in love with women made me rethink my ideas of what lesbianism is or how sexuality works.

      • Hi Dizzy,
        I’d like to say first off that my upset wasn’t directed at you personally, more at the statement. I’ve read that same study, but I have a distinct and visceral reaction to it.

        I totally understand that labels are subjective–what fits for one person might not for another, and I’m not trying to say that ‘All People Must ___”. But personally speaking, as someone who identifies as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ in a pinch, it seems weird.

        To wit: if you choose to pick a label, or self-identify, then more power to you. Labelfree, Q/P/O/B/=D, whatever. I guess what confuses me is why someone who does (willingly and without coersion) choose to have sexual relationships with men pick the one label that doesn’t work? These lesbians are referring to themselves AS lesbians, so obviously, they can’t be too afraid of labels, having chosen one–but doesn’t lesbian mean someone who has an emotional/sexual/physical preference for women TO THE EXCLUSION of the male of the species?

        So I guess that’s why the statement upset me so much. It just makes me think, “Oh no–I hope the obnoxious straight boys get it into their head that you can change a lesbian’s mind”. Cause I am super tired of having guys tell me that all I need is a good dicking.
        I hope that made sense? I guess I’m just pedantic and feel that if we have labels, they might as well be accurate neccessary evils?

        • Hey Ava

          This is something of a non-response, but I wanted to get two messages to you before this thread dies off at the very least… firstly, thanks for clarifying why you were feeling that way about what I’d written. Secondly, I really appreciated your comments on this thread. I thought you were passionate and argued powerfully without resorting to personal attack or aggression. I come to AS for thoughtful debate not to preach to the choir and so I’ve enjoyed reading through your comments.

          I am not a lesbian and I stopped id’ing as a lesbian early 2011 when I found myself having attractions to men, which hadn’t happened to me before. It was a weird process, I had hated myself so much for being attracted to women, and yet I also beat myself up when I later felt attractions to guys. I felt like a traitor to my community and like I had given lesbians a bad name by being a ‘fake’ lesbian. I also felt a strong sense of loss and isolation because I was a queer woman with limited social support. It’s sad to say it but some lesbians really do view bisexuals as fake or inferior queers.

          But anyway I guess the upshot of this is, because I am a lesbian I am generally not in the business of telling someone that they are or aren’t a lesbian, except for one guy in high school who I kicked in the balls when he said ‘I’m a lesbian in a man’s body baby, why can’t I find any chicks to give me some loving’. I am not a lesbian, so how can I really understand what that means in all its complexity?? I am pretty sure that there is a clear sphere of lesbianism (exclusive same-sex attraction and behaviour), but in my experience identity categories are rarely cut and dried, there are always shades of grey…

          like I know someone who identifies as straight and she only wants to be in relationships with men, but she experiences the odd attraction to women and fantasises about being with them, maybe wants to have a threesome someday. While she exhibits some behaviours that might be called ‘bi’ I still think it’s ok for her to call herself straight, b/c she seeks out men for her romantic and sexual partners, she is perceived as straight and she perceives herself as straight. Calling her bi might be technically accurate and yet misleading.

          I guess I feel like that about lesbians too, like should a woman who spends her whole life attracted to girls and in relationships with them have to change from being a lesbian to bi just because she experiences the odd desire for a guy. Or does a woman who switches orientations (genuinely believes they are straight and then falls for a woman) have to say she is bisexual even though she is no longer attracted to men? Because these things do happen. And I find it hard to kick someone out of an identity /community they are strongly grounded in or that reflects their present self-conception just b/c they don’t meet a particular narrative of what it is to be a lesbian. I feel like the bisexual ranks would swell to bursting if we kicked out from hetero and homosexuality everyone who had feelings that were inconsistent with their identities…

          This ties in with what I was saying earlier, about bi / queer / sexually fluid women facing an extra stigma and maybe isolated from community. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone unless it was really necessary, and I say that as someone who felt it necessary to distance herself from a lesbian identity.

          I haven’t argued this properly b/c a few hours ago I found out from one of my best friends that his mum was dead, and so I’m a little shellshocked and might take a few days to return to the world of impassioned debate. I meant to write you something short just as a courtesy but this overemotional and rambling thing spilled out. I better post it now, or I’ll see reason and delete it…

          • Oh no, I just reread this and it looks AWFUL.

            Ava, I am sorry, take it with a grain of salt – basically I wanted to say I like your thoughts even if I don’t agree with them. Might be time for me to sign out of this thread, like some others have done too.

  15. I really should know better than to read comments sections on articles like this by now, because they make not want to ever visit Autostraddle again. Tout your “tolerance” and “political correctness” all you want, some lesbians make it very clearly how they really feel toward bisexual, queer, sexually fluid and pansexual women. How much we aren’t really considered members of “the community.” How often we’re considered a straight up THREAT to the community. If lesbians are going to complain about stereotypes and about not having their identity believed or affirmed (which are very valid complaints), return the same respect and dignity to others as you would wish for yourself and don’t do dispute or insult others’ identities. Some LGBTQ people are sexually fluid. Others aren’t. Ultimately, society doesn’t affirm ANY of our identities. So let’s quit with the petty infighting.

    • I agree with this. A lot of stuff that was said earlier wasn’t the P.C. police, it was people getting mad because their identities were being disrespected and stereotyped, and in one case someone’s specific relationship. Of course people are going to respond with anger and offence. To chalk it up to people demanding political correctness only shows how little some parties to the conversation are listening.

      I made some comments above and someone actually responded with ‘that’s because you’re NOT A LESBIAN’ when I hadn’t said anything about the details of my sexuality… in fact my sexuality wasn’t relevant to what I was saying at all. Why anyone here should be able to disparage my arguments by making statements about my identity – and imply my views are somehow less valid on the basis of the one they impute to me – is beyond my comprehension. Or should I be responding to people’s views with comments like ‘that’s because YOU’RE A LESBIAN’?

      You are right when you say “society doesn’t affirm ANY of our identities”. Whatever name we call ourselves and whatever narrative we use to explain who we are, at the end of the day we are still judged, called names, shunned and discriminated against. Laws that prevent same-sex couples marrying and health regulations that prevent them from accessing fertility treatments also discriminate against bi / sexually fluid / queer women too. I have seen visa laws discriminate against gay and bi / queer couples equally. We are all in this together and we will be more powerful as a movement if we can work together too.

    • Well, huh. “Some lesbians make it very clearly how they really feel toward bisexual, queer, sexually fluid and pansexual women”.
      I’d ask not to be judged on the actions of others. Some lesbians might have feelings like that. Some might not.
      Speaking personally, I try to judge people on their merits and actions and not on their labels.

      And I completely agree with you, birds, that in the current political climate, we are all of us on the same ship in a storm, and being divisive won’t get us anywhere. Bachmann won’t care how we identify, Santorum won’t either. We’ll all be screwed (and not in the fun way), so we might as well work together.

      The only caveat is this: “Some LGBTQ people are sexually fluid. Others aren’t”. It seems that often, when I mention I’m a lesbian, and a ‘gold star’ (what a fucking stupid term, I could slap IFC for making it big), people immediately assume I’m some sort of Q/P/B/?-hating bigot and closed-minded or something. I mean, it seems like lesbians-with-no-desire-to-sleep-with-men get looked down on as being radfems or second-wave or whatever, when in reality, I’m not sexually fluid, and mostly just think peener looks weird.

  16. There are times when I am genuinely thrilled to not be top of my profession, nor in the public eye in any way. Not being a basketball fan I’ll admit to not having heard of Ms Swoopes before today, and I am relatively uninformed about her previous statements to media (short of whatever a google search can provide me with now).

    I do not know what a woman can do to prevent a backlash from some very angry people out there.

    As a community we often pounce upon celebs (and commentators) who profess to not liking labels, or who don’t want to put a name to it, or who say they just love. We find this unsatisfying. We want to have celebs we can identify with.

    But if they do like or even just accept a label and they dare to pick a label that best fits their identity at the time of the statement, they better not change that identity, or their understanding of their own identity at any point.

    And I can understand why that hurts even more than if she hadn’t picked a label, especially if we have identified with that woman: how dare she change – I haven’t changed! How dare she give me someone to have an emotional link to and then take that link away. How dare she hurt me that way?

    Human sexuality is complex and wonderful. Who am I to demand that a celebrity has it all thought out, when I don’t. Miss Swoopes is a professional athlete, an activity that takes a lot of dedication and time. She is not a professional social studies/ sexuality studies/ gender etc etc etc. I am going to assume she answered questions honestly and to the best of her understanding at the time, because well why wouldn’t she?

    On a personal note (because we all like talking about ourselves) I do not know how best to label myself. Amongst company I will often accept lesbian for ease. I discuss it with my wife at times, and my lack of label-confidence understandably sometimes concerns her (an irrational fear that at some point I will want to explore other labels- I don’t want to). My wife is not gold-star but fully identifies as lesbian (bar the occasional male celebrity crush-usually very feminine looking women). I am “gold star” in that I have only had sex with my wife (or perhaps more bronze star as in college I gave 2 very ill advised and poorly executed blow jobs). I can appreciate male and female beauty, but genuinely am only sexually attracted to my wife. Which of us is more a lesbian? I say I hope to never find out my label, and hope to stay with my wife until one/both of us dies.

    I can say all these things, as no-one except my family and friends cares. I can change, evolve, learn new concepts, make a complete tit of myself, no-one cares. But if someone who bounces a ball for a living makes comments, well those comments had better be entirely thought out and correct with my ideals of social commentary…. no?

  17. I’m not a lesbian, but I actually agree with Brianna, Muffin and Ava’s assessment as well. Granted, The Oracle came off hella hostile, but I think her actions are reactionary and a product of living in a society where she feels her sexual orientation is considered invalid. Her anger is misdirected, but I get where it’s coming from.

    However, my main beef with the bi/pan/queerphobia in lesbian circles is that it’s very similar to the homophobia in straight circles- all bi/pan/queer women are judged & demonized by the actions of the few, which isn’t right or fair. It’s kind of hypocritical to expect acceptance when you do not give it out yourself.

    I also think that a lot of folks in opposite-sex relationships do not realize the privileges and benefits that come with being these unions. Opposite sex relationships are idealized and made “the norm” while all others are considered “less than the norm”. Even if one or both partners are queer, you’re still presented as a heterosexual couple and viewed as “respectable” to the real world.

    Is it one’s fault? No. Folks love who they love. But it’s kind of condescending & insensitive (IMO) to get angry about having your queerness erased or invalidated because you’re with a man. The LGBT community didn’t create this hierarchy, society did.
    And until society changes, these tensions will still remain.

    And I think while there is a place for queer folks in opposite sex relationships in the community, they go about things all wrong…Like the naive white ally in POC circles. Your intentions are good, but you still *don’t* get it.

    I’m not in a relationship with anyone now – male or female. However, should I enter a relationship with a man, I intend to remain loyal to the community by fighting for the rights of my brothers and sisters who can’t get married, or reap the same benefits as I – by standing up to homophobia and educating the importance of love…regardless of gender.

    Now personally, I don’t do labels for myself…But I realize the importance of labels & identity for others. They serve a purpose and whether one likes it or not- you can’t really change the definition of them. Would you call yourself a vegan if you’re scarfing down burgers, ham and kielbasas 3x a week? Um…hell no (and a vegan would shoot you down in heartbeat if you tried). So why would anyone call themselves a lesbian if they are dating/sleeping with men? Last I checked, lesbians do not sleep with men. You don’t have to call yourself bisexual, but you’re certainly not a lesbian.

    You may think that’s cold to say that, but I didn’t make up the definition of a “lesbian”, and don’t see the point in changing it.

    • Same idea, different label: A self-proclaimed atheist who believes in god. Say what?

      Everyone knows what “atheist” means. I want everyone to be on the same page with “lesbian,” too. When I say that I’m gay, I don’t want someone to hear that and immediately think about the girl they know that calls herself gay but has a boyfriend. Because that’s not what I mean and it leaves me having to undo that perception. And now it’s possible that that guy is going to end up getting rejected by a lesbian in the future and he’s going to be like, well my last girlfriend was gay, what’s wrong with you? That is part of my fear and my frustration.

      • Exactly. There’s ways to defy societal expectations and shatter boundaries, but changing the definition of labels is not the way to go about doing it.

        • +1 to you both. I won’t add anything because I think you’ve made it clear enough!

    • The discussion of labels could just go on forever. I really like them. I am a lesbian, it’s very simple. But your vegan example made me think of something… yesterday I told someone I was a vegetarian and mentioned that I’ll have fish sometimes and he said, “As someone who used to be an actual vegetarian, you calling yourself a vegetarian offends me.” And I was like WTF! And this guy was my boss too, so… yikes. And I explained, I’m actually a pescetarian but I don’t think most people knows what that means so it’s easier to call myself a vegetarian and my preference is just not to eat animals at all when I can help it. He then said fish are still meat and basically made me justify why I find fish acceptable and not other forms of meat. It was honestly hella awkward because I knew no matter what I said, my reasoning was not going to satisfy him and I could feel him judging me as I explained how I viewed fish and mammals differently. (It’s a good thing I didn’t tell him that if baked beans have bacon in them, I’ll still just try to eat around the bacon and still it them!)

      Labels do matter and being accurate is important. I think my boss was being a dick, honestly, but as the gay community fights for acceptance, I find accurate representation very important. And I just want to make it clear I never had a problem with Swoopes marrying a man. My problem has always been that she claimed she “chose” to be “gay.” But I’ve written several posts in this thread already. See this post for why I find the notion of gay being a “choice” to be extremely disconcerting: http://www.autostraddle.com/lesbian-wnba-player-sheryl-swoopes-is-now-engaged-to-a-man-99696/#comment-122975

  18. What irks me about this Label discussion is how so many women on this site are saying “I’m a lesbian and My issue with bi girls identifying as gay is that The religious right, straight guys [insert random extraneous group] will think that…so and so. Really? is that Really why you have problem with Bisexuals that identify as Gay ? Because of what the religious right or straight guys would think about the Lesbian community? Well guess what ? Theses groups do not give a damn about the LGBQT community anyways and neither should you care about what they think. So now What is THE REAL reason why Bisexuals who identify as Gay irk you and please do not say because this or that group would think. I wanna know what YOU think.

    • My problem with it is that identifying as something that you’re not is not only inaccurate, but thoughtless.

      It’s like a white person saying they’re black when they haven’t a drop of African blood in them. As a black woman I’d be annoyed, offended and would have felt that this white person was mocking my culture and identity as a black woman.

      • So then is a Bisexual person one that is Straight and a Lesbian or one that is neither? Like is Halle Berry white and Black or is she neither? If we want to continue with the race analogy.

        • What are you talking about, first off?

          Note that I said a person without a single drop of African blood in them. Halle Berry is half black, so that doesn’t count in your analogy.

          Also- I really wish that bi folk can have a debate without screaming biphobia at the top of their lungs every two seconds. I think I’ll be holding my breath for that one.

          • I’m following the analogy that you just picked to describe how the Bi that identity as Gay make you feel. Is Obama wrong to say that he’s Black because he’s only half-black? Like am I not a lesbian because I’m only half a lesbian? Just like I’m not straight because I’m only half straight?

          • Again- Apples and oranges. Not sure if you’re American (I am), but most blacks in the US are not “pure” African – even those of us with two so-called “black” parents can be just as mixed as Halle and President Obama (for example- Henry Louis Gates). However, we are identified as such because of our significant amounts of African ancestry and the cultural/social construct of this country.

            Even with that, it would still be inaccurate and disingenuous for person with no African ancestry what-so-ever to identify as “black”.

            Now, back to the subject of the matter- labels are meant to be cut and dry descriptors for people. A lesbian denotes a woman who only likes women and a vegan is someone who doesn’t eat animal products. If you like women AND men, you’re not a lesbian…if you still like haagen dazs on a rainy day, you’re not a vegan. And if you worship God, you’re not an Atheist.

            If you want to be any of these labels, just give up men, meat and God…simple!

          • You are either not following my train of thoughts or this discussion has taken you so far out of your comfort zone you are deliberately dancing around the issue. Either way race just like sexual orientation labels is a social construct meant to dictate the norm and abnormal behavior in society or as it relate to a particular group dynamic in order to oppress the ones who deviate for the norm This is why sexual orientation labels just like race are such a hot button issue and this is why bisexuals are often rejected because they do not fit tightly into this normal or abnormal category of the group dynamic. I’m not American but I’ve lived here since I was 14 so I have a good idea what you mean about race but if you really wanna think about it, this analogy makes sense at least to me.

          • You yourself said you’re a proud bisexual, I thought. You think bisexuals should call themselves lesbians?

            The difference in that analogy (in my opinion, Suburban Soulgirl may have different thoughts) is that Obama is always going to be viewed as a black man. He could call himself white and people would immediately think he’s wrong. Whereas the bisexual can easily be viewed as lesbian or straight at any given time — they can just claim one label or the other, or they can be in a relationship with a man or a woman. The point is, the so-called “lesbian” can turn around and then marry a guy, whereas Obama can never go from being black to white — he will always be a black man in the world. That’s why one should call themself a bisexual and the other can just simply say he’s black, even though he is mulatto (do people still use that term).

            I think we can go case example by case example, analogy by analogy and argue each one. The point is, I think, many of us lesbians don’t like non-lesbians hijacking our identity and representation. There is a specific term for lesbians and it’s “lesbian.” Someone who isn’t a lesbian should probably use another label. Just my view.

          • You’ve got it right. But yeah, no one uses mulatto anymore…It’s a sore-spot word. Most people either use either mixed, biracial or multiracial.

          • Magiclovemuffin I’m not saying Bisexuals should identity as Lesbians but is a Bisexual woman one that is gay and straight or one that is neither? that is my question. Im trying to show that the labels are a social construct just like gender.

          • i think the parallel to racism isn’t necessarily as accurate as a parellel to colorism might be.

          • Armelle, if someone is bisexual, they are neither straight nor gay because being straight is to the exclusion of same-sex attraction and being gay is to the exclusion of opposite-sex attraction. I’m not sure if that’s a strict dictionary definition, but I think that’s how everyone in the world thinks about the words. With race, it is the inclusion of the race, not to the exclusion of other races. I’m Irish, Italian and German — the inclusion of being Irish doesn’t mean I don’t have Italian genes too. I just think race and sexual orientation are too different for such an analogy. One because of the provable vs. behavioral differences, but also the exclusion vs. inclusion differences.

          • Really dude, I’m not dancing around the issue.

            My point is that although race and sexuality on a genetic level can be mutable, the labels are not. Labels they’re mean to serve as a distinctive marker between particular groups, their cultures, identities and lives and it’s insensitive to try and change the definition of one’s identity to fit your own need.

            But to answer your question- regardless of one’s behavior as a bisexual at a particular moment, if they like both genders, they are neither gay or straight.

    • Sometimes, a spade is just a spade.
      If someone I like happens to be bisexual (and it happens!), I go out of my way to affirm their identity. I’m not threatened by it–why would I be? Diff’rent strokes and all that.

      But this is what bugs me! People ask for a valid reason why I have feelings about the lesbian label and I present two from differing areas of the spectrum: Straight boys getting ChallengeAccepted.jpg face, and the Religious Right trying to ‘cure’ us.
      And then, this gets said, “So now What is THE REAL reason why Bisexuals who identify as Gay irk you and please do not say because this or that group would think. I wanna know what YOU think.”
      And it’s like, “Man, I just TOLD you.”

      So that bugs me. Because my major concern IS about what other people think.
      After all, I’m not gay bashing or sexually harassing myself.
      And I think that’s all I have to say on the matter.

  19. i feel like if a person is presently in a relationship with a man, presently wants to date men, or presently wants to have sex with men, then it doesn’t make sense for this person to identify as a “lesbian.” is that what this argument is about or am I reading it wrong?

    I feel like this debate isn’t really necessary because there are so many words for people to use, and absolutely room for everyone in the queer community and room for everybody’s desires to be respected and everyone’s testimony of their own lives/wants/feelings to be respected. And I think that’s all anyone here wants, to feel respected for who/what they are. That’s why there are so many new words these days like “queer.” Can’t we just call a spade a spade and then start working together to change the world? That would be great!!

    • I felt the reason for the debate was that there are so many words to use and everyone doesn’t agree when they should be used and some get mad when words are used in a way that is offensive to them and so people were telling each other why that is. And it opened up some lively discussion.
      It’s hard to tell with typing if you are joking about ‘call a spade a spade and work together to change the world’..or if you really meant we shouldn’t discuss this and go do something more important. Because if you aren’t joking then I am confused about why the article was posted.

      • Agreed. Not to call anyone out, but Paper0Flowers and mlepa seemed to be arguing otherwise. I don’t think they were the only ones and maybe there was a larger point they were attempting to make, but this debate turned into a clusterfuck so I’m not sure anymore. All I know is the debate is probably over. Unless someone wants to argue with me some more! I made a “gold star lesbians” group here on AS. lollll

        • Alright, I’ve tried so hard not to come back here, but I think I’ll make my final piece since I’m being called on by name.

          1) I do regret my initial post to The Oracle. I knew this whole debacle would happen, and the “go away” was more towards her hostile entrance rather than her opinion. Keynote: If you know people are going to attack you for being biphobic, it probably means you’re biphobic. My beef was with her automatic assumption that she has the right to tell other people how to identify themselves. All in all, I really do wish I could edit that beginning because it is being used against me (and justly). It’d be nice if we could implement some Edit option for our own posts on AS, but let this be a lesson for me to keep cool and respond maturely (as I think I did for my following statements).

          2) I don’t tell people I’m a lesbian, but inside, I feel like I have more in common with lesbians than with straight women, so when that word is used generally, I feel like I am included. I also refer to myself as “gay” as a catchphrase like “Omigod, I’m wearing a vest and plaid, I’m so gay” or “I only watched Relic Hunter as a kid because Tia Carrera is hot – that’s so gay”. I’m very casual with the words “lesbian” “gay” and “queer”, so I don’t understand why everyone has to put everyone else in a box because they don’t want ignorant straight men to harass them. Sorry, my experience and my individuality is not supposed to be used an example against these assholes who can’t be educated.

          3) Shit got personal because it was made personal. If someone says that bisexual women aren’t legitimate unless they’re with a woman, it attacks my own identity and it’s offensive, especially when I’m told to “get help” for how I’ve dealt with accepting my sexuality.

          • No, I’ve respected you this entire time during the discussion, so I’m happy to explain myself to you and the others who have disagreed with me without resorting to nasty tactics. Pax!

        • Sigh. Guess I’ll jump back in too, since I’ve been specifically named.

          I’m really not trying to advocate that bisexual women should call themselves lesbians, and if that’s what you got from my comments, then I didn’t make my point clearly enough. All I’ve been trying to say is that labels, while useful, are not the be-all-end-all, and sometimes people choose to use an imperfect label, or the more easily understood label, or the label most relevant for a particular period of time, over no label at all — and that’s okay.

          Like your example of vegetarian versus pescetarian — most folks wouldn’t know what you were talking about if you told them you were a pescetarian. *You’re* obviously comfortable calling yourself a vegetarian, but the “real vegetarian” believes you are misrepresenting yourself.

          What if you are a vegetarian 95% of the time, but say, eat meat when you travel? You’d still be effectively vegetarian in most circumstances — “vegetarian” would probably be the most descriptive and useful label to use in restaurants, among friends, etc. — but it still wouldn’t be 100% accurate, and some people might take issue with it. At the same time, you don’t want to tell everyone you’re omnivorous, or they’ll surely assume they can serve you up a hotdog at the barbecue when you’ve got your eyes on the veggieburgers.

          Taken that far it starts to sound a little silly as an analogy, but it’s really the same thing in the end.

          I do understand the discomfort or offense some folks feel with apparently “misused” labels, but it’s not always simple for the people using them. It’s also easy to get frustrated with some of the judgmental and sometimes discriminatory attitudes seen in some slices of the queer community for women who are not in a clearly defined place on the spectrum of gay and straight, and I think that’s why a discussion like this brings out a lot of feelings that are tied up in that.

          For what it’s worth, I dated men in the past and no longer do or intend to, and I have only ever called myself “queer.” I use “gay” sometimes if I am among straight people who don’t seem the sort to be familiar with “queer” as a positive term. I don’t use “lesbian” for myself, although I do attend “lesbian” events. “Bisexual” feels completely wrong.

          Closing out with thoughts and lovely drawings from Erika Moen:


          Can we all be friends again now?

  20. this is an awesome perspective on this issue/swoopes. this is an awesome post. you are awesome.

    i can’t read the comments because i am still scarred by the after ellen post/comments, but thank you. again, awesome.

  21. Hi Everyone,

    Jill Bennett and I are going to be discussing this topic tonight on “The Gloves Are Off”

    LIVE online TONIGHT Thurs, 8/11 at 7pm PST.


    There is a chat room for participation as well as call in via voice only or video chat.

    We’d love to engage in this discussion tonight, we’d love for those with strong opinions to call in and join us.

  22. Maybe becuase people NEEd to get off theidea that anyone is “BORN” gay or straight- we are all indoctrinated by our social and family environments, as well as our life experiences! I am a STRAIGHT man becuase thats how I was rasied and the experiences that I have had- I doubt people really know and in many AWKWARD levels of maturity, you see men and women who are confused and are trying to find out who they are – Swoops is a Woman, and her biological desire to be a mother, as well as her current EMOTIOONAL connection might explain WHy she doesn’t fit and doesn’t want to fit people’s description of her. Maybe at the time she was in a relationship with a woman, that person met her emotional and phyiscal needs-period. i find the current wave of “yay, we’re gay”, and even hetero bashing is just as silly as straight folks always bashing gay folks!

    • Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. This is where the issue/disconnect between gays and straights come in. You don’t know what you are talking about, because people accept your orientation just fine.

      When you say things like that, you completely dismiss and invalidate the horrific experiences of those of us who were sent to that horrible ex gay therapy, all the people disowned from families, kids thrown out into the streets, so on and so forth, for simply being who they were born to be. I resent straight people opiniing on this stuff, because, no matter how gay friendly you are, you do not live it, nor will you ever understand. You can’t. You’re straight.

      Do remember to listen to those who live it rather than blasting off about shit that makes absolutely no fucking sense in the world of anyone who has battled with this as I and countless others have.

      Sheryl Swoops is simply a product of religious ignorance. She’s gay, but choosing to deny that part of herself due to an overly religious family. You just wait, she’ll get caught with a woman somewhere a la Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Mark Foley, George Rekkers, Eddie Long, et al.

  23. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this write-up and the rest
    of the website is extremely good.

  24. Thus the term “sexual identity confusion”. Social pressure has much to do with this unusual obsession with sexuality. Every Ex-Homosexual is proof it is indeed a choice.

Comments are closed.