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Sunday, December 06, 2009

No, she's not gay



The Rev'd Canon Mary Glasspool is not 'gay'.

Neither is Martina Navratilova.

Or, Ellen Degeneres.

Or, Meridith Baxter Birney.

Or, Chaz (formerly Chastity) Bono. She's a transgender man who is in a relationship with a woman, but that's another story and another challenge for another day.

For that matter, neither am I.

All the other women listed above are lesbians.

Lesbian women.

Not 'gay'.

Men who love other men are 'gay'. Not lesbians.

Women who love other women are 'lesbians'. Not 'gay'.

So, let's get this 'straight', as it were. The Rev'd Cn. Mary Glasspool is not the 'second gay person to be elected to the office of bishop'.

She's the first lesbian woman to be elected to the office of bishop.

Got it?

I know. Sounds tedious, right? Not to me. Sound absolutely right.

Indeed, those words sound right to most feminists - especially those who also happen to be lesbian.

I know. It's tedious to go through every letter of "The LGBT Alphabet of Community" - even for LGBT people, but every single one of those letters stands for a different and distinct way of being who we are.

Each and every single one of those letters also stands, symbolically, for the fact that, as LGBT people, we are not a monolithic community. We stand together against the oppression we experience, but like members of the Black / African American / Afro-American / People of Color / Afro-Caribbean / Afro-Asian / Afro-Hispanic / Afro-First Peoples Community, we are different in our views of the world, our politics, our religion, our spirituality, and how we understand who we are and how we relate to each other and the world.

And yes, LGBT people, like all other 'target groups' are different in how we understand human sexuality in general and our sexuality in particular.

You know. Just like White, so-called 'straight', people.

I will skip an elucidation on that point and proceed to a lesson in what I like to call "Anti-Oppression 101." Open your books and turn with me to Chapter I: Sexism.

Let's go back, let's go way on way back when, to the Garden. Eden, that is. There we will discover what I like to call the Original Sin of Sexism.

You're going to have to go Beyond the Apple to find it. Everything up until then was pretty cool. Yes, I know. Eve gets the rap for taking the first bite.

I like to think of her as being the first one to have the gonads to take the risk of intellectual curiosity.

The writers of that mythological story which has become our sacred text report, at the end of Chapter 3, that the first thing Adam did, after God issued the guilty verdict and sentenced them for their "crime," was to give a name to his partner, the woman that God had "given" him from the bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.

"The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living."

And, men have been naming identity and reality for women ever since.

It ought not be a surprise to many, then, that the first thing women did, in the early 70s, was to take back the right to name their own identity.

Some of us insisted that we were no longer "Mrs." or "Miss." We would not be defined by our marital status, or lack thereof, as if that were the sum and substance of our identity.

"Ms" was the title of choice for feminist women.

Some of us insisted on keeping our own last name in marriage. Others hyphenated our names with our husband's name. Still others (like moi), who were not (or no longer) 'married', declined to be identified by their father or their husband's identity and took new surnames from their family tree.

No surprise, then, that lesbian women, who were also just finding our voices, declined to be identified as 'gay'. Rather, we took our identity from two sources:

(1) Lesbia, the literary pseudonym of the lover of Gaius Valerius Catullus, the ancient Roman poet, who lived 82-52 BCE.

(2) The famous circle of young girl lovers on Lesbos Island, who included the poet (not poetess, please) Sappho.

Truth be told, the name was not only an attempt to name our own identity, it was also a clear way to separate ourselves from the word 'gay'. It was a way to articulate that being a woman who loves other women comes with a different cost to women than the cost of being a man who loves other men.

Not only did we experience the on-going prejudice and oppression of being a woman in a society dominated by the social paradigm of patriarchy, we were also targets of bigotry - sometimes lewd - for being lesbian.

In those days, rape was widely considered as sure a cure for "lesbianism" as getting pregnant was considered a cure for menstrual cramps. Either way, you got the short end of the cruel stick of misogyny - whether you wanted it or not.

More than any of that, however, naming our own identity was important for lesbians because it defined how we understood our sexuality as being different from men.

Indeed, it represented, for many of us, the reason we were lesbians - beyond biological, and sociological and psychological explanations for this "aberration" in human sexuality.

For us, it wasn't so much about the sex as it was about relationships. About something that happens for us - in our hearts and souls and minds, as well as our bodies - in the company of women.

There is an old joke about lesbians:

Q: What do lesbians do on their second date?
A: Hire a U-Haul.

Get it? Well, the joke is a laugh about the essential, relational quality of being a lesbian, but it is also a joke at the soft-underbelly of that: co-dependency.

You'll find a fuller discussion of that in later chapters of the Anti-Oppression 101 educational texts. It's under "Internalized Oppression: Coping Mechanism."

However, many lesbian women had problems with the word 'gay' - which pointed to another different dynamic between being lesbian and being gay.

If you were 'gay' you were considered a feminized man - someone who was light, happy and carefree or bright and showy. Indeed, the term was used, well into the early 1920s - usually about children, music, poetry, a summer's day, or women - without any connotation to one's sexual orientation.

If men who loved other men were happy to take on a name, an identity, that made fun of being more childlike or feminine or frivolous and non-essential, why on earth would women who loved women call themselves something that trivialized one of the many ways - one of the myriad of expressions - of being a woman?

However, there were - and continue to be - problems for some women (and men) with the word 'lesbian'. Some are uncomfortable with anything that separates us from - or seems as if we don't stand together in solidarity against - the oppressive forces of bigotry and prejudice.

For others, however, the word 'lesbian' - with its association to the Isle of Lesbos, that island in the Aegean Sea which was inhabited by young women lovers.

Too blatant. Too sexual. Too 'in your face', as it were.

I remember marching in the Chase-Brexton Clinic (an AIDS Clinic) contingent of the Baltimore Gay Pride parade in the early 80's. As anyone who has ever marched in any parade can tell you, there are moments when the parade has to catch up with itself. Various groups marching in the parade have to march in place, or sometimes, come to a standstill for up to 10 - 15 minutes or so.

At one of those points, my colleague, Sally Daniels, an old cheerleader, decided to lead us in a cheer. Mind you, this was back in the day before we added the 'B' to our alphabet soup of identity. The "T" was still more than a decade or two from coming into its own.

"Give me an 'l'," she shouted, and the crowd, not sure of where she was going with this, nevertheless enthusiastically roared back, "L!!!"

"Give me an 'e'," she shouted again. Hmmm, not 'i', not going for 'Liberty'? Okay, "E!!!"

"Give me an 's'," Sally's voice croaked. She was clearly many years out of high school practice but had lost none of her enthusiasm. You could see the unmistakable "Uh-oh" of recognition on some of the faces in the crowd.

By the time she got to 'b', the roar had substantially dwindled. "Oh. My. God. She's going to have us say THAT word."

Sally was completely undaunted. "Whadday got?" she ended, as some of us, delighted by what she was doing, shouted even louder to compensate for the crowd: "LESBIAN!!"

And, with that, she executed a perfect jumping-jack which rolled into a handstand which ended with a cartwheel flourish.

Clearly, it was a new day in the socio-political landscape of Baltimore. More importantly, a new day of empowerment had dawned in the hearts and minds of many lesbian women, gay men and our straight allies.

So, you will excuse me if I seem a little tedious about this. There's been too much baptismal water over the font for me not to get a little touchy about the subject.

Despite what you may have read or might have been told, Mary Glasspool is not the 'second gay priest' to be elected to the episcopacy.

Mary Glasspool is the first lesbian woman who is a priest - the first woman to be able to be open and honest about who and how she loves - to be elected to the episcopacy.

I, for one, will not allow that distinction to be taken from her or diminished and morphed into an identity that is clearly male.

Not that there's anything wrong with being 'gay'. It's just not who she is - or I am. Some women, some of them lesbian women, will disagree with me on this.

And, you know what? I delight in that. We all need to be able to name and claim our own identity. I don't want to be denied that opportunity. Why would I deny it to others?

If you have any doubt that sexism lingers in both blatant and subtle ways, ask yourself this: Why is it that the first woman to be elected to the office of the episcopacy was elected, not to the office of bishop diocesan, but bishop suffragan?

Probably for the same reason that the first lesbian woman to be elected to the office of the episcopacy was elected, not to the office of bishop diocesan, but bishop suffragan.

And, the same reason that Bonnie Perry lost in Minneapolis. And, Tracy Lind lost in Chicago.

Fighting against two forms of oppression is daunting. Always has been. Always will. Just ask any woman of color. Or, one who is a woman of color who is a lesbian.

Never mind. We can do it. Si se pueda! Somebody's gotta make the first move - have the first crack at the stained glass ceiling. Mary did that with grace and intelligence and an undeniable rock-solid, deep sense of her relationship with God.

Yes, yes, yes. And now, the tedium and controversy of the consent process will begin. I predict that Mary will get those consents, the homophobic rantings and warnings of the Archbishop of Canterbury notwithstanding, because everyone who sees her and knows her is convinced of her vocation.

Which is as it should be. She was elected from a slate of absolutely stellar candidates. Any one of them could have been elected and would have done a fine job - including my buddy John Kirkley, an amazing gay man and brother of my heart who is also one of the stellar priests in the church.

The Holy Spirit has spoken in the people of the Diocese of The City of Angels. Jesus warns us, in Matthew 12:31-32, that the only unforgivable sin is one against the Holy Spirit - "either in this age or the age to come."

Say it with me, children, "Mary Glasspool is the first lesbian woman in The Episcopal Church and the World Wide Anglican Communion to be elected to the office of the Episcopacy."

She's not the second gay priest to be elected to the episcopacy.

She's the first lesbian woman to be bishop.

Give me an 'L'!

UPDATE: It's Monday morning. I'm fresh from a good night's sleep, prayer, exercise and a nice hot shower. I've been thinking about some of the comments left here. I guess I'm more "old school" than I care to admit. Sigh!

38 comments:

Gretchen said...

You said the "L" word. Yay!

Bob Rea said...

UM, Lesbia was not a pseudonym for Catullus. She was the woman he loved and who betrayed him. She was unfaithful to say the least. To say the most, she was THE scandalous aristocrat of her generation. And very very very heterosexual to boot, tho she may have strayed from that on occasion. Just not sure. Stick with Lesbos.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

@ Bob: Well, 'unfaithful'? And, 'heterosexual'? Depends on whether or not you're reading history or herstory.

Martha said...

There's nobody that can tell it like you, my wonderful lesbian sister. You go!

Lisa Fox said...

Preach it, sistuh!

Joie said...

Actually, thanks for the tedium. It's was enlightening. I have female friends who refer to themselves as "gay." They are younger. Do you see differences in using the term along generational lines?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

What I see, Joie, is a generation of young women who don't know our herstory. If they knew it, they wouldn't be quite so cavalier with their language.

While at GC, I got heartsick at the number of young women and men who didn't know what EWC was - or, NOW. They had no idea about UBE or any of the other justice organizations. What was really sad is that they seemed to have no interest in learning.

I'm so afraid that all the hard fought ground we've gained is going to be lost to apathy and ignorance.

Joie said...

I can tell you now that I was/am shocked at the number of women my age in seminary and the last 4 years since who didn't/don't think it matters for women to get behind each other and work to support each other in elections and ministry in general. Seeing +KJS and these elections, I don't think we are actually going to take a step back back....at least, I hope not.

I was fortunate to have some great mentors in their 60s who remembered what it meant to be ordained when they were ordained and they passed that passion on to me.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

That's exactly what I mean, Joie. That's part of why I write. I have no choice. Someone's got to keep reminding us of our herstory. It's too dangerous a world out there.

Paul (A.) said...

Well, Sister Elizabeth, Gaius Valerius claimed that she was unfaithful, and assuming that she was who nearly everyone thinks she was, that's fairly well documented. Even if not, there is always Mentula.

But that's not particularly relevant. What is clear, however, is that he used the name in honor of the home of the greatest Greek lyric poet. So (1) is derivative of (2). Bob's right.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

My point, boys, is that the story of Lesbia is "documented" from a male point of view about women.

She was very much her own person - like the women of Lesbia.

You and Bob can believe whatever you like and distance yourself from her. Not me. Not too many other feminists. We know what "they" said about Mary Magdalene, too.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen, sweet Sister!

JCF said...

Not that there's anything wrong with being 'gay'. It's just not who she is - or I am. Some women, some of them lesbian women, will disagree with me on this.

...which is why I would like to hear from Bishop-Elect Glasspool herself on the issue of her identity.

What I see, Joie, is a generation of young women who don't know our herstory. If they knew it, they wouldn't be quite so cavalier with their language.

I think this is rather presumptuous, Elizabeth. You shouldn't judge a woman (of any age) as "cavalier", ipso facto, just because she calls herself "gay." (I can imagine her reply: "That's Bad-Ass Gay CowGrrl to you!" ;-p)

[Me? I stick w/ "Queer": it's so much easier going w/ the catch-all, than to have a conversation descend into a dissertation-length monologue re my (complicated!) identity! :-D]

IT said...

actually, a lot of lesbians don't mind the term "gay". I don't. Ellen DeGeneres doesn't either.

IT's not that we aren't feminists and we don't recognize the conflicts with the gay identity (and the misogyny of some gay men). It's not that we deny being lesbian. but it's also about reclaiming that word for all of us.

I think of it as somewhat generational; I'm a bit younger than you. Of course, since turnabout is fairplay, younger GLBT people use the name "queer", which I don't like at ALL.

But whether you call her a gay woman, or a lesbian, makes no difference to me, personally.

When I came out to my family, I didn't say "I'm a lesbian", like Ellen, I said "I'm gay".

Feminism has undergone the same kind of shifts, very much so, leading to conflicts between generations and half-generatiions in how they do the battle.

But I think it unfair to assume that younger women don't know the background or the history. They simply have to continue fighting the battle on their terms, not on the terms of the battles in the past, because the battles have changed. NOt that they weren't important, but it has changed.

it's margaret said...

Finally! I have noted here in Richmond that all the fine lesbians I know are calling themselves gay.... and it upset me. I thought maybe it was just because I had gone from the left coast to the right coast.... I will now send them to this post, and we can start that conversation again!

Blessings Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - I've heard Mary describe herself as both gay and lesbian. The thing of it is that, like me, she finds labels generally distasteful and often hurtful.

JCF and IT - Okay, I get the generational thing. I don't like it, but I get it. I can't help but think that if you had experienced even some of what some of us have experienced, you'd understand better. But, of course, you couldn't have experienced it. We made it better. Ironic, that. Which is why it feels cavalier.

Which is why I'd rather "queer" than "gay". Women may call themselves 'gay' and men may call themselves 'queer'' but no man is going to call himself 'lesbian'. Hmmm . . . . Does that tell you a little something about where I'm coming from?

Caminante said...

"I can tell you now that I was/am shocked at the number of women my age in seminary and the last 4 years since who didn't/don't think it matters for women to get behind each other"

That was clear even back in 1998 when we went back to General for some anniversary something and realised how disinterested or simply uneducated the women seminarians were about what led up to their being there.

Anonymous said...

Yawn....

Caminante said...

"I think it unfair to assume that younger women don't know the background or the history."

In my previous remark I did not say that it was also women my age (at the time in their 40s) who did not know the history which I took to be not growing up in TEC and going through the changes that incorporated women into the priesthood (i.e., during the 1970s).

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Elizabeth, kind of reminds you of when we went from "Negro" to "black," to "African-American" doesn't it?

One of my former pathology secretaries was mad for decades about that. She HATED "African-American." She'd go on about "My people are from Boone County Missouri. We were some of the first freed slaves in the county. THIS is my heritage. Africa? That's too far back for me! And I only begrudgingly like 'black'. I'm NOT black. I'm brown. I'm a nice shade of brown. 'Negro' had dignity. It changed undignified "nigger" to something dignified. What the hell is wrong with these people?"

I used to just grin and reply, "You preach it, sister!" LOL

Thom said...

Thanks for this post, Elizabeth! We can always depend on you for combining wit, passion, and excellent research to get us to think. In the end, people ought to be able to choose how they want to identify and be identified by others.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, Anonymous, how I long for the day when the election of a woman or an LGBT person will NOT be news. Anything other than a straight, white male.

Yawn, indeed!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure it's fair to claim sexism is the reason that Bonnie Perry and Tracy Lind weren't elected. I don't know what was in the people's hearts during those selections, but while I agree with the rest of your article, when I read that statement, you lost me. Sexism and Racism are very much alive in our society for sure. But, I'm wary of claiming sexism or racism unless there are hard facts to support it.

David |Dah • veed| said...

It may not be the actual history, but for many of us "gay" is just a way for getting away from the word homosexual (and that ugly way homophobes pronounce it). Whether men or women, if our natural orientation is sexual attraction to members of our same gender, we are homosexual. A bit clinical for everyday use, so we have substituted gay. That, I believe is why so many of us of the next generation after you Madre, are comfortable with it, whether men or women. I know for my part it is not to negate or forget the sacrifices that you have made and the heritage that you have passed to us.

So, many of us will be comfortable that if she receives the required consents, that TEC will have two gay bishops; one a man, and the newest, a woman.

****
Kirk, do not tell your friend that negro in Spanish means black. And that even though we Latinos know that technically we are shades of brown, we refer to our skin color as black. We say that we get blacker in the summer sun. A common affectionate nickname for one of us who is quite dark is el Negrito/ la Negrita.

IT said...

Oh I see versions of this discussion all the time. The older women academics who couldn't get positions in the same places as their husbands due to nepotism rules. Or who were not allowed to file their dissertations until the men in th e lab finished. And the really, blatant sexism that set their careers so far back.

Then my generation, where the sexism is still there, but more subtle. And finally we come to realize that the reason we are paid less and given more scut work is, simply, that we are women.

And the young women, who don't believe that sex has anything to do with why they are moving slowly, or why they have so few senior women to emulate. They have to learn all over again that it's not done, yet.

Yes, it's the nature of the process. Each generation fights the battle for the privilege of moving the barricade a little further, where the next generation will fight the next battle. And the younger women don't look back. And the history is lost, for a time, until they realize they are still fighting the same battles.

Suzer said...

Since I've just turned 40, I'm not sure I can still be called one of the "younger generation." With all due respect, like IT, I do fear some of your assumptions are unfair.

I am technically part of the Generation X crowd, and though I can't speak for all, many of us are sick to death of identity politics and labels at all. I certainly understand the struggle to claim that identity, and what it took to get there. However, reliance on a certain term to describe certain people and who they are attracted to (for instance) is often used so divisively that I prefer to simply be called a "human being." Or perhaps "child of God." I spent too many years in college and after trying to live up to the expectations of feminists who claimed I wasn't "feminist enough" if I didn't agree with each and every one of their beliefs. In many circles, feminists are as fundamentlist as those who prefer to jail LGBTQ people. Some in the past have taken offense if I use GLBT - not putting the L first, or don't use the Q, and it seriously gets tiresome trying to keep up with who I'm pissing off when. Thus, many of us have given up holding fast to labels and I guess that rankles some who worked to create those boxes in the first place.

A few years ago, I heard arguments regarding women in the military and whether they should be called "sir" or "ma'am." Some women preferred to be called sir, as they didn't want the perception of their authority to be any different from their male counterparts. Frankly, I thought that was kind of cool. It challenged people to think in a new way about respect and authority and difference and sameness. I try not to get caught up in whether that was the proper feminist way of thinking or not.

I've referred to myself as gay as an all-encompassing term for homosexual. More often, I refer to myself as a lesbian. I have no problem using either term, but seriously prefer just to be a person who tries to follow Jesus and do the right thing the best I can.

Muthah+ said...

I call myself gay when I am in solidarity with my gay men friends. I call myself Lesbian when I need to define myself as a woman. But mainly I am an Epsicopalian.

+John Walker preached in Southern Maryland one time and a rather self-important white woman came busting out of Church and said to him at the door, "Why don't you preach to your own people." +John said, "Are you an Episcopalian?" She said, "Of course, I am!" +John said, "I was, then."

When there are those who would call me "cockroach" still in the church, I doubt if it matters the whether they know I am lesbian or gay or queer.

But Mary is the frist lesbian bishop--not the second gay bishop! Brava!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay - so I seem to have hit a nerve, which usually tells me I'm on to something.

I'm absolutely unequivocally opposed to labeling anyone. It's silly and, ultimately, destructive.

I'm a "lesbian" because I happen to love another woman - a hell of a woman I might add - and have paid a very high price for that.

Some of you haven't. Some of you have. Those of you who have understand from whence I come.

So, if I'm going to have to have to wear a label, then I'm going to use it - especially when one of us over comes a barrier such as the one Mary Glasspool has been called to do for the rest of us.

My only point is this: If labels there must be, then let us not morph her into "the second gay bishop; rather, let us rejoice to claim Mary Glasspool as the first woman who is a priest and a lesbian, who is able to be open and honest about who she loves, to be elected to the office of the episcopacy.

Amen?

IT said...

Agreed!

Erika Baker said...

Can I be contrary again, please?
I agree about the "first lesbian bishop" rather than the second gay one.

But I use the word gay to describe myself with pride.
I acknowledge the history and the importance of the word lesbian.
But in the world I live now, gay men are being hated more than lesbian women, for the same "crime" of loving someone of the same sex.

Gay men are the targets of more hate crime. In Africa, it's gay men who are persecuted more. The terrible law in Uganda is aimed largely at gay men.

And so, yes, to declare my solidarity with gay men all over the world, I happily call myself gay.
Like me, they love someone of the same sex. They're like me, I'm like them.

If Kennedy was a Berliner, I'm gay. And proud of it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

As I said, Erika, you have the right to call yourself absolutely anything you want. In my heart, however, I will claim you as my sister.

JCF said...

Elizabeth, you can "strike a nerve" because you've introduced an interesting topic (about which many have an opinion).

Or you can strike a nerve by doing something which some find painful (like being talked down to---when so many have experienced that TOO MUCH in their lives already).

Or both. ;-/

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, which is it, JCF? For you?

Paul Garrett said...

Thanks Elizabeth. I was feeling so down looking at all the headlines about Mary and the restricting of their description to her being gay as if that is the sum ant total of the qualities and gifts and humanity she brings to the world and to her ministry. As significant as our sexual identity may be it is but one part (and as we mature a decreasingly significant part) of our totality. But then again, fighting for rights and perceptual change is not a fight we can surrender simply because we’ve matured and filled out. Certainly we know the power of words and that words DO matter thank you for reminding us of that.
I’m so grateful that Mary had the courage to step out and so grateful that the people of the Diocese of LA had the courage and wisdom to follow the Sophia, the Holy Spirit into a new chapter and can at last give scope to the full talents and gifts that Mary holds and offers.

JCF said...

Oh, both.

The evolution of language, particularly as it relates to group identity is definitely interesting (particularly as it relates to historically oppressed groups).

That said,

JCF and IT - Okay, I get the generational thing. I don't like it, but I get it. I can't help but think that if you had experienced even some of what some of us have experienced, you'd understand better. But, of course, you couldn't have experienced it. We made it better. Ironic, that. Which is why it feels cavalier.

Wow, that's a LOT of assumptions! (That seem to total "You have less . . . Truth to tell, than I do.")

IT and were both born in the same general area. And we're pretty close to the same age. We're both hyper-educated (We've struck up a pretty good friendship online, though we've never met in person).

Other than that, though, we've got vast, VAST differences between us. Differences I feel you just compressed us into a single, dismissable SYMBOL.

You've got your experiences, Elizabeth, and I have mine. While I'm totally uninterested in a competition of "Who's Suffered More", I can tell you of an experience this exchange reminded me of:

"If only you knew! If only you knew what we knew! If only you had experienced what I've experienced! Then you would shed your silly, naive ideas, and believe as we do!"

The man speaking to me, in a public lecture hall (c. 1982), is Dr. Edward Teller: "Father of the Hydrogen Bomb" (I hope he rests in peace, though it's not what he deserves. But do any of us?)

He's telling me off, for supporting a Nuclear Freeze (I'm sure you remember that), instead of his favored "Overwhelming Superiority/Nuclear First-Strike" policies.

I don't doubt that you can find people, even here, who would say Teller was correct---but that's not really my point.

I believe that the "If only you knew what we knew/experienced what we experienced" method-of-argumentation (does it have a fancy Latin name? ;-)) does little but KILL genuine dialogue.

Since I'm going assume that genuine dialogue is what you're looking for on your blog, Elizabeth, I'd consider carefully when you whip out the coup de grace of "I'm __[something]__ that you're not." You may be wrong or you may be right. Either way, though, it can turn a blog into a lonely monologue. JMO.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF: I wrote - "if you had experienced even some of what some of us have experienced, you'd understand better. But, of course, you couldn't have experienced it. We made it better. Ironic, that. Which is why it feels cavalier."

I do beleive, in all fairness, that I debunked my own argumet right after I made it.

I dont' think you're being fair, JCF. Then again, "Of course I could be wrong."

Margaret Hagen said...

Back in the early 1970's in New York City, an organization was formed to provide a place to socialize for older women who wanted an alternative to the women's bar scene but were not comfortable with the more overtly political organizations like Lesbian Feminist Liberation. The group was called Gay Women's Alternative. I recall a meeting once where Barbara Gittings spoke; in her talk she said something about calling ourselves lesbians instead of gay women. Half the audience erupted in anger; they thought of themselves as gay women, not lesbians, and did not appreciate some out-of-town activist telling them they had to change. Language is a wonderful thing and evolves at its own pace. For me, lesbian sounds fine, lesbian woman doesn't, and queer sounds, of all things, too academic. Go figure.

Paul Powers said...

I thought of this post this morning when I read newspaper headlines and TV news broadcasts talking about the election yesterday of Annise Parker as Houston's "first openly gay mayor." I understand your preference for the term "lesbian," but in this particular case, is there really a better choice of words than "gay"?

"First openly lesbian" is correct, but it doesn't convey the fact that she is the first openly GLBT person of either sex to be elected.

"First openly homosexual" sounds too clinical (at least to my ears).

The problem with "First openly queer" is that this seems to be one of those terms that may be acceptable if used by a member of the "club," but offensive if used by someone who isn't.

"First openly GLBT (or LGBT)" requires more column inches/air time to explain what it means.

"First openly non-straight/non-heterosexual" defines someone by something s/he is not.

Of course, in an ideal world, the election of a gay or lesbian mayor would be no more newsworthy than the election of a left-handed one, but until we achieve that Utopia, "gay" might be the term of choice (unless there's another one I haven't thought of).