Break The Binary

Can ‘lesbian’ be a gender?

As a sexuality, the label “lesbian” is widely understood and accepted. Broadly, it means women who are exclusively attracted to other women, though the term is also used by some trans masculine and nonbinary folks. But “lesbian” has another, lesser-known use as a gender category — a use that gays are hotly debating.

The discourse began with a post from a user on X named Jade (@onlyseedaisies). “Tried to explain lesbian as a gender to one of my trans friends and he was literally just like ‘no,’” she wrote. “I disagree w/ him btw. Lesbian is my gender and I love u if it’s your gender too.”

Jade’s post went viral, inspiring comments from both sides of the debate. 

Lesbian as a gender stems from the idea that lesbians don’t perform gender in the same way as women, nor do they perform it like men. In a patriarchal society, lesbains are separated from the definition of womanhood — so instead, some lesbians see it as not only their sexuality, but their gender. It’s simply another gender existing outside of the man/woman binary.

“This is a common analysis of lesbians and the way we exist within society. Lesbians do not perform gender the way most women do and as a result often do not feel connected to womanhood as it exists but feel connected to lesbianism,” one user explained. “The concept of lesbian as a gender is also how you’ll see butches who use he/him pronouns.”

“To anyone who doesn’t know the rich scholarly history of lesbian as a gender identity due to the inherent separation from what society deems the role of womanhood, please pick up a book,” wrote another commenter. “This isn’t a Twitter identity, this is a historical view of what it means to be a lesbian.”

“I’m a lesbian, and that IS my gender,” shared another. “A lack of attraction to men pretty much means that my role in society and the niches I play into (aka gender) are forever f*cked up. I don’t see myself as fully A Woman because of that.”

Some folks raised the counter-argument that because lesbianism is a sexuality, it can’t also be a gender. But there’s no reason a term like lesbian can’t be both — and just because you haven’t heard the term used as a gender before doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

In short, gender is infinite, complex, and nuanced. Though not all lesbians identify with the label as a gender identity, many do — and there’s no harm in it. So why not leave lesbians to lesbian business?

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