The sapphics are asking: is the term “Gold star lesbian” problematic?

We’ve discussed before the fact that comp het—aka compulsory heterosexuality—is a huge problem for queer women. Because we live in a society that assumes straightness is the default, it can be tricky for women to realize that they’re queer until later in life, especially if they live in a communities where there isn’t a lot of visible queerness or community.

But let’s get one thing gay: if you’re a queer person who came out later in life, compulsory heterosexuality is not your fault. It’s a set of harmful ideas that remains embedded into our social fabric, and it can often be hard to see through the fog of comp het and find a way to your queer identity.

That’s why it’s not a good idea to ever shame someone or make them feel like they’re somehow not a real sapphic if they’ve dated men before. As the always-insightful creator Chrys (@theqweeragenda) recently pointed out, the term “Gold star lesbian“—referring to a lesbian who has never had sex with men—is more about luck than accomplishment.


I also don’t use the term “gold star” unironically. #foryou #lgbt #lesbiansoftiktok #viral #trending

♬ original sound – Chrys

While some sapphics wear the “gold star” badge proudly, Chrys broke down the reasons why it might not be the flex some think it is.

“I want to share my perspective,” Chrys explains, “as a lesbian who has also never been with a man.”

Chrys goes on to say that she feels “gratefulness rather than pride” about the fact that she’s never been with men. She goes on to explain that compulsory heterosexuality—while it can stand in the way of some folks’ ability to come out and accept their queerness—is never the fault of queer individuals. When Chrys was growing up, her mother was religious but still kept an open mind about queerness, while her father had a lesbian best friend. “I can’t imagine growing up in a household where it was actually dangerous to be queer,” she says. “I got the message from outside, but internally, I was never bombarded with the message that I would burn in hell for all eternity for being a lesbian from the people who I was supposed to trust most in the world.”

Sadly, that is the reality for many queer people, even today. While we’ve made enormous progress in many areas, there are plenty of places across the country where being openly gay isn’t an option without facing some kind of violence.

Chrys goes on to explain that while her circumstances ended up protecting her from comp het, she’s aware that if anything had been different, it’s possible that she could have ended up in a relationship with a man before coming to understand her queerness.

And that wouldn’t be her fault! Again, comp het goes deep. That’s why even though it’s great to be proud of your queer sexual history, it crosses a line when that history is used to shame others. That’s why some sapphics feel that “gold star lesbian” carries implicit criticism about things they had no control over when they were younger. And that doesn’t even touch on the painful fact that many queer women’s relationships with men aren’t consensual or within their control.

“I would just hope that every lesbian knows,” Chrys says, “that no woman is less for having current or previous dealings with a man, regardless of how proud you are of your own journey.”

That’s exactly right: no matter how or when you come out, the important thing is that you got there, and that in itself is something to be proud of.

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