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Why I Don't Call Myself a Lesbian

I didn’t imagine midway through 2018, the year of Trans Lesbian Jesus, our Lord and savior, we would still be arguing about and policing the sexualities of other people. I sincerely had faith that the LGBTQIA+ community could come together and make realistic and progressive strides toward acknowledging and including its most vulnerable members. I don’t want to say I was naive and idealistic, but I absolutely should have prepared myself for the resurgence of the Discourse™.

Virulent and exclusionary talking points have been around in the community for ages. With things like racism, misogyn(y/noir), transphobia, transmisogn(y/noir), and other forms of oppression alive and well it's hard to believe this is a community that stands for acceptance of any kind. I’ve witnessed, and experienced, so much lateral oppression from misguided queers for so long that I refused to identify as a part of the community. Until recently, I had never attended a formal pride celebration. It’s also why I refrain from calling myself a lesbian in most spaces, and even in my private life with the people I trust the most. Partly an intense case of Imposter Syndrome, but also partially — and equally — genuine fatigue borne from interacting and arguing with virulent cis lesbians.

All across major social media platforms, lesbian and ace discourse has risen from the ashes like the phoenix of legend. Breath searing hotter than a neutron star and an aura so powerful and unwelcoming that even gods falter. Despicably cruel people traumatizing questioning youth desperate for a community, and further marginalizing people who have searched their entire lives for a space to belong and feel safe in.

For the uninitiated and for those on the fence, the Discourse™ is, quite simply, utter exclusionary nonsense and should not have a place in any self-respecting queer person’s thoughts. Ace/aro people ARE queer, have a place in the community now and always have, and lack of sex and/or desire does not make someone less of a homosexual. Furthermore, trans women ARE women, lesbians who are attracted to/dating trans women are no less lesbians, and sexual lesbians are no more valid than asexual lesbians. These are truths that should not have to be reiterated daily, and yet no matter where I turn there’s more vitriol to wipe off my face.

For a community that “hates” having its identity policed, it is more than willing to be the queer police. Unsurprising, with the pushback of the Cis White Gayze™ and its insatiable desire to allow cops, in uniform and capacity, at Pride. As a nonbinary black trans lesbian -- at least that’s what I would call myself if I were allowed to -- I have felt completely alienated from and discarded by the community. I don’t feel welcome at Pride. How could I possibly?

Between exclusionists who think my partners, metamours, and friends are “special snowflakes” wanting a piece of that delicious oppression cake (it’s shit flavored, if you were wondering), and TERFs who want to make sure I know my place, when and where am I supposed to feel safe in this community? I don’t call myself a lesbian because I’m not allowed to. I don’t call myself a lesbian because a thousand and one people will and have attacked me. I don’t call myself a lesbian because the people who were supposed to keep me safe fed me to the wolves became the wolves.

If Pride is a celebration, then I ask what are we celebrating? If Pride month is for “our visibility” then who are “we” and why are we so unwelcome? If “love is love is love” and “coexist” are on every corner at Pride, then why do they feel like platitudes paying lip service to a broken ideal? Why is oppression running rampant in “a safe space”? Because it’s a lie. Corporations and cops roam the hallowed streets without consequence, but black queers are accosted and made to feel unwelcome.

It’s an oft-repeated adage that a system cannot be broken if it’s working as intended. The LGBTQIA+ community is a system and a weapon molded in the forge of treachery. Like everything that’s precious to vulnerable minorities, it was forcibly ripped from our hands and brandished on a flag that looms and taunts us.

We’re told to leave queer spaces for daring to attack the status quo that white supremacy has allowed to exist. Social media is alight with pictures of black queer protestors being led out of Pride by cops while white queers cheer on happily; numerous tweets and Facebook posts from black queers circulate, disavowing any desire to continue to participate in any future Pride celebrations.

TERFs dominate feminist message boards with their calls to action against a demographic with dwindling rights, while every day we hope to see the sunset without hearing about the loss of another sister. Our community is each other, the brigades of queer and trans black and non-black people of color alienated by swishing rainbows with no black stripes.

Cis white gays, and yes even some lesbians, wield their privileges like swords instead of shields and aim them inward at those of us with the least protection. Rigid stagnation and social capital have become the cornerstone of a community that was supposed to protect us. Your actual oppressors couldn’t kill you because we had your backs, and I sincerely hope you figure out which side you want to fight for.

You can kick us from the stages and ballrooms that we pioneered. You can take our language and miss the break harder than a misplaced comma. You can malign black bodies and the future we all fought and died for. You can #DropTheT from your Rainbow Capitalism endorsed #LGB posts all you want, because we’ll still be here surviving without you. We were before, we are now, and we absolutely will continue to be.


Tora Brumalis

Tora is a self-proclaimed eldritch gender terrorist committed to challenging normative viewpoints and outdated paradigms in all ways of life. Her work centers on the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and mental health - - focusing on black neuroqueerness; she brings an unapologetically black and trans outlook to every party, and seeks a way back to the void that spawned her in her downtime.