Coming Out: Les vs Fem

Which is harder? Coming out as a lesbian, or coming out as a feminist.

I’ve been thinking about coming out as a tradition, I read an article about coming out with your sexuality, how it really isn’t a necessary part of life. We will hopefully dispense with the need for a coming out moment in the future, where everyone is out and that is okay.

At the moment, I still get nervous about mentioning I have a girlfriend, depending on company. Also, just because I’m a lesbian doesn’t ipso facto make me a feminist, that is a really different aspect of my personality I would say. So the response of this girl the other day, I’d been chatting about a feminist play in London I wanted to see, and then I mentioned my girlfriend and the girl was like, oh, well that makes sense now.

Does it though? Does it really?

Coming out as a lesbian

I ticked the box on my recent job application that marked me as ‘lesbian’. And I’m sure this is going to be a very different environment from the ass slapping waitressing I’ve been doing so far. Apropos of nothing one of my workmates once said to me, have you ever had sex with a man? I think he was bored; it was in the middle of a really busy shift so it was a kind of inconvenient time to think about it. I’m still not sure why he asked me that to be honest. It was kind of like, what, do I have to come out as a genuine gold star lesbian*? Can we not just leave it alone? Do I have to answer a quiz on my sexual experience? Anyway, I’m not expecting that kind of reaction from my new workplace. Mostly the reaction is positive/intrusive I would summarise. I do sometimes still cop out, when people assume I have a boyfriend and I just can’t be bothered with their surprise plus potentially annoying comments. Most annoying comment ever, ‘what a shame, you would make such beautiful children.’ That isn’t a backhanded compliment, that is just annoying.

Coming out as a feminist

This makes me really, really nervous.  I haven’t as much practice with it as the lesbian one so I am not as comfortable with it. I’m not sure what comments to expect but from when I have tried it it seems like there is more potential for people to automatically hate me when I say feminist as opposed to lesbian. Perhaps because lesbians can be fitted into the commodification of women’s sexuality, whereas feminism is a bit of a full stop on that. Small things like putting up the Vagina Monologue poster on facebook and one guy saying, woah, I didn’t realise when I added you that I would be seeing stuff like this. Because vagina is such an awful word? This comment, smaller than other comments, upset me more than them. It felt like confirmation of my fears that this world wants women to be quiet, we are not allowed to chose the words we use to describe our own bodies even. He was saying, that word makes me uncomfortable, put it down. The whole point of the V. M is to think about your attitude towards the word and de-sensitive yourself to the idea that women’s bodies and hence their minds are these sanitised controlled places.

I remember at one event Anny Percy asked people to put up their hand if they are a feminist, and I was still so uncomfortable with the word and it’s attendant backlash that I didn’t want to. Now I would put my hand up straight away. And I’ll try and keep telling people I’m a lesbian even when it’s awkward and I can’t be bothered explaining my sex life. Maybe I’ll figure out a humorous yet pertinent answer; that’ll be the day.

*Gold Star lesbian-never had sex with a man. As heard on The L Word.

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3 thoughts on “Coming Out: Les vs Fem

  1. It’s different for me because, although I guess I could do ‘coming out’ as queer or bisexual (and I have done in the past), it’s not really so relevant at the moment because, being in a long-term straight relationship, everyone tends to assume I’m straight unless told otherwise. When it comes up, I usually make it known that I’m queer, but I appreciate that it’s not the same thing as you coming out as gay.

    Coming out as feminist, however, is something I do all the time, and yeah, sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes I just know that it’s going to be met with hostility, or (more often) bafflement and dismissal. That said, I’ve always felt like I need – and want – to do it, and I’m really glad that you’re feeling more confident about doing so yourself. It’s difficult, when you already know the kind of reaction you’re going to get. It’s disappointing that so many people fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be a feminist. It seems like many people have an experience with feminism that they don’t like, and decide that this one narrow experience must account for all feminists. Otherwise, they’re convinced that equality is achieved, almost everyone is for equality, and there’s no need to be a feminist. I’ve had so many arguments/discussions shut down that way, by people who just plead blissful ignorance and refuse to engage any more deeply.

    It makes me sad that someone felt they needed to make that comment about you posting V.M on your facebook, and I’m not surprised you found that hurtful. I always feel that if I see something I don’t like on someone else’s fb, or vice versa, there are plenty of options there such as just defriending them, or asking them about their opinions and having a discussion. Just telling someone that you’re disappointed/offended is a pretty uncool way to deal with the situation – it tells the person you’re not okay with them, with their thoughts/feelings/opinions, but without having the guts to say so. I think it’s a nasty way to go about things.

    You shouldn’t have to be ashamed or scared to admit you’re a feminist (or to admit that you’re gay). You shouldn’t have to worry about the reaction you will get. I am sad that you do, but it’s society’s failing, not your own. I hope that you will find the courage/belief in yourself to stand up and say it more often – for me, it’s important for people to hear that others around them are feminists, whether they are or not. Like you were saying about Poppy, if people are talking about these issues, some will sit up and listen. If nobody talks about it, they’ll go on without realising there’s a discussion to be had.

    • Hey Sarah! Thanks for such a reassuring comment :D. I agree the conversation needs to be had. I’ll definitely try to take your advice dealing with facebook comments in the future as well! We should do an ‘I’m a feminist’ workshop to express some of this stuff. x

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