Lesbian Stereotypes

As I said a few weeks ago, I will be doing a series addressing stereotypes for LGBTQ+ people—talking about people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, as well as people who are intersex and asexual. I look forward to continuing through this series.

As the “l” (for “lesbian) is the first word in the LGBTQ acronym (or LGBTQIA), I think that it would be good for me to start this post (and LGBT Pride Month) by talking about what it means to be lesbian and stereotypes associated with friends, fellow writers, celebrities and others who are lesbian.

A lesbian is a woman who is only sexually attracted to other women. If a woman is attracted to men and to women, she is bisexual, not lesbian.

Now that we’ve defined what it means to be lesbian, we can start to understand what sort of stereotypes are associated with being lesbian. Well, in addition to the general stereotypes that are associated with people with same-sex attraction and relationships (link to previous post), here are some additional stereotypes often associated specifically with lesbians:

  1. Lesbians hate men. No, lesbians do not necessarily hate men. They’re just not sexually attracted to men. And just because one is not sexually attracted to someone else doesn’t mean that they hate the person.
  2. Lesbians have just never found the “right man.” In terms of finding a man for marriage, this is true—lesbians haven’t found the right man. The caveat I would add, however, is that since lesbians are attracted to other women and not to men, people who are lesbian will never find the “right man”; however, maybe people who identify as lesbian will be able to find the “right woman” (if they haven’t already found her).
  3. Lesbians aren’t feminine. There is this idea that lesbians like sports, are butches (which would basically be women dressed in a more masculine way), and like other things that men do. While there are some lesbians who are into those sorts of things, doing a Google search for “lesbians” will help you discover that there are also many lesbians into feminine things too, and that does not make “feminine” lesbians any less valid or lesbian than anyone who is a “masculine” lesbian.
  4. In a household with two lesbian parents, one person has to be the “dad.” Please, let’s not apply heterosexual standards to a homosexual relationship. A mom is a female parent, so both parents in a household led by two lesbians are both moms. If a lesbian couple decides that one of them should take more of the dad-like roles while the other one should take more of the mom-like roles, that’s the couple’s decision. However, once again, we should not force heterosexual ideas onto a homosexual relationship of any kind.
  5. Lesbians like all women. No. Just as heterosexual people have standards and aren’t attracted to everyone of the opposite sex, lesbians have standards and aren’t attracted to everyone of the same sex.

These, of course, are just a few of the harmful stereotypes associated with lesbians. If anyone feels that there were other lesbian stereotypes I neglected to mention, or if anyone wants to expand upon the lesbian stereotypes I discussed in this post, feel free to talk about that in the comments section below!

This is the main Lesbian Pride Flag I see, though I do see other flags labeled as “Lesbian Pride Flags.”

The Ableism of Western Masculinity

When I, and others, read definitions of what it means to be “masculine” in the western world, we get words like: active, aggressive, ambitious, analytical, assertive, athletic, authoritative, blunt, certain, competitive, decisive, dominant, forceful, independent, individualistic, physical, protective, self-reliant, self-sufficient, strong and tough.

Some of these meanings of masculinity are perfectly okay—being active, ambitious, analytical and certain, for example, can be positive traits in many circumstances.

Other traits are, in my humble opinion, traits that contribute to gender inequality and so many sexual assaults against mostly women—being aggressive, authoritative, dominant, and forceful come to mind. The topic of how some ideas of western masculinity contribute to gender inequality and sexual violence may very well be the subject for a future post, but I won’t cover this in my current one.

And then there are other “masculine” traits such as: active, athletic, independent, physical, self-reliant, self-sufficient, strong, and tough. These traits are ableist, or discriminating in favor of able-bodied people, at least to some extent, because men who have disabilities are then viewed as completely unable to fit these traits of what it apparently means to be a “true man” or “manly enough.”

Consider the following:

  1. If you are a blind person, you don’t fit into some people’s ideas what it means to be masculine. The definition of masculinity includes independence, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency, yet you need to depend on other people, animals or things to guide you.
  2. If you are deaf person, you don’t fit into what some think it means to be masculine. You need to depend on sign language from others or closed caption coming from a machine, so you therefore don’t have the independence, self-reliance, or self-sufficiency associated with masculinity.
  3. If you need a cane to get around (let alone if you’re in a wheelchair), you don’t fit into our society’s idea of what it means to be masculine. Regardless of what your level of activity is (and I know my share of people who are on a cane or in a wheelchair AND are actually quite athletic), you are often viewed as inactive, unathletic, dependent on others and weak if you use a cane or are in a wheelchair.

The bottom line is that if you are a man with some form of disability, that person likely does not fit the definition of masculinity. In fact, because masculinity is ableist, the very ideas associated with modern western masculinity completely exclude men with disabilities the “manliness club.”

So when I hear someone talk about “toxic masculinity,” I agree—masculinity is toxic. The ableism of masculinity makes masculinity inherently toxic.

Note: I want to thank the blog Me, Myself and Disability for bringing this issue to my attention. When I first discovered that blog, I read a post about the author’s own experiences with the ableism of masculinity. If you want to get a more personal perspective on the ableism of western masculinity, I highly recommend that you read his post on the issue.