By Anjali Nayak
Although I have been out of the closet for the past six years, I still struggle to put a label on my sexuality. More specifically, I find myself struggling to say the one word that might very well be the best possible label for my identity. A word that creeps behind every diversity and demographic survey. The L word.
For some reason, the word “lesbian” is taboo. Sure, I’m a woman who loves other women, but I find myself opting for lesser evils through terms such as queer and gay. I don’t proudly say the word “lesbian,” if anything, I shakily whisper it.
My heteronormative upbringing has forever cemented the word “lesbian” to mean everything I repeatedly choose to stray from. A “lesbian” is ugly and dirty. My realization was not a happy moment, but rather one filled with fear and disgust. Pride in sexual preference is not inherent—“lesbians” are forced into an uphill battle of trial and error in hopes of earning confidence in their sexuality. Hidden in the closet, there never seemed to be an end in sight. When will I learn to love myself?
I’m not alone. Research by Just Like Us shows that a whopping sixty eight percent of lesbians say they have delayed coming out with the label “lesbian” because of harmful stereotypes, such as lesbians being “manhating” and “unattractive.”
The decision to hide under the masculine cloak of “gay” suggests society’s constant unabridged willingness to accept homosexual men compared to the ostracization of homosexual women. If accepted, gay men proudly take on the status of gay best friends. Their stereotype—although a stereotype in itself is negative—is one with hints of positivity: a feminine, flamboyant figure. Gay women are instead seen as predators. In love with all of their friends, they filthily creep around locker rooms and girls bathrooms, unable to rid themselves of the vices of homosexuality. Even in the all encompassing LGBTQ+ community, men are offered more comfort to be themselves.
The word “lesbian” does not have to feel like a slur. It does not need to be a whisper. Say it loud and say it proud.