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Sunday, June 20, 2010

I Like Dykes

I listened to a couple of guys I know the other day making jokes about lesbians. Not nice jokes. These were gay guys too, not idiotic straights - and it made me wonder: Why do some gay men seem to find lesbians hard to deal with?
I've always had dyke friends, since I was 17 or so and just coming out. Maybe that's exposed me to their world more, so I'm comfortable around it, I don't know, but some of the stuff I hear from other gay guys really repels me. It's nasty sexist bullshit, and I doubt they'd tolerate it if a straight guy talked about them that way.

And I remember the way so many dykes stepped up and got so deeply involved in HIV/AIDS: They didn't need to - it's not a virus that lesbians tend to get infected with. But they stood up for us in a huge way. Way more than some of the closety bitter queens that are still around. Lesbians helped protest for better care and treatment, they helped in a practical on-the-ground sense of getting food to people, driving them to hospital appointments, and they took care of us, they looked out for gay men sick and dying with AIDS in a way that most of the rest of society wouldn't.

How many gay men are interested or even aware of any health issues in the lesbian world?

I suppose one thing is that lesbians in general tend to be much more politically switched on than gay men. They get done over by society twice: first for being women and then for being same-sex attracted. And yes, society still treats women unequally - look at the pay gap over a lifetime's work if you want a simple example of it. While all the technical and legal disadvantages to being female might have been removed, the social and cultural ones are still strong. But most gay men never really understand that side of things. The old message that came out of lesbian-feminist politics "The personal is political" still holds, but it's something that a lot of gay men don't have to engage with - we're still men at the end of the day.

Part of it shows the weakness of trying to build a community based only on sexual orientation. Gay men like men - lesbians like women - so some assume that we should all be the same, but we're not. Being part of a group attracted to the same biological gender doesn't make a community. Shared history, shared ideas, and shared rituals do, and so does shared oppression - yet now that we've become so mainstream in so many ways, and a lot of that social oppression has lifted, that sense of connecteness has been eroded.

So I guess I just want to say I like dykes. I have strong, intelligent, funny and kind lesbians in my life, and I think you're great. You make my life richer.

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