Content warning: The screenshots following the open letter include many phrases used in conversion therapy (also known as ‘sexual orientation change efforts’). There are mentions of rape.
We wanted to show the pattern of anti-lesbian harassment, coercion and shaming targeted at lesbians (exclusively same-sex attracted females) from people within the LGBT community so we collected the screenshots which follow this introduction.
Anti-lesbian themes are easy to see. Lesbian orientation is
- called problematic,
- labelled a fetish,
- seen as changeable,
- framed as dehumanising and
- described with the stigmatising word ‘terf’.
Lesbians themselves are hyper-sexualised (‘fetishists’) and framed as predatory and objectifying of others (‘reducing women to their genitals’). The themes present in these screenshots are present in offline ‘queer’ spaces.
In the case of the cotton ceiling, lesbians underpants are framed as the barrier to male transgender persons being accepted in the LGBT community. Cotton ceiling proponents believe ‘acceptance’ of male transgender persons would look like lesbians accepting them as sexual partners. Liberation movements do not usually measure success by whether people gain sexual access to marginalised groups.
Upsettingly for some, lesbians are not attracted to male transgender people. This lack of attraction is because these people are male, not because of their trans identity. This fact is often ignored by transgender activists, almost as though the existence of homosexual females is inconvenient for them.
When lesbian orientation is framed as backwards, bigoted, wrong and exclusionary it stigmatises lesbians. It follows that lesbians must either accept their status associated with these negative qualities, stay in the closet to avoid stigma, or attempt to change their orientation to become ‘forward thinking, open-minded, good and inclusive’.
We maintain that ‘cotton ceiling’ culture is a left wing sexual orientation change effort. Members of the LGBT community in New Zealand have harassed lesbians to the point some lesbians have tried (unsuccessfully and regretfully) to change their orientation.
New Zealand organisations that claim to support lesbians have a responsibility to act.
We are asking them to:
- Make statements of solidarity with lesbians which name ‘cotton ceiling’ bullying by transgender activists as a problem
- Reaffirm that exclusive same-sex attraction exists and is okay (separate to ‘same innate gender’ identity attraction)
- Design and implement policies which address the conduct of staff and volunteers that engage in sexual orientation change efforts by bullying, coercing or otherwise stigmatising lesbians for being exclusively same sex attracted.
- Stop using the negative term ‘TERF’ to refer to lesbians who assert the boundary that they are same-sex attracted, not ‘same innate gender’ identity attracted.
We encourage them to make the right call and show lesbians that their boundaries do matter and will be taken seriously from now on. If New Zealand LGBT organisations feel they cannot follow through on our requests, we ask that they drop the L from their acronyms (in the interest of honesty).
In showing you this collection of screenshots we are trying to demonstrate a pervasive lesbophobic attitude found in LGBT spaces online and offline. Please do not target individual users:
We’re sorry to have to document this pattern of cotton ceiling harassment within the LGBT community, but the time has come for us to name the problem and speak up against it. We can’t have any more sisters hurt from this bullying.
Thank you for taking the time to read through.
If you are a lesbian who wants to get involved with our collective you can contact us here.
If you are a member of the media or an organiser in an LGBT organisation in Aotearoa who wants support to change, you are welcome to approach us on this issue here. We are willing to work towards a better outcome.
* It’s also worth noting that research has shown lesbians are actually more likely to date a trans person than gay men or straight people are, yet bullying is overwhelmingly targeted at lesbians. The authors of the linked study singled lesbians out as troubling because we were twice as likely to say we would date a female person (who identifies as a man) than give the ‘correct’ answer of saying we would date a male person (who identifies as a woman). Our exclusive same-sex attraction is constantly problematised. This is lesbophobia.