A beautiful thing about my job is that if I ask students to tell me when I get something wrong, they do (thanks ya’ll!).
What I got wrong with my LUG (lesbians until graduation) post is that I completely missed a MAJOR piece of the problem, and it has turned my brain inside out. It is this:
LUGs, the argument goes, are taking advantage of the safe space of college to experiment with sexuality and then ducking out into the privilege of a straight identity once they’re in a less safe space.
There is a resentment about this among the, um, True Lesbians, who face a life of constant discrimination and prejudice.
This is really terribly, terribly complicated. Here are two complications I can see.
(1) Facilitating Factors. Diamond writes about “facilitating factors” and specifically identifies safe spaces (“exposure to environments that provide positive experience with same-sex relationships”) as facilitating factors.
My dears. My dearie dears, do you see the inherent conflict here? This here is a brain inversion moment. If we do what (I’m pretty sure) most lesbian-identified women would want, which is to create an INCLUSIVE environment, where sexual diversity is accepted and supported, we are ALSO creating a space that facilitates fluidity.
An environment that affords positive experiences for lesbians inherently affords fluidity. We are thus not ONLY opening up a safe space for lesbian women to have loving, out relationships; they’re also opening up a space for non-exclusively oriented women to experience fluidity.
(2) Fluidity Itself. Remember, if Diamond’s sample is representative – and I’ve reason to believe it is – then 30% of students who currently identify as lesbian will, at some point in the coming 10 years, have a full blown romantic relationship with a man. In the coming 10 YEARS, not just during college. And there are NO predictive variables to help us know which 30% it will be.
It’s more brain inversion: which lesbians are just taking gratuitous advantage of the safety of the campus, and which are committed lesbians who just happen to meet an exceptional man? Right now we have no way of telling. The research SAYS there is no way of telling.
Now imagine you’re a person who’s always identified as straight and then you come to college and you meet this amazing person who happens to be the same gender and you just fall head over heels, even though you never even imagined being in a same-sex relationship before… are your feelings less genuine simply because they might not have occurred in a less inclusive environment?
Should you choose NOT to get into a relationship this person you’re attracted to, on the grounds that you might not be attracted to that person under other circumstances?
Is the only REAL love a love that would thrive even in a hostile, hateful landscape? Only if you can love through being egged and threatened on the street is your love real?
That’s not the standard we set for straight relationships or relationships that look heteronormative.
I can totally see where the resentment would come from, and yet… I can’t bring myself to judge a person’s individual, internal, emotional experience on the basis of its political import. How could *I* know whether or not someone really loves someone else? Can I tell from the outside whether she’s a “real lesbian” or “just experimenting?” If it not my relationship, is it any of my business?
People love whom they love. Fluid women have it in them to love beyond gender. Isn’t that something to celebrate? Shouldn’t we aim for a world where EVERYWHERE is a “facilitating factor,” where people see positive examples of same-gender and same-sex relationships, where permission is granted for us to love the people we love? Why not, instead of resenting them, take fluid women as a sign that the campus has achieved something extraordinary?
Again, I can see where the resentment would come from. But it’s hard, it’s complicated. I want freedom for everyone. Love, in women, is contextual. Not everywhere is equally free, so love varies for women from place to place. What are the ethics of that?
It’s a brand new question.
I think we need me and Dan Rivers and a lot of students to get together in a room and have chat about it; that’s what I think.