Posted November 3, 2012 by in RIGHT ON

Thoughts on … The Week I Became a Lesbian

So, this week a little article published by Leeds rag The Tab called ‘The Week I Became a Lesbian’ went viral amongst the UK gays as a prime example of old-fashioned homophobic ignorance (oh yay, a rarity).

It came in a format queers like myself are all too sick of seeing – the ‘Lesbian Safari’ kind, where the author attempts to infiltrate the scene in hopes of catching the lesser-spotted dyke engaging in some mating rituals… maybe tries to ‘get all up in’ some of the locals, that kind of thing.  Run-of-the-mill, unimaginative, and rather offensive.  You can read it by clicking here, the best bit are below :

“I seriously got into the role of it all, rubbing up against anyone who would have me – I quite fancied this girl actually and put on my moves asking for a kiss… until a much larger not so attractive grenade came up to me and told me they were engaged. Awkward.”

“Outside in the smoking area we were drunk enough to ask girls why so many live up to the stereotype of shaved heads, shirts and jeans – for many it’s because they don’t want to be approached by greasy guys or it’s a way of spotting other lesbians.”

“Obviously I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be a lesbian but from what I’ve heard there aren’t enough nights outs in Leeds to meet other girls and the haircuts are a way of securing who they are.  Could I switch guys for girls? Yeah potentially, I woke up the next morning and I’d already got a couple of texts from some girls I was chirpsing and that never happens.”

Firstly, what is ‘chirpsing’?  Am I going to have to start using UrbanDictionary.com?  Fucking hell.

Secondly, okay okay.  This is shitty article.  It’s poorly written, full of standard-fare stereotypes and clueless.  But I’m not sure whether the barrage of abuse and insults directed at the author featured in the pages and pages of comments are entirely necessary.

Hear me out.  Jan Moir, you remember her?  Oh benchmark of press-based homphobia.  She was the nasty piece of work who published the sickening feature in the Daily Fail about Steven Gately’s death.  She was, at the time, a successful, professional journalist with a platform reaching millions and a duty to both the people and the press complaints commission to write respectfully and truthfully.  Her article displayed a rabid distain for gay people and actively promoted the idea that being gay was a health-risk.  She insinuated that Gately had died because of his ‘lifetsyle’, when she had absolutely no evidence to back this up.  She spoke ill of the dead, ill of the living, and was right chastised for it.

The girl that wrote this – one Ellie Clarke – seems, by comparison, a student columnist who harbours a lot of the misunderstandings and preconceived notions that most British people who aren’t queer do about lesbians, rather than an out-and-out gay-basher.  In fact, there are elements of her piece that seem almost well-meaning.  As most girls her age, she has grown up in a society that activity promotes the idea of tourist lesbianism – especially as a way to snare the sort of jizum-encrusted runts that appear to run The Tab.  Yes, she should know better, and yes, her editors (if you can call them that) shouldn’t have allowed it to be published, but one look around the Tab website will tell you that it’s a relatively small, Leeds uni-focused rag with an article every few days… the majority displaying the sort of sexism and sensationalism one would expect from a lads mag-esque blog with a readership of a few hundred.

I guess what I’m trying to express is that pieces like these are more a product of lazy stereotyping and poor literacy skills, more than they are hatred and bigotry.  Calling them out is one thing, but I think it’s maybe more helpful to focus our energy trying to actively tackle the real sources of these stereotypes, within our day to day lives, in our media and through our public voices – especially in terms of formal education.  And if we don’t, this sort of expression of opinion isn’t going to halt.

Empathy may help start the conversations that will eradicate this sort of ignorance.  Most importantly, calling someone a “dick”, “hideous” or attacking them on the basis of their sexuality as some responders have is just going to make things harder.