Personally, when I’m writing about same-sex attracted women (how’s that for an awkward mouthful?), I try to use whatever label they may use for themselves, if I can find public reference.
I LIKE the word lesbian. Dunno why. Maybe it invokes the 90s for me, my hay day, and my friendship with Harriet and Mary, a fierce couple who wore the lesbian label with unabashed pride.
I do notice a certain sensitivity all round, however.
Remember the two women who were beaten up on a London bus a few weeks ago when some teenage thugs sussed them out as a couple? Made the news all over the world.
I wrote a story about violence and homophobia, using that episode as one example. Describing the women, I referred to one of them as gay — because on social media and in a Guardian op-ed, that’s what she called herself.
I was surprised to receive some backlash. More than handful of women commented, some of them in fairly angry tones, to say that the woman is a lesbian and that I should have used that word.
Puts me in a tough spot. I feel it’s important to honor people’s own choices of labels. Not my place as a writer to impose my personal views about how people describe themselves.
But I’m with you. Lesbian is rich in history and context. It’s a great word. I wish more people used it.