World

Where have all the lesbians gone?

28 December 2020

9:30 PM

28 December 2020

9:30 PM

I miss lesbians. It is true that most homosexual men don’t have too many integrated in our lives, but most of us have a few. And we need them. They check our sometimes tenuous grasp of reality, they roll their eyes at our hedonism, they show us how marriages can last, and take care of us when we get sick. I generalise, of course. Many lesbians have little or nothing to do with men, including gay men. But there is a special chemistry between the men and women in the gay and lesbian worlds that it’s sad to see dissipate. Same-sex worlds can get unbalanced fast. We both need a bit of ballast from each other.

I used to marvel at lesbians’ capacity to subvert what it means to be a woman — from the rigorous academics who always seemed to go by their initials to the dykes on bikes who were once the vanguard of gay pride celebrations. We had the lipstick lesbians, in their little black dresses, and their butch partners, often strapped into a bad tuxedo on social occasions. We had the baby dykes, who looked like members of various boy bands, and who could get into brawls after a few beers; and the quiet proper librarian types, always on the verge of shushing you, who could instantly command a room. And yes, we did have the familiar dreary groupthink — but the exceptions sparkled all the brighter. Camille Paglia and Fran Lebowitz are pretty close to national treasures.


I miss lesbians these days because so many are now becoming men. Many of the sudden hordes of youngsters seeking a testosteroned transition to maleness today would once have been teen lesbians — happy to expand the realm of femaleness to the most tomboyish of tomboys. But now, under the influence of queer theory and peer pressure, the tomboy is being told that whatever obstacles she may encounter, they can be resolved through male hormones.

That subversive, uniquely dykey, all-female space is narrowing. The social justice revolution has space for countless consonants, dozens of pronouns, but not so much leeway for women who love women and not men. It’s too binary for a deconstructed non-binary world. In the 1980s, there were around 200 lesbian bars in the US. Now there are 15. As my friend the lesbian writer Katie Herzog puts it: ‘Great. We’ll each get our own.’

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This is an extract from Andrew Sullivan's diary for The Spectator's Christmas special


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