Lesbian is an identity that centers around loving women. Traditionally it refers to a woman who loves only women, though some people see "lesbian" as being inclusive of nonbinary people, or even a gender identity in its own right. The term came from the Greek island of Lesbos. "Lesbian", someone from Lesbos, started as a euphemism referring to the famous poet Sappho, who wrote love poems about women.
History[edit | edit source]
In the early 20th century we begin to see the term "lesbian" used to describe "female homosexuals". In the 1920s we start to see thriving communities, most notably in Greenwich Village and Harlem in Manhattan and Berlin, featuring magazines and clubs catering to lesbians. The booming economy and environment of sexual experimentation and freedom allowed for women to become more independent and adventurous.
However with the advent of the Great Depression this freedom is lessened, and we see less evidence of out lesbians in the same manner as was in the 20s. During this time women having jobs was frowned upon, as they were seen to be taking jobs that belonged to men. This is when we see "fronting" or "beards, the practice of gay men and lesbians marrying to both pursue other relationships.
World War II brings yet more conservative attitudes, and lesbians in Germany are persecuted under the Third Reich. However in America the lack of men at home allows for a flourishing lesbian community.
Before the onset of second wave feminism in the 1970s, "lesbian" meant any woman who loved women. However a growing movement sought to make "lesbian" to mean a woman who loved exclusively women, whereas "bisexual" would mean a woman who loves anyone.
In modern times, "lesbian" is a broad word that encompasses many experiences, identities, and ideas.
Lesbian and Gender[edit | edit source]
Lesbians have had different ideas of gender since the modern use of the word. Most notably "butch" and "femme" have evolved into complex identities that describe a gender and a place in the specific community.
Butch[edit | edit source]
"Butch" is often described as masculine, or masculine of center in nature.
Femme[edit | edit source]
"Femme" is a feminine identity that seeks to reclaim femininity from a patriarchal sense. It often seeks to perform femininity for other women and nonbinary people, as opposed to men. Though originally a term for lesbian women, it is often used as a gender and gender descriptor.
Nonbinary Lesbian[edit | edit source]
A growing number of people identify as simply "nonbinary lesbian", which is often seen as a complete identity, describing both gender and sexuality.