Lesbianism and Feminism


Part 1


I am a member of the Lesbian feminist group, "Re-gumi Studio Tokyo" and am involved with Lesbian movement with feminism perspective. Re-gumi Studio Tokyo started in 1987. At that time who was a member of the group published the book "Woman-Loving Women". I found the book at a bookshop and knew the group. And I contacted and joined it. And I met hundreds different Lesbians throughout my Lesbian movements. Today I speak my thought I got throughout my activities and my decision to be a Lesbian.
At first would you please keep to remember what I speak is my own thinking. Many Lesbians have many thoughts. It is not true all Lesbians have only one idea. Now only a few Lesbians come out and speak their opinions openly in Japan, so people think their opinions are typical thinking of Lesbians. But it is one kind of discrimination against Lesbian, because it denies our Lesbian diversity.
So please don't think "Lesbians are such persons like her" when you listen to me. But you should consider "How about my sexuality?" and you have to choose and live your sexuality consciously. Now our society is strong heterosexism world, where people consider heterosexuality is normal and common and other sexuality are deviation and abnormal. In such society, you can have opportunities to consider your sexuality, only when you find you are not heterosexual. The heterosexism society discriminates and oppresses Lesbians, and forbids being consciously heterosexual.

1. What is Lesbian?

Many stereotypes

I said "I am a Lesbian". Then what is Lesbian?
When I felt attraction to one woman, I wondered I was a Lesbian. Then are Lesbians "women attracted to women"? Roughly it is true, but exactly not. Sometimes I didn't feel attraction to women. When I don't feel attraction to women, am not I a Lesbian? And many heterosexual women are sometimes attracted to other women or have intimate friendships with other women. You must have ever felt "what a attractive woman she is!". Or when your most intimate woman friend gave priority over other women or men, you must have felt some jealousy. Then when you had such feelings, are you a Lesbian?
Then is Lesbian "women who have sex with other women"? It is one of the stereotypes mass media tells us. Of course I have slept with women. Now I sleep with my partner on one bed every night. (Although we don't have sex every night.) But I had only short period I had sex with women very often. Then was I a Lesbian only in the period? And some women have sex with other women without Lesbian identities. So we can't say Lesbian is "women who have sex with other women".
But most of Lesbian images on mass media are "women who have sex with other women", "women who always want to have sex with women" and "women who rape women". We can find them pornography especially. Today in Japanese society we can find the word "Lesbian" on pornography the most often. The word "lezu (lezzie)" which is bad name of Lesbian is on most of advertising papers of porno movies and shows. Even our Lesbian feminist group was asked by them to introduce some "real lezu" to take Lesbian porno. On the mass media, Lesbian is always dealt as only sexual existence.
Recently some midnight broadcasting TV shows deal some gay men and Lesbians as just fashion. Perhaps they are better than porno, because we can watch Lesbians and gay men not porno images. But on such shows they are always asked "how do you make sex?". Such media and audience are just curious and want to peep at our sexuality. We are never dealt as human being. Mass media still want to show us as "a rare animal" When I watched such stereotypes on mass media, I couldn't identify with them. Because I am never such a woman who always desires every woman or who wants to rape women. But only such information with heavy prejudices on mass media can name our attraction to women. So women who wonder they are Lesbians have to seek some information about Lesbians on such media. And they have to find better images that are similar with them or their feelings among prejudiced stereotypes on media, and they have to build their Lesbian identities depending on such images.
It might be better for our identities that we have such information than no information. I looked for information on media and found Lesbian feminists in western countries. And I thought I had to move to the USA to live as "both a Lesbian and a human being". Before I found the Lesbian feminist group in Japan at last, all serious information I could find about living Lesbians as whole human being not only sexual existence were from the USA. Many Lesbians in Japan thought like me, and actually moved to western countries to live as "both Lesbians and human beings". I don't think such situations of media change yet.

From the label to the declaration

Like I told you, today the word "Lesbian" doesn't have good meaning in Japanese society. If I ask 2 women who are close each other "Are you Lesbians?", perhaps they say "No!" or "Cut the kidding!". Then if I ask them again "Why aren't you Lesbians?", perhaps they say "We don't do such a thing (sex)". Today the word "Lesbian" is such a bad name in Japan. And because Lesbian is bad name, many women can't have Lesbian identity. And they make many excuses like "I happen to love a woman unconsciously" or "Please don't mind, it is just my personal preference" or "I am not responsible for my sexuality, because just I was born like this".
But even if the word "Lesbian" is bad name, we have to recognize and take being Lesbians, to start something. Recognizing ourselves as Lesbians, meeting other women who define themselves as Lesbians, and finding reality of various Lesbians, we can find our own positive Lesbian identity, not stereotyped Lesbian images with bad name. And then we need to declare other people "Yes, I am a Lesbian" and to make our own definition of Lesbian and to say "And Lesbian I define is like....". After considering these things, at last we can get positive Lesbian identity and hopes to live as Lesbians. We need such long distance to self-affirmation, because the word "Lesbian" is bad name socially.

Lesbian sexuality that I define

Then what is Lesbian sexuality I define? The definition of Lesbian in our group is "women who recognize themselves as Lesbians". Because many Lesbians have deferent meanings of Lesbian sexuality, it is the only definition that can include every Lesbian woman, so we decide it. But we have one problem with this definition. This definition includes every woman who says she is a Lesbian, even if she is involved with a man or married with a man. Because Japanese society compels marriage to women socially and culturally, we have big number of "married Lesbians". It is our problem in our group now.
I think it is impossible we can't live as Lesbians being married with men. So if they want to continue their marriage with men, their sexuality is just preference. Lesbian sexuality is not "preference" but a way of life for me. Of course I know they can also live as Lesbians, if society doesn't compel marriage.
Lesbian I define is "the women who give priority over relationships with other women on their love and lives consciously". Beside the definition in our group, I think it is important to live (or want to live) Lesbian lives and to choose (or want to choose) them consciously. And in these meaning, I have been a Lesbian since I recognized my sexuality, and I want to live as a Lesbian in my future. I want to and do choose a woman as my partner and refuge marriage and give priority over relationship with women.

2. The politics of coming out

Why we need to come out?

I have been come out many times at various situations. I also do today. Heterosexual people don't usually declare their sexuality, because they don't need. Now in our heterosexual society, everyone is supposed to be heterosexual and Lesbians are not supposed to exist. So they consider me who is a Lesbian as heterosexual automatically, if I keep silence. I must come out as a Lesbian to claim my Lesbian existence.
But in this heterosexism society, people discriminate and are prejudiced against Lesbians. So when we come out, we are discriminated and laughed at. So we end up keeping silence. We are double-bound that "when we keep silence, we are denied" and "when we come out, we are discriminated".


Lesbianism and Feminism/Japanese

Movement and Opinions/English