This post is part of the Weave of Tradition series. Please read the introductory post to that series to understand more about this post’s intent and context. This series deals with traditions, language, and symbols that mean very different things to different people.
I mean, I love the rainbow bracelets i managed to get, with “LOVE WINS” and that kind of thing. Don’t get me wrong. But that’s my acceptable Pride jewelry, and some of it actually makes me vaguely uncomfortable to wear. But it doesn’t make anyone else uncomfortable.
The part that makes me uncomfortable is the double-woman symbol. Everyone knows it means lesbian, so it’s convenient. It’s in no way controversial, so it’s convenient.
But… it demands things of me I’m uncomfortable with. It reflects back at me a narrow definition of lesbian as a person with a female gender identity attracted exclusively to other people with female gender identities. A definition that has no room for me in it. But that has become popular lately and crowded out older, more inclusive, broader definitions of lesbian, ones that still have a place for a person like me, with no innate gender identity and complicated attractions.
I know the double-woman symbol doesn’t mean that to everyone who uses it. But it feels like that meaning to me, so it feels uncomfortable to wear it. Even as I do wear it.
Meanwhile I prefer to wear a symbol that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. And they have good reason to be uncomfortable. I’m not taking that away from them. As I’ve said — the same word or symbol can make different people feel very different. Even different people with relatively similar labels, life experiences, etc. These things can be deeply personal.
I happen to love the labrys. These are the earrings I wore all Pride and continue to wear now:
I shouldn’t have to say this, but for clarity: I am not a lesbian feminist, a radical feminist, etc. I believe trans women who are lesbians are lesbians, no questions asked. I don’t wear the labrys as a statement about anyone else.
The reason I love the labrys is complicated. But the part that might surprise people:
A labrys has never demanded anything from me when it comes to gender identity.
Yeah, I actually prefer the labrys because it does not impose anything on me with respect to my relationship with gender. Nothing. Never has. People who use the labrys have, sometimes. But the labrys itself hasn’t. And contrary to popular belief, the labrys has been popular in many circles that have nothing to do with the ideologies most people associate with it.
So I wore labrys earrings all of Pride Month but I never talked about them. I was afraid to. I was afraid people would misunderstand my intent, misunderstand my relationship to the symbol, misunderstand the whole thing.
Especially when you combine it with statements like “I’m a genderless lesbian.” But my genderlessness is not ideological or political, it’s a hard-won truth about myself. it just means I lack any innate sense of myself as having a gender, and always have. Nothing more, nothing less.
Lesbian is complicated and I’ll probably get into that in a different post in this series.
But anyway, things like this are what this post series was made for: Words and symbols that mean very different things to different people. And that being okay.