Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Lesbian identity in contemporary America

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The video I chose to look at was made by Moushumi Ghose, a therapist, and Jenoa Harlow, who is a lesbian actress and activist. In their video they give advice for woman who have identified themselves as lesbians, but then find a man that they are attracted to. Their appearance and way of speaking is very modern and they do not fit the stereotype of what lesbians look like, as they are both feminine and have long hair. This suggests that contemporary lesbian identity has moved on in America, allowing women the choice to be gay and not feel as though they have to conform to the stereotype appearance.

Jenoa talks about "earning the gay" by coming out to friends and family, which shows that although more accepted now than at the beginning of the gay rights struggle, it is still a difficult identity to own. In fact, it is an identity that has to be earned, which has connotations of struggle and having to fight for the identity one has chosen. It also ties in with "gay pride", which encourages homosexuals to feel proud of their sexual identity, rather than ashamed.

Mou then goes on to say that perhaps this is a slightly outdated view of sexuality, that the 'proud' identity is perhaps too rigid. She supports a more fluid idea of sexuality. Similarly to feminism, it needed the almost dogmatic nature of the first and second waves to achieve equality, before it could settle down into something that embraces the plurality of modern Americans. It looks as though the same thing is happening with the gay rights movement; evidence that things are more equal for lesbians now than they ever have been. They no longer have to fight for their right to exist, they can now examine what their identity means. It has become about embracing the right to choose one's identity. This echoes writer Pual Livingston's reaction to Wittman's 'Gay Manifesto', in which Livingston wrote that the gay struggle for liberation has changed into a "struggle over the right way to be gay".

Mou and Jenoa accept that rights aren't completely equal in contemporary America, and that is why if a lesbian decides that she likes a man, she will most likely face backlash from the lesbian community because they will feel as if she is  turning her back on the struggle. However, they are also optimistic for the future and believe that in time full equality will have been achieved, and labeling sexuality won't matter as much anymore. They say that the future for equality is in the hands of the new generation, who are already growing up with a more fluid idea of sexuality than that of older generations. This is evidence that there is not a gay/straight divide, that people are more complicated than that. Although the divide can be useful in gaining rights, it cannot be maintained as it does not realistically reflect the way that people are.

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