‘Can lesbians be attracted to men’ debate engulfs queer Twitter

Josh Jackman November 15, 2018
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Some Twitter excerpts from the fiery Twitter debate over a lesbian couple

Twitter has been asking: can lesbians be attracted to men? (pexels and twitter)

A storm has erupted on queer Twitter over what seems like an easy question to answer: can lesbians be attracted to men?

The debate, which has reportedly been raised before and prompted a similarly fiery reaction, began this time when a user tweeted: “yer reminder that lesbian doesn’t mean exclusively wlw (women who love women).

The original tweet which started the lesbian debate
“Lesbian doesn’t mean exclusively wlw (women who love women)” (owoboros/twitter)

“Back in the 80s and before it meant the same as being sapphic/gay woman but sh**ty ‘political lesbians’ ended up changing what it means. bi, pan, poly, demi, etc. lesbians exist and are ultra valid.”

Queer Twitter reacts with outrage

The statement sparked huge backlash, attracting three times more replies than retweets and provoking countless outraged posts that stated that the original argument was flawed and would fuel bi-erasure.

One particularly aggrieved respondent wrote: “LESBIANS ARE NOT ATTRACTED TO MEN” four times before adding: “holy s**t stop with the ‘bi lesbians’ and the ‘pan lesbians.’

A tweet in the Twitter debate asking: can lesbians be attracted to men?
“LESBIANS ARE NOT ATTRACTED TO MEN” (autotune_iesus/twitter)

“Stop erasing bi, pan, and lesbian identities with your s**t takes.”

Another user pointed out, as many in the Twitter debate did, that these kinds of statements serve to remove anyone who’s attracted to more than one gender from popular culture, a phenomenon commonly known as bi-erasure.

They wrote: “Isn’t that going to erase the identity of bi, pan, etc people? Lots of bi people are already seen as a ‘gay that doesn’t want to commit to being gay’ and that kinda reinforces that notion…

Tweet asking whether the original lesbian tweet provokes bi-erasure
“Isn’t that going to erase the identity of bi, pan, etc people?” (ZoenLanosca/twitter)

“Language changes over time and that’s okay. It doesn’t make people any less valid,” they added.

Commenters in the Twitter debate were keen to emphasise how important bisexual visibility and culture was to them.

One person tweeted: “I’ve seen on Twitter lately that there’s a push for ‘lesbian’ to include bi/pan women like it did originally, and while I support that, I never want to be re-assimilated into lesbian culture.

“The culture bi women built after being pushed out is rad af. Long live the bi community.”

A tweet stating that bi-erasure should be avoided
“Long live the bi community” (LoisShearing/twitter)

Some accused the original poster of biphobia, with one person tweeting: “if you identify as a lesbian but are attracted to men you’re not a lesbian! period!

“Maybe work out some of that internalised biphobia u got there before posting bulls**t for the whole world to see.”

A tweet which is insistent on the definition of 'lesbian'
“If you identify as a lesbian but are attracted to men you’re not a lesbian!” (dykezula/twitter)

Many claimed the debate hurt lesbians

Others said changing the definition would hurt or erase lesbians.

“This literally erases the identity of lesbians,” commented one person on Twitter. “Lesbians are NOT bi, pan, poly, etc. lesbians are LESBIANS.

“They are attracted to women. they are NOT attracted to men. if you’re a ‘bisexual lesbian,’ you’re not a lesbian. lesbian is exclusively wlw.”

And another tweeter contributed to the debate by writing: “Just no. You’re literally hurting lesbians everywhere by saying that.

“Lesbian means lesbian.”

— @liarsmysecret

“Bi, Pan, poly, demi, etc. people exist but they are not lesbians. And no, monosexual lesbian isn’t going to work. Let us have one word damn. You give men the idea that they can and should pursue lesbians.”

This participant in the Twitter debate accused the original poster of hurting lesbians
“You’re literally hurting lesbians everywhere by saying that” (Laetiti13057411/twitter)

A similar comment read: “lesbian isn’t an umbrella term to describe all attraction towards women, lesbian means lesbian.

“It means sexual and emotional attraction EXCLUSIVELY towards women, so stop erasing our sexuality and calling yourself a lesbian if you know damn well you’re bi/pan.”

Many in the debate supported separate terms which remain undiluted, without limiting individuals’ choices.

One such Twitter commenter wrote: “Lesbians are allowed to have words specifically meaning lesbian, bi girls are our sisters but we aren’t the same and we both deserve language to represent our separate (though similar and allied) experiences and identities, femme, butch, dyke, and lesbian are lesbian specific.”

Can lesbians be attracted to men?

The term “lesbian” has long been used to describe women who are sexually or romantically attracted to other women.

Lots of people self-identify as a non-binary lesbian, an aromantic or asexual lesbian, a butch or femme lesbian and a whole rainbow of other definitions—but in modern times, it has not included an attraction to men.

A lesbian couple look at a mobile phone together
Queer Twitter was taken over by the debate (pexels)

A controversial study published last year found that same-sex attraction in women only developed because it turns on men.

The findings, which were slammed by many inside and outside the scientific and queer communities, positioned lesbian attraction as something created for men.

The conclusion of many from that backlash—and this latest debate on queer Twitter—was that men have no place in affecting lesbian culture.

More: bisexual, debate, lesbian, Pansexual, Twitter, US, viral

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