Lesbian tourism has long been a thing — women who once kissed a girl trying to appear more interesting while living a heterosexual life. Anne Heche, Madonna, Britney Spears and Ariana Grande have used lesbian/bisexual hints to titillate fans and sell more records.
But nothing riles me like the Miley Cyrus approach which is to be heterosexual, married to a man, but claiming to be ‘queer’ and edgy. In a recent interview about her marriage to Liam Hemsworth, she said: ‘We’re redefining, to be fucking frank, what it looks like for someone that’s a queer person like myself to be in a hetero relationship.’
What a load of pretentious baloney. Cyrus is as heterosexual as the next woman. Labelling herself ‘queer’ is as convincing as me deciding my dog is a goldfish. While I get the envy that many women feel towards those of us that shop around the corner, it is a bit low to want the attention for being ‘special’ while being boringly straight.
My mate Julie Burchill has the right attitude. Although she once indulged in a well-publicised affair with a woman, she told me that definitely did not make her gay. ‘It’s like going to Iceland,’ she said. ‘Once you’ve been, why on earth would you want to go again?’
I am not a big fan of identity politics, but I do think we should pay respect to those who pave the way for others to live their lives free from bigotry and discrimination. In coming out as a lesbian when I did in 1977, I faced hardship, violence and prejudice. It was no fun growing up a lezzer in a working-class housing estate in the north-east of England, where the expectation was to marry a local lad and have a brace of kids. Going on TV in 1981 to talk about lesbian pride and liberation led to me losing my job, getting sexually assaulted in the street, and generally being treated like a freak by those that recognised me. I was told by a hetero-sexual woman who I considered a friend at the time that she would rather I did not babysit her daughter.
When I met feminists who were also lesbians, I noticed they used the ‘L’ word very proudly. Women who declared themselves to be ‘gay’ were cop-outs as far as we were concerned. After a time, particularly in response to the horrendous bigotry faced by gay men during the Aids crisis, we became ‘lesbian and gay’ in solidarity.
In the 1990s, all hell broke loose when post-modernism came to universities, and the group Outrage, founded by Peter Tatchell and his cronies, reclaimed the word ‘queer’. This, I reckon, was the moment when actual gay and lesbian identities became a free-for-all, resulting in any straight dude who rejected sex in the missionary position being able to claim a ‘sexual outlaw’ status.
Over the years, a fair number of heterosexual women have told me ‘If only I could fancy women, my life would be much easier’, as though nothing bad ever happens to us because we don’t have to scrub dirty boxers and put up with mediocre sex.
I recall one such moment. I had met my lezzer friend Bridget in a pub after work, and we were deep in conversation when the inevitable happened. ‘What are two beautiful ladies doing in here on their own?’ slurred Barry, pint in hand and attempting to sit beside us. I pointed out we were not ‘on our own’ on account that we were together, and politely asked him to leave us alone. Soon, we went from ‘beautiful ladies’ to ‘carpet-munching ugly dykes’. I pointed out that if he was the alternative, did he blame us? Every woman in that bar burst out laughing, with several telling me how they wished they could give up men and live happily ever after. One asked me: ‘Are you a lesbian because you never found the right man?’ I replied that if finding the right man was a prerequisite of heterosexuality, we would soon be extinct.
Hearing straight, woke young women who have had a drunken fumble with another woman at a party describe themselves as ‘lesbian’ or ‘gender queer’ insults me. Their motivation may be a desire to get themselves on one of the many lists of top 100 in the LGBTQQIA+ world, or perhaps because they will appear more interesting. What I do know is that such women almost always end up married to men and having kids, and living a conventional life. Occasionally they will dye their fringe orange, put on a slogan T-shirt, and join a rainbow coalition march in Brighton. But what they won’t do is suffer for their sexuality.
Then there is the latest craze of men deciding they are lesbians, because they claim to be women, such as Alex Drummond, who has retained not only his bushy beard but also his meat and two veg.
Real lesbians commit to the role. There is no running back into the arms of Nigel for us. If the fake lesbians want an authentic experience, perhaps they could persuade their parents to reject them, or have their female friends shy away from a hug as though they are being perved upon?
It is no fun being beaten up in the street for being lesbian or gay. But it is an amazing feeling to know that you have fought for the liberation of younger lesbians who, in the main, won’t ever face the horrors that my friends and I did when we came out. It is an insult to have all and sundry on a list that used to be about same-sex attracted people who formed an alliance in order to fight prejudice and bigotry. To all you attention-seeking narcissists desperate to be included: you are all special, but you are very probably as straight as a die. Get over it.
This article originally appeared in The Spectator's May 4th issue