Lesbians Need A New Symbol

Note:  Please also read: Dirt’s companion piece, “Double Female Symbol-Not Lesbian-Then or Now” for additional information/explanation.

Dirt and I have been talking and writing for a while now about how Lesbian has been consistently misrepresented, used, and abused…twisted in a whirlwind of hetsplanations, pornifications, and outright lies.

Even the universally recognized symbol for Lesbian (intertwined female symbols) is NOT LESBIAN.


“Lesbian” Symbol (NOT!)

Why? Well, there are many reasons; Dirt’s companion piece, “Double Female Symbol-Not Lesbian-Then or Now” for more reasons/explanation.

The piece of the puzzle that I am focusing on today is: this symbol does NOT accurately represent Lesbian because 2 females kissing, holding hands, or even making love does not mean either/both of them are actually Lesbian(s).

Any 2 females can do any of those things, of course, but it is NOT “Lesbian” unless the individuals involved are BOTH Lesbians.

Here’s the thing: If something doesn’t involve actual LESBIANS, it is NOT LESBIAN.

In TV shows and movies, if there is even the slightest whiff of flirtation between 2 female characters (even if either of the characters was having sex with a man 5 minutes earlier and/or goes on to have sex with a man 5 minutes later)…BOOM…people will immediately start talking about a “Lesbian scene” or “Lesbian subplot” or “Lesbian subtext” or “Lesbian kiss” etc. etc. etc., ad nauseum.

The following is but a very small sample of the NON-lesbian characters/scenarios in TV and movies that have been incorrectly called “Lesbian“:  (Note that I am not talking about whether or not the actors themselves are straight; I am talking about the characters/scenarios):

1). Roseanne Barr’s famous “Lesbian” kiss with Mariel Hemingway in the episode “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. While addressing homophobia, an admirable goal, was the reason given by Barr for including this scene, unfortunately, calling kissing a married straight woman a “Lesbian” (or “gay” as some  people, including Barr, incorrectly insist on saying) scene undermines real Lesbians by implying that we are defined solely by physical contact or action. Lesbian is lesbian, and straight is straight, regardless of physical/sexual activity.

2). The entire hideously offensive “Lesbian” movie “The Kids are All Right”, in which Julianne Moore’s allegedly “Lesbian” character had copious heterosexual sex throughout the whole debacle, only to claim at the end of the movie that such straight behavior didn’t mean she wasn’t a “Lesbian“.  Um…yeah, it does, in fact, mean just that.

3). Almost every “Lesbian” storyline in Orange is the New Black, starting, but sadly not ending, with Straightbian Piper’s on-again, off-again affair with Alex. This decidedly NON-Lesbian storyline is foreshadowed in the Season 1 official trailer, in which at approximately .36-.37 seconds, Piper’s mom asks “You were a lesbian?” and Piper (sitting with her MALE fiance) replies “At the time”. No, no, no, no, no! You either are, or you’re not, a Lesbian, Piper. To make matters even worse, the OITNB Lesbian characters who are supposed to be REAL Lesbians are portrayed as sexual predators (Big Boo) or killed off (Poussey).  Boo, Hiss.

4). Thelma and Louise has been applauded as an excellent example of “Lesbian” subtext. Bullshit. Both Thelma and Louise were straight women who needlessly got themselves into a difficult situation, making progressively worse and worse decisions…including Geena Davis’s character first willingly making out with a guy in the parking lot (who turned out to be a wannabe rapist) which resulted in the very reason they became outlaws, then later having wild sex with a male thief. The whole sad nonsense culminated in them driving themselves off a freaking cliff.  Thelma and Louise are not heroic feminist icons, and they are definitely NOT Lesbians.

5). Xena: Okay, this last example actually pains me to discuss, because I was a Xena fan. I realize now that I was so starved for Lesbian representation that I was willing to scarf up the “subtext” scraps the writers and actors threw us. I was willing to overlook the “maintext” plots involving male romantic entanglements. I was willing to deny my own discomfort when the show could not be trusted to even acknowledge us, much less actually care about us, despite the fan base being heavily Lesbian. Now it’s time to admit that the  so-called Xena “Lesbian subtext” was only a pitiful broken bone thrown to the hungry Lesbian audience, all the while maintaining the true heterosexuality of the 2 main characters to keep their ratings, and their straight privilege, intact.

The examples of such NON-Lesbian scenarios go on and on and on and ON.

It is time to stop this foolishness. We need to stop calling any female/female innuendo “Lesbian”. I know I said it before, but I will say it again and again and again:

If something doesn’t involve actual LESBIANS, it is NOT LESBIAN.



12 thoughts on “Lesbians Need A New Symbol

    • I haven’t seen all of the episodes (I quit watching due to the issues listed), but from the episodes I saw, it did seem like the character of Alex is supposed to be a lesbian. So unless they have messed it up, I think so. I think the real woman who the character of Alex is based upon is a lesbian; will have to read more about it though since I haven’t investigated.


      • *Spoiler* Piper and Alex stayed together for most of the series 🙂 Even during their breakups, neither one looked for or talked about being with a man. Piper slept with another lesbian. At least, that’s the way it is until end of season 4.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I guess that is good, but, at least for me, the first season with the male fiancee and the “I WAS a lesbian” (past-tense) etc. was a deal-breaker. The real-life Piper is most definitely straight(bian), married to a man for a decade now.


        • Plus, they are in a female prison, so opportunities for male romance are zero. If the character of Piper got out of prison, how long would she remain true to Alex (or any other woman)? She clearly went back to males before when the opportunity was there….

          Liked by 1 person

        • P.S.: Sorry to be a downer to the Alex-Piper fans out there. I don’t really care what people do, but I don’t think anything should be called lesbian unless both partners really are lesbians, and I feel that Piper was disqualified during Season 1’s shenanigans with the male fiance.


  1. ” Lesbian is lesbian, and straight is straight, regardless of physical/sexual activity.”

    wouldn’t this go the other way around too? meaning a lesbian is a lesbian regardless of physical/sexual activity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree; that is what I was saying, that we are what we are (whether lesbian or whether straight), regardless of physical/sexual activity. Sorry if I wasn’t clear! 🙂


  2. If we start by dismissing the old symbols?

    The Lambda seems very dated and is frankly too smart for it’s own good. It was picked because it relates to half-life in physics and how long time a change is going to take. Now it symbols the the Half-Life game series (and how long it will take before HL3 is released).

    The Labrys (“lesbian” feminism) is wrong in so many ways. If the two edges symbolizes the struggle against homophobia and patriarchy, then you can only fight one at a time if you’re using a labrys. It also looks like something from fantasy/medieval history. It was also used as a symbol for Vichy France. D:

    And given the pedigree of the pink triangle, if I could travel back in time to only change one thing. I would un-do that chocie. Because you should never let your enemies define you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about those symbols as well. They don’t fit/work for varying reasons, as you mentioned. Actually, now that I am thinking about it more, I wonder whether we even NEED a symbol at all? Hmmmm. I mean, is gaydar enough? If we can find each other, do we even need a symbol at all? We don’t need to prove anything to hets.


    • Also, re: the pink triangle symbol: I have read that the pink triangle was used for gay men, so it was not really a lesbian symbol anyway — the black triangle was for lesbians. Given testimony from Holocaust survivor Fania Fenelon, in Birkenau at least, based on the het cruel bitchiness involved in the behavior, the women occupying the black triangle barracks were clearly Straightbians anyway, so the black triangle didn’t even represent lesbian correctly back in the day, much less now. And I totally agree with your statement of not adopting the symbolism of the enemy anyway, regardless of the accuracy. Thanks for the food for thought.


      • Yes, but the black triangle was more of an umbrella-triangle. Lesbians was considered “asocial”.

        And one shouldn’t try to find any sense in the triangle-system. For instance, the red triangle was for political opponents. On the one hand, it could be a clumsy attempt to label all political prisoners socialists or communists, despite there was plenty of conservative prisoners in Dachau etc. On the other hand, most of the nazi flag was red. So red could’ve been used as an alert color, because political commitment is more of a choice than the other categories wich makes them more dangerous.

        Regarding creating a new symbol, I think that Dictionary of Symbols by Carl G. Liungman [sic!] is a good source of inspiration. Or why be inspired by Ama-gi and some cuneiform word for lesbian? 😀

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