The Covert Lesbophobe Checklist (CLC)

We all know what an overt lesbophobe is: He/she will just say what they feel very directly: “I hate Lesbians!”; “You’re evil”; “You’re going to HELL!”; “You’re an abomination to the Good Lord Jesus!”; “You need a man!”; “Marriage is for a man and a woman!”; “You need to be TAUGHT A LESSON!”; “No, I won’t rent to/hire you!”; “Your kind isn’t welcome here!” etc. etc. etc. They are obvious. They are obnoxious. They are our visible enemies.

But what about the covert lesbophobes? They are our friends, our acquaintances, our coworkers, our family members, our neighbors. They are subtle. They smile to our faces. They shake our hands. They bake us cookies. They say that they love us, like us, support us, and would fight for us ~ and they probably even truly believe that they mean it.

They say that they would NEVER, EVER tolerate lesbophobia/homophobia.

And we believe them, and will continue to believe them…until one day we find the proverbial knife between the shoulder blades and realize who put it there.

“If only there were a way to know“, you may be thinking.

Well, there is a way to know, but only if we are completely willing to keep our eyes and ears wide open, and only if we are willing to put aside our own wishful thinking long enough to accept the cold hard truth.

So, without further ado, here is a handy-dandy little lesbo checklist to see whether your Aunt Susie, or your neighbor Gladys, or, I don’t know, let’s say, um, the president of an international creative organization is a covert lesbophobe:

Does he/she do any of the following (or anything similar)?:

  • Refer to being a Lesbian as “a lifestyle”;
  • Refer to being a Lesbian as “a sexual preference”;
  • Refer to being a Lesbian as a “choice”;
  • Refer to being a Lesbian as a “behavior”;
  • Refer to your partner as “your friend” or “your roommate” when he/she knows better;
  • Say anything like “sexuality is fluid”;
  • Say anything like “sexuality is on a spectrum”;
  • Say anything like “anybody can become/be a Lesbian”;
  • Say anything like “I am all for you people having rights, but why do you have to call it marriage?”;
  • Say anything like “I am fine with you being a Lesbian, but why do you have to TELL everybody?”;
  • Say anything like “Why do you have to put Lesbian on your social media profile?”;
  • Say anything like “I don’t care who you have sex with, I just don’t want to know about it!”;
  • Say anything like  “Who’s the man one?”;
  • Say anything like “Maybe you just haven’t met the right man yet!”;
  • Say anything like “But how do you know you wouldn’t like it if you haven’t tried having sex with a man?”
  • Say anything like “You and your friend can’t share a bedroom in my house!”;
  • Blame you in any way for the lesbophobia you encounter;
  • Punish, shame, or penalize you in any way for the lesbophobia you encounter;
  • Defend, befriend, or take the side of lesbophobes in any way;
  • Support you in private — but not in public;
  • Refuse to let you (or in any way support/defend the premise that you shouldn’t be allowed to): get married, adopt an animal, get hired for a job, buy a wedding cake, rent an apartment, patronize a business, buy a house, have benefits, inherit from your partner, file taxes together, travel together, visit your partner in the hospital, etc. etc. etc. etc. (This list consists of anything and everything that straight people can do without question);
  • Encourage you in any way to be nice, be quiet, remain silent, be invisible, and/or get along with lesbophobes (or in order to avoid being attacked by lesbophobes);
  • Treat you and your partner differently that they would routinely be treated with their spouse (Examples: when traveling together, walking into your hotel room without knocking; or putting you and your partner in twin beds or on the floor when you visit their house, while straight couples are given the double, queen, or king beds);
  • Ask that you not tell someone/anyone/everyone you are a Lesbian. (“Granny doesn’t need to know, it will kill her!”);
  • Support and/or vote for a candidate/politician that is known to be against Gay/Lesbian rights;
  • Does not even recognize blatant lesbophobia in others (does not even understand what was wrong with what was said!).
  • (Update: Added because of suggestions from 2 readers — thanks!): Minimizes, belittles, and/or denies the existence of lesbophobia itself (and minimizes, belittles, and/or denies the consequences of lesbophobia on Lesbian lives).

It’s important to note that before jumping to conclusions, it’s always best to verify our perceptions. I believe that some people can be covertly lesbophobic and aren’t even aware of it themselves. So, I always try to explain why _______ was lesbophobic, and then watch to see how the person responds. Does he/she listen and attempt to change? Or does he/she barrel right along and then do something similar immediately afterword? If you start to notice their actual behavior, without denying or sugar-coating it, sadly, you will likely learn quite quickly that covert lesbophobia lurks in the psyches of many who mistakenly think they are our allies.


Image: Pixabay: evondue:  CC0 Creative Commons

33 thoughts on “The Covert Lesbophobe Checklist (CLC)

  1. One section of this made me smile in reference to my Mother not long after I initially threw myself out of the closet.

    She never knew how to refer to my first partner. I would be asked if I was meeting up with my ‘lady friend’ tomorrow. Of course, I took it as an opportunity to gently tease her thereafter and would refer to my ‘lady friend’ and emphasise the ‘ladeeeee’ part just to see her blush LOL.

    I genuinely don’t think she meant any harm with it, and I think using the word ‘girlfriend’ was strange for her considering I was in my 30’s at the time, well because neither myself or my partner were girls 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL! That’s true, it does depend too on the age of the person & the person’s life experience too. For me, the main thing is the person’s attitude and whether they make an effort to correct the issue when it is pointed out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, I cannot fault her attitude, she never failed to make my partners feel welcome when she met them. And when a relationship ended, she was always genuinely sad that it may mean she would never see them again.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I don’t think straight, especially parental, uncertainty about the correct way to refer to our partners is necessarily a sign of homophobia. My Mum never had any problems with the word “boyfriend” when talking about the past: “your first boyfriend…” etc., but in my adult relationships she avoided it until she had established to her own satisfaction that “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are indeed words that many gay people comfortably use of and among ourselves long after an age when it might be thought reasonable.

          This is a problem that can also occur “in reverse”. Some years after my mother was widowed in her late 50s, she “hitched up” with a former old friend of her own age. I always referred to him by name, because I simply didn’t know (and still don’t) whether the term “boyfriend” has any kind of currency among heterosexuals in their 60s, and “lover” somehow appeared too intrusive. Their relationship seemed too casual (or mutually independent) to justify the word “partner”.

          In later years, in reference to my current partner, she took to asking “How’s my son-in-law doing?” or “How are Y. [our son] and his Dad?”, both of which I took as vaguely, and jokingly, denigrating of myself, but not at all homophobic. None of my boyfriends ever earned the title of “your gentleman friend”, though some of them were a great deal more gentlemanly toward my mother than they ever were to me. I guess the expression would have made me feel like a “kept woman/boy”. But maybe I should just have aimed higher up the social scale (-: .

          Your Mom sounds like a great woman, Tracy, and reading some other family horror-stories only reminds me how thankful we both should be to have had mothers we could talk and laugh and joke with, and tease and be teased by, like we did.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. Thanks. How about when they deny that homophobia is still even a problem? Like “you can get married now in the US so you’re all good now”. Idiots.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hahahhaha. LOVED this. Honestly, after a certain point I scrolled past some because…thats my entire family, which hurts. Kinda like it hurt when I was 16 and realized my aunt’s husband totally hated lesbians just as much, if not more then, gay men.
    I feel like my family really doesn’t have my back and I have been out for over 4 years now and have been with my wife for all of those 4 years AND THEN we got married 2 years ago.
    For instance, my aunt with the homophobic husband hasn’t wanted to talk to me or have a relationship with me since I came out. Sure she’ll throw me a bone on holidays but nothing more. I’ve tried talking to my mom and my older sister about this and it quickly gets shut down or redirected to well I’m supportive, that sucks. However, when my younger money hungry cousin messes up or decides to ex my family out, family members are quick to her defense and trying to fix everything between her and the rest of the family. No surprise she’s straight aghh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, I am so sorry you have had so much trouble with your family. I have heard so many sad stories like these. It is incomprehensible to me how people can act like that. That is why we need to support each other.


  4. Hey, love this post. I think he really nailed some of these covert phobic behaviors. One area that I’d like to tease out a little is your statement about gender being fluid or on the spectrum. I’ve been clear and out of the closet since I came out in high school. I have awesome support from my family, coworkers, etc, and married my wife three years ago. I’m a teacher and I’m out in my classroom. I define myself as a lesbian, but I also use words like queer. When I talk to students I often use the idea of the spectrum, because many people don’t fall squarely into one category, or confused about where they fit in the vast spectrum of identities. I would definitely take issue with someone trying to tell a lesbian that she might not be one, or that she might be attracted to men if only she tried it, and I do believe that there are degrees to which people can be attracted to one gender, or both or neither, or many. But that should definitely be decided by the person, not by others. If someone is 100% lesbian, no ifs, ands or buts, that’s for them to put out there. However there are lots of people, in my experience, who don’t fit neatly into those categories and for whom a spectrum might be more accurate. Io Tillett Wright does an amazing TED talk on it called 50 shades of gay. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi & thanks for commenting! No, I don’t believe that orientation is “on a spectrum” or similar statements. While (some) people certainly can (and do) have sexual relationships with both men and women, that is behavior, not orientation. In other words, behavior may be flexible (for some people) — while orientation is fixed. The idea that orientation is changeable is both erasing and damaging to real Lesbians, therefore it is lesbophobic…


      • Hmmm. I think it’s actually a debate about the semantics then. I am definitely a lesbian but have been attracted to men. Is my behaviour and orientation and identity lesbian then? What is your take on bisexuality? I’m curious. Do you believe bisexual people have an orientation? I’m rally interested in your take on this. I went to school and studied theories of sexuality, so I like to hear people’s views

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fair warning: This entire blog is about unSTRAIGHTening Lesbian, and one of the very biggest issues I address is statements like “I am definitely a lesbian but have been attracted to men”.

          I am not trying to pick on you personally, but that premise is simply not possible. If you (meaning anyone, not you personally) are (or have ever been) truly, actually attracted to men…you are not a Lesbian. (I don’t mean someone who dated men because she felt pressured by family/society here — I mean a genuine physical, sexual, and/or romantic interest in men).

          A friend and I did a series on our blogs about bisexuality which is too much to try to explain in a reply; but to TRY to summarize my thoughts, I do think bisexuality exists, but not as a true orientation. My friend’s thoughts were more detailed than mine…she theorizes that there are 2 types of bisexuals — as delineated by “leaning” toward either men or women.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for this post, and especially for your last comment.

        I wonder if there really are “bisexuals”. I have encountered in my long life three categories of “bisexual men”. The first is the randy butch man who would stick his dick into any convenient hole. In the countryside, he would be a sheep-shagger, in the city he would probably do better to invest in a good vacuum cleaner than try to interact with other human beings.

        The second is slightly more interesting, equally strongly committed to gender-roles, but in this case he has to be the butch, dominant man with his girlfriend, but the hyper-passive “receptor” with his boyfriend. He recoils at the idea that his girlfriend could strap on a dildo and fuck him, though he clearly likes to be fucked, and also at the idea that he could bugger a man, though obviously he likes fucking. If you can’t wrap your head around that, don’t worry, neither can I.

        The third (which may just have been a phenomenon of the 1970s/80s) is the political bisexual, gay liberationist and strongly pro-feminist, who feels he should give some kind of concrete expression to the future-fantasy of the time, wherein we would all interact with each other just as human beings, and only “take note” of each other’s sex/gender to the extent that we do of our hair or eye colour. He and his lesbian girlfriend (of similar political persuasion) bravely struggle on, usually (and thankfully) for quite a brief time, driven by the conviction that they both ought to be enjoying this.

        Leaving aside the avowedly bisexual (which I happily do), there are all kinds of reasons why people engage in sexual behaviour outside their orientation. Economics and social pressure/expectation are only the crudest among them. There is convenience, of course, but also ties of affection, friendship, solidarity… There was a time in the history of our language when “I love you very much” didn’t necessarily imply “I want to fuck you”, and extra-linguistically a fond caress or kiss didn’t mean “come to bed with me right now”. Not in my time, I’m not THAT old.

        My reflections on “bisexuality” are necessarily all about men. I would be very interested to read lesbians’ thoughts on the same subject, whether they apply to men or women.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, that’s what comes of drinking coffee. Stick to the ground-up acorns and valerian tea-bags. If you think that’s bad advice, then take my mother’s: suck it and see!

          I drink a ridiculous amount of coffee, so to quote my mother once again: don’t do what I do, do what I tell you.

          More seriously, “sheep-shagger” is an expression that would be familiar to any British reader. Do you have an equivalent expression in American? It’s a real question, and though you can’t see it, I’ve put on my serious linguist’s hat in order to ask it.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Ali does have a good point about semantics. It’s not at all illegitimate to ask a gay MAN (too) whether he is more “attracted” to Christine Cagney or Beth Lacey. My own “crush” on Sharon Gless is too well known to regular readers for it to be worth my own comment.
          My point is rather that when we were all sure and comfortable in our homosexuality, there was no “danger” in expressing our “being charmed by” another person, least of all an actor, of the opposite sex.
          My dyke friend Jutta was as curiously “captivated” by the young Christian Slater as I was by Gless. But we have both seen both Slater and Gless in later roles, and thought “nah, not so much”. It’s not so much that they have just grown older, but that they are both good actors, and can make us feel attracted or disattracted to the characters they play. I should add at this point that I have nothing whatsoever against Tyne Daly, who played “Lacey”, and is also an excellent actor.
          I’ll leave the rest to you, but it makes me a little angry that we now have to argue for and justify things we formerly took for granted.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Semantics only seems to come in with making the important distinction of being able to recognize that someone is attractive (for instance, a Lesbian being able to recognize that a male movie/TV star is objectively attractive) versus a Lesbian personally being ATTRACTED TO a male (meaning, sexually and/or romantically).

          Of course, Lesbians are able to say that ______ (male movie/TV star) is attractive if asked about it (we likely wouldn’t spontaneously notice or comment though!) — but NO, Lesbians are not ATTRACTED TO males.

          So, this debate is not usually a simple issue of semantics…because we all know the difference between recognizing that someone is objectively attractive (or finding them smart, interesting, etc. as a person) versus wanting to have sex and/or a romantic relationship with that person.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’m sorry if “semantics” is a dirty word for any of you. It’s part of my stock-in-trade. It just has to do with what words mean. Meanings can change over time, or course, but don’t let us be bamboozled by “post-modernists” into thinking that words have no meaning at all.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I know what semantics means, and it’s certainly not a dirty word to me, but, in this particular scenario (which I have had to discuss ad nauseum on Twitter too), I really don’t actually think the problem is a semantics issue.

          I believe, with evidence, that the people arguing with me about this topic actually understand the distinction between recognizing attractiveness in another human versus being attracted to someone.

          They just want to CALL themselves Lesbians while liking dick, which is dishonest. That’s a personal issue, not a semantics one. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Actually, Saye, i think I allowed my knees to tremble over Sharon Gless as Christine Cagney and was happy for Jutta to go a bit mushy about Christian Slater in certain roles, PRECISELY because our sexualities ARE black-and-white. It’s safe for her to say “if I was a man, I would SO do him”, and for me to fantasize about being “taken roughly” by “Cagney”, precisely because either such thing would be inconceivable (and probably unwelcome) in real life. I haven’t explained myself (or Jutta) well, but there you go…


        • Interesting. I’ve never had crushes on males; if I liked a male character in a TV show, it was because I identified with the character (I mean, wanting to be a hero/cop/whatever — not a man!). So I’ve honestly never experienced what you are talking about. No trembling knees or fantasies or mushiness for me…


        • That’s interesting, Saye. Your last comment, I mean. I had an enormous collection of SuperGirl (not SuperMan) comics, until my Mum sold them, behind my back. I never forgave her for it, even though I realized (not then but later) that as a smart antiques dealer (they weren’t strictly speaking antiques), she got a good price for them which probably helped pay to get me through college, so I suppose I have forgiven her.

          I never forgave her for giving away my unimaginatively named “Lenny the Lion” (my teddy-bear, really) to my nephew. I’m still pissed off about that.

          SuperGirl was my favourite because I could both imagine BEING her, and being saved from a burning building BY her. Such are the dreams of a femmy almost-adolescent boy. I thank my lucky stars that there were no psychiatrists or (forgive me) psychologists around to “diagnose” me.

          There’s no actual point to this story, just sharing.

          Liked by 1 person

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