The freedom, power, and subversiveness of invisibility.

As so many of us do, my teenaged self had a huge and somewhat unrequited crush on one of my best friends. This crush lead me into some very questionable situations including - but not limited to - a WEN-DO women's self-defense class and a lesbian support group.

While my crush kinda bailed on both and it turned out that none of the lesbians in the support group particularly needed support - truth be told, I think they were all just looking to hook up - the six of us parlayed that group into TEACH (teens educating and confronting homophobia). It was a pretty sweet gig - we went around to Toronto schools and orgs and did anti-heterosexism workshops for students, support staff, teen moms, and whoever would have us.

No matter what group we presented to, we were inevitably asked the same question in every single workshop:

What do lesbians do in bed?

Now, in their defence, this was the 90s, but to this day, I'm often still asked this question. I'm sure by now, we all know that the reason this question gets asked is sexism. There is a portion of the population that absolutely cannot conceive of women having desire or sex that does not involve a man. This is one of the reasons feminist sex shops exist and why so many of them were founded by lesbian-identified people in the first place. Not only could lesbians imagine what women might do in bed together and what tools and toys they might want, but they also knew that non-lesbian women could benefit from this knowledge and be able to use it to pursue their own sexual pleasure solo or with the men in their lives.

This is what we mean when we talk about queering sex education for everyone - helping folks conceive of sex and pleasure beyond penis-in-vagina sex.

Heck, there's even a rumour that Queen Victoria didn't even bother making lesbianism illegal because she couldn't conceive of two women being together in a romantic or sexual relationship.

I've always found there to be a radical freedom and power in invisibility. When society deems you largely irrelevant or impossible to conceive of, you are free to pursue your life much as you please. Some of the cultural touchstones of the so-called "lesbian sex wars" or "feminist porn wars" came from these corners of dyke culture that were just following their passions with little regard for the norms of the culture at large.

This movement may not have immediately caused a huge shift in mainstream sex culture, but beyond the margins, there was an explosion of sex toys, sex shops, porn made by-and-for dykes, BDSM, and some pretty fucking hardcore music (truly, Lynn Breedlove's Tribe8 was the only thing that left me feeling at all seen at 19).

It is pretty amazing what you can do when no one expects anything from you - if they acknowledge you at all. My whole life has been entirely free from the pressures and norms my straight friends experienced, and when you have no societal expectations on you and the law never bothers to outlaw the stuff you do in bed, you can kinda do anything you want. And, well, here I am.

However, every superpower has a downside.It isn't easy to traverse life with no roadmap and no support from family and society at large. It is pretty awful to have every relationship deemed by family to be "just a phase" or to be ousted entirely from one's support network because of your sexual orientation. It is hard to grow up in a world that doesn't acknowledge your existence or human rights.

When we reflect on women lacking wage parity with men, folks often overlook that being a lesbian compounds that disparity because both of you get paid less. So, sure, you have freedom, but if you can't make rent or pay for vet bills, that freedom doesn't go that far. Well, I dunno, maybe the lesbian separatists had some financial success, but I haven't followed up on that movement in decades.

I guess what I'd like to see on this Lesbian Visibility Day is some acknowledgement and appreciation for all of the lesbians throughout history who have radically shifted sex and relationship culture for everyone. Without lesbians, dildos that won't kill you would not exist, the best harnesses in the world wouldn't exist, sex-positive feminism wouldn't exist (no offense, Betty Dodson), feminist porn wouldn't exist, and most importantly to me, Come As You Are wouldn't exist.

So, take a tiny bit of time today to reflect on the invisible ways lesbians have altered the course of history and the many gifts they've bestowed upon you and your sex life.

I'm going to spend Lesbian Visibility Day trying to figure out what the hell happened to all those lesbian separatists from back in the day. I'll be sure to report back.

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