One of our spokespeople last year… Self-appointed. One of our spokespeople approached me straight after one of my shows to give me a bit of feedback, and that’s my favorite time for feedback. Straight after a show? Yes, please! That is when my skin is at its thickest. The feedback? Apparently, she said, “I was very disappointed in your show this year, Hannah. I just don’t think there was enough lesbian content.” I’d been on stage the whole time. I didn’t… even straighten up halfway through, you know?
I get this. Oh, do I get this. I get comments, email, whispers, tweets, even AMPLIFY responses that tell me this blog is not lesbian enough. As if I’ve tricked your typical lesbian blog reader into clicking to read about Pittsburgh lesbians and discovering – racial justice content.Or Q&A’s with LGBTQ people who do not identify as lesbians. Or a cat food drive. Well maybe that one can slide a little bit. But why so many posts about municipal government?
“I thought this was for lesbians” they write to me. Nope, sorry, we are corresponding AS lesbians not solely TO lesbians and so sorry you won’t get that 30 seconds of your life back. BECAUSE WE HAVE OTHER THOUGHTS than just lezzing all day long.
I don’t think I’ve even used the term ‘lezzing’ before. Chalk that up to Nanette, I guess.
Beyond just being irritated that someone takes the time to interfere with my life to inform me that I’m not lesbian enough for their taste … there’s the fact that they are invalidating and erasing, rendering invisible, the truth that a lesbian owns, edits, and controls the blog. I don’t write all of the content, but this lesbian oversees guest and contributor posts. This lesbian deliberately seeks out marginalized voices and signal boosts them via our various Q&A projects. This lesbian handles the tech work, pays for everything, and deals with the problems.
At no point in any of that work do I step away from my lesbian identity. I don’t unzip the lezbo suit and drape it over the sofa while I sit down to blog about billboards. Or cats. Or the Mayor. Nope, the lesbo suit along with my other multi-dimensional identity is right there when I’m blogging.
Just like I don’t hide my identity when people start screaming at me about being political – “OH MY GOD”, they say, “You want me to read this post about a non-lesbian topic on a LESBIAN blog? You wrote this post about women in the early 20th century Pittsburgh or about a food pantry or a restaurant review and shared it with the word LESBIAN in the URL? Why does everything have to be political? Why can’t I benefit from your insight and perspective without having to have your sexuality in my face?”
You might be surprised how many people appropriate my creative content and share it on Facebook without attribution, not because they are thieves but because they are homophobes. Rather than put a lesbian URL on their Facebook page, they will break the law and disrespect my intellectual rights because the content itself, regardless of lesbian affiliation, is something they value. Think about that. The posts about the billboards in Worthington Borough, Armstrong County are a good example – lots of intellectual appropriation. If I push back, I’m trying to “get credit” as if being credited for my work by people who seem to value it is a bad thing? Or expecting WPXI which rant the first regional story to acknowledge that they used my blog and consulted with me for contacts and context to say “hey, a lesbian blogger was there first” takes away from the cause? As if anyone would ever say these things to a cis het male journalist.
It is about credit because it is a big fucking deal that a lesbian controlled blog is 13+ years into its run in a world where most blogs last 90 days. It is a big deal that a disabled woman in a two woman household has been able to pay the bills for this blog for all of those years. It is a big deal that I’ve been receiving awards as a middle-aged lady blogger.
And it is a big deal that I have been paying close enough attention to my work and my neighbors to recognize a story that should be signal boosted even when mainstream media says otherwise. I wrote those posts not for the fame and glory and rape threats, but because actual human beings living in Armstrong County were hurting from the trauma of the billboards. And they just wanted to be heard. So that was something I could do to help.
To strip the lesbian blog context when you share the content I created isn’t just hurting me, it is washing away the power of connections between bloggers and readers. There’s magic there, not created by me – power that I responded to because I recognized the beacons and I did something. We need more of that, not just more MSM interviews that lift up the racist old white guy and used terms like “alleged racism” because … well, you know. Of course being a lesbian is part of what helps me find good stories to share.
But the not-lesbian-enough stuff, it comes from all directions. The TERF’s describe me as an “anti-lesbian lesbian” because I acknowledge, validate, and celebrate the identities of my trans and nonbinary neighbors on a LESBIAN blog. ** mind blown ** right? Lesbians validating nonbinary identities because I know that my identity is not threatened by being a decent human being.
“You should rename your blog Pittsburgh LGBTQ Correspondents”. And while I am proud to fluidly move through identities like LGBTQ, gay, and queer – I am still a lesbian.
The funny thing is that these lesbian fetishists should be celebrating me – I’m the fucking lesbian boss of this award winning blog. I get final say over anything men submit, including comments. Important people try to silence me, the lesbian (see above). I blogged so fucking much about my uterus vis a vis my hysterectomy that I was quoted in the Washington Post. With a photo.
None of this is okay. It is not okay to chastise me for demanding recognition for my work. It is not okay to cut-n-paste my content without including the link. It is not okay to tell me I’m not lesbian enough or that I’m too lesbian or have any fucking opinion on my lesbian identity at all.
No one is forced to read this blog. Also, no one is forcibly stopped from starting their own lesbian blog and investing 13+ years to see if their way is better. That would be great – more voices! Lezzers everywhere.
Funny how little resistance I get when I blog about events outside of Pittsburgh. Rarely does someone email me to say “I thought this was a Pittsburgh blog, why are you writing about Kittanning/Philadelphia/Texas/Africa?” Yes, I suppose I am tricking them into crossing a bridge or continent on occasion. I admit that I lure you in with the promise of an exotic Pittsburgh locale, drag you through a tunnel and boom – we’re talking about homicides and water safety in Detroit.
But when the Grand Jury Report on Sexual Abuse by Priests came out in August 2018, I got a lot of #NotAllPittsburghers feedback. Same thing when I dove into the Two Pittsburghs phenom. Or when my blog posts about a homophobic candidate are ruining everything.
Hannah Gabsby and I are not alike. She’s younger than me. Her aesthetic is more tender butch and I’m more dowdy discount Alfred Dunner. She’s tall and cute, while I’m short, fat, and plain. She’s a famous comedian and I’m a blogger on my sofa.
We do share experiences of trauma and violence. You can read the transcript from Nanette here. and you can read my (many) blog posts about my own trauma here. Like Hannah, I am not going to let other people’s trauma interfere with my resiliency. I know that I blog good things into the world, whether good for just me or for an entire county or for all of the lesbians. I get to control my narrative and continue to define just what a Pittsburgh Lesbian should Correspond about – hint, whatever the fuck I want to blog about.
As a survivor of grooming by a sexual predator, I learned to stifle my instincts and to not believe my own sensory experiences in the world. I grew up treated like an object, being molded into a vessel for some sick fuck’s perverted use and it is too late to undo that. I have to reconfigure my brain to experience the world and that absolutely impacted my coming out experiences. But the different is that I am not willing to give up my adult narrative as a lesbian to anyone. I don’t care if you give me credit because it is actually not your decision anyway – I’ve earned credit. And that’s what I learned from my most recent viewing of Nanette.
Hannah Gadsby and I are a million miles apart.
But we are both exactly the right amount of lesbian.
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