Within the past hour, The Guardian website published an article on women in their 30s having relationships with other women.
The title? "'Love is always complicated': Elizabeth Gilbert and the rise of later-in-life lesbians – Eat, Pray, Love author flooded with support after she announces relationship with her best friend – but she is far from alone in meeting a female partner after leaving a heterosexual marriage".
Now – leaving aside the fact that she met Rayya Elias long before her marriage ended – what's a good word to describe someone who has relationships with both men and women? The Guardian doesn't know, despite labelling it 'LGBT rights'.
Later-in-life lesbians – women who identify as lesbians or declare same-sex feelings in their 30s, often after serious relationships, marriage and children – have come more into the public consciousness in recent years, with a string of high-profile women publicly leaving hetrosexual (sic) relationships for female partners.
As we know, sexual orientation is made up of many things, including attraction, identity and behaviour (or 'thought and word and deed' for those who like a reminder every time they hear the right Church of England prayers). I don't have any problem with women who identify as lesbian being described as lesbian-identified regardless of their behaviour. But not to say 'who identify as lesbian or bisexual' is erasure.
But wait, newly aware Stonewall have not just one but two leading figures quoted! Surely they'll make the point?
Women coming out later in life is not a new phenomenon, said Ruth Hunt, head of LGBT rights organisation Stonewall. Women entering a different stage in their lives have often explored their own identity and sexuality because they “possibly care less about what people think and they feel more confident about who they are”.
Oh well, I'm sure she used the b-word somewhere in what she said. Reasonably sure anyway. Maybe the author didn't quote that bit.
What about Stonewall's chair?
Jan Gooding, chair of Stonewall and group brand director with insurers Aviva, said that women who shift sexuality later in life are often keen not to be labelled in any way – like Gilbert, who does not explicitly refer to herself as a lesbian in her post but rather declares that she loves another woman.
Way to go Jan – let's not mention the word 'bisexual' about women who are behaviourally bisexual but don't explicitly label themselves as lesbian. Could that be because of, oh, I don't know, the problem of biphobia in society in general and the LGBT 'community' in particular?
What the fuck?!?
There is someone who gets close:
Susie Orbach, who spent more than 30 years with the writer Joseph Schwartz, and had two children with him, before marrying novelist Jeanette Winterson, writes in the Guardian on Friday: “We are finally beginning to recognise that sexuality is neither a binary nor fixed. That love, attraction, identity, attachment and sexuality are more layered and interesting than they have been allowed to be represented in the public space until now and that as their complexity is opened up to us, the crudity of realising you were always gay or always straight is for many people a nonsense.”
.. but 'finally beginning'? Thirty five years after the start of the UK bi community, how can anyone say that?
This is what erasure looks like.