The Women of Ellensburg: Issues of Women in Washington State
Lesbian Rights and Lifestyle
Lesbianism: Always in Existence, Rarely Accepted
According to the director of the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, almost 10% of the American population is predominantly homosexual in its sexual and emotional orientation. Anthropological data further reveals that homosexuality occurs in all types of societies in their various stages of development; it is, in fact, found in almost all mammals. Despite some opinions to the contrary, social scientists indicate that homosexuality is not statistically correlated with geographical, historical, or evolutionary factors, or with societal decadence.
Despite the fact that homosexuality exists in all societies, however, it is not necessarily accepted in these societies. In a study of 193 societies conducted by Hoch and Zuben in 1949, it was found that Lesbianism was accepted in 10% of the societies, rejected in 11%, and partially accepted in 79%. Our own society, for example, generally defines homosexuality as "abnormal" because: 1) homosexual unions do not produce children, 2) the males and females involved do not accept traditional male/female roles, and 3) some people believe that homosexuals must be "over-sexed" to desire sexual activity that is not related to procreation and so, in their opinion, is "biologically unnatural".
The Lesbian Issue as Lesbians See It
According to Lesbians, perceptions like these in a society that generally rejects and/or fears them makes the question of homosexuality a matter of survival. They point out that unless they feign heterosexuality, their jobs are insecure, especially if they care for or teach children. Secondly, if their Lesbianism is even suspected, they may have problems renting or buying homes or obtaining credit. Finally, they are often denied custody or even reasonable access to their own children if they are open about their sexual orientation. To a Lesbian woman, being "open" about one's sexual orientation in a primarily heterosexual world merely means that she does not pretend to have heterosexual relationships. Many women who do not profess heterosexual realtionships or respond to heterosexual approaches are at least suspected of being Lesbians.
Also, while critics claim that Lesbians choose their sexual orientation, studies indicate that sexual preference is established early in life, so that, by adulthood, "choice" becomes a matter of accepting one's orientation or for all practical purposes becoming sexually neutral.
Lesbian Women as Seen by Feminists
Feminists are frequently concerned about the same issues as Lesbians; choosing whether or not to marry or bear children; being free from what they see as restrictive female role definitions; and being able to express their own sexuality as they see fit.
Feminists also see the Lesbian issue more broadly as a human rights issue. While opponents claim that society must be protected from the influences of such "abnormal" people, Lesbians feel that to deny an individual the right to a job, house, or child on the basis of something they do in their private life is in fact an abridgement of basic human rights.
Lesbians as Conservative Women View Them
Conservative women feel that any acceptance of homosexuality is a threat to what they see as the "essential family unit of mother, father and children" - a sacred institution to them. These women support traditional roles for women and do not feel that their children or any children should be exposed to homosexuals, their way of life, or their values. Some feel that nearly all of the civil rights of Lesbians should be denied because these women are "abominations" who need help with their "affliction" to "return to the fold."
In general, conservative women see Lesbian rights as a moral issue and feel that someone must stand up for what is right and wrong, even if it is unpopular. Many are shocked to find that others do not see homosexuality as abnormal.
Currently, there seems to be little chance of feminists and conservative women agreeing on this issue. Conservative women base their objectives to Lesbianism on moral grounds they feel cannot be compromised. In their view, they are not denying the human rights of other people; rather, they are protecting their own rights to maintain their lifestyle and their values.
On the other hand, Lesbian women believe that their very existence is in question. For this reason, they are unlikely to stop fighting for the right to live where they want, to work at jobs for which they are qualified, or to raise their own children. They point out that most Americans consider these rights basic to all human beings and further challenge their opponents to explain how a Lesbian lifestyle threatens the rights of others.