My Personal, Your Political, Our Lesbianism

By Cantor, Libay Linsangan | Women in Action, August 2003 | Go to article overview

My Personal, Your Political, Our Lesbianism


Cantor, Libay Linsangan, Women in Action


The feminist phrase "what is personal is political" applies not only to feminists but to lesbians as well. The phrase has come to mean that distinctions between the personal and the public realms are fallacious (Humm 204). But can the phrase also be applied to lesbians--particularly young lesbians--who do not identify themselves as feminists?

Women who love women still face discrimination in Catholicism-dominant Philippines, and the lesbian movement has been fighting this discrimination since the 1980s alongside their heterosexual feminist counterparts. Although most lesbians readily subsume themselves under the women's movement, they still have distinct concerns that can be addressed only by breaking out into another movement. Young lesbian advocates who started this struggle in the 1980s and 1990s have been lying low these days, focusing on other aspects of their personal lives and contributing to the political struggle when time permits. And while the younger lesbians have entered the scene to continue what was started, they basically come and go--a phenomenon that began at the start of this decade.

Today's society is indeed less strict and forbidding when it comes to homosexuality. With the rise of new technology and more intelligent social mores, Filipino lesbians and bisexual women--especially the younger ones--seem to have more "weapons of adaptation" in their arsenal today such as organised lesbian groups, exclusive parties, chat rooms, SMS communication, and independent publications on print and the web to strengthen and expand their community. Young lesbians are not afraid to speak their minds out about their sexuality--they come out as early as high school, explore the lesbian nightlife while still in college, including women-only dance parties and designated 'women's bars,' and discuss common issues over the Internet with other lesbians from around the world.

But do these young lesbians use these tools to enhance and push forward their feminist ideals? Do they have such feminist ideals?

Different Concerns

Definitions of feminism by feminists tend to be shaped by their training, ideology or race, but in general, feminism is defined as the ideology of women's liberation since intrinsic to all the strands of feminism is the belief that women suffer injustice because of their sex. Consciousness-raising is seen as the quintessential method of feminism (Humm 94-95).

Although aware of what feminism is about, the young lesbians, however, seem to have more personal things to deal with, and feminism is sometimes not one of them. They associate feminist advocacy with women rallying in the streets and carrying "women-power" slogans. Though this description is true to a certain extent, the young lesbians do not understand that this kind of activism is a historically important picture of early feminism and that such forms of protest, for paving the way for certain liberties women experience today, have their own legitimacy and should be respected.

Some young lesbians do not want to be associated with the "grim and determined" stance of rallying feminists. In the age of wireless communication and the World Wide Web, young lesbians consider these early modes as "outdated and very 1980s."

Roselle Pineda, a 27-year old art teacher and lesbian advocate, believes that this kind of stance by young lesbians of today is not helpful to the lesbian or the feminist movement, pertaining to her observation that most of these young ones have an "underdeveloped" social consciousness. "Not all lesbians are feminists, especially in the Philippines, because a lot of them are not exposed to feminism. Feminism is as much an identity as it is an ideology."

Xanthe, * a graduating senior at the University of the Philippines, is an example. "No, I don't consider myself a feminist. I don't have to parade in the streets to voice out what I am and what my rights are. …

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