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INTRODUCTION

Whenever I, or any people for that matter, browse through literature pertaining to

gender studies, identity politics and even philosophy, I always have difficulty looking for

texts that center on lesbianism. I believe the lack of available resources reflect and, to a

certain extent, contribute to inadequate understanding and misconceived perceptions

regarding the issues faced by lesbians today. In my everyday search for lesbian

representation, I have come to the realization that the media has come a long way in

integrating homosexuals in its industry. Unfortunately, it appears that the lesbian receives

far less exposure, if not, entirely in the background, as compared to gay men. It is a

challenge to collect fragments of the lesbian culture in the form of articles, films, and TV

show DVDs. And I have always found this difficulty to be deeply rooted on the fact that

the lesbian lifestyle is simply not receiving the ample attention it deserves. This is could

be, on the one hand, due to the tendency of lesbians to be silent members of society. As a

result, the silence of lesbians has led to an over-all hushing of their lives including the

ordeals they face.

As such, this thesis will discuss the dilemma lesbians1 encounter based on their

gender identities. It is in high hope that in pursuing a philosophical inquiry on lesbianism,

I will be able to supply a substantial account on a subject that deserves further attention in

academic discourses.

One of the concerns of this paper is anchored on the claim that lesbians are

confronted with the issue of double displacement due to their sex and gender. Sex is

generically defined as the biological birth category of a person as male or female. This

1
The term lesbian in its most basic sense refers to a female who identifies the same sex as the
object of her desire and sexual preference. Lesbian gender per se is a patchwork of masculine and feminine
qualities which the lesbian reinforces and chooses to manifest as part of her identity and lifestyle.
2

category has become the basis of societies in socially constructing and naturalizing

gender as masculine or feminine. Sex is far more stable than gender in the sense that the

former is physically confined. Gender is a social construct that has developed to become

a social fact. In this thesis, I will be deconstructing gender to accommodate other

identities aside from the masculine and the feminine.2 Sex and gender distinctions are

further standardized and reinforced through roles, social beliefs, and practices. In order to

address the issue of double displacement, this project shall gear towards the attainment of

a higher social good in the form of gender justice. This goes to say that the central task of

my thesis is to liberate the lesbians from double displacement by producing and

conceptualizing a “gender-just society.” It is necessary for the latter to be the ultimate

goal of any intellectual endeavor that wishes to solve the issues a particular gender faces.

The paper suggests a scholarly activist stance. As such, the feasibility of the

recommendations to be rendered is reliant on the attitude lesbians would have to adopt. A

gender-just society is plausible if and only if the lesbian can first overcome the myths or

false notions regarding her identity in society.

To clearly establish the project this thesis wishes to pursue, Chapter One will

familiarize the reader with the context/issues in which the lesbian is situated. It will

include a review of the status of women and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual, and

Queer (GLBTQ) communities in different societies. Afterwards, I shall also discuss the

contribution of feminist thought in the analysis of lesbianism. In the section entitled

Feminist Theory versus Lesbian Theory, I am to purport that feminism which has claimed

authority in providing an account of lesbianism (both in theory and practice), has in

2
ABC of Women Worker’s Rights and Gender Equality, (Geneva: ILO, 2000), 3.
3

certain ways failed to adequately perform the task of formulating a lesbian-oriented

praxis.

Chapter Two is devoted in laying down arguments that will support the claim that

double displacement exists. This will be done by investigating how the lesbian is

discriminated, repressed, and misplaced via the various institutions of society. I would

consequently tackle the ways in which the lesbian is viewed and identified within the

public sphere in order to understand the root of her difficulties and passivity in addressing

the issue of double displacement.

Chapter Two will also discuss how the male-female and masculine-feminine

binary categories became the primary point from which a society institutionalizes

heterosexuality as the norm of gender relation and identity. In doing so, individuals are

raised and trained to conform to their particular sex and gender designations. Moreover,

the need to procreate will be used to justify heteronormativity. This is an assumption that

every one is and ought to be heterosexual.

In the same chapter, heterosexuality will be described as an institutional and self-

preservation entity that maintains social order. A society makes it imperative to strictly

conform to the gender categories one is placed in view of the assumption that being

heterosexual is normal and necessary. One who does not fit within this gender framework

would be considered as a deviant, a rebel, or even abnormal. Failure to obey by the rules

of gender identification would lead to dire consequences. The lesbian therefore, being

both female and homosexual, inherits the afflictions of both categories. As a result of this

scenario, achieving a collective lesbian identity and a free gendered self becomes

obscure.
4

The Final Chapter will center on gender justice as it relates to double

displacement and how it is to be placed as the absolute end to be attained. As such, it falls

under the strand of socio-political philosophy which is concerned with the normative

aspect of addressing social ends and issues. By the time the reader reaches this

concluding chapter, he/she would have presumably understood that the different forms of

gender oppression like sexism are social justice issues.

In formulating a gender-just society, I will be employing the Capability Approach

of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. Humanist Feminists and gender theorists are

currently choosing this general normative framework in analyzing the issue of gender

equality and justice. The Capability Approach, though still in the stage of becoming a full

blown theory of social justice, can be used to construct the conditions needed to for

gender-just society. Needless to say, this thesis shall ground its solution on positive

freedom. Bodies, regardless of gender, ought to receive certain privileges based on

capabilities. Capabilities will be referred to as the ability to do and to be (termed as

functionings) and will be considered in this thesis as fundamental entitlements.

The applicability of gender justice in this thesis will be limited to civil societies

that have already accommodated a liberal stance. The category of lesbian and

homosexual should be first presented in the said society. Furthermore, it must be noted

that the concepts applied here are feasible within the context of Western and Western-

influenced states wherein there is conscious presence of gendered institutions and human

rights.
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CHAPTER 1: EXPOSITION AND CONTEXTUALIZATION

Before I am to inquire the issue of double displacement, one must first recognize

the social reality in which it is embedded. As such, this chapter will aim to familiarize the

reader with the landscape that this thesis would be working on. I have also opted to

include a section devoted to an overview of feminist thought as it relates to lesbian

praxis. Although there are a lot of disciplines that engage in studying lesbianism, it is the

feminist that had served as arbiter in such discourse. As mentioned in the introduction,

this chapter contextualizes the problem of lesbians as individuals and as part of the Gay,

Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer3 (GLBTQ) community. I must reiterate that

background discussions for any work that pertains to gender is indispensable. This is in

order to establish that gender oppression is a current predicament and a contemporary

issue that society has remained silent on.

The following section will consist of brief reports that aim to highlight the status

of gender liberation on different continental locations. The lesbian is, in the succeeding

paragraphs, discussed as part of the homosexual community and the women sector. After

we have seen her position in different scenarios, we will be able to discuss the lesbian

quasi-independently.

3
The term gay is used in this thesis exclusively refers to homosexual males. The term lesbian as
clarified in the introduction is the homosexual female whose gender and sex is both considered inferior.
Bisexuals are individuals whose object of desire can shift from male to female and vice versa. Transsexuals
on the other hand, are people who have decided to alter their sex to coincide with their gender preference.
The term queer refers to individuals who do not wish to categorize themselves using the usual gender
categories.
6

The Status of GLBTQ minorities and Women in different Social Contexts

The United States: A Pioneer on Gender Advocacy

The United States (US) is considered to be the most advanced in the process of

creating a gender-just society primarily because it is the host to numerous GLBTQ

advocacy groups. In comparison to other states, the gays and lesbians in the US tend to

actively participate in political and social dialogues. Their values and attitudes tend to

focus more on the individual, rather than what society dictates or perceive as correct.

Furthermore, it could be traced in their history that US gays and lesbians are the pioneers

in demanding for equal civil liberties and most especially in the alleviation, if not the full

eradication, of gender discrimination.

A good point of reference would be the “Stonewall Rebellion of 1969” in New

York City, where gays protested against the use of brutal force of abusive police officers

while raiding gay bars.4 This momentous event in gay history became the launching pad

for GLBTQ advocacy. The entry of lesbians in the GLBT movement5 soon followed in

the early ‘70s as part of the second wave of feminists. Afterwards, these second wave

feminists began to explore the role of lesbianism, as emphasized in the publication of

Simone De Beauvoir entitled “The Second Sex,” and the highly angered article of

Charlotte Bunch’s “Lesbians in Revolt.”6

Despite the head start, lesbians and gays in the US are still subject to rightwing-

led discrimination headed by the Republicans, neo-conservatists, and like-minded

4
Andre Reding, Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas, (New York:World Policy
Institute, 2003), 89.
5
Individuals who considered themselves in the category of “queer” were not yet recognized
during this time.
6
Marilyn Pearsall, Women and Values: Readings in Recent Feminist Philosophy, 3rded.
(Belmont:Wadsworth Publishing Company,1999), 2-3.
7

individuals, through legislations that suppress gender justice. Despite public dissent, the

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the US military, which inhibits gays and lesbians from

serving the army as “out” soldiers, is still being implemented. On the other hand,

majority of Bible Belt states in the US do not tolerate GLBTQ behavior particularly in

recognizing same-sex unions, except for some parts of Florida who recently amended

their local legislations acknowledging same-sex civil unions. Furthermore, there are no

laws that protect gays and lesbians against hate crimes in more than half of federal states

the country.

Despite initial efforts in demanding for equal civil liberties, it is still not enough

to assume that “gender revolution,” as American scholars coined the term for the

liberation and equality of both sexes, is over. Although it can be asserted that women

have been able to infiltrate various fronts of society, a lot of feminists argue that the truth

of this is exclusively centered on White middle class women, and to other races and

groups that exist in the US.

The role of women, in general, is still in question mainly because of their sex and

gender. This has been manifested in various organizations and companies who are still

able to elude from the laws that should have been able to protect women. Laws, which

were supposedly aimed at protecting women at work, are not being fully implemented.

Some women are not hired, given less income and benefits, or easily terminated primarily

because of the assumption that as women, they could not properly do their work as good

as men can do it.


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South and Latin America:The Machismo Culture

One of the fundamental cultural markers related to gender in South and Latin

America revolves around the machismo culture, the Latin American concept of hyper-

masculinity. Machismo culture refers to the overall cultural structure of the Latin

Americans such that it adheres, not only to the patriarchal system of its society, but most

importantly in the attitudes and values related to extreme masculism. Machista ethics

solidly describes the attitudes and values of the male species: sexually-aggressive,

domineering, and has high regard for the male-dominated society. Its ideals are further

emphasized by the religion of the Latinos, Roman Catholicism, as reiterated by Andre

Reding:

Machista ideals of manly appearance and behavior contribute to


extreme prejudices against effeminate men, and frequently to violence
against them. The Roman Catholic teaching that homosexuality is a sin
further contributes to intolerance, and is seen by many to provide
moral sanction for mistreatment. To live an undisturbed gay or lesbian
lifestyle in much if not most of Latin America, one has to hide it.7

It is said that the Roman Catholic Church accepts homosexual

individuals, but not the sexual acts that these homosexuals engage in.

However, homosexuals do not deny the fact that these sexual acts, or

even the concept of thinking of it, is inevitable to commit. Hence, even

if the “act” is different from those who commit them, there would still

be the negative view of gays and lesbians as people who continue to

sin because the act cannot be separated from the person. Given the

need for the homosexual to abstain him or herself from sexual acts

7
Andre Reding, Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas, 7.
9

with the same sex, there is always the question of whether this would

hinder his or her capability to live freely in coherence with his identity.

It must be noted that as compared to gays, lesbians receive less

maltreatment and harassment in Latin American countries primarily

because lesbian relations are invisible in their cultural fiber.8 And since

machismo has a male-oriented definition, lesbianism is seen as a far

less threat in society. Despite such indistinct behavior, there is still the

issue of displacement because of the non-recognition of lesbians in its

culture.

On the other hand, Latino culture also imbibe the way of thinking

that women can only be truly be called a woman if they experience

sexual intercourse. Armed with such thinking, males engage in rape, or

forced sexual intercourse, if only to enforce their machista ideals, and

perceive such act as a favor, onto the unrecognized lesbian sector of

their society. Lesbians are also abused by their own family members

through domestic violence and incestuous acts. As a result, these

crimes are, most of the time, seen as private disputes, rather than

considering it as a gender-related issue.9 Instead, abuses toward

lesbians are placed in police records as either rape or domestic

violence. The lack of recognition and documentation for gender crimes

have allowed the governments of these states to hold any

8
Ibid, 16.
9

Thompson, Becky. interview, Maria Trinidad Gutierrez and the Mexican Lesbian and Gay
Movement, in Sojourner: The Women’s Forum, Vol. 21, No. 10 (30 June 1996), 13.
10

accountability and intervene with the homophobic behavior in their

culture.

Given the aforementioned issues and concerns, the ideology that

women are inferior to men is highly viewed by Southern, Latin

American, and Carribean states since colonial times. With this, the

image of the woman is regarded in two views: a) if she is married, then

she is placed on a pedestal and situated in the home; b) if she is

single, then she becomes a part and an object of the game called

sexual pursuit. In both views, the woman is viewed not as an

independent person with a given set of capabilities. Instead, she is

conceived either in terms of her relation to men, i.e. as a mother to her

son, a wife to her husband, or as an object of men’s desire.

This mode of thinking has evolved changed throughout the

years, especially during the era of industrialization and socialism in

most of Southern and Latin states. However, the nature of

submissiveness remains prevalent, even with the introduction of

women in the workforce and the public sphere. In fact, the labor arena

is one of the areas in which the woman is further subjected to

subordination due to their inferiority complex or their tendency to be

too submissive in work demands. As a result of their submissiveness

and inability to complain, women laborers, particularly in sweatshops

and factories, in Latin America are still subjected to substandard

working conditions, cheaper labor cost, longer working hours, and too
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much workload. To aggravate matters, they are still financially

dependent on their husbands, or even other male relatives for this

matter. Husbands and male relatives tend to take their earnings,

forcibly or through coercion, in an attempt to instill their role and

stature as the superior sex, as sanctified by tradition.

Canada: Homosexual Policy Support

Canada is leading the call for revising laws to accommodate the

rights of GLBTQs. It has continuously created and developed pro-

homosexual laws for gays and lesbians.10 Recently, it has also begun to

uphold same-sex marriage privileges. Unfortunately, this does not

suffice to conclude that Canada is the archetype for the future gender-

just state. Gender oppression continues to persist for colored

Canadians and immigrants. Lesbians continue to receive

discrimination, although in a more subtle way, from the communities

they belong to despite legal protections extended to them. In this

regard, Canadian GLBTQs tend to simply to shrug away these

incidents. The flaw in the system exists due to lack of implementing

guidelines for such laws. Furthermore, Canadians are somehow

complacent over the existence of these laws, such that they lack the

enthusiasm and passion to criticize or question whether the law is fully

realized.

10
Andre Reding, Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas, 126.
12

Europe: Netherlands, The Most Gay-tolerant Nation

The International Social Survey Program conducted a study on

homosexual tolerance behavior and found out that the Dutch were the

most tolerant among other countries, scoring 77 over 100 in a

tolerance survey. It should also be noted that the Netherlands is the

first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001.11

In contrast, even with the anti-discrimination law for same-sex

oriented individuals, 70% of Siberians have experienced some form of

violence against them based on their gender preference, appearance

and practices according to a 2006 survey on gay and lesbian related

crimes by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.12 Vuckovic

also highlighted in her article entitled “Discrimination against Lesbians and

Gays in Siberia 2006” that about 43% respondents claimed to have

encountered such violence on a regular basis, whether it be physical

(being slapped, kicked, and even beaten by random strangers),

emotional and psychical (in result of frequent taunting, ridicule, refusal

to talk, denial of entry from some establishments, et cetera.).13

Like in South and Latin America, the Labris GLBTQ organization,

a lesbian organization, also reported that even though gays and

lesbians reported violent experiences to the police, the cases were

11
Jonathan Kelley, Attitudes towards Homosexuals in 29 nations, in www.international-
survey.org/A_Soc_M/Homosex_ASM_v4_n1.pdf, accessed on November 1, 2001.
12
Samuel Cox, Division Report: Gender-related Violence. United Nations Commission on
Human rights. 2000.
13
Dragana Vuckovic, Discrimination against Lesbians and gays in Siberia 2006, in
http://www.labris.org.yu/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=136&Itemid=48, accessed on
August 16, 2007.
13

filed as mere random physical injury or domestic violence. Instead of

arresting the culprit, police officers merely advised the complainants to

settle the dispute and avoid “attracting too much attention.”14 The

organization also reported that gays and lesbians were being

terminated from their respective jobs on the assumption that they are

gays or lesbians, albeit their non-admittance. On the other hand, some

businesses fire lesbians on the pretext that they do not meet specific

job requirements, particularly in the aspect of meeting the

requirements for certain dress codes (in reference to dykes, butches,

and transgendered women). Another justification an employer uses is

the fact that women who are not married in their 30s are assumed to

have lack emotional stability, and thus may affect their ability to

perform their work effectively. This, obviously, would have difficulty of

finding a job when she reaches this particular age. Furthermore,

lesbians and women are also objects of pornography and sex

trafficking. Such premises are contradictory to Article 18 of the Labor

Law of the Republic of Siberia, which clearly states that any act of any

direct or indirect discrimination based on sexual orientation in seeking

employment or as employees is forbidden.15

Due to the liberated view of sexual intercourse in the region,

there is much belief that women are, to a large extent, open for

conquest. This leads to acts of harassment and date rape, particularly

14
Ibid.
15
Ibid.
14

for those bisexuals and femmes. Although filed, these cases are often

left unsettled due to the mindset of European males that in being

harassed and raped, the women wanted it. Such thinking prevails in

the minds of male dominated law enforcement agencies.

Africa: Legal Persecution of Homosexuals

Despite being the first ever country to ever prohibit

discrimination against gays and lesbians, as well as the recognition of

same-sex civil unions, there still a widespread persistence of gay and

lesbian hate crimes in South Africa. In August 8, 2007, three lesbians

were murdered by straight men after attending the first ever “Pride

March” due to its so-called “offending activities.” Instead of

categorizing such act as murder, the suspects were charged with hate

crime, under the anti-discrimination law. Thus, the punishment would

be far more severe in order for the State to send a message of

tolerance and actual recognition regarding the discrimination

homosexuals, in general, suffer.

However, in other parts of Africa, GLBTQs are not as fortunate. A

lot of countries still prohibit homosexuality such as Kenya, wherein

individuals found guilty of being gay can be imprisoned for 14 years. In

Zambia, gays and lesbians are legally prosecuted under the state’s

penal code, which states that “having carnal knowledge of a man or

woman against the order of nature or commits unnatural offenses is


15

guilty of felony.”16 This law was further reiterated by Vice President

Christon Tempo in 1998, when he released a statement vowing that:

“…If anybody promotes gay rights after this statement, the law will take its course. We

need to protect public morality. Human rights do not operate in a vacuum.”17 True to such

words, the police were given instructions to arrest men and women who support

homosexuals or are actual gays and lesbians.18 Moreover, the government continued

supporting the organization Zambia Against People with Abnormal Sexual Acts

(ZAPASA), which aimed to fight against homosexuals. The same situation is widespread

in different parts of Africa like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, et cetera.

By virtue of being women, African lesbians would inherit the same faith from its

patriarchal society as they are considered to be second class citizens. Because of their

dominant male culture, women are also not given equal access to medical treatment. In

the rise of poverty in the continent, women and lesbians alike are chosen to be the

primary recipients of the burden, which includes limited access to: education, media,

government, and practices that could be deemed dehumanizing (such as vaginal

circumcision, banishment, slavery et cetera).

India: Women as a Liability

Similar to the aforementioned locations, the strong patriarchal nature of Indian

society ensures the worse treatment for lesbians than for gays, particularly on the lack of

16
Stefano Fabeni, “The Violations of the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
Persons in ZAMBIA”, International Gay and Human Rights Commission Report, (July 2007), 2. The term
‘women’ is not interpreted by the Zambian government as pertaining to lesbians. The law takes a default
male perspective.
17
Ibid.
18
The lesbian was initially not part of the law persecuting individuals who practice homosexuality.
The original Zambian law stated that men who will engage in homosexual acts would be subject to fourteen
years imprisonment. The involvement of lesbians in the police hunt was de facto in nature and should not
have been covered by legislature. As such it could be deemed as an illegal arrest with no due justification.
16

laws that protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. Although India has a law

particularly against gay relations, it is seldom implemented but instead utilized for

extortion, abuse, and threat. This law excludes lesbian relationships, hence lesbians are

considered to be an invalid gender in the country. This makes our case of displacement a

bigger issue, because of India’s ignorance, rather than the actual act of abuse.

Like African women, Indian women, who are not part of the cosmopolitan cities

of India, are also subject to second class citizenship and unfair treatment. This includes

the practice of “son-preference,” where the son is the more preferred sex by society’s

standards. For this reason, there is a high mortality rate for female children due to the low

allocation of family resources for them particularly in the following aspects: food,

education, medical care, shelter, et cetera.

The Dowry System also reinforces the belief that women are considered to be

expenditures by fathers. In this system, the father of the bride is required to give “dowry,”

in money or in kind, to the family of the groom. With this, Indians view their women as a

liability to their family because of the need to give expensive dowry during marriage,

instead of using such resources on other means of survival.

The Philippines: The Least Tolerant Nation

In the same study that showed the Netherlands as the most

tolerant nation towards homosexual behavior, the Philippines scored 8

over 100, making it the least tolerant among the 29 participating

countries.19 If this holds true, then lesbians and gays maintain a social

stereotype acceptable by the Filipino culture. Despite the fact that

19
Jonathan Kelley, Attitudes towards Homosexuals.
17

physical violence towards gay men and lesbians are infrequent in the

country, discrimination and harassment is very much prevalent due to

the silent and tolerant character of metropolitan society. Moreover,

middle class lesbians do not often find the need to pursue further legal

rights, much more protection. Access to media representation also

tolerates a blinding complacence and satisfaction of the lesbian from

the reality of being displaced.

In terms of “coming-out,” people in the rural areas consider

lesbians if her physical features relate to that of the pseudo-male, or

the butch. In the Philippines, gays and lesbians are able to gain the

acceptance of their families in the form of silence. Otherwise, coming-

out only becomes an issue when the chosen mode is confrontational,

particularly when a lesbian initially denies her gender preference. As a

result, organizations such as Can’t Live Inside the Closet (CLIC) and the

Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB) reported

through an interview with Anna Leah Sarabia, the founder of CLIC, that

some lesbians experience humiliation, parental violence and ridicule

when their gender was revealed in such confrontational manner.20

The degree at which GLBTQs and women experience gender

discrimination and/or oppression varies. However, we are able to see

the recurring pattern of explicit and implicit homophobia and sexism,

not only in the Philippines but as well as in other countries. It must be

acknowledged then, that gender related incidents of oppression are not


20
Anna Leah Sarabia, personal communication, November 2, 2007
18

merely isolated cases. Rather, they become social concerns in most

parts of the globe such that these travesties and subjugation directed

upon homosexual males and females become issues of social justice.

As a form of social justice, gender justice appears in light of the fact

that some members of society are recipients of socio-economic,

political, and cultural inequalities based on their sex and gender, while

being denied of privileges accorded to every individual by virtue of

being rational human beings in a society.

After setting the status quo and context from which this project

launches itself from, I shall move to the second part of this chapter

which discusses how feminist philosophy influenced the formulation of

a lesbian theory. The manner in which historical feminists discussed

lesbianism has been crucial in such a way that its ideas had a huge

impact on the direction of lesbian liberation and thought.

Feminist Theory and Lesbian Theory

Feminist thought has claimed authority over discussions and inquiry of lesbianism

by virtue of their aim, which is concerned with the issues of “womanity.” Given its

nature, lesbianism cannot separate itself from feminism entirely, although there is a need

to set boundaries in which the two converges. With this, I will identify the limits of doing

a feminist approach on the issues of lesbians, and their interpretation of the lesbian

identity, particularly focusing on identifying some of the errors of feminist theories about

the lesbian. I shall pursue this in order to avoid the same flaws in posing the problem of

double displacement and in suggesting a gender-just oriented solution. If a lesbian wishes


19

to understand and comprehend her gendered personhood through a scholarly discourse,

she would find herself unsuitable to the description and identity articulated by its initial

arbiter – the feminists.

An Overview of Feminist Thought

After analyzing the available resource materials, it appears that there is no clear-

cut description to categorically defining feminism. In fact, feminists find themselves

arguing what constitutes the very term. For the sake of clarity, feminism will be defined

here in its most general sense: a movement that is comprised of social, political, and

cultural praxes, advocacies, and philosophies that aims to understand and eradicate the

cause of inequalities and oppression particularly towards women.21

I consider that the position of feminist thought, as a strand of philosophy, is not

confined to the tasks of conceptual analysis and discourse. It has literally become a

philosophy in action, in the sense that the philosophizing of women, about women, has

led to the creation of a political advocacy that aims not only in telling us what is wrong,

and what we ought to do. Actually, it has been devised to set out and show us how they

think it should be done. To understand the issues of feminist thinking, as well as its action

driven face outside of the academe, I will briefly trace the evolution of the said discipline.

This would allow one to see where feminism is coming from, and why it is what it is,

before laying down its main tenets regarding society, women, and the lesbian.

The thoughts, ideas, and history of feminism are best spoken through the three

waves in which feminist thought is said to have occurred. The aforementioned waves are

generally reflected from the formulation of a feminist agenda within the US and Europe.

21
Marilyn Pearsall, Women and Values: Readings in Recent Feminist Philosophy, 3rded.
(Belmont:Wadsworth Publishing Company,1999), 1
20

However, I attempted to diffuse and decontextualize such ideas in order to address gender

oppression in most societies.

It has been said that feminist thinking was given a figure during the 18th century

through the now classic 1792 work of Mary Wollstonecraft entitled “A Vindication of the

Rights of Women.” It demanded for the political liberation of women through equal

political and social rights with men who were then considered to be the only eligible

participants in the public sphere. At the same time, it was also the start of feminist

activity in the US and United Kingdom in order to gain the right of suffrage for women.

It can be said that the first wave of feminism is a liberal one, which centered on gaining

entry into state institutions while gaining political and official recognition as the able

counterpart of the male. It is also during this time that women began to argue against the

notion of rational inferiority, thus demanding for equal access to education and civil

liberties.22 Interestingly, it was only during the arrival of the second wave feminism that

the term ‘first wave’ was officially coined.

The first wave feminist activity geared its agenda towards acquiring the right to

vote and some privileges awarded only to men. It centered on attacking the de jure

(official) means like the law and other state policies that oppresses women. As compared

to the first, the second wave feminism takes the issue of de facto means in which gender

oppressive society is able to maintain itself. This is intertwined with the desire to

eliminate practices that reinforce male dominance of various social activities and

relations. Second wave feminists still saw the importance of the first wave feminist

contributions. However, they sought to eradicate both sources of inequality (de jure and

22
Giltraud Schuvik, The Birth of the Woman:An Introduction to Feminism, (New York: Basic
Books,1993), 8-9
21

de facto) as a necessary realignment of issues, from issues of equality towards issues of

freedom, in order to liberate the woman.

The second wave of feminism began shortly after the World War II, with the

appearance of Simone De Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex.” This became the turning point

for the shift of the conceptual framework of feminism from a discussion of equality

towards a discussion of freedom. Her claim, that “women could not be equal, could not

be anything but the second sex until they are free to change themselves and their

conditions,”23 was so powerful that it became the starting point and argument for

succeeding feminist theories, as compared to the aim of feminists’ agenda during the first

wave.

Also during the second wave, that feminism penetrated and aroused the interests

of the American and European public of the 70s, it began to split itself from within.

Feminist thought no longer became a unified understanding of the woman and her

condition instead different views began to give birth to different interpretations and

solutions. For example, the liberals continued to pursue a path to civil liberties as the

primary means to attain freedom and equality. Meanwhile, radical feminists proposed a

program of absolute separatism from all things male, getting back women power by

starting a social revolution. For the Marxist feminist, they believed that all oppression,

like gender oppression, was all rooted in the economic rule of the privileged that required

a revolution overthrowing the bourgeoisie. I would have to say that I disagree with the

system and theory of liberation proposed by the radicals and the Marxist feminist. On the

other hand, I find the liberal stance inadequate when it espoused a change in certain

institutional policies alone. At the most, I would more likely side with the humanists who
23
Marilyn Pearsall, Women and Values: Readings in Recent Feminist Philosophy, 2
22

utilized an existential and third wave feminist thought, in the form of “feminisms,” which

is referred to a feminist in a more global and location-sensitive manner. It must be noted,

however, that despite the fact of having belonged to the third wave feminism,

“feminisms” refuse to associate themselves with it and instead be associated with the

fourth wave feminism.

Third wave feminism refers to the fusion of the different strands of feminism. It

attempts to reconcile these views in form a globalization suiting approach. It is not a

inflexible form of feminism as it evolves by adapting the different modes of women

liberation across cultures unlike feminism, which imposes its view, analysis, and

prescriptions on a society. Feminisms contextualize their views depending on the status

quo of the community. It also recognizes that the cause of gender oppression may be

impossible to find. They do not attempt to engage on history or patriarchy as the sole root

of all evils.

Instead of claiming a unified form of feminism that governs the liberation of

women, I prefer the coming together of different form of feminisms. The claim for

gender justice should not subscribe to universality. Rather, one should view that certain

just inequalities could validly exist in societies with internal and external

multidimensional difference. The emphasis should be in assuring that certain

“capabilities,” or fundamental functions and rights, of individuals regardless of time and

space, are safeguarded.

The third wave of feminism consists of various types, which sprung from the

critiques made by their predecessors, such as the following: black feminist, lesbian

feminist, postmodern feminist, ecofeminist and the mind boggling post-post feminism
23

feminist. Third wave feminism claimed that second wave feminism made a mistake by

proposing a myth of a unified woman. Black feminists, for example, found that feminist

thinking during the 70s and 80s were insensitive to the needs and causes of the Blacks. In

fact, feminism during the aforementioned period was deemed to be applicable only to the

middle-class, the White, and the heterosexual woman.

In their attempt to alleviate gender oppression, radicals and liberalists alike were

unable to consider how the issue crossed path with other means of oppression. They were

criticized for making it seem that the primary problem for any woman would be her

subordination to men. On the contrary, poverty stricken women argue that gender

subordination would be the least of their problems. The Black woman, for example, as

Bell Hooks claimed, would rather identify her oppression as a Black woman in a White

dominated community rather than as a woman in a patriarchal society. This is because

most part of her life was subjected to this racial distinction rather than her sex. She further

criticized the possibility of providing a feminist theory that would represent all women as

she emphasized that, “it is not enough to claim that all women are oppressed and sexism

renders suffering that cannot be measured as the justification to say that a common bond

can be forged among women.”24

Most women, who do not belong to the same social strata as the traditional

American feminists, would find it difficult to reconcile their experience of sexism and

patriarchy from the ones mentioned in the written works of these thinkers. It is necessary

to consider that an affiliation to a different race, or a gender preference, could easily lead

to a whole different view of the world, unlike the second wave feminist that hastily

24
Bell Hooks, Feminist Theory:From Margin to Center, (South End Express, 1984), Woman and
Values:Readings in Recent Feminist Philosophy, 3rded. (Belmont:Wadsworth Publishing Company,1999),
26-29.
24

generalized the female into a universal category of woman. They also assumed that the

problem of a White American heterosexual feminist is identical to the plight of a Filipino

homosexual female and a GLBTQ rights advocate.

Lesbian Misplacement in Feminist Thoughts

As I have mentioned earlier, feminism has claimed ownership over lesbianism by

virtue of having the woman as its central concern. Surely this has some truth to it, but

only to an extent that the lesbian is born with the sexed body of a female and to the extent

as well that she suffers certain symptoms of oppression based on her birth sex. I shall

now render the appraisal of feminist theories on lesbians in this concluding sub-section.

This will also be used as an opener to the discussion of double displacement in Chapter

Two.

When Sigmund Freud published his medical work in 1920 entitled, “The

Psychogenesis of a case of Homosexuality in a Woman,” he declared the concept of

lesbianism as a mental disorder. Using his famous Psychoanalytic approach, he

speculated that homosexuality in men and women may well be a case of narcissism.

Accordingly, he claimed that a woman becomes homosexual when she undergoes a

negative oedipal complex, wherein the mother is naturally the original love object of a

lesbian female. But instead of the desire shifting to the father as the object, the girl (the

daughter) retains her love for her mother.25 Furthermore, Freud asserted that lesbians who

adopt the pseudo-male role is the girl who is unable to shed the masculine component of

her personality and resolve her penis envy. Thus, out of anger and jealousy to her father

25
Janet Shibley Hyde, Lesbianism and Bisexuality, in Half the Human Experience: the Psychology
of Women, 3rd ed. (D.C, Health and Company, 1985), 306.
25

and to other males, such issues were resolved through mimicry of men who possess what

she needs to win the love of her mother.26

This was the scenario at the time when feminism decided to take lesbianism under

its wing, with a goal to retort against the accusation of lesbianism as a disease that infects

the minds of women during the 1960s and 70s. For some time, the term “lesbian” was

even used to insult women and regard them as psychologically abnormal individuals.

This was used as a justification to send them to mental institutions. Women, who defied

certain gender prescriptions, exhibited desire to perform masculine identified acts, and

even those who found comfort in wearing pants were accused of being lesbians. The

feminists of the 70s, who aimed at resolving this stereotyping, claimed that male

supremacy viewed lesbianism with so such stigma out of insecurity and fear of having

their possessions usurped by lesbians.

Also during the 70s, radicalesbians27 who coined the term woman-identified-

woman, claimed that the appeal to pathology of male-dominated psychology was a

desperate attempt to keep women in their place, such that women would continue to

portray the role of the subordinate dependent on man. Accordingly, the clamor for

equality produced a lesbian concept contrary to the assigned inferior category of women.

This idea further flourished when radical feminists integrated the work of Simone De

Beauvoir in the “Second Sex.” There was a shift in thinking that when De Beauvoir

claimed that “the woman could not be equal, could not be anything but the second sex,

until she is free to change to themselves and their conditions.” From an argument of

26
Ibid, 309.
27
Marilyn Pearsall, Women and Values, 32
26

political equality, the assertion of equality in freedom, as a necessary core of human

beings influenced the current wave of thinking.28

This view becomes pertinent in our discussion of lesbianism since De Beauvoir

also emphasized the view that lesbianism is a form of rebellion from the current

conditions of the woman as the other. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the feminists

during that time embraced the lesbian as a woman who is the most free due to her refusal

to relate with men, to be fixed within a domineering system of heterosexuality, and her

passion to practice her freedom by loving her own kind.29

It is understandable that the hype of the 70s Gender Revolution gave birth to an

aggressive feminist voice demanding for change. This was the initial phase of lesbian

feminism that overwhelmed feminists of the possible promise the lesbians offer. In

looking at the various texts on lesbianism during this era of feminist thought, one would

be able to see how the latter saw the lesbian as the ideal needed to overcome patriarchy.

At the onset of Charlotte Bunch’s essay entitled “Lesbians in Revolt,” one could clearly

see the echoing of anger against the current system of her time and how she, together

with her peers, found hope by idealizing the lesbian:

To be a lesbian is to love oneself, woman, in a culture that denigrates and despises


women … lesbianism puts women first while society declares the male supreme.
Lesbianism threatens male supremacy at its core. When politically conscious and
organized, it is central to destroying our sexist, racist, capitalist, imperialist system…
lesbians must become feminists and fight against oppression, just as feminists must
become lesbians if they hope to fight male supremacy.30

In short, lesbianism was regarded as a “choice” the woman should take in order to

liberate her self from the clutches of male domination. Although most of the feminists
28
Ibid, 4-6.
29
Louise Hamilton, Mlle De Beauvoir: “A Synopsis and Analysis of the Second Sex”,
Femwrytsfem, December 2001 available from www.femwrytsfem.com/article/23892; internet, accessed
July 2007.
30
Charlotte Bunch, “Lesbian’s in Revolt”, In Lesbianism and the Women’s movement, (Diana
Press, 1975)
27

today no longer adopt such a view, a strand of radical feminist thought continued to

promote the lesbian choice as the exercise of absolute freedom. Even if lesbians are

unconscious of the political value of their gender preference, they also continued to be

silent soldiers against a heteropatriarchal system of oppression.31

On the other hand, Julia Penelope implied in her work that a lesbian’s choice to

own a deviant gender identity entails that she should be conscious of the consequences

and negative responses towards her identity. She argued, for example, that choosing to

adopt the Butch-Femme, which further explained in the next Chapters, roles could

hamper the capacity of lesbianism to disable heteropatriachy by promoting the social

relations of male and female as the norm of which they must copy. 32 The Butch-Femme

role depicts the lesbian as the true woman, a view that for me is a myth as it focuses

merely on the aspect of these sexed bodies and directing their desires towards the woman.

Moreover, one does not allow the lesbian to be but instead treats her as a tool, a

condition, and a model to be reproduced. Ironically, the lesbian’s concept and possession

of freedom becomes vague, if not suspicious, when individuals form a frame of what

lesbianism ought to be, without considering the fact that being free also entails the need

to adopt the masculine identity. It is far more powerful for the lesbian to claim the

masculine role and deconstruct it to become “the butch.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be

mimic manly characteristics if masculinity is considered as a social construct and that the

concept of sex-gender coherence is an assumption.

Separatism, or the separation of men and women, has been viewed by Charlotte

Bunch as a solution to eradicate patriarchy. Despite calls to overthrow men from their
31

Julia Penelope, “Heteropatriarchal Semantics and Lesbian Identity: The ways a Lesbian can be”,
in Call Me Lesbian: Lesbian Lives, Lesbian theory, (Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1992)
32
Ibid, 78-97
28

privileged position, society would still prefer the current oppressive structure. In my

opinion, Bunch’ ideas is an impractical methodology to eliminate the inferior treatment of

women. This is primarily because I do not see men as enemies to be annihilated, despite

their hyper-masculinity. There is no guarantee that displacement and oppression would

not exist if all women adapt a woman-identified-woman position. It blinds the fact that

even lesbians would refuse to see themselves as the totality of womanhood, despite

assertions of the radical lesbians during the 70s. Some consider themselves women only

as far as their genitals go, but if feminists truly value respect and right to self-

determination, they must not force their ideology on lesbians. It is highly questionable

that feminists deemed lesbian issues as a mere matter of ignorance and instead,

considerably blame patriarchy again in the process for instilling the notion of masculinity.

Although male dominance is one of the primary causes of double displacement, I

disagree with the position that radical lesbian feminists declare in confronting the issue.

This is because these feminists failed to give a stable rational argument to challenge the

system and instead opted to target the male per se. Furthermore, they overlooked the fact

that males are also subject to certain repressions and regulations in terms of gender. It

would be a backfire solution to adopt a system that would seek to liberate women on the

account of men becoming the oppressed. I will further discuss and elaborate the idea of

the lesbian as the authentic self Chapters Two and the need to assert her active

participation in Chapters Two and Three.

When lesbianism is viewed as an applied case of feminism, there is always the

possibility of setting aside the difference of worldviews themselves between the

heterosexual and the non-heterosexual. As a result, feminists overlooked the difference


29

that exists between experiencing women subordination and lesbian subordination, since

the latter has to face the problem of being identified, not only as woman, but as a

homosexual in a heterosexual society. Lesbianism can be an act of rebellion, but it does

not necessarily follow that in order to change the condition of all women, she must act on

her freedom and be a lesbian.

At the most, gender roles ought to be re-evaluated to be more accessible to

individuals possessing a different gendered-self. The masculine and the feminine should

be seen as mere descriptions and, if possible, rendered to be value-free or neutral

concepts juxtaposed to sex.


30

CHAPTER 2: DOUBLE DISPLACEMENT

Double displacement is the accumulation of all forms of gender injustices that

falls upon the lesbian based on her sex and gender. This definition is derived when one

affirms the fact that a lesbian cannot fully set aside her sex by occupying a gender

category, the lesbian. Double displacement is considered as a combination of lesbian

subordination and women subjugation, which I will further discuss in this Chapter.

It would be discriminatory to say that gender oppression exists only in reference

to the plight women faced by virtue of being women. The problem simply is that women,

since time immemorial, were considered secondary to men. The issue of how humans

were subdivided up to form sexes is another issue that has yet to be settled through time.

Hampering or limiting one’s choices, or gender preference, may not necessarily

be through de jure (official) or institutional means. Repression can exist even in silence

through the various social practices. More often than not, some lesbian opt to act straight

in order to avail of certain heterosexual privileges such as: special treatment in standing

room only movie houses and public transportation, availing sick leaves, and more

importantly in public debates and discourses where women, despite their harsh opinion,

are still regarded with respect because of their sex. There is no direct assault on the

lesbian, but she is conditioned to compromise her gender identity in order to avail of the

advantages of being a woman. Signs of oppression and short observations (such as

misogynist statements, physical harassment, verbal abuse, et cetera) allow us to

distinguish signs of oppression. Since it is difficult to be conscious on how society

normalizes repression, lesbians who are exposed to the patterns set by social norms and

gendered institutions would, in the long run, accept the status quo without complaints.
31

Lesbian subordination has been assumed to be in part and parcel of gender

oppression because a lesbian possesses a gendered identity with certain implications and

consequences for the individual and her external relations. Unfortunately, gender

oppression, as a whole, tends to be centered on the conflict of two sets of gender, the

masculine and the feminine, where the latter is viewed as the losing party. As a result,

solving gender oppression becomes more heterosexual in nature and often ignores non-

heterosexual subordination within society.

The lesbian is, by default, a sexed entity. She only captures the category of a

woman by virtue of her being born with a vagina. This becomes the basis of her growth,

while imbibing the feminine role and the subsequent performances, or performative acts,

necessary to continually affirm the nature of her sex. A salient act in maintaining her

“woman” status is the necessity to desire the opposite sex. In leaving this feature behind,

the lesbian loses her ownership of a stable, coherent and socially-acceptable identity.

Feminists have interpreted this as a good thing, such that she does not have to conform to

the oppressive implications entailed by the category of woman.

However, a “gendered concerned act” occurs when a lesbian re-directs her desires

from the male to the female, thus maintaining the burden of her sex. Even if she does not

want to be with a man, she will not be able to free herself from the implications of her

sex. Whether or not the lesbian accepts her female body as hers, and refuses to see her

body compatible with the gender she chooses to assume, she cannot deny that society

would still perceive her as a woman. The general “conservative” public would subject her

to certain standards and norms applicable to that of a woman, whether she would be keen

on accepting it or not.
32

Cheshire Calhoun claimed that gay and lesbian subordination should be treated as

a different axis of oppression in order to avoid concealing heterosexism as another cause

of homosexual plights when spoken in the context of a heterosexually-dominated

discussion of gender oppression as a whole.33 If gender oppression is to be viewed as the

subjugation of women from men alone, there is good reason to maintain the separation of

gay and lesbian subordination from that of gender oppression. Thus, this would prove to

be insufficient in painting the picture of lesbian identity. And because of this, there is a

need to consider the lesbian as a sexed body with a gendered identity.

Feminists thinkers has conveniently used and unused the dualism of the sex and

gender of a person when speaking of the subordination and identity of the lesbian. They

have often sided with the view that being a lesbian would leave out the consequences of

being female. Although Calhoun’s ideas are acceptable, I consider the concept of dualism

of sex and gender as a misguided opinion. Borrowing the words of Calhoun:

… Tootsie roll metaphysics or pop-bead metaphysics is simply wrong. It is not true that
each part of my identity is separable from each other part, and the significance of each
part is unaffected by other parts.34

This trend of thought implies that sex does have an effect on the gendered identity

of the lesbian, although the demands and consequences a lesbian face extremely varies

from the heterosexual woman’s absorption of her sex. Feminists like Monique Wittig

emphasized too much on gender, thus led her to set aside the sex of lesbians. This can be

seen in her claim that lesbians are “not-woman,”35 a shift from the “woman-identified-

woman” concept of radicalesbians. Wittig’s claim of “not-woman” emphasized the

33
Cheshire Calhoun, Feminism, the Family, and the Politics of the Closet, (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2000), 75-76
34
Cheshire Calhoun, “The Gender Closet, in Women and Values”, Readings in Recent Feminist
Philosophy, 3rded. (Belmont:Wadsworth Publishing Company,1999), 194.
35
Ibid, 46.
33

exclusion of the lesbians from the binary scheme of gender and sex. In highlighting the

difference of the heterosexual from the homosexual, I suppose her not-woman claim

failed to recognize the other features that could qualify the lesbian in the category of

woman. By addressing only the issues of gender, she missed out the experience of lesbian

displacement based on her sex. As a result, the lesbian is still subject to oppression.

I do not wish to deny that Calhoun’s and Wittig’s claim that the lesbian, in terms

of her sexuality, is far more concerned with her subordination and displacement,

primarily because of the heterosexual norm of society rather than the disadvantages of

being a woman. However, I wish to correct the implication that this is her only plight.

The lesbian inside the closet may repress her true identity by prescribing to a feminine

imagery of being heterosexual in the eyes of society. However, I cannot see the

significance of continually acting out a feminine script viewed as an automatic sign of

oppression from the heterosexual camp. If one truly views gender as a social construct,

then one must, to a large extent, resist the temptation of looking at femininity and

masculinity as immutable features of heterosexuality.

The following section deals with the issue of some, if not most of, lesbians who

do not recognize themselves as being oppressed. This is important to our discussion

otherwise, non-recognition often leads to non-participation. Also, lesbians tend to take an

underground approach in dealing with their displacement. Homosexuals are deemed to be

an insignificant minority rather than a key sector that can shape society. This can be

partially attributed to the fact that a lot of lesbians would choose to keep their gendered

identities private. Because of this, lack of visibility would further drive society not to
34

recognize and adjust its structure in order to accommodate the presence of the lesbian

community.

I think that in a gender-just society, keeping one’s gender relations a private

matter would not be a problem. However in the present state lesbians are in, their

passiveness has been detrimental in eliminating political and economic displacement.

“Heterosexualized media” of social information aid in regulating the image of the lesbian

in a society. The lesbian today is offered some connections with her gendered identity

through programs that are aimed for consumers like her. This current trend of GLBTQ

commercialization both has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of resolving

double displacement. I shall discuss this issue in the subsection entitled “Lesbian Images

and Categories as means of Objectification” I would then proceed to the outlaw role of

the lesbian in her relations with various institution of society.

Recognizing Oppression

It is deemed essential to discuss gender oppression by first taking into account

whether or not the latter would exist with or without the recognition of the lesbian (or any

individual for that matter) of being oppressed. A lack of recognition from those who are

deemed oppressed may be detrimental to any liberation agenda.

I am inclined to respect choices since I believe that this is one of the essential

powers which place human beings above any other species. There is difficulty in

justifying the existence of gender oppression if people who are oppressed deny being in

such a situation. However, I could not just allow myself to go forth with a thesis that
35

included studying the oppressive situation of the lesbian if in the first place the lesbian

does not see her identity in any disadvantageous position.

One of the features of being oppressed is the absence of choices.36 The lesbian

would not recognize the concept of oppression as something she encounters if it is a

manifestation of an act of society against her. She will not feel oppressed unless someone

actually harasses her by virtue of her being a lesbian. One of the reasons why the lesbian

community is slow to unite against oppression is because their respective views on

oppression are highly subjective. It boils down to whether or not a lesbian is a direct or

merely an indirect victim of homophobia and discrimination. Historically the lesbian has

never felt the absolute absence of choices. In fact there has neither been a law anywhere

in the world nor in history that proclaimed being lesbian as illegal, unlike the homosexual

man who has been more exposed to discrimination and persecution of institutions.

Differences in the ordeal of gay men and lesbians in the past can be one of the major

factors that shaped these groups’ approach to liberation today. A hypothesis rendered by

Sen regarding gender oppression can be seen as a plausible explanation for this

scenario.37 He suggested that if and when a certain group of individuals is within a

society that normalizes inequality and oppression, they (in this case the lesbians and

women), tend to adopt such normality as natural and not merely as a social construct.

In the case of gender oppression, I suppose there was a point in time that there

was an absence of one’s rights to certain political, economic, social opportunities, as

deemed to be the privilege of any person. This is the reason why “displacement” rather

than “oppression” is the more appropriate term to describe the situation of lesbians. There
36
Bell Hooks, “Black Women:Shaping Feminist Theory”, in Women and Values, 3rded.
(Belmont:Wadsworth Publishing Company,1999), 27
37
Atty. Allan Pasamonte, Lecture Handout: Philosophy of Law, 1st semester AY 2005-1006,
University of the Philippines, Los Banos
36

is infrequency, although it is argued that there is only a lack of documentation, in the

direct acts against lesbians. More often than not, lesbians experience unjust inequalities in

the form of withheld privileges. One may continue to pursue a project of liberation

because of the perceived disparity in the opportunities and rights appropriated to

heterosexuals compared to homosexuals. Furthermore, liberation is to be pursued for the

very reason that there are essential bases for the existence of these disparities. Institutions

grant recognition and acknowledgement of rights to the members of a society based

fundamentally on being rational and free human beings. The lesbian qualifies in such

category and she should not be situated outside of the system based solely on her gender

choices. For as long as she does not become detrimental to the state and others, there is

no due reason for society to displace lesbians outside the system.

Gender choices are personal exercises of freedom. A lesbian does not hold any

obligation to marry, form a family with a husband and adopt a subordinate feminine role.

If she chooses to portray a heterosexual life because of the necessity to avail certain

privileges accorded by society, then this may be viewed as a way of displacement. As

such, the lesbian finds the need to deny her own identity for convenience and acceptance.

On the other hand, if a lesbian chooses to be with a man simply because this becomes her

preference, then she must be allowed to do so. The goal of the state is to safeguard the

positive freedom of its constituents, at the same time, make sure that just limitations are

in place so as to maintain social order. Even if there is an absence of recognition, there is

still a need to guarantee that the tenets of justice are being upheld. If a lesbian does not

want to avail herself of certain privileges then it is her choice, albeit such privileges

limited from the GLBTQ community.


37

The Lesbian Regulated through her Sexed Self

The body becomes sexed and gendered the moment a child is born and the doctor

proclaims that it’s a girl or a boy depending on the genitals attached to it.38 It is true today

that even sex can be considered as an undetermined aspect of one’s being. Due to the

advancement in technology, a person can now choose to reconfigure the body in order to

fit the gendered identity one sees as reflections of his/her true self. It is really quite

interesting, considering the fact that the view has always been that the gender follows

from the sex of a person. Gender is a social construct, a set of practices, a prescribed

social meanings, and roles. The sex is taken to be the deciding factor of society in order

to raise the child fitting on a particular gender category.

The lesbian cannot be identified as a lesbian when she is born, thus her genitals

speak for her like any other woman, unless she is a hermaphrodite but this aspect is a

whole different inquiry. Corresponding to her sex, she will be conventionally raised to

occupy the gender role of the feminine. Some lesbians would discover their desire for the

same-sex as early as their preparatory years, but nonetheless she will normally raise as a

girl. This would continue until she refuses to identify herself with the role of the

feminine, and eventually find a category that would suit her. On the other hand, she could

continue the portrayal of the feminine, disregarding the feature of her object of desire.

Lesbian Images and Categories as Means of Objectification

38
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, (US:Routledge Press,
1999), 34-45.
38

The term “objectification” in this context pertains to a particular existential

doctrine. It defines people as duly recognized subjects and should not be dehumanized

under any condition. To render individuals as mere objects of a person’s desire or

thought, rather than active subjects and rational agents, is to objectify them. It is fitting to

say that the meaning of the word objectification is to be taken as a fitting humanist

perspective. False representations and images are a few ways in which objectification is

employed. Through the deployment of these meanings, the lesbian becomes invisible.

There comes a point where the representations are normalized to become social facts. In

effect, the lesbian exposed to this sort of social reality finds herself needing to conform to

the stereotype presented to her in order to reconcile her existence within the cultural fiber.

The lesbian becomes noticeable if society scrutinizes her identity from the dominant

male-female sexuality perspective. If one would accept a phallocentric view of society, it

would be necessary to interpret the lesbian as something that is centered on the masculine

in order to make it coherent and even possible for a perceiver.

The portrayal of gay and lesbian identity in contemporary arts practices has been

pivotal in debates that surround gender equality and social recognition. The visual is a

powerful tool on how individuals would build their views regarding gender, especially in

gaining a perspective of the so-called “queer” culture today.39

In speaking of the “queer,” I aim to again put this thesis in the correct context.

Queer individuals move outside the traditional GLBTQ. His or her desire to be accepted

within the social reality is done by demanding the same treatment of heterosexuals

towards a more culturally confrontational stance. This is done through the questioning of

39
Peter Horn and Reina Lewis, Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures,
(London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Grp, 1996),13.
39

heterosexual normalcy, recognition of the difference of homosexuals as an equally valid

individual and collective identity, and as deviant of the usual scheme of society. To adjust

a society and make it queer-friendly would mean recognizing the difference of

homosexuals from heterosexuals, but still accepting the argument of valid equality. This

goes to say that unlike previous cases wherein lesbians proclaim that “we are just like

you,” the lesbian accepts and declares that “we are not the same, we experience a

different social reality, we view the world differently but we deserve what you deserve.”

The interpretation of sexuality is said to be masculine on both linguistic and

representational level. As such, it appears that the woman and lesbian are mere objects for

the “masculine gaze.” The masculine gaze becomes a meaning-making approach that

makes all texts sensible and made only for the heterosexual and the male desires.

The Lesbian as a “Pseudo-male”

The principle of consistency has assumed that gender identity, gender role

orientation (masculine-feminine), and sexual object of choice maintain an integral and

inseparable relationship with each other. This implies that a stereotyped lesbian is a

person whose identification deviates from the assigned sexual object of choice, sexual

identity, as well on her gender role orientation and gender identity. Because of this, it is

far more common to construe the lesbian as a masculine female, as typified by the phrase,

“man trapped in a woman’s body.” This type of lesbian does indeed exist in the form of

the butch, one who dresses and acts like a man. Such a portrayal has both explicit and

implicit consequences, both for those who share the label lesbian, and for those who view

the lesbian. There has been a debate within the feminist community on whether the butch
40

is an impediment or a revolutionary instrument. I personally do not agree with any ideas

that anchor on treating the lesbian as an instrument for any cause. Albeit, for the sake of

discourse, I believe one would have to examine the “butch” as a valid lesbian identity.

Hence, our project now is how to reconcile such with collective and identity politics.

There is no doubt that the butch is not the only kind of lesbian but is the most

noticeable. To be a butch would mean that others would assume that one is a lesbian

primarily because of her physical appearance. It would also not require asking or turning

on the “gaydar,” a supposed instinctive tool/myth that homosexuals can sense if another

is or is not of the same gender category. The typical butch is seen as masculine, with the

following characteristics: uses wrap garters to hide their breasts, wear male clothes, and

is keen to follow male-female relationship patterns. Assuming the butch identity allows a

lesbian to situate herself within a heteropatriarchal society, she has the capacity to

reinvent the category of masculine by playing out the role without much emphasis on the

phallus. This goes to say as well that butch-femme, the latter as the feminine lesbian,

relationships may be a way to threaten the normalcy of heterosexuality. However in most

cases that butch-femme relationships occur, society conceives the sexual acts of the two

as only plausible in the context that it is mimicry of heterosexuality. The uniqueness of

the lesbian experience is drawn-out, leaving only a phenomenon that is still

heterosexualized.
41

The Lesbian as the Erotic

Being subject to pornification and male gaze, the lesbian is conditioned to be seen

by herself and others as a sex object. The relationship a lesbian maintain becomes nothing

more but an erotic stimulus for the male. As the GP circuit magazine states, “one woman

is sexually arousing, imagine two, it’s double-sexy.”40

Pornography has always been designed for the men, while an M-to-M (male-to-

male) pornography is for gay men. Heterosexual sex videos are essentially constructed

for the straight man’s eyes. Adversely, lesbian sex is portrayed with as much dependence

on a penetrative object or another male actor in order to alienation from masculine gaze.

The woman is objectified, and her body becomes her identity. When the lesbian is

objectified, she loses grip of her subject position. This contributes to her displacement

such that she does not engage in society as an equal. Instead, she assumes a lower degree

of recognition. When the lesbian moves from the erotic to the romantic or intimate, this is

categorized as a “silent” private affair. There is little, if any, recognition of her

partnership as a legitimate one and such grave difference to the heteronormative “love” is

often portrayed, celebrated, and idealized.

The Lesbian as the Mainstream Genre

The lesbian deciphers her own “meanings” from different codes presented to her,

one of which is how she sees her “self” as others portray the “lesbian.” There was a time

when lesbianism was a marginalized and invisible character in different kinds of media.

The lesbian characters of old films and literary texts were presented as bitter, butch-type,

40
“Double Sexy, Double Standard?”, in GP Circuit Magazine, vol. 1 issue 3, (Quezon City: ABS-
CBN Publishing Inc., 2005).
42

and suicidal. These kinds of portrayals have a huge impact on how society viewed

lesbians, and how they viewed themselves. This claim was captured through the words of

Victor Russo, a film critic and writer of the book entitled “The Celluloid Closet:”

In a hundred years of movies, homosexuality has only rarely been depicted on the screen.
When it did appear, it was there as something to laugh at—or something to pity—or even
something to fear. These were fleeting images, but they were unforgettable, and they left
a lasting legacy. Hollywood, that great maker of myths, taught straight people what to
think about gay people … and gay people what to think about themselves.41

However, such artistic portrayal has gone through some changes in the

introduction of lesbian themed shows and movies. This allows the community to gain

access to others like them, or at least be able to witness their story being unfolded for

public viewing. It may be said that such appeal does not go easily accepted in societies.

The lesbian has become a hot topic for both documentaries and fictions. This has had

great effect on how lesbians viewed their identity as being more and more acceptable in

societies today. Because of such exposure, one of the negative impacts of being able to

gain access in lesbian lifestyle is the pronounced complacency of the urban lesbian. This

is also true for lesbians in other areas with traditional belief. And instead of embracing it,

they do not engage in identity politics.

Furthermore, gay and lesbian themed films and television series tend to highlight

the sexual rather than the actual experience of lesbian relationships. Take for example the

popularized “Queer as Folk,” a series revolved around the lives of gay men. If one would

be able to gain a copy of the said series, he/she would agree that two-thirds of the

television show consists of graphic sexual encounters. The “L word,” a lesbian-themed

show that was recently aired in a local cable channel, contained the same emphasis on sex

when viewed in its original form. The version that was aired in the Philippines had too

41
Victor Russo, The Celluloid Closet, (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), 4.
43

much censorship on the sexual scenes. Consequently, the show’s storyline became

somewhat incoherent due to the fact that even some of the conversations were removed.

The result is a conservative form of “Sex and the City,” thus it is a fact that to a certain

extent, lesbianism is still not accepted as a valid form of partnership.

According to the Riddle Homophobia scale, the act of mainstreaming shows that

portray lesbian lifestyle, but removed contents that would affirm the difference in

lifestyle, would implicitly mean that there is still something left to accept. As such, even

at this point, the lesbian is still displaced because her identity is still not completely

recognized. The emphasis has been placed on her label as a “lesbian,” but there is still

unwillingness to accept the essential features that constitute the term. The result is an

over simplification of being a lesbian as a form of self-representation and not an actual

identity. With this, civil society fails to recognize that being a lesbian extend to one’s

choice of social relations.

The De Jure Form of Double Displacement

Institutions are currently being challenged to loosen gendered policies to

accommodate gays and lesbians. As I have shown in Chapter One, despite legislative

protection, GLBTQs continue to suffer the repercussions of a gendered identity outside

the norms of society. As a result, lesbians are denied heterosexual privileges while their

opportunities are consequently limited.

In terms of institutional recognition, lesbian partnerships are not valid in the eyes

of the law. Same-sex marriages and civil unions are still being debated on religious

grounds of homosexuality and marriage. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church considers the
44

union of a man and a woman as the only acceptable kind in the eyes of God. In other

forms of religion like Islam, the lesbian does not exist, thus they do not consider a

marriage between women as conceivable. A self-confessed lesbian would most likely be

persecuted according to Muslim laws.

To deny marriage rights to gays and lesbians would to equate that the government

also limits the right of these individuals to have a family. Children with same-sex parents

are often teased in schools. Lesbian couples across the globe find it almost impossible to

legally adopt orphans. Likewise, they equally find it difficult to avail rights and privileges

awarded by the state for heterosexual families. Lesbians should be allowed to have their

partnership recognized, whether or not they plan to avail of such rights, for the very

simple reason a person essentially possess is the ability to choose any person of his/her

desire without being subjected to malice and disapproval. Hence, there is a need for

appropriate legislatures that will address the growing concern for lesbian displacement in

society.
45

CHAPTER 3: GENDER JUSTICE

Gender oppression is the individual acts of abuse and violence, patterns of power

and control, and systems of abuse and violence perpetrated against women and girls due

to their gender  (cite source). As mentioned in the beginning of this thesis, the

resolution to this specific dilemma is a formulation of a more general solution. This

chapter aims to set certain conditions that will aid in producing a gender-just society. I

believe that gender justice is the only real solution in resolving the issue of double

displacement. This chapter begins with an overview of Amartya Sen’s Capabilities

Approach. Afterwards I shall be laying down the three Capability Principles, as purported

by Ingrid Robeyns, and modify them to accommodate gays and lesbians alike.

An Overview of Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach

Amartya Sen is an Indian philosopher and economist who won the Nobel Prize in

economics in 1998 and is currently the Lamont University Professor in Harvard

University. Sen originally conceptualized the Capability Approach, which is at times

considered to be a theory, to evaluate social states in terms of individual welfare. He first

applied the framework to address issues of poverty and development. The theory is

founded on the assumption that all human beings have functional capabilities or

substantial freedoms such that these are freedoms that people have a reason to value

most. When Sen speaks of function, he refers to a human being’s capability to function in

enacting one’s important desires. In this case, capabilities are the modes of a person’s

innate capacity of freedom and practical choice. It must be noted that when Sen speaks of

freedom, he promotes “positive freedom.”


46

Sen asserts positive freedom as a set of opportunities that is open to a person. This

set consists of vectors of functionings, where functionings are the different things a

person can do or can be. Hence, a person’s capability may be taken to describe her

positive freedom such that it reflects her “ability to achieve valuable functionings and

well-being.”42 In short, capabilities are defined as set of functionalities that

allow individuals to act upon substantial freedoms. This is considered

to be necessary truths granted to people on the account that they are

agents who uniquely possess the capacity for self-determination, which

is why people have the ability to do and to be. As such, society must

aid in guaranteeing that all members are able to act upon their

capabilities. A person can be deprived of his/her capabilities when the person is

curtailed from certain human rights. Sen has pointed out different ways in which such

deprivation can occur: state oppression, economic incapacity, ignorance, social hate, false

consciousness, et cetera. The Capabilities Approach has been utilized in analyzing the

problem of inequalities between males and females. In the following section, I have

modified the Capability Approach in relation to Nussbaum’s operationalization of Sen’s

work through the three principles of gender justice.

The Three Principles for a Gender-Just Society

Capabilities are considered to be necessary truths granted to

persons on the account that they are agents who uniquely possess the

42
Amartya Sen, “Freedom of Choice”, in European Economic Review, 1988, Vol. 32 issue 2-3, p
278.
47

capacity for self-determination. As such, society must aid in

guaranteeing that all members are able to act upon their capabilities.

Below which are the three principles that one must meet in order for a gender-just

society to exist. As of the moment, no state has yet to enact fully the consequences of

these principles because they remain to be abstract in nature. Ingrid Robeyns, a

contemporary of Amartya Sen, originally formulated these principles in her argument for

justice among sexes.

The first principle states that the capability sets for men and women

should be the same. The only justified inequalities between men and

women are those: a) that are (directly or indirectly) due to sex

differences that are not gender differences; and b) which cannot be

rectified by human intervention. This principle allows just inequalities

rather than demanding for absolute freedom. The need for social order

is necessary to safeguard other capabilities like the ability to live up to

old age, to secure property, and to receive merit for one’s action. It

would be absurd to recommend a gender fluid society as this would be

anarchic.

In an anarchical system, gender is completely overlooked and

becomes entirely irrelevant. This is, to a certain extent, coherent with

the goal of a gender-just society. However, it is like a Pandora’s Box

that provides absolute freedom and yet sacrifices social order, or worse

it may even lead to conflicts and further injustices. Certain institutions

need to uphold sex-based standards, like those in the military and the
48

police force who necessarily demand for biologically strong individuals

for most of its tasks. There are values and traits that have become

genderized and sexed to be male, where in fact the actual status of

such characteristics is neutral. Such male-centered institutions need to

be more gender-friendly to assure gays and lesbians equal access.

However, these individuals (homosexual men and women) are required

to uphold certain institutional standards provided that they can justify

the need for such norms.

The second principle requires that the constraints on choice

from the capability set should not be structured according to morally

irrelevant characteristics of personhood specifically, gender. This

implies that gendered social norms and practices need to be just in

themselves.43 This principle adheres to the fact that people are rational

and free agents. The ethical or the moral justification preferred in this

case as something secular rather than theologically warranted. The

question may be raised as to whether a culture, with a religious and

conservative backbone, would limit themselves of ethics based on

human dignity alone. In centering on the capabilities of an individual, a

morally relevant characteristic would always have to be in coherence

with one’s ability to act upon certain values he/she finds valid reason

to desire. The capability set would have to be formulated by the state

and the people that it can be a Kantian maxim. However, it must be

43
Martha Nussbaum, “Armatya Sen: Social Justice and the Capabilities Approach”, in
Contemporary Political Philosophy, (Cambridge: University Press, 2001), 67.
49

pointed out that the maxim would only have to be rendered as

generally substantial for human beings per se. It does not have to take

into account, whether or not, all individuals would choose to enact

upon the said capabilities.

Norms are oftentimes constructed in accordance to a presumed

necessity, benefit, or practicability. Social practices often have

functions that warrant their persistence within a society.44 However,

social norms and institutions can create injustices, especially if it

pertains to rendering certain rights and privileges for heterosexuals

alone. Moreover, social and cognitive psychologists have also shown

that gendered social and moral norms play a vital role in how people

view others, as well as how a person would formulate his/her patterns

of behavior. It has been argued that the lesbian in both instances were

seen as “dykes” and man-haters. The topic of the lesbian was a taboo

outside feminist-oriented communities and certain subcultures. As a

result, any individual who portrays gestures outside of the stereotype

notion, such as wearing a tie, engaging in contact sports, et cetera,

was deemed as a lesbian. The latter was used as a derogatory term

despite the lack of understanding of what such an identity would

entail.

For as long as there is no clear dissent, society would continue to

allow GLBTQ individuals to exist as floating members of society. When

44
Ingrid Robeyns, “When will Society be Gender Just”, Reorienting the Feminist Imagination,
(Cambridge:UP, 2007), p 32
50

direct and aggressive opposition occurs between the marginalized

sector and the normalized system, the minority group is received

negatively. As a result, the lesbian, for example, would tend to lower

her demands in order to coincide with the hierarchy and structure in

which she belongs to. A false consciousness occurs as a result of being

raised and having to live with social norms that are not gender-just.

One would initially find herself resisting such limitations. But sooner or

later, without seeing positive reception, a lesbian in most cases would

resort to make do with what society extends to her. In general, lesbians

would eventually become “satisfied” in the sense that she would have

to accept the fact that: “there are acts and privileges heterosexuals

receive that she will neither be able to acquire nor do.” If gendered

social and moral norms induce men, women, heterosexuals, and

homosexuals to systematically foreclose certain options, then these

norms are unjust.45

The third principle stipulates that the “pay-offs” of different

options in the capability set need to be justified and should not be

gender-biased.46 The term pay-offs refers to the compensatory values

one acquires by enacting on an opportunity. It is further explicated by

Robeyns as:

“Pay-offs is a somewhat technical term used in the analysis of


opportunity sets in game theory and related fields, and denotes the net
of burdens and benefits of a certain position. For example, the pay-offs
of a job include the wage and related benefits, its status, the labor

45
Ibid, 32.
46
Ibid, 35.
51

satisfaction it gives, the quality of the professional relationships and


the overall effort that is needed for the job.”47

The third principle requires that jobs or other social positions

quantitatively dominated, by either women or men, should not be

systematically rewarded lower pay-offs without any plausible

justification. The easiest illustration of how unjust pay-offs occur as a

result of gender is manifested when one observes the trend in certain

job markets. It has been argued that some jobs, which are

quantitatively dominated by women, tend to be worse paid than those

“tailored” for men. If these career options are deemed to be less

tedious or demanding, perhaps it would be acceptable that lower

compensation is a point of reference for the objective work assessment

and evaluation and calculation of work merits. However, what has been

suggested by most studies is that women-dominated low-paid

employment is partially due to the fact that they are culturally labeled

as “feminine jobs.”48

On the other hand, homosexuals who usually occupy pink

collared jobs (beauticians, entertainers, et cetera) are stereotyped as

gay individuals who are more inclined with things and activities related

to aesthetics and creativity. The ordinary man and woman would agree

to such stereotyping. There is good reason to believe that opportunity-

wise, some gays find it extra difficult to prove their capacity in the

work force. In the support groups I have attended for gays and
47
Ibid.
48
Ibid.
52

lesbians, one of the common complaints is the treatment of various

institutions during job applications. Some gays in the field of

engineering opted to act straight when initially they found it difficult to

find jobs suited for their educational background. GLBTQ and women

are subjected to job ceiling practice in the work force as they are

automatically disqualified to gain promotions higher than a certain

position. This may be because of the stigma that certain companies

must maintain a gender-free image, especially in male-dominated

companies and institutions, and the fact that they prefer women who

prioritize their career over their family.

As one may or may not have noticed, the gender-just society

purported here requires certain features of a society to be first and

foremost present. First, it is necessary that the concept of “gender” is

inevitably present as a social fact. Second, society must open itself to

the concept of human rights and the value of self-determination.

Finally, the study, as it pertains to a gender-just society, requires

improvement such that it serves merely as groundwork for gender

justice. As such, the scope is limited to certain alternatives present for

a society, for example Western and overtly Western-influenced cultures

and social frames.

Asserting one’s Lesbian Identity as an Explicit Solution


53

I have mentioned earlier that in order for the lesbian to form a genuine gender

identity, she would have to overcome her displacement as a homosexual and transcend

her woman category imposed on her sexed body. To ask the lesbian to define what it

means to be a gendered-being under her own terms would mean a demand to reconstruct

the rigidity placed in standardizing gender roles in our society. The problem with the

accounts of lesbian self-representation is that it holds the lesbian in a disadvantaged

manner by claiming that her preference to be masculine or feminine would be seen as

mimicry of heterosexuality.49 In reality, what is left misunderstood is that the social and

gender scripts available to a lesbian would always have gendered qualities of the male or

female.

Identity can be a very ambiguous term. Even if one limits its scope to a discussion

of a gendered identity, there would still be blurred lines to confront in the process.

Identity is a construct, created by the person. However, this does not mean that the

process of creating a unified gendered self is exclusive to the individual. Instead one must

look at identity as an interplay of the “I” and the society, in which she reveals and

receives the modes of how she could be.

A gender strict society would continue to produce intelligible representations of

lesbians, by creating the stereotype of the “not-man-not-woman,” in such a way that to be

a lesbian would mean changing teams. The Butch or the masculine female becomes the

most noticeable image of lesbianism because of the naturalization applied to the concept

of the masculine as an unexplored domain for the woman. There are certain institutions

that would need to maintain the standards of masculinity or femininity, but the two

should be made accessible to anyone who is willing to take and maintain such roles.
49
Amy Goodloe, Butch-Femme Roles and Identity Politics; essay, 25.
54

There should be a loosened membership in the binary oppositions. Moreover,

these binaries should be viewed as continuums rather than opposing poles. The

masculine-feminine distinction should maintain its societal status as far as certain gender

roles ought to be preserved for imperative reasons. The problem lies in making social

possibilities exclusively gendered ones, such that the person loses his or her privilege to

access, despite her intent to uphold the standard set by the society with regards to a

particular function she wishes to perform.

If a lesbian chooses to represent herself as a butch, this should not to be deemed

as an affirmation of a patriarchal society. Rather, the problem lies in the close-minded

thinking of people. When accessed and owned by the lesbian, the masculine loses its

“naturalization” as being exclusive to the male.50 However, it must be made clear that for

this to be an authentic representation in a society, it must not stem out of the lesbian’s

exposure to a heterosexually normalized view of the masculine or feminine. This could

be achieved by awakening lesbian consciousness and involving herself in the

construction of her representation in various institutions. In this case, the lesbian has to be

vigilant in correcting the myths that surround her identity. The gay and the lesbian must

learn to complain when he or she is portrayed in a less than accurate light.

Political advocacy is the best starting point for the lesbian to gain rightful

recognition in a society. The lesbian community must demand for a seat in discourses that

seek to foster progress and equality. For as long as she allows others to define who she is

and bends to the limits of what society says she can do, the lesbian will never be able to

achieve a genuine identity. The process of explicitly challenging the status would more

likely be difficult. Regardless of this, the lesbian should not choose for the easy way out
50
Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 46.
55

and remain passive. As disturbing as it may sound, direct abuse on the initial phase of the

lesbian’s struggle may be a start to demand for change. If the lesbian continues to be

passive, her fear of persecution might as well be tantamount in a fear of gaining her

dignity.

Choose to be Human

I resolve into claiming that there would always be an irreducible being, a person

prior to exposure to culture inscriptions and social impositions, who owns an identity

grounded on the concept of freedom and choice. Upon a lesbian’s introduction into the

physical world, as I have mentioned in earlier chapters, she becomes a sexed entity who

shall accordingly be trained to particular practices in accordance with her sex. When I say

that the lesbian ought to be able to choose the modes in which she could express her

gendered self, it no longer becomes of much value that she possesses a body of a female.

She could choose to portray the woman or man, for as long as she made a long, thought

out choice to do so. This would imply also that if a man wishes to adopt the functions

implored by the concept of femininity, he must be able to do so. If he refuses, it ought not

to be because he conceives the attribute of the feminine as inferior. Otherwise, it does not

reflect the identity he feels to own. The question would now arise: How would it be

possible to open the possibility of accepting an intentionally blurred continuance of

gender categories in society?

It has been the aim of gays and lesbians alike to avail of certain civil liberties that

they feel they deserve by virtue of being persons and I, of course, would have to agree.

Likewise, the right to marriage that is recognized by the law is important to reconstruct a
56

society not founded on equality but on justice and freedom. For a society to loosen up its

gender restrictions on social relations and practices, the state must initiate recognition of

lesbians as human beings who deserve state protection and liberties.

Heterosexuality is not a predicament. It only becomes one when its quantitative

value is converted into a qualitative one. It becomes oppressive when the lesbian’s view

of herself lacks positive references in society and becomes uninformed of the means in

which she could understand her gendered self. A layman should stop at looking at people

as man or woman. One must hold true to the belief that these categories are mere social

constructs. If one faces the reality that even sex, as an immutable feature of personhood,

has lost meaning in a sense that one is no longer tied up to his or her biology, then one

could accept the possibility of revolutionizing gender reality. This is not a reality that is

built on the gender annihilation, like what the postmodern feminists want. Instead,

society becomes flexible on imposing sex-gender coherence and correspondence to

certain masculine-feminine feature. The lesbian identity is grounded on the idea that

beyond the man or woman, the lesbian is a person whose only immutable quality is her

freedom and choice.

Equality has a nice ring to it. But for oppressions to really be a thing of the past,

one must realize that people are not equal. There are physical limits, intellectual

constraints, and individuals who are better than others that should not be taken negatively

all the time. For as long as a society grants access to opportunities regardless of gender,

class, race, and et cetera, it can no longer be accused of being unfair just because some

people live out their potentialities and capabilities farther than others. To offer

possibilities equally is to center our efforts in truly revealing the truth of being a person.
57

Actualization of capabilities through opportunities is based on whether a person can or

cannot act out on her possibilities.

Justice is to be the ultimate concern if one wishes to have a society that aims for

the ultimate good. A decontextualized Plato’s just society would be a classic and

recommendable starting point. People, regardless of gender or sexuality, must have

access to privileges by virtue of being recognized as capable of building themselves

through the choices they make. The lesbian must be able to act on the range of

possibilities she may choose to become and what she envisions herself to be. Though

cliché, this thesis only wishes to say: Give to a human what is due to a human, neither as

a man nor a woman.


58

SUMMARY OF ARGUMENTS AND CONCLUSION

The main argument of this thesis is that lesbianism is afflicted with the problem of

double-displacement. It has perceived the identity of the lesbian based on the sex and

gender she possesses. In terms of her sexed body being female, she becomes the recipient

of sexist related oppression. The woman today is still engaged in a gender revolution, and

its success would be for the female to lose the stigma of inferiority and Otherness in

relation to man.

As a lesbian, she occupies a gender that is outside of the masculine and the

feminine binary. The inability to occupy the social norm of genders implies that the

lesbian would be subject to social stigma and acts of heterosexism. Homosexual

displacement occurs in two forms: a) direct, the lesbian encounters homophobia and

becomes a victim of gender-related violence, ridicule and repression; or b) the lesbian is

not recognized at all as a valid gendered identity. She may be seen as invisible and

heterosexual privileges are withheld from her. Furthermore, the lesbian is objectified and

misrepresented through the media. This becomes a powerful tool on how her society

would perceive her, and how the lesbian would view her self.

In order to resolve the problem of double displacement, this thesis offers a general

solution through the conceptualization of a gender-just society. The Capabilities

Approach of Amartya Sen and Martha Naussbaum were used as a building block in

forming the ideal concept of gender-justice. Three principles have to be met in order to

say that a state is gender-just:

1. The capability sets for men and women should be the

same. The only inequalities between men and women


59

that are justified are those: a) that are (directly or

indirectly) due to sex differences that are not gender

differences; and b) which cannot be rectified by human

intervention.

2. The constraints on choice from the capability set should

not be structured according to morally irrelevant

characteristics of personhood specifically, gender. This

implies that gendered social and moral norms and

gendered practices need to be just in themselves.

3. The “pay-offs” of the different options in the capability

set need to be justified and should not be gender-biased.

These principles mark the needed changes in the society a

lesbian is embedded in.

However it is noteworthy to mention that in order for these principles

to find its way into reality, the lesbian must also do her part. I speak for

the lesbian’s need to explicitly assert her identity and to challenge the

flaws of the status quo. The passiveness of the lesbian has kept her

safe compared to the homosexual male. Conversely, lesbians have

received far less persecution. In maintaining this position, the lesbian

becomes vulnerable as an unrecognized collective. She becomes

invisible because she allowed herself to be unprotected of certain

privileges.
60

Lastly, I appeal to humanity to look beyond one’s sartorial

bearings, sex partner of choice, and gender per se. The root of any

gender discussion is whether or not homosexuals are less human than

other people. Surely, the answer is no. Gays and lesbians possess the

same innate freedom and choice like any straight person.


61

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