on language

Where Did the Word ‘Lesbian’ Go?

Asking women to reflect on the word “lesbian” is a bit like administering a smeary Rorschach test: You get little sense of the literal blob in question, but a good sense of where the blob-watcher is coming from. Many agree, however, that women’s increasing use of the word “gay” is in part a reflection of the lgbt population’s efforts to present a united, palatable front as they make the case that they’re “normal” enough to merit the freedoms taken for granted by the hetero mainstream. Buy into a widely accepted term, the thinking seems to go, and things will go a lot more smoothly.

—R. F. McCann on the disappearance of the word “lesbian” in favor of “gay,” even among women [Bitch, in a really excellent essay on word choice]