Some online comment and chat filters block the word “lesbian.” In one instance, I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper, which is a member of Lee Enterprise, the fourth largest newspaper group in the US. The heavy irony here is that the article I was attempting to comment on was written by an open lesbian; it was about her teaching her six year old daughter lessons in tolerance, in this case for a very tall, muscular, short-skirted drag queen who had recently spoken at the local library. (A graphic photo of the three of them accompanied the piece.)
Upon receipt of my letter, both the author and the editor contacted me, at first questioning its veracity, and then, upon testing it, agreeing that the problem should be corrected. They did print my letter, and affixed an editorial comment saying that the problem had been resolved. However, a month later, I had occasion to use the word “lesbian” once again, and encountered the same block. As earlier, I eliminated the “offensive” word by using “gay men and women.” So I wrote the paper again, and this time received no response.
This was the original letter:
In posting to Kathleen Moore’s “drag queen” piece, I got rejected for profanity. What? I read my words several times. No way under heaven.
Anyway, I started replacing words like drag queen itself, transgender, female impersonation, even big pharma. Nope, the warning persisted. I even switched “gay” to homosexual. Then I re-wrote the comment twice. No dice.
It seemed dumb to try “lesbian” because the entry was written by an open lesbian. But…
LESBIAN. Bingo. That was the offensive word. Wow.
I read Kathleen’s text again. Low and behold, despite several references to her gayness, she never used LESBIAN.
Hmm. Maybe, I speculated, the paper is trying to protect lesbians from their detractors. But that couldn’t be because a word like “transgender” would also make the no-go list.
And why were all these male terms like “gay,” “transgender,” “drag queen” and “female impersonator” acceptable while “lesbian,” a female term, censored?
LGBT is normal usage for the Post. That L=Lesbian. Webster’s Dictionary defines lesbian: “of or relating to homosexual relations between females.” The word itself is as old as the Greeks, has been in use since 1600, and in full currency since 1890, while “transgender” is 12 years old.
So what gives? I can only assume that LESBIAN is threatening or too highly charged for men to bear. Women’s primary relationships are supposed to be with men, not women, right?
But what does this LESBIAN banning do to the hundreds of lesbians here and in similar places? It deprives them of a self, a collective, and a political identity. If what you are is forbidden, then you make yourself scarce, experience more shame/ guilt, and less self-confidence.
Thus, Moore has to demand more tolerance for a six-foot drag queen who flaunts the stereotyped female than she does for her LESBIAN self.
I’m assuming that no change in the filter was ever made because the parent company Lee Enterprises didn’t permit it. But why? why does their comment filter exclude “lesbian?” I can only think that it’s either viewed as a slur, has porn overtones, or that Lee Enterprises are in tow to a transgender movement, which they editorially support. Whatever the motive, whether to protect, forbid, or censor, the erasure of “lesbian” in the newspapers of over 50 small-to-medium cities in the US is the effect.