Roots of lesbianism

Z (SETA magazine) 3/1996

Something is always brewing in a human being, but ah so slowly.

When I was less than ten years of age, I was wondering what it would feel like to love women. But there was, quite simply, no material for the imagination. Thus I imagined that women would be present - and willing, once I would have found out how to grow up to be an interesting enough a human being. As a teenager I was collecting whatever materials about lesbianism and about homosexuality. Slowly, I detected much, as I was always reading a book. I imagined that there would be lesbians in a certain place, which would be very different from the unconsolably lesbianless places so far familiar to me. Moreover, I thought that lesbians would be somehow different from the seemingly unlesbian everyday women inhabiting the spheres known to me.

As a young student I was languishing away, missing lesbian presences. I was reading magazines which seemed to indicate that lesbians did exist, even someplace in my native Helsinki. The magazines even printed photographs of various lesbian activists. I was visualizing lesbians, gathered in a room where each woman was watching others thoughtfully, where everyone was acquainted with each other. The lesbians would have short hair and they would recognize me as one of them. Around 25 years of age I assumed that I had now detected the lesbians. I was able to observe a very lesbianlike lesbian in the same apartment for one year. She was lesbian with such a dedicated sparkle that others seemed very bleak as lesbians in comparison. I felt like congratulating myself about being able to locate true lesbianism, at last.

When I was around thirty, I had collected all those previous assumptions and new influences into a blessed bundle of existing inside lesbianism. One had to grow up to become an interesting adult; lesbians had to have their own meeting places and an essence of their lesbianism to be distinguishable as lesbians; and one needed other lesbians in order to identify and to acknowledge one's own lesbianness; and only the presence of the True Lesbian would give a novice lesbian enough knowledge for following her lesbian path.

Travelling abroad, I found no reason to give up this mysticism of lesbianism, as it seemed that there were enough women elsewhere who had also sought out the lesbian community, full of similar expectations and dreams, and who had then moulded that community into a likeness of their expectations. Everywhere there were icons of lesbianism, beliefs about a real and serious lesbianism that seemed to materialise with special genuineness in a few specifically lesbian persons with short hair, and with independent, even rebellious tendencies.

Once one believes that one has discovered the roots of lesbianism, it is quite possible to discover that one has simply reached a collective resting place. The early nature of my lesbianism, the realizations of it centering in childhood and in teenage had to be compared with the later realization of others concerning their own lesbianism. "Not everyone has been a lesbian forever like you," they told me. I discerned some annoyance about my perceived boasting of the longevity of my own lesbian identity.

While the lesbian movement used to be younger in Finland, those who started it were no doubt full of expectations and images, the stronger, the longer they had accumulated them. We hardly knew what our utopian community might look like, exactly. It seemed more important to see it in existence, as a reflection of our hopes and our immediate objectives. Later, new lesbian generations joined the ranks with their own hopes and burdens. The late 90's differs from late 70's in quite many ways, but expectations and lesbian mythologies are changing much slower, in my opinion, than is immediately evident. The struggle towards the realization of one's own social lesbianism and the discovery of the roots of lesbianism cannot realistically continue all through one's life. There will be a moment when one has to relax and simply feel that one exists wholly as a lesbian, without a struggle or specific characteristics, and other rituals of acceptance. It might be that one needs no other lesbian icons than one's own self, and its lively and warm interest in those everyday women.

Copyright 1996 Eva Isaksson
Do not use without author's permission.