Abigail Ruhman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.
This column is part nine of Abigail Ruhman’s “Twelve Gays of Christmas” series. Twelve Gays of Christmas is a twelve-column series about a variety of LGBTQ topics. During the holidays, members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience depression. By informing readers of the issues facing the LGBTQ community, these columns are meant to support the community this holiday season.
In a society that assumes that heterosexuality is the standard, it can sometimes take time to find out that you don’t fit that assumption. Finding out that you’re queer, gender nonconforming or even both may take exploring that aspect of your personality.
That time spent discovering your identity doesn’t invalidate your identity, but there are members of the LGBTQ community that use language that can make it seem like exploring your sexuality is bad.
The phrases “gold star lesbian,” “gold star gay” and “platinum star gay” have started to gain popularity, and it’s not for the benefit of the community. In fact, it’s causing it harm.
Gold star lesbians are women who have never had sex with a man, and some definitions go as far as to say never kissed a man. Gold star gays are men who have never had sex with a woman.
As bad as these terms are, the term platinum star gays takes it to a whole new level of weird. The term is used to describe gay men who were were born by a C-section procedure, meaning they’ve never touched a vagina. Yes — it goes that deep.
There are some major issues with the way the community attempts to rank individuals with the same sexuality.
It punishes individuals that took their time discovering their sexuality. Just because someone has had sex with someone of the opposite gender before identifying as homosexual doesn’t make them any less valid. It just means they needed that experience.
With how heteronormative society is, it can sometimes be hard to find a different label. That doesn’t make that person any less gay, and assuming that it does just ends up hurting those individuals.
The wording and use of these terms also discriminates against other identities within the community. Certain definitions of the term specifically use words that mean male or female genitalia. This becomes harmful to gender nonconforming individuals because it simplifies gender to someone’s genitalia.
It also carries the connotation that if a lesbian slept with a transgender woman who hasn’t transitioned, she would be less of a lesbian. The terms fail to take into account the fluidity of gender and sexuality. If a lesbian has sex with someone who is gender-fluid, but was assigned male at birth, that does not make her any less of a lesbian.
Boiling sex down to someone’s genitalia ignores the other aspects of human sexuality. It invalidates the way that people experience attraction. Attraction doesn’t wait for someone to figure out if someone else is cisgender, transgender or genderqueer. Being attracted to someone who falls into any of those categories, whether it is before or while they identify as gay, in no way invalidates your identity.
It isn’t just the gender nonconforming community that is hurt by these terms. Bisexual and pansexual individuals are also affected. The idea behind the ranking system is to put gay men and women who have never strayed away from their label ahead of those who have not. This limits someone’s place within the community to who they have or haven’t had sex with.
This, combined with the assumption that pansexuals and bisexuals are just half gay, automatically ranks these individuals lower. It’s as if their own community is telling them that they are less, simply because of their sexuality.
The lesbian and gay community has never enjoyed being judged or discriminated against because of their sexuality. They have never liked being told that they are lesser because of who they are attracted to, yet they have created terms that do the exact same thing to others.
Terms that communities use never stay confined to the community. As they spread, they hurt the community more and more. Slang isn’t new to minority communities, but these terms shouldn’t be a part of LGBTQ culture. In fact, they shouldn’t even be used. They are hurting individuals within the exact same community, and that is never OK.