BY CHELSEA SHORTE
Covering My Ass in Advance (CMAIA): This article critiques a trans-exclusive and non-binary exclusive term and rebukes the cis-normative community that would use this term. I’m not saying all lesbian women have dating histories like mine or all person’s who identify as lesbians have histories as I’m about to describe.
I don’t think I’ve ever dated another Kinsey Scale 6 Lesbian in my admittedly short dating history. I think I’ve only dated women who would scale as bisexual, polyamorous, pansexual or women who have just had enough of men, at least for now. And, that’s cool. I’m not here to date lesbians. I’m here to date queer people.
I can’t say for certain how all of my partners have identified. I’ve never asked about the identities of their previous partners because it’s none of my business. The women I’ve dated have either proudly identified as queer, but not lesbian and/or they have casually and cautiously probed how I feel about women who have had previous relations with cis men (aka women who don’t have gold stars). I think they ask because my aesthetic is one of a real lesbian’s lesbian— peak lesbian, if you will. I guess it doesn’t help that I have a judgy scowl as my resting face.
On our second date, at a bookstore, a now-ex girlfriend asked me what I thought of women who identify as lesbian and have had sex with men. A bookstore is not the place to sound ignorant, so I responded to her with a short and concise version of what I’ve written here. She told me, although it wasn’t a test, I had gotten the correct answer. Maybe it wasn’t a test—though it was totally a test—and maybe she didn’t put as much stock into my answer. It could have been her wanting validation to consider her dateable, loveable, and fuckable despite her past experiences. Maybe she had been made to feel less worthy by someone else or maybe she feared she would eventually come across a not so open-minded lesbian because unfortunately this was, is, but hopefully will not be a part of our culture.
Truthfully, I haven’t heard the term “gold star” often in recent years. It seems that young people don’t use it, which in my opinion is good. Sometimes I worry that means we aren’t passing down any queer culture to the young people or maybe young queer people are assimilating so seamlessly into “straightstream” culture that they don’t care.
You might ask, “If the usage of gold star is decreasing among young queers, why are you writing about this?” In short, I wanted to write something honest and funny. But also, when I asked some friends about the term, not a single response was, “No one uses that term anymore”. The responses were all some version of “Gold star sucks and needs to die”. So let us kill, Kill, KILL.
Not having sex with men is, at the same time, the easiest and hardest thing for American women to do. Hard, because men are 50% of the people you could have sex with, irrespective of sexual attraction. And, we live in a world that sexualizes women from youth; expects and conditions women to please men and conditions men to expect women to please them. That’s a lot of programming. Not to mention, too many queer women have experienced sexual assault. The term “gold star” perpetuates rape culture by excluding some people who need support and love. Also, having sex with men is tough to avoid if you’re a queer woman who enjoys sex with men.
The easy part is if you want, you don’t have to have sex at all…easy, right? I did it successfully for 25 years. I was top of my class in “Not Having Sex”. I graduated summa laude. Though I can’t say I did it all by myself. I have to acknowledge and thank the complete disinterest of the world. I couldn’t have done it without you. It wasn’t just me believing sex was something I couldn’t do because Jesus was always watching, but also not a single person offered me the option.
At the same time, I feel like you shouldn’t be rewarded with something as precious as a discriminatory label for partial abstinence. In the time it’s taken me to write this, I’ve earned a gold star. It was so easy I feel I don’t deserve it. If eradicating the term is too hard, I have some fresh inclusive ideas for how a person might earn a gold star.
Gold stars should be awarded to the lesbians or queer people who have had sex with ten (arbitrarily chosen number) men and then started dating only womyn. That is perseverance. We live in a world that tells you as a queer person that what you feel is wrong. When you want to be right, I get that you’ll try it a few times.
And gold stars should be awarded to the lesbians or queer people who have had sex with one man and then started dating women. Don’t knock it until you try it. And, gold stars should go to the lesbians and queer women who sleep with a man every once in awhile just so they can say, “I wanted to try it again to confirm that yep, still not into that. Womenz it is.” Or maybe they say, “Not so bad. I’ll treat myself again next time I’ve been good.” Or even, “Menz 4eva!” I applaud you for giving yourself grace to keep discovering. Good job. Here’s a gold star for you.
If you are a queer woman who hasn’t had sex with men and only with women, despite all of this world’s cis-hetero conditioning, damn! The queer is strong with you. Here’s a gold star for your rebel sex.
Basically any sex you have where you are respected, safe, and allows you to get closer to knowing yourself earns you a gold star.
But, if everyone earns a gold star does that undermine its specialness? How about let’s flip the whole thing: you only earn a gold star after making love to every combination of gender, sex, expression, etc. Not only would that person earn a gold star, they would be heralded as the greatest slut of us all and we should all offer to wash their feet.
Not only does the original definition of gold star plainly exist to diminish queer women who have had sex with men by elevating other queer women above them, but also “a lesbian who has never had sex with men” leaves out people who our community should work earnestly to include, like transgender and gender-fluid individuals. If your response is, “No, we updated this exclusionary term to be more inclusive,” or “We only want to shame bisexual women for their sex,” go sit in the corner! Don’t make me get my rolled-up printed-out queer theory blogs and bop your nose.
What can you do to end gold star? Don’t describe yourself or another in relation to that word. Edit your dating profile and remove “No bisexuals”. Don’t judge yourself for who you sleep with unless that person is a Meghan Trainor fan. Our community should be one striving for inclusion and, honestly, the dating pool is small enough.