This term can be used by women and non-binary individuals who use the split attraction model and are bisexual/biromantic/etc. and homo- (lesbian) or an individual who experiences lesbian tertiary attraction. They have one form of attraction to two or more genders but are only attracted to women via another form of attraction. They may find themselves sexually attracted to men, but could never picture themselves in a relationship with one, putting more emphasis on their attraction to women, though this varies from an individual to an individual.
It can also be used by individuals who identify as both bisexual and lesbian, either due to changing attraction (such as abrosexuality), or due being part of a plural system, such as having a different sexuality when fronting, or being in a median system where one member somewhat experiences their headmate(s)' attraction(s).
Additionally, the term can apply to women and other non-men who are bisexual and prioritize their attraction to women/non-men or have a strong preference for women/non-men, or for individuals who are reclaiming the historical definition of lesbian alongside identifying as bisexual.
Other reasons may include:
- Questioning, being unsure, or being in a "grey-area" between the two
- Being duosexual or otherwise amplusic
- Being mspec, but not being attracted to men, so you still use the "non-men attracted to non-men" definition while still being bi, pan, trixen, etc.
- Attraction to multigender people, causing one to consider their attraction to both lesbian and m-spec simultaneously
- Being in a system with bisexual and lesbian members
- Lesbian who is attracted to nonbinary people who aren't comfortable being included in lesbian attraction, so they fall under the "bi" part instead
- Lesbian who's dating a trans person who came out while they were dating and no longer wants to be included in lesbian attraction, but they're still attracted to them, so they modified their orientation label accordingly to accommodate their partner
- Nonbinary person with lesbian as their gender but isn't necessarily lesbian in orientation
- Being attracted to non lesbian non-binary individuals
- Being primarily or predominantly lesbian (lesbiflexible)
- A lesbian with a lesboy/saphboy partner
- Using lesbian as an umbrella term
History of Bi Lesbianism
The label "bi lesbian" originated in the 1970s as a result of the effects of lesbian separatism, a belief within some strains of lesbian feminism and often within radical feminism which advocates for separating women from men in as many ways as possible as a strategy to achieve women's liberation. Subsequently, this lead to lesbian separatists rejecting and often discriminating against women who refused to withdraw from their involvement with men, particularly bisexual women. Lesbian separatists accused bisexual women of "sleeping with the enemy" and forcefully removed them from lesbian spaces and from claiming the lesbian identity for themselves, by redefining it as "a homosexual female/woman" or "a woman who does not sleep with men/is not attracted to men". It is because of lesbian separatism that the bisexual label became very popular starting in the 1970s, as the word to describe a woman who was attracted to other women before was "lesbian", whether they were attracted exclusively or not, and now that had suddenly changed.
Examples of Use
- Lavender Woman, Volume 2, Issue 5, August 1973: "What is a Lesbian? To me, a lesbian is a woman-oriented woman; bisexuals can be lesbians..."
- Lani Kaahumanu, "Bisexuality & Discrimination", BBWM Vol. 3, No. 6, Dec 1985-Jan 1986: "...my lesbian awareness isn’t lost now that I claim my bisexuality [...] My political consciousness is lesbian but my lifestyle is bisexual..."
- Robyn Ochs, "Bi of the Month: Betty Aubut", Bi Women Vol. 5, No. 2, April-May 1987: "I call myself a “bisexual lesbian.” I will always politically identify as bisexual, which to me means opposing restrictive categories [...] I consider myself gay. I think bisexuals are gay and gay liberation is our liberation..."
- Amy Wyeth, "Don't Assume Anything", Bi Women Vol. 13, No. 4, Aug-Sep 1995: "Unfortunately, many of my experiences as a lesbian-identified bisexual woman have said to me that having an appearance or demeanor that diverges from the expected means I will not be accepted as truly belonging in the lesbian community."
- Naomi Tucker, Liz Highleyman, and Rebecca Kaplan, "Bisexual Politics: Theories, Queries, and Visions", 1995: "I am not just bisexual I am a lesbian I am not just a lesbian I am a bisexual lesbian [...] I have the right to claim my lesbianism and my bisexuality even if it confuses you."
- A Carrd site focussed on information on bi/mspec lesbians.
- A Tumblr blog dedicated to sharing accurate and historically backed information about bi lesbians.
- Lesbian separatism section on feminist separatism Wikipedia page: https://web.archive.org/web/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_separatism#Lesbian_separatism
- Lavender Woman, Volume 2, Issue 5, August 1973: https://web.archive.org/web/https://catalog.library.vanderbilt.edu/discovery/fulldisplay/alma991043699978503276/01VAN_INST:vanui
- Lani Kaahumanu, "Bisexuality & Discrimination", Boston Bisexual Women's Network, Vol. 3, No. 6, Dec 1985-Jan 1986: https://web.archive.org/web/https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:54127013%2448i
- Robyn Ochs, "Bi of the Month: Betty Aubut", Bi Women Vol. 5, No. 2, April-May 1987: https://web.archive.org/web/https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:54127339%2412i
- Amy Wyeth, "Don't Assume Anything", Bi Women Vol. 13, No. 4, Aug-Sep 1995: https://web.archive.org/web/https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:54157453%2445i
- Bi Lesbianism Information Carrd: https://web.archive.org/web/https://bi-lesbian.carrd.co/
- Bi-Lesbian Tumblr blog: https://web.archive.org/web/https://bi-lesbian.tumblr.com/