By Katrina Young | Out on the Page
Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
A new documentary from director Nneka Onuorah, “The Same Difference,” examines the differences that divide lesbians — particularly in the intersection of black lesbians — against each other.
For instance, the film depicts that conflicts within the lesbian community are largely fueled by hetero-normative limits. You can be a woman-loving woman but try to present as “normal” as possible. You have to pick a side or a role and fit firmly within the lines of that role. For example, you can be either feminine or masculine centered. If you are a masculine-centered woman (aka stud), there are specific rules governing your clothing, your hair, your mannerisms, your interests, and every other aspect of your life. If you break one of these rules (e.g. a stud dating another stud, or you become a pregnant stud), your stud membership card is revoked and you have disgraced your community.
Another common rule addressed in “The Same Difference” is that you can only either be lesbian or straight. There is no room for bisexuals or any other sexuality. If you are not a 100 percent certified lesbian, you either cannot be trusted, or you are confused about what you want.
As laughable as these rules are, they really do cause a lot of division, and I have seen the destruction firsthand — fear of emotional and psychical attacks, depression, lies, and betrayal — that is why I was so thrilled when I first learned of this documentary.
These issues are so important but they have never been spoken about through such a wide-reaching medium, prior to this.
The rules are obviously no secret within lesbian communities but for some reason we do not discuss the harm that may come as a result of these rules. Maybe we do not want to admit any internalized homophobia, self-hate, or shame. Perhaps we do not want to air our dirty laundry in front of outsiders who are already judging us.
Whatever the reason, how can we expect others to accept us if we have such intolerance amongst ourselves?
How can we expect safe spaces wherever we go if we are not making spaces safe for each other?
We can’t. We have to do better.
Onuorah hopes that this film will help us do better. Her goals for the film are two fold; one is that people (LGBTQ or otherwise) will be less judgmental and more open-minded; second, that people will have the strength and confidence to be their complete authentic self, even if that is outside the lines of the norm.
The Multicultural LGBT Literary Foundation is planning to host a screening of “The Same Difference” in early 2016. Even though I have already seen it, I am excited to experience it again. The cast was amazing and I appreciate them sharing their stories. The messages were so profound.
It is hard enough being black, and it is hard enough being lesbian, so let’s not make it harder.
We are women who love women; whether femme, stud, lesbian, or bisexual. We are just people wanting to live and love.
Ultimately, it’s all the same difference.
—Katrina Young is the Treasurer of the Multicultural LGBT Literary Foundation and a lover of LGBT literature. Follow her on Twitter @sapphicreader.