What is lesbian culture?

As with gay men, lesbian culture includes elements from the larger LGBTQIA culture, as well as other elements specific to the lesbian community. Primarily associated with lesbians in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, they include large, predominantly lesbian events such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (closed after 2015) and the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend.

Lesbian culture has its own icons, such as Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang (butch), Ellen DeGeneres (androgynous) and Portia de Rossi (femme). Lesbian culture since the late 20th century has been entwined with the evolution of feminism. Lesbian separatism is an example of a lesbian theory and practice identifying specifically lesbian interests and ideas and promoting a specific lesbian culture.

Examples of this included womyn’s land and women’s music. Older stereotypes of lesbian women stressed a dichotomy between “butch” women, or dykes (who present masculine) and “femmes”, or lipstick lesbians (who present feminine), and considered a stereotypical lesbian couple a butch-femme pair.

While some lesbian women are still either “butch” or “femme,” these categories are less definite (and common) as lesbianism becomes normalized. Androgyny, while not new in lesbian culture, has been gaining momentum since the 1980s punk scene through youth subcultures such as grunge, riot grrrl, emo, and most recently hipster.

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