PFOX Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays

Book review

Leaving the Life: Lesbians, Ex-Lesbians and the Heterosexual Imperative

By Ann E. Menasche, published by Onlywomen Press

In this book, lesbian-feminist author Ann Menasche explores the ex-lesbian population, which she terms as “lesbians-who-left.” The author says she “began noticing what appeared to be a disturbing trend among women I knew” in that “many long-time lesbians … were beginning to reject their lesbian identities and enter sexual relationships with men.”

Menasche declares that “a good number of bisexual leaders and organizers are in fact lesbians-who-left.” She quotes one woman who declares that “[l]esbianism isn’t something one DOES but something one IS … I had no choice as to the way I felt – I do have a choice as to whether I want to act on my feelings.”

The author disagrees with the “slew of articles and letters” published in “the feminist and gay press” and written by former lesbians who assert that “they simply fell in love with a man or began experiencing powerful heterosexual attractions.” Instead, Menashce believes that what is really happening is that “institutionalized heterosexuality” and “internalized lesophobia” have created these “lesbians-who-left.” She claims that “anti-lesbian ideology has an important role to play in securing conformity to heterosexual norms” and “society’s efforts to enforce conformity are effective.”

As evidence of this, the author surveyed sixty-four former lesbians and discovered, among other things, that former lesbians (64%) are more likely than lesbians (46.9%) to agree with the statement that “a lot of lesbians are just as macho and just as oppressive and objectifying of other women as many men.”

The author also describes her interview with Barbara, a former lesbian, who “explained how she doesn’t think she would ever have had the nerve to explore her lesbian feelings without the support of the feminist movement.” Barbara recalls being repulsed by a lesbian dream because “it was a conditioned response to society’s homophobia that is internalized in me.”

It seems that the author views former lesbians as a threat to the feminist/lesbian worldview and as incapable women who cannot make their own choices. In her book’s concluding chapter, the author wonders “[w]hat would the world be like if women were no longer terrorized into heterosexual relations.” She surmises that “[t]o put an end to compulsory homosexuality will require much more than the passage and enforcement of anti-discrimination laws based on sex and sexual preference.” Instead, “it will necessitate the radical transformation of society to a peaceful egalitarian one consistent with feminist values; and an overhaul of popular culture.”