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Mona Elyafi Headshot

Why the Word 'Celesbian' Reinforces Stereotypes

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I can't for the life of me understand why, where, and how new queer idioms emerge in our daily conversational vocabulary. But clearly they just do, and somehow I'm always the last one to get the memo. Of course, it's always the beyond useless expressions, the kind you desperately want to erase from your jargon, that for some incomprehensible, annoying reasons stick around. They're like those obnoxiously insufferable people in your social entourage whom you careful avoid yet fatally keep running into.

Take, for instance, the word "celesbian."

"Celes" what? My point exactly!

I detest that word. Who on Earth had the brilliant idea to come up with it, and for what specific purpose? For the sake of being politigayly correct? Doesn't anyone speak proper English anymore?

Clearly it doesn't take an academician to figure out the etymology of the idiom and see that it comprises two actual words: "celebrity" and "lesbian."

Having said that, we're still left with a series of legitimate questions: What is a "celesbian"? What defines it? How does one (lesbian) qualify for the coveted title?

According to Urban Dictionary, the online voice of all references -- including made-up words that are nowhere to be found in any other dictionary, and for a good reason -- the word "celesbian" can be defined in three different ways (among others):

  1. A lesbian famous or popular within the LGBT community, including but not limited to actors, advocates, promoters, club owners, writers, etc.
  2. A celebrity who claims to be a lesbian temporarily as a publicity stunt.
  3. A talentless hack female who is famous for no reason other than the "out-and-loving-it" girlfriend of a famous person.

While definition 1 would obviously be the most logical and acceptable explanation of this idiotic expression, sadly it seems that definitions 2 and 3 have taken over. The point that I am making is that clearly the word "celesbian" is being abused and used rather loosely. I mean, nowadays, pretty much anyone can self-appoint herself to the rank of "celesbian." Got a blog? Got a vlog? Got your face or your name posted somewhere? Bam! You've arrived in famous lesbiandome -- you're a "celesbian"!

I think it is safe to say that other people across America agreeably join me in my mentally torturous query when I legitimately (and respectfully) pose myself the ultimate question: who the hell are these people?

Not to brag -- well, OK, just a little -- but with almost two decades under my belt as an entertainment publicist, I've covered pretty much the entire spectrum of red-carpet shenanigans (whether LGBT-related or not), but never in my life, even with my not-so-famous but very talented clients, have I had to explain to reporters on the press line who's who and who's doing what. Doesn't it say something when representatives of the LGBT press don't even know their own people?

The problem, if you ask me, is not so much that we omitted some basic ground rules and failed to be more selective and precise in our definition of who or what a "celesbian" really is. The real issue here is that we have created a word that, for starters -- and this is just my personal opinion -- is nothing but a myth designed to soothe some overinflated egos; and, perhaps most importantly, we have compartmentalized ourselves into yet another category of stereotypes, which truly goes against everything our community stands for and is fighting for. We don't want labels, yet we keep on creating them and sticking them onto members of our own community as if it genuinely validates and legitimizes who we are. Tragically, it accomplishes nothing but defeats our entire purpose. To define certain lesbians as "celesbians" only reinforces stereotypes. African Americans do not call famous black people "celeblacks" or anything to that effect. What's wrong with the word "celebrity"?

Last time I checked, Ellen Degeneres, Jane Lynch, Rachel Maddow, and Chely Wright (to name a few) weren't calling themselves "celesbians" -- nor were the media. And ironically they are the lesbians who fit to a T the real definition of the word (should there ever be one): a famous lesbian.

Of course, people can do and say what they want, but if we want to break away from the cliché and not have the media warp mainstream's perception and show that we are more than a bunch of cartoon characters, perhaps we should stop ostracizing ourselves with unnecessary labels. It's enough already that most of what society shows of us, more often than not, doesn't accurately reflect the reality of the gay community -- at least not enough to gain immense respect from the very people who need convincing about LGBT acceptance and LGBT rights.

As they say, change starts from within. Using such a word as "celesbian" to refer to openly out female celebrities within our community is not only isolating but nothing short of acting the stereotype. How, then, do we show the world that we can walk straight, live a normal life, run successful businesses, raise families, play sports, and, yes, play popular acting roles on TV, online, and in films?

We're veering off track by alienating ourselves, and it's essentially ruining what we are trying to accomplish in showing the world that we are normal human beings like everybody else.