Lesbian Day of Visibility is an important marker in the calendar for LGBT+ people. Equality, dignity and the absence of discrimination are crucial foundations for our human rights – as well as being some of the founding ideas behind Lesbian Day of Visibility.
Women who identify as lesbian, bisexual or gay often face unique challenges, frequently having to deal with negative and demeaning stereotypes both within the mainstream media and the LGBT+ community. We spoke to two women about their experiences and the importance of our rights.
‘I’m Black and I’m a Lesbian. Even Now I Can’t See That Reflected In The Media’
Image Credit: Supplied by Interviewee.
“I think that queer men, especially with the reboot of Queer Eye, are well represented in the media. But it’s almost as if there’s something unsellable about lesbians? I think lesbians come across as man-hating, feminist, angry… The stereotypes definitely still exist.
“When I come out to people they say, ‘Oh you don’t look like what I thought a lesbian would look like’. That’s something I struggled with when I was figuring it out when I was younger because you want to see yourself reflected in the media and I’m black and I’m a lesbian. Even now, I can’t see that reflected in the media. There are friends that I have known for years that I haven’t actually officially come out to.
When I come out to people they say, ‘Oh you don’t look like a lesbian’. That’s something I struggled with.
“It’s a lot more multifaceted than just telling the stories of gay white men. I think generally the stories that are told are of gay white men who have lots of money and live flamboyant lives, but there are lots of other people out there. Gay women don’t have a platform to show the different sides to them.
“A lot of gay people I know aren’t that bothered about getting married, like marriage isn’t the end result for them. [It’s] acknowledging the different varieties that we come in, that these are the ways we live our lives. Listening is really important, making sure that you’re sharing the people who are tweeting things and sharing articles.
If you look at race, that’s been the law for quite some time and that still happens.
“If it’s in the law that someone is equal to you, it’s not necessarily the answer. If you look at race, that’s been a law for quite some time and that still happens. If you have that as law, that’s the basis. You can’t say discrimination is right because the law says it is wrong, it’s a good base to have, then we can build upon that.”
‘Rights Can Be Won and Lost. We Can’t Be Complacent’
Image Credit: Talie Eigeland
“We’ve made massive progress, and that should be celebrated, but equality doesn’t begin and end with same-sex marriage. Until we’re all equal, I don’t think any of us are.
“Rights can be won and lost. I think it’s important not to get complacent, to keep moving forward. Our identities are really complex and messy and evolving and it’s really important to have a space that recognises that, that can talk to that from an authentic point of view.
We’ve made massive progress and that should be celebrated, but equality doesn’t begin and end with same-sex marriage.
“The mainstream media are doing a better job of telling marginalised stories but they are certain kinds of stories, probably from white women or the middle classes, probably able-bodied or very successful in whatever field they’re in. They’re not telling the stories of working class women, or women of colour, or woman with disabilities, or stories by women in a rural area or a non-binary person.
“Diva has been on the stands since 1994. At the time, it was the only magazine for lesbian and bi women in the UK. It is incredible to me that 23 years later, it remains so. There are still day-to-day challenges that come along that are partly due to a combination of homophobia and misogyny so it is quite difficult to find us in shops sometimes. We hear stories of the magazine being hidden behind the counter because ‘it’s a family store’.
They’re not telling the stories of working class women or women of colour or women with disabilities.
“To me, when I was younger, to meet queer women who were successful and who were happy, that was something that had never been seen before on TV or in magazines. I think it’s important for Diva and other outlets to be a window into the world for people who are on the fringes of society.”