****Links in this post may contain disturbing details****
We know that a lot of what happens to lesbians is unseen and unheard, but what happens when stories about lesbophobia and misogyny against lesbians make it to the news?
On the rare occasions when discrimination or violence against us is reported by mainstream media, it isn’t often taken seriously. Hate crimes are mostly not reported as such, and no particular community outcry results.
Both historically and currently, the rates of violence against lesbians (and others in the LGBTI community) have been masked by a fear of reporting a crime that would render the victims vulnerable to further abuse by civil authorities or their community. In general, the consequences of being outed as a lesbian around the world can be horrific, and extend to loss of custody of children, corrective rape and murder.
Even in Australia, where we may assume it is more safe to be lesbian, the statistics, where they exist, are grim with the 2006 Private Lives report finding that 69% of lesbians modified their daily activities out of fear of prejudice and discrimination.
How crimes against us are reported and responded to by our society is important.
Hate crimes against lesbians – crimes of misogyny, lesbophobia and male sexual entitlement – instruct us in the hatred that lurks in our society, and what may happen to us and our sisters if we step out of line.
The reporting of these crimes often erases the responsibility of the perpetrator, which is a recognised problem with the reporting of violence against women in general. Invisibilising the perpetrator and their culpability often leaves the focus on the victims, with an implicit question about what they may have done to “deserve” or trigger the crime, often with a prurient slant that fetishises lesbians.
The casual disinterest with which the crimes are often received, if reported at all, instructs us in our relative unimportance. Sporting stories are accorded significant air time. Reports of terrorism are responded to with significant political attention and national resources. Violence against women, including against lesbians, is greeted with silence and inaction, an apathy that speaks volumes about how normalised this violence is.
And lastly, the failure to collate these reports prevents us all from seeing the bigger picture. The interpretation of these incidents as individual events, divorced from the system that motivates them, allows them to be dismissed, ignored and to remain invisible to a society that benefits from the second class status of women.
We need to hear from those lesbians whose experiences form part of the news, because like our personal narratives, their stories form part of the picture that allows us to understand our experiences and fight the structures that support this discrimination and violence.
So, I will be posting news reports of discrimination and violence against lesbians. Please feel welcome to send any reports I have missed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.