Lesbians in the news
29/03/2015 – 04/04/2015
Even identity politics doesn’t protect lesbians – Aderonke Apata “not a lesbian”
Aderonke Apata had appealed to the High Court in the UK when her bid for asylum for sexuality-based persecution was rejected. The UK government argued that she was not a lesbian on the grounds that she had previously been in a heterosexual relationship in her home country of Nigeria, and that she had previously appeared more feminine. Her claim that her ex girlfriend, brother and son were killed and her submissions of sex tapes did not affect the outcome. The Home Office representative declared “The “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.”
The judge decided that she was not a lesbian and that she “played the system”, despite a very real fear of persecution if she returns to Nigeria, having been internationally publicised as a lesbian, where lesbians are punished by law and through (increasingly violent) homophobia.
We now have the bizarre position in the UK where you are able to identify as a woman and legally change your recorded sex on public records, if you meet the criteria, but you are not able to identify your own sexuality – clear proof of identifying and living/acting AS A LESBIAN is insufficient.
So if you are male, you can identify as a woman and that’s cool.
If you are, actually, a lesbian, and identify as one, and dress as one, and love another female as a female, you are gaming the system.
A campaign in support of Aderonke Apata has been launched by the Proud2Be Project, whose patron she is.
Violent Crimes against Lesbians:
- As reported last week, five feminist activists remain detained in China, including lesbian Li Maizi. Sign a petition calling for the release of Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Wu Rongrong.
- According to Sizwe, a Western Cape woman’s charity, at least 10 lesbians are raped or gang raped in Cape Town alone. The escalating violence against lesbians reflects deep seated beliefs in male supremacy, as well as endemic rates of poverty and unemployment. The South African government has offered words but no action, in response to these brutal crimes.
- Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s President, has continued his ongoing homophobia, saying that “Gays have no human rights. They have human rights – human rights for doing an inhuman thing.“
- The Council of Indonesian Ulema, Indonesia’s primary Muslin Clerical body, recently released a fatwa condemning homosexuals, with LGBTI bodies responding calmly. While homosexuality is not criminal in Indonesia, it is listed as a sexual deviance under the anti-pornography law and is punished under Sharia Law in Aceh. The Fatwa is not enforceable by law but will fuel homophobia and perhaps anti-gay violence.
- Details of the murder of Lisa Trubnikova and attack on her wife Anna show the extent of the murderer’s fixation on Lisa after she rejected his sexual advances and his intentional brutality.
Conversion therapy and social homophobia:
- In what is known as “cooperative marriage”, Chinese lesbians and gay men are marrying and having children together. The formally organised arrangements allow them to comply with social pressures and maintain their lesbian and gay relationships.
- A Louisiana school bans a lesbian student from the prom wearing a tuxedo saying “Girls wear dresses and boys wear tuxes, and that’s the way it is”. Despite a petition being lodged with school officials, the result was unchanged.
- Beyond Blue finds worrying rates of homophobia in teenage boys in Australia: “The study found 40 per cent of teenage boys felt “anxious or uncomfortable” around same-sex attracted people, more than a third wouldn’t be happy to have a gay person in their social group, and a quarter felt it was okay to use the term “gay” as a derogatory term.”
- Student writes to men explaining why it is wrong to pursue lesbians… Women’s sexual boundaries are still not being respected, and women’s sexuality is still seen as of lesser importance than male sexual entitlement. That young women are still restating this speaks volumes about the magnitude of the fight still to come before women are free, safe and equal.
Laws, Politics and Policies:
- Indiana Passes Anti-Gay/ Lesbian Discrimination Law – Lesbians Are Being Discriminated Against in Every State, Not Just Indiana, by Victoria Brownworth. Not just about wedding cakes and videos, this law which purports to protect religious freedoms permits situations like the paediatrician who recently refused to see the baby of lesbian mothers, and the refusal to hold a funeral service unless a family edit being lesbian out. These are not frivolous or options services, these are basic services that everyone should be able to access at the beginning and the end of their life, regardless of who they are. The refusal to provide them shows a distressing lack of compassion and love. National LGBTI and civil rights groups are lobbying for the introduction of protections for Indiana’s LGBTI community.
- The anti-gay backlash continues in America with 20 anti-gay proposals in Texas, including one prohibiting the “burden” of religious exercise without a compelling state interest. Setting the bar this low, without the normal phrasing to prevent only “substantial burden”, could have horrific unintended consequences as religious practices could used to justify a wide variety of unacceptable behaviour.
- Confederate license plates are seemingly acceptable while the words gay and lesbian are banned. A court case in Texas reminds us of the existing situation in Maryland.
- The Civil Rights Commission in Michigan released an ordinance template to enable cities and townships to roll out anti-discrimination members for LGBTI residents. 35 municipalities already provide some form of local protection from discrimination.
- Dallas mayoral candidate Richard Sheridan, an anti-gay activist, has been charged in connection with vandalism linked to homophobia.
- Bob Jones III has finally apologised for violent homophobia from the 1980s. Although the Bob Jones university continues to actively exclude LGBTI students and alumni, is this apology the start of a shift?
- The US healthcare system continues to fail meeting the needs of the LGBTI community, including lesbians who are reportedly at a higher risk of breast cancer, have higher rates of smoking, and whose needs for HPV and cervical cancer screening are not met, no doubt for a variety of reasons. As laws supporting religious freedom gain traction, it is likely that the provision of healthcare to lesbians will suffer, as it will for women in general.
- Indiana Governor defends the state’s religious freedom laws and claims that they aren’t intended to discriminate against lesbians and gays but he is not planning to make lesbian or gay residents a protected class. If existing legal mechanisms that exist to protect residents from intentional discrimination are not used, the claimed intent to not discriminate seems dubious at best.
- Meanwhile in Maryland, laws are being developed to provide fertility treatment to married lesbian couples.
- North Dakota is another state with laws permitting discrimination on the basis of religious freedom, but unlike other states has practically no anti-discrimination legislation with legislation that would ban sexuality-based discrimination soundly rejected by lawmakers for the third time in six years.
- In an optimistic note perhaps, one of the lawyers who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 in the Supreme Court believes that the US will see federal protections for lesbian and gay Americans in the next couple of years.
- Lawyers for the same sex marriage case in the US Supreme Court prepare for the case to be heard later this month.
- In a Japanese first, the Tokyo Ward recognises same-sex marriage.
- What is the affect of same sex marriage – an interesting question posed in lessons From One Year of Same-Sex Marriage in England and Wales. Equality before the law is undoubtedly critical, as is protection of lesbians and our families, but the introduction of same sex marriage is not a silver bullet solving social problems and/or homophobia. In places where the protections for lesbians and their families already exists, the fight for marriage equality ahead of more concrete needs like adequate and appropriate healthcare, for example, seems to prioritise symbolic mainstreaming over these urgent practical needs. Perhaps as national LGBTI communities we need to consider our immediate needs and develop a strategy to achieve them?
- When even potentially lesbian messaging is confronting – Little Big Town’s song Girl Crush has apparently been withdrawn from the air on some stations despite the lyrics not even being lesbian but about winning an ex boyfriend back…
- Mumbai, India: lesbian movie Mitraa wins the National award while Unfreedom, a movie about a woman rejecting an arranged marriage to be with her girlfriend, is banned by Indian censors amid claims it would “stir unnatural passions.” The film is now using this censorship in its marketing…
- Meanwhile in South Korea, a local TV drama Seonam Girls High School Investigators has shown a lesbian kiss which is being investigated by the Korean Communications Standards Commission for “ethics” violations.
- Openly lesbian athletes speak out and hope to challenge the culture of silence that remains in (some? most?) sporting culture. It’s wonderful that women are speaking out, but we will also need male attitudes to change, both in sports administration and at a broader community level.
- A portrait of two Russian women, Lyudmila and Natasha, morphs from a simple photographic project to a more profound look at a lesbian couple in a country where their lives become more precarious as the legal situation worsens with the introduction of article 6.21, the “anti-gay propaganda” law.
- An amazing cache of photos of lesbian life in chicago pre-Stonewall is found in a case of unlikely meetings, resulting in films that document forgotten lesbian herstory.
- Pink in Blue – an insight into the Dutch police officers who represent and protect the LBGTI community of Amsterdam started informally during the 1998 Amsterdam Gay Games.
- The Boy Scouts of America has been petitioned by the lesbian mother of a member after being told she and her partner could not volunteer because she is lesbian. Elsewhere in America, the New York Boy Scouts defy the national ban hire an openly gay leader.
Social and Health Issues:
- Homophobia in aged care – the documentary Gen Silent illuminates the homophobia ageing lesbians and gays may face and their consequent return to the closet. Previous studies have raised similar concerns about treatment of ageing lesbian and gay Australians.
- According to the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, lesbians earn less than straight or gay men but more than straight women, based purely on working longer hours. This backs up an assessment of society as a structured around male dominance and heterosexuality – that is, supporting heterosexual men and penalising women, irrespective of their sexuality.
- A University of Illinois study reportedly shows that a sexuality shift early in life is tied to depression. It is curious that they didn’t suggest that the study could be showing how is that coming out is difficult and stressful for many kids, in the absence of a supportive and accepting community. Most societies groom children to heterosexuality from birth, with social institutions and rituals promoting and supporting them, and social attitudes, structures, laws and behaviours strongly opposing homosexuality in many cases. It makes perfect sense, in that context, for kids coming to terms with or deciding to be open about their homosexuality to have increased rates of depression, especially if familiar, peer and social rejection (both emotional and physical) are taken into account. It also makes sense for that process to be delayed by the social and cultural hostility surrounding the kids.
- Lesbian and bisexual women reportedly experience unequal outcomes under Cuba’s healthcare system, with lesbian specific needs and issues either ignored or overlooked. Of particular concern, similar to experiences in other countries, is the way lesbian-specific sexual and reproductive health needs are not met. Many gynaecological processes are discouragingly invasive; lesbian-specific risks for sexually transmitted infections (STI) are not well understood or communicated; and the problems involved in disclosing personal details to health care providers, especially around sexual activity, and discourage women from receiving the required health care.
- Millenials, the current generation of young adults, are reportedly the generation with the highest rate of “identification” as LGBTI, with the rates doubling since the last survey in 2011. Much of the change may be in the reported rates of bisexuality, although it is unclear whether the data in the two reports compares similarly segmented generation groups and whether the methodology used to determine LGBT identification was comparable. Interestingly, nearly 40% of millennials also reported that same sex behaviour was morally wrong, with a further 13% reporting that it depended on the situation, significantly undermining the argument that Millennials are a lesbian, gay and bisexual friendly generation. The reported rates of LGB identification are not close to Kinsey’s reported 10%, but factoring in same sex contact but not identity may explain some of this variation, according to a new book on sexual behaviour and statistics.
- Schools that actively protect LGBT kids may be contributing to lowered rates of depression and suicidality, although it is unclear from the report whether this is based on sexuality specific measures or school wide attitudes against bullying on multiple fronts. What is not reported is the rates of sexual harassment of girls, which will also affect lesbians, and which education institutions around the US, and the world, have systemically failed to address .
- A Canadian lesbian couple were denied daycare spot due to their sexual orientation and will be filing a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.
- In Switzerland, priests have started blessing same sex couples, with one removed for blessing a lesbian couple in 2014.
***If I have missed an important news story, please either post a link in the comments section here or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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