Lesbians in the news
05/04/2015 – 011/04/2015
Fight Homophobia–Help a Lesbian
In an example of an appalling hate crime in 2012, two two young lesbians went on a date but were viciously attacked. Mollie Olgin was killed and Mary Kristene Chapa was left for dead.
Their attacker was arrested in 2014 but was not charged with a hate crime, despite sufficient evidence to justify it.
Despite the horror of the crime, Mary Kristene Chapa’s medical fund has only raised $12,882, compared to the over $800,000 raised for Memories Pizza, the pizzeria that declined to cater same sex weddings.
Horrific anti lesbian crime occur routinely and they are not reported. When they are, this is the level of interest they garner.
This is lesbophobia and silencing writ large.
Violent Crimes against Lesbians:
- There seemed to be surprisingly few violent crimes reported against lesbians this week. Given what we know about crime against women and specifically lesbians, it seems unlikely that the crimes have ceased, and more likely that the crimes are either not reported or the reports are not making it to the mass media. How do we change this and how do we access accurate information about violent crimes against lesbians?
- The first in-depth report into sexual violence against LGT Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge was released. Despite showing horrific levels of sexual violence against gay men and transgender Cambodians, the reporting is silent on the fate of lesbians, despite previous reports showing horrific violence against women under the regime, including reports that most rape victims were women. It seems unlikely that women, gay men and transgender men and women were subjected to sexual violence but that lesbians were somehow spared, but where is the reporting on these crimes?
- In a move aimed at better preventing, understanding and responding to crimes against lesbians and bisexual women, a three year study will be undertaken at the University of Buffalo to assess the experience of sexual assault of lesbian and bisexual women compared to heterosexual women. Lesbian and bisexual women seem to experience higher rates of sexual assault and report their assaults at a lower rate, resulting in their needs going unmet and perpetrators not being reported, much less prosecuted.
Conversion therapy and social homophobia:
- The Obama administration has called for an end to conversion therapy for lesbian, gay and transgender children. Conversion therapy for lesbians and gay men has a dark history from elimination of “inversion” to ongoing Christian conversion practices. These practices were and are about enforcing gender conformity and discouraging gender non conformity through the linking of sex and required behaviours and attributes (sex stereotypes), and are primarily aimed at eliminating homosexuality. A concern about any concrete bans on all forms of therapy is that it could inadvertently ban the kind of counselling that children diagnosed as transgender may need given that 75-80% of transgender children go on to be not transgender as adults but predominantly lesbian and gay. These children, in particular, need access to supports that validate gender non conformity and homosexuality in the absence of any broad media representation or social acceptance.
Laws, Politics and Policies:
- Indian LGBTI activists seek the repeal of a reinstated colonial era law which leaves them open to blackmail and abuse.
- Tulsa looks to introduce specific sexuality based protections to ensure the city’s fair housing policy extends to protect lesbians and the rest of the LGBTI community. A recent example demonstrating the need was a married lesbian couple with children who were told that to process their mortgage application, they would have to disavow their relationship.
- Employment discrimination continues to be a problem with proof from that lesbian and gay applicants are less likely to be offered employment. The UK research showed discrimination was ‘commonplace’, augmenting existing knowledge about the wage gap which shows sexuality affects average wages. As reported last week, straight men earn most, with single and then coupled gay men lagging behind them. Women earn least with lesbians only earning more than straight women because they worked longer hours on average. Will measures like President Obama’s recently introduced Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination (for federal contractors) make a difference?
- The Irish National Teachers Association has called for the abolition of Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act, which permits schools to act where teachers are “undermining the religious ethos of the institution”. Irish Equality Minister, Aodhan O Riordain, has undertaken to amend the legislation, citing a constitutional issue with removing it. Ireland faces a referendum on same-sex marriage in May.
- A rally has flooded downtown Springfield Missouri protesting voters choice to repeal LGBTI rights over fears about gay marriage and bathroom access.
- In the absence of a state-wide law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, New Orleans’ mayor comes out against discrimination with his concerns over the pending bill to possibly protect businesses from recognising same sex marriage.
- Demonstrators in Texas have signalled their opposition to the proposed “conscientious objectors bill” which, similar to other laws in America, would permit discrimination on the basis of religious belief.
- In response to moves to protect Indiana’s LGBT population, however limited the moves, New York’s Governor Cuomo has lifted the travel ban to Indiana as have Portland Mayor Charlie Hales plus Connecticut Governor and San Francisco and Oakland mayors. Meanwhile, protests in Indianapolis have criticised the limited nature of the amendments and called for more substantial anti-discrimination measures to be enacted. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 29 states still do not have measures preventing discrimination on the basis of sexuality. While anti-discrimination legislation does not lead to substantive equality, the absence of it is a clear indicator of structural inequality.
- Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison declines to improve workplace anti-discrimination measures for lesbian and gay employees despite the amendments to a religious objections bill not specifically prohibiting sexuality based discrimination.
- Two women in Guam who were denied a marriage license are fighting for the right to marry ahead of the US Supreme Court’s hearing on same sex marriage later this year.
- A Colombian lesbian adoption court case highlights the mixed picture for lesbians in Latin America. What is curious is how many of these articles reference same sex marriage as if that is a panacea to the structural oppression, social exclusion and sanctioned abuse and violence lesbians face around the world.
- The Sunshine Coast Rainbow Network have met with the Sunshine Coast council as part of their efforts to lobby for marriage equality, despite marriage laws not being under the control of local government in Australia.
- In Taipei, a lesbian couple was not permitted to join a mass wedding ceremony, despite having been assured same sex couples would be included, with insufficient time to amend regulations blamed.
- Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, Canada and first lesbian Premier, says being lesbian makes her feel more responsible: “It is part of who I am and it is important for me to be clear that I have a responsibility because of who I am . . . to make our society safer and more inclusive”.
- Two organisations, NCLR and the National LGBTQ Task Force have removed their names from the Equality Michigan petition calling on the Michfest to include transwomen, without having changed their opinion on inclusion. To a non-American the choice of a single (less than) week-long woman’s music event as the symbol of well being for transwoman seems odd in the context of employment discrimination and abuse.
- Photographic Series “Happy Lesbian Couples” shows, well, happy lesbian couples. Whether you believe this is an argument for marriage equality or not, positive humanising representation in itself is important.
- Japanese celebrity Ayaka Ichinose and her partner hope to raise awareness through publicity following their wedding ceremony, despite the effect on her career.
- Love it or hate it – do we need another (better) L word? Are we better served by individual characters in mainstream television or entire shows about us? Perhaps we need both, and to ensure that they are more broadly representative of our diversity than the narrow range of representation we have seen before? Do we know what good representation looks like?
- On a really trivial front, LGBT emoji have come to iOS but what do they look like? We have identical blondes in pink dresses and women in bunny ears doing synchronised dancing…
- On a more serious note, religious organisations have shifted their positions as a Baptist college has invited married, lesbian bishop to serve as worship leader and a rabbinical group gets first-ever lesbian president. Does this represent progress, albeit slow, in lesbian acceptance in religious circles and what could the broader ramifications of it be?
Social and Health Issues:
- An Australian asylum seeker discusses the additional problems of being a lesbian asylum seeker as neither the refugee community nor the LGBTI community were comfortable with all aspects of her life. This is contrasted with the pending nuptials of two lesbian asylum seekers who fled persecution in Angola.
- In an effort to improve connectivity and prevent isolation for older lesbians, UK charity The Labrys Trust has set up a scheme linking older lesbians with “befrienders”, as well as providing support services. Ideally, as we start to understand the ways in which older lesbians’ needs are not met by aged care industries and/or society in general, we would see a rise in service and support options, but as a marginalised and often invisible group, where does the funding come from? An aged care provider in Melbourne is in the early stages of developing an LGBTI-specific aged care home in recognition of these issues.
- Somewhat hyperbolically, a Florida school has fired a lesbian teacher for her “lifestyle choices”, citing their “Awesome God”. Jaclyn Pfeiffer and Kelly Bardier were fired by the school after being given the option to change their “lifestyle”. While the school is taxpayer-funded, it is exempt from local anti-discrimination ordinances on religious grounds.
- A New York taxi driver who called a lesbian couple “whores” and other misogynist insults and ordered them to stop kissing or leave his taxi has been fined $10,000, given a $$5,000 civil penalty and ordered to undertake anti-discrimination training, in an example of the way in which breaches of “decorum” is used to discriminate on the basis of sexuality.
- Should businesses have the right to refuse service and on what grounds? This lesbian small business owner believes so and donated to the Christian owned pizza shop in Indiana which has faced pressure after saying they would not provide pizza at same sex weddings. Over $800,000 has already been raised for Memories Pizza despite most Americans thinking that businesses should serve lesbian and gay customers. Pizza Lovers for Marriage Equality has raised $5,441 to date.
- A North Dakota mother claims her sexuality was the basis for the custody outcome of shared care of her young child with her ex-husband, although the judge denies being influenced by it. Although the situation has improved since the 60s, lesbian mothers still face difficulties in custody battles including through the use of so-called “morality clauses“.
- After a public outcry, Louisiana Teen Claudetteia Love has been told she may wear a tuxedo to her school prom. Originally the student had been advised that she was not allowed to wear a tuxedo to the prom as part of gendered dress codes that require girls to wear dresses.
- More of a question than an answer as a recent Australian LBQ Health conference asked – How do we improve health outcomes for LBQ women? As this event moves to the national stage and is held annually, we can only hope that women’s health, and lesbian health in particular, is finally given more attention.
- In related news, a recent Australian survey found both increased rates of drug use associated with heightened rates of socially induced anxiety and depression in the LGBT community, with protective benefits coming from increased community engagement. This again raises the question of what a representative community looks like, with lesbians unlikely to gain the health benefits if the community they are engaging with is not representing and respecting their needs. This situation is exacerbated by medical communities and public health campaigns not recognising and addressing lesbian-specific needs. This Indiana billboard is an example of a campaign running counter to the trend and starting to address the heightened rate of smoking in the lesbian community.
- The UK National Union of Teachers has approved motions calling on governments to address bigrotry and discrimination and teach positive representations of same-sex relationships, including in sex education.
- In Japan, same sex wedding ceremonies are gaining greater acceptance, despite the ongoing difficulties same sex couples experience in their daily lives, posing the question of what the link is between broader acceptance and marriage equality…
***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.