2019 in review: Lesbians in the News

 

By Liz Waterhouse

2019 Lesbian News Summary

In 2019 Listening2Lesbians expanded our coverage to challenge the previous dominance of English stories to better report global lesbian experiences. This shift saw an increase in news reported, with information from additional countries in 10 languages.

It remains difficult to find comprehensive reports of lesbian experiences given the legal or social situation in many countries; largely disinterested mainstream and specialist media; and various language barriers including a reliance on freely available news translation services and sometimes limited use of the word lesbian by victims, police or media.

The news that was reported in 2019 indicated significant continuing opposition to or punishment of lesbians, particularly in religiously conservative regions. The increasing conservatism and religiosity in some of these areas is of particular concern for lesbians who are subjected to both homophobia and sexism, as well as the intersection of the two.

LOCATION – CHALLENGING THE ANGLO DOMINANCE

2019 Stories by Country

 

In 2019 Listening2Lesbians found and shared 258 news stories from 53 counties, up from 152 stories from 35 countries in 2018.

Reports from the USA and United Kingdom dropped as a percentage from 50% of stories to 26% of location specific stories.

In 2018 we identified the dramatic over-representation of news from the USA and UK, based both in the cultural dominance mirrored in media resourcing / output and our reliance on English language media.

In an attempt to better track global lesbian experiences, we expanded news searches from only English to include daily searches in English, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. It is hoped that this search can expand in coming years. Any readers who can assist are requested to contact us.

This expanded news search resulted in news posted in 10 languages in 2019 with 55% of news posted solely in English, 23% in Spanish, 6% in both French and Italian and 3% or under in Portuguese, German, Chinese, Polish, Dutch and Russian.

There remain significant gaps in representation, particularly in countries where homosexuality is strictly or defacto illegal (45 of the 123 countries never reported on by Listening 2 Lesbians). A lack of reported news from these countries cannot mean a lack of discrimination, harassment and persecution of lesbians in these countries.

The under-reporting of lesbian experiences in these countries is almost certainly exacerbated by the (LGBTI and mainstream) media focus on other groups within the LGBTI community. Lesbians continue to be omitted from reports on legal changes, persecution and their effects even when it is evident that they will be affected, and that their experiences will be further exacerbated by cultural expectations of and pressures on women and the punishment levied against women who do not meet these cultural norms and sex roles.

 

ISSUES

Discrimination and harassment were the dominant issue reported in 2019, representing 46% of the global stories reported in the English media.

Physical and sexual violence against lesbians, including murder, represented 37% of reported stories with persecution a further 11%, often including stories of lesbians seeking asylum to escape it.

Issues reported 2019 Global

This breakdown is not globally representative with the USA breakdown between discrimination and harassment and persecution significantly different to that in the rest of the world. Discrimination and harassment in the US represents 77% of the news items and persecution is not represented. This represents a shift from 2018 when 61% of the stories reported discrimination and harassment and persecution was present in 5% of the stories.

Physical or sexual violence, including murder, represented only 14% of the stories, down from 31% in 2018.

Issues reported 2019 USA

For the rest of the world, minus the USA, discrimination and harassment represent just 40% of the stories in 2019, marginally up on the 36% in 2018. Persecution stories decreased from 24% to 13%. 

Physical or sexual violence, including murder, represented 41% of the stories, up from the 29% in 2018.

Issues reported 2019 not USA

 

HOSTILITY SOURCE

News stories reported in 2019 were coded for source of hostility, abuse or discrimination to provide insight into the nature of the opposition to lesbians.

Global data was considered first, with individuals and community hostility increasing from 35% in 2018 to 55% of 2019 reports. Government hostility and discrimination dropped as a percentage from 28% in 2018, the single largest source, to 9% in 2019.

2019 hostility source chart global

The USA vs global minus USA data was also assessed, showing significantly lower community hostility than global reports but a mirrored increase in business hostility (approximately 10% difference in both).

2019 hostility source chart USA

 

The USA hostility source data shows no publicly reported hostility from family and friends and little government hostility.  Public sphere hostility represented 66% of hostility in USA stories (education, business and individual/stranger hostility combined), an increase on the 50% reported in 2018.

2018 hostility source chart global - usa

2019 hostility source chart not USA

Government as a formal source of hostility decreased from 34% to 10% in global reports that excluded the USA. It is hard to know whether this represents a variation in incidents or reporting, or a variation in the source countries included in the 2019 news reports.

For countries other than the USA, community and in individual/stranger hostility rates are significantly higher than in 2018 reports (from 14% to 25% and 19% to 35% respectively, a net increase in 26%). The stories reported in 2019 challenge the idea that lesbians do not experience street violence, with butch or gender non conforming lesbians particularly subjected to harassment, violence and murder.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

The data gathered in reporting discrimination and violence against lesbians around the world in 2019 shows significant variation across the global lesbian experience, reinforcing our need to focus on the communities we do not hear about.

Given the fragmented and unreliable nature of reporting on crimes against lesbians, it is difficult to draw any conclusions from the limited reports we have, however, it is evident that the experiences of living in countries with deep and clearly expressed social and legal opposition to lesbians differs from that of lesbians facing discrimination and harassment in states with civil remedies and protections. The increasing conservatism and windback of legal protections in various jurisdictions around the world is of particular concern.

Civil remedies and greater community acceptance do not appear to have resolved the issue of interpersonal violence which represents approximately 36% of the 2019 reports, an increase on 30% in 2018.

RESPONSE TO THE NEWS

In 2018, the Listening2Lesbians story with the most individual views on WordPress was Brazil: murders of lesbians increased by 237% in 3 years, also the Facebook post with the greatest engagement.

In general, responses mirrored patterns evident in 2018, namely that reports of harassment or discrimination against white lesbians in the USA or UK received consistently higher engagement than reports of even murder of lesbians of colour, particularly those outside English speaking first world countries.

While this is disappointing it is not unusual. Listening 2 Lesbians will continue to respond by seeking to focus particularly on finding reports of non white lesbian experiences.

AREAS NOT REPORTED ON

Listening2Lesbians has largely not reported in depth on:

  • Harassment of lesbians in relation to views of gender identity
  • Inclusion or exclusion of mothers on birth certificates in various jurisdictions
  • Access to in vitro fertilisation treatment

In particular, lesbian experiences in relation to gender identity is a specific area with dedicated sites better suited to this focus.

 

POSTS FROM 2019:

 

One response to “2019 in review: Lesbians in the News

  1. I remember seeing something on Twitter around “Trans Day of Remembrance” with the numbers of transgender people (*specifically including gender-variant & gender non-conforming irrespective their identities) killed throughout 2018-2019, and also another graph with the number of deaths in the last decade 2008-2019. If I remember correctly in the # of ‘gender-variant‘/‘gender non-conforming’ (these people didn’t personally identify as trans) was significant..this is speculation, but perhaps many lesbians (aka non-trans identified female) could be included in those figures..

    Like

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