Author Archives: Liz

Brazil: Lesbian actor faces discrimination and loss of work

 

Bruna, in fact, has declared herself a lesbian, triggering homophobic fury, with painful work repercussions. “Obviously I have lost several contracts since I came out. Of course I was scared, especially because I had a flat to pay for and my parents are not rich, on the contrary. But I did not have much choice”.

(Translated)

 

Bruna, infatti, si è dichiarata lesbica, scatenando la furia omofoba, con dolorose ripercussioni lavorative. “Ovviamente ho perso diversi contratti da quando ho fatto coming out. Certo che avevo paura, soprattutto perché avevo un appartamento da pagare e i miei genitori non sono ricchi, al contrario. Ma non avevo molta scelta”.

(Original)

Continue reading at: https://www.gay.it/donne/news/bruna-linzmeyer-attrice-lesbica (Source)

Translation tool: http://itools.com/tool/google-translate-web-page-translator

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2018 in review: Listening 2 Lesbians

 

By Liz Waterhouse

As 2018 draws to a close, we look back on lesbian news through the year. The articles located, written and shared were assessed by location, issue and perpetrator or source of the issue. Community responses to articles were also reviewed.

 

LOCATION

 

In 2018 Listening2Lesbians found and shared 152 stories from 35 countries of the world, with 146 of these articles country specific.

The USA was the greatest source of stories with 65 pieces, as many as the next 18 countries combined. 

The USA and United Kingdom were reported on 76 times, exactly half of the total articles for the year. This stark overrepresentation of the USA and the UK reflects various factors including a cultural dominance which is mirrored in media resourcing and output as well as our current reliance on English language media.

In the context of existing analyses of global lesbian experiences, the stories we were able to source this year do not adequately represent the reality of lesbian lives around the world.

There remain overwhelming gaps in representation, with 135 countries or territories never having been reported on by Listening2Lesbians. In 47 of these 135 unreported countries, homosexuality is strictly or defacto illegal and it is implausible that discrimination, harassment and persecution of lesbians do not exist in these countries.

The underreporting of lesbian experiences in these countries is almost certainly exacerbated by the (LGBTI and mainstream) media focus on other groups within the LGBTI community. It has been a source of frustration in 2018 how often lesbians are not included in 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/sex roles.

Listening2Lesbians will continue working to discover, document and share the experiences of lesbians in these countries as part of our commitment to global lesbian wellbeing.

 

ISSUES

Discrimination and harassment were the dominant issue reported in 2018, representing 47% of the global stories reported in the English media.

Physical and sexual violence against lesbians, including murder, represented 30% of reported stories with persecution a further 16%, often including stories of lesbians seeking asylum to escape it.

 

Issues reported 2018 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 represent 61% of the stories with persecution representing just 5%.

 

For the rest of the world, minus the USA, discrimination and harassment represent just 36% of the stories in 2018 with persecution representing 24%.

Physical or sexual violence, including murder, was reported at similar rates of approximately 30% of the stories.

It seems likely that there would be further variation across the regions of the world but there is not yet enough data held by Listening2Lesbians to assess it in greater detail.

 

HOSTILITY SOURCE

After looking at what happens to lesbians, and where, the next question is who – who is manifesting this hostility and opposition to lesbians, what is the source of the abuse.

Stories reported in 2018 were coded for source and while some of the assessments are subjective, the intent was to provide insight into the nature of the opposition to lesbians.

Global data was considered first, with governments the global primary source of hostility and opposition to lesbians (28% of the reports). Individuals and strangers were not far behind at 23% of the reports.2018 hostility source chart global

 

The USA vs global minus USA data was also assessed, with the results reflecting a similar variation as noted in the reported issue breakdown.

Mirroring the discrimination-harassment vs persecution focus of the issues reported charts, the source charts show a marked difference between the USA and other countries. It is possible that this variation would be greater with more comprehensive data for countries with potentially greater overlap with the USA (such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand).

2018 hostility source chart usa

 

 

The USA hostility source data shows relatively low levels of reported family and friend hostility, with strangers and individuals the dominant hostility source. Government is an additional notable hostility source, with discrimination the primary issue.

2018 hostility source chart global - usa

 

For countries other than the USA, Government remains the primary hostility source at 34% of stories, with persecution the dominant issue. Individuals and strangers remain a significant hostility source in non-USA countries with elevated rates of community and family- and friends-based hostility. The hostility resulting from family and friends and individuals and strangers for non-USA reports is predominantly physical violence, including murder. Persecution is notable in the community-based hostility for non-USA reports.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

The data on both the source of hostility and nature of the hostility demonstrates a difference across the global lesbian experience, with a focus on discrimination in the USA, and a significantly elevated rate of government persecution and interpersonal hostility in other countries.

Additional data in future years will allow for enhanced analysis of these variations.

While there remains social and legal hostility in a variety of countries, the situation of lesbians in countries with profound violent social opposition and government persecution is evidently of a different nature to that of lesbians facing harassment and discrimination, with civil remedies available to them and a state which will not punish them on reporting a crime.

Civil remedies and greater community acceptance do not appear to have resolved the issue of interpersonal violence which remains consistent at approximately 30% of reports across the board. An assessment of the magnitude or severity of the interpersonal violence cannot be made with the current data.

RESPONSE TO THE NEWS

In 2018, the Listening2Lesbians story with the most individual views was California: Court update on alleged murder of lesbian couple and adult child.

The most shared blog post (from WordPress) was U.S: Man Breaks Woman’s Spine in Anti-Lesbian Hate Crime.

The Facebook post with the greatest engagement was the personally devastating announcement of my partner and Listening2Lesbians powerhouse Lisa Mallet’s death: Listening2Lesbians Mourns loss of Lisa Mallett.

IN SUMMARY

The pattern of engagement with Listening2Lesbians stories shows that violent individual attacks garner the most attention, particularly where those attacks occur in the first world. It was notable that, as in previous years, some significant stories of personal trauma and persecution did not appear to capture the imagination of Listening2Lesbians readership, mirroring a phenomenon well established in the mainstream media.

Crimes and hostility against lesbians seem under reported relative to the mainstream and LGBTI populations in both media sectors which is broadly in line with previously identified trends. The stories which were reported predominantly focus on crimes against lesbians in the English speaking first world countries. Additional stories were located through thorough reviews of English-speaking local media around the world.

In addition to sex, race and class remain significant factors in what is reported (and how), and also appear to influence the community response to those reports. Social and legal structures which prevent lesbians from reporting crimes and hostility against them exacerbate these tendencies, with language barriers inhibiting a deeper investigation of the experiences of lesbians as reported in the non-English media landscape.

As with reporting on crimes against women more generally, there remains little interest in reporting and responding to institutional, family or communal violence or persecution, which appears to be the dominant global lesbian experience as reported in 2018 once the USA data is excluded.

Listening2lesbians remains committed to broadening the information reported on the global lesbian experience, with our focus remaining on seeking to highlight the experiences of profoundly marginalised lesbian communities around the world.

 

Contact information:

Liz@listening2lesbians.com 

 

Posts from 2018:

 

We need your help – missing voices

 

Help wanted 4.png

By Liz Waterhouse

Listening2lesbians has a mission of reporting on violence and discrimination against lesbians globally.

While this sounds like a simple task, assessing what we have been able to find in the last few years indicates that accessing news about crimes against lesbians is far from simple, with multiple barriers preventing us from being able to present a comprehensive picture of global lesbian experiences.

 

WHAT IS REPORTED OR PUBLISHED?

 

There is very little information being published about what is happening to lesbians around the world if we compare what is reported on an ongoing basis with what is found by those writers analysing the situation in depth.

Even for the countries with the most information available, invariably white dominated English speaking countries (the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada), the information is limited and piecemeal. Based on the news we see, and the patterns of how it is reported,  the communities who face significant additional problems due to overlapping axes of oppression, such as lesbians of colour and lesbians with a disability, are additionally disregarded by the authorities and/or the media.

This is no surprise because we know that many lesbians do not or cannot report violence or harassment for cultural, social and legal reasons. It is not safe for many lesbians to report their experiences, and around the world, reporting their experiences will open lesbians up to harassment and persecution.

When violence and harassment does get reported to authorities and it makes its way to the media, the following filters seem to apply:

  • Much violence and harassment against lesbians is not readily identifiable as such and many victims may play down or hide their sexuality in reporting to authorities even if it is a dominant factor in the crime, including under pressure from families.
  • Violence and harassment against lesbians is seemingly under reported by local media AS a crime against lesbans, unless it is salacious, extreme or backs up an existing widespread (often lesbophobic, also racial) bias.
  • Crimes against lesbians are often reported by the midia in ways which do not allow us to readily identify their sexuality and the extent to which sexuality is relevant to the crime.
  • Where lesbian news is reported locally it isn’t often picked up by international news sites unless it is (again) salacious, extreme or backs up an existing widespread (including  lesbophobic, also racial) bias.
  • LGBT media sites show little or no interest in lesbian news, again unless it is salacious, extreme or backs up an existing widespread bias.

Across the world there are some countries for which there is significant reporting (such as South Africa), which reflects both their rampant crime rate against lesbians (and women more generally) and the wide spread use of English in their media.

That leaves 135 out of 209 countries and territories for which we have not yet found a single news article in real time by December 2018.

We know that the absence of news reports does not indicate an absence of persecution of lesbians because homosexuality is illegal or defacto illegal in 47 of those countries.

This means we know that there are many communities of lesbians who are entirely silenced, whose experiences we know far too little about but whose experiences we need to be listening to because they remain persecuted.

 

AVAILABLE NEWS SOURCES

 

To try to find every available article on violence against lesbians, Listening2lesbians scans every news item from the following news sources, every day:

 

Google searches for:

  • Homophobia
  • homophobic
  • Gender and sexuality diverse
  • Gay woman
  • Gay women
  • Gender non conforming
  • Gender nonconformity
  • Lesbian
  • Same-sex
  • SASOD (Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination)
  • SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity)
  • Violence against women

 

News articles and blogs on Feedly including:

  • Advocate.com
  • AfterEllen
  • Alturi.org
  • Big Boo Butch
  • Curve fee
  • En.queer.de
  • Epochalips – smart lesbian commentary
  • Erasing 76 Crimes
  • Fridae Asia
  • FUSE magazine
  • Gay Star News
  • Gay City News
  • Gay/Lesbian News
  • Gay Iceland
  • Gay NZ
  • GLAAD blog
  • Georgia Voice – Gay and LGBT Atlanta News
  • Huffington Post
  • Human Rights Watch News
  • Lesbian News
  • Lesbians Over Everything
  • LGBT Germany
  • LGBTQ Nation
  • Mamba Online
  • One More Lesbian
  • Out Japan
  • Out.com
  • Outlook Ohio Magazine
  • Outsmart Magazine
  • Outsports
  • Pink Armenia
  • Pink news
  • Pride USA
  • Queer Voices
  • Queerty
  • Refworld
  • Rights Africa – Equal Rights, Once Voice
  • SF Gay and Lesbian
  • Star Observer
  • Straight Universe
  • The Gaily Grind
  • The Independent
  • The Guardian World news
  • The Rainbow Times
  • The Seattle Lesbian
  • Towleroad Gay News
  • What Wegan Did Next
  • Women and Words
  • Xtra (DailyXtra)

 

We also watch the news on facebook across groups, news sites, pages and friends’ walls.

As we find new sources they are added to the list of sites we search and follow.

 

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – ENGLISH

 

English speaking western countries dominate the news.

News from lesbians in english speaking western countries also dominates the lesbian news.

Listening2lesbians works hard to counter that domination by dedicating our efforts to finding news on marginalised and invisibilized communities of lesbians.

That domination is emphasised by the prevalence of English speaking news for the english speaking audience.

We are aware that our work to find and share information about lesbian communities around the world is limited by searching in English.

While we do have plans to reach out to communities, activists and representative organisations more directly in future, this is limited by the current size and scale of Listening2lesbians and will rolled out in a way that prioritises the sustainability of the project over speed of expansion. 

 

(ANOTHER) ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: WESTERN FRAMEWORKS

The framework we are using to focus on the experiences of lesbians around the world may not cleanly fit the cultural framework of all communities. We are mindful of not imposing western values or terminology on the communities we are trying  to reach.

 

We do know that women in same sex relationships around the world are persecuted, subject to violence and discrimination, however they are labeled and identified, and it is this reality we are looking to report on.

 

OUR REQUEST TO YOU

 

We know we have many readers who represent communities around the world and who speak languages other than English.


Your experiences and the experiences of lesbians in your community matter.

 

If you see news articles about violence and harassment against lesbians in your community, and it is a story we are unlikely to find for language or other reasons, please send it to us at:

 

We also welcome contact from activists, journalists, researchers and organisations representing, researching or supporting lesbians around the world.

 

Afghanistan: abused soccer players silenced by claims of lesbianism

 

Afghanistan (via Lonely Planet)

Image copyright of Lonely Planet

“They were pushing and forcing the girls. Coercing them.”

Popal also accused [President of the Afghan Football Federation (AFF) Keramuudin] Karim himself of beating a girl with a snooker cue and calling players lesbians to stop them speaking out.

“If they spoke out, no one would listen to them because being accused of being lesbian or gay in Afghanistan is a topic you don’t speak about and puts you and your family in a lot of danger,” she said.

Continue reading at: https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1073150/afghan-football-federation-president-suspended-amid-allegations-of-sexual-abuse-against-female-players (Source)

Texas, USA: San Antonio Four convictions wiped after false anti-lesbian claims led to years in jail

San Antonio Four Cleared

A Bexar County judge on Monday signed papers erasing the criminal histories of four women wrongly convicted in 1994 of sexually assaulting two girls, according to a News4 report.  Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera, and Anna Vasquez — known as the “San Antonio Four” during coverage of their high-profile case — were wrongly convicted of gang-raping Ramirez’s nieces, then 7 and 9. The women had recently come out as lesbians, which prosecutors seized on as a motive.

Ultimately, they served 15 years in prison.

 

Continue reading at: https://www.sacurrent.com/the-daily/archives/2018/12/03/judge-clears-the-record-for-the-wrongly-convicted-san-antonio-four (Source)

Bolzano, Italy: Mariasilvia Spolato, Italy’s first lesbian to publicly come out, dies at 83

MariaSilvia Spolato.png

Mariasilvia Spolato lost everything after her coming out and ended up sleeping rough for many years.

Mariasilvia Spolato, an Italian LGBTI activist and reportedly the first woman to come out as a lesbian in the country, has died. Spolato died on 31 October in a nursing home in Bolzano, a city in the South Tyrol province of north Italy. She was 83 years old.

Continue reading at: https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/first-italian-woman-to-publicly-come-out-as-lesbian-dies-at-83/#gs.iirzszQ (Source)

Florida, US: Pipebomb accused identified but not arrested over alleged attack on lesbian couple

Cesar-Sayoc-van

The Miami Herald reports that lesbian couple Indiana Parra and Rimbow Gomez were riding a moped together on March 16 when they allegedly had urine thrown at them by a man driving a white Dodge Ram van covered in extreme political stickers. The couple say that the man pulled alongside their moped and threw two cups of urine at them, soaking Gomez, before yelling, “Get off the road, dykes!” The two women explained that when they pulled away, the man chased them in his van, swerving in an apparent attempt to run them off the road.

Police identified Cesar Sayoc but didn’t arrest him.

Continue reading at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/11/30/cesar-sayoc-pipe-bomb-lesbian-urine/ (Source)

Oshawa, Canada: Calvary Baptist Church strips lesbian of membership

Oshawa Calvary Baptist Church

After disclosing her relationship, Mills said she had several conversations with church leaders and members. They wanted her to repent her sexual orientation, to be “restored” to the Bible’s teaching. “And they told you, you needed to change,” said Fowler. “I started questioning, how she could spend so much time devoted to a place that can’t accept all of her?” Then, in early November, she received a registered letter telling her she was being removed from the membership of the Cavalry Baptist Church because of her relationship.

“It is a very serious matter to remove a member for discipline as you will note in the 1 Corinthians 5:5 text, and our hearts are broken over it,” said the letter signed by Dr. Tim Wagner, deacon chair.

Continue reading at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/11/12/gay-bowmanville-woman-speaking-out-after-oshawa-strips-her-membership-for-living-in-disobedience-to-the-scriptures.html (Source)

Texas, USA: UT Officials banned dorm visitors for lesbian student

Kaj baker

A freshman at the University of Texas in Austin says she feels unsafe in her dormitory after officials told her she could no longer have visitors because she’s gay. Freshman Kaj Baker lives in Scottish Rite Dormitory, a private, off-campus facility that provides all-female housing to UT students. Baker told Texas News Channel (video above) that she used to study with her girlfriend — who lives elsewhere — in the lounge of the dorm. However, Baker was called into a meeting with dorm director Mary Mazurek, who told her that other residents were uncomfortable with the couple’s relationship.

Continue reading at: http://www.outsmartmagazine.com/2018/11/dorm-bars-gay-ut-student-from-having-visitors-because-other-residents-are-uncomfortable/ (Source)

Maryland, US: 4 suspects unidentified in year old attack on lesbian at Hyattsville high school

Northwestern_High_School_insert_by_Anthony_Bailey_via_Wikimedia_Commons

 

 

The principal at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Md. says a school investigation into the March 2017 assault by at least four male students on an 11th grade lesbian student, which resulted in the student suffering three broken ribs, has been unable to identify the attackers.

Lidia Reyes, the mother of the lesbian student, contacted the Washington Blade about the incident last month, saying the attack came after her daughter had been the target of bullying and harassment by fellow students. She said school officials weren’t taking adequate steps to address the problem.

Reyes said her daughter reported the attack occurred in the school auditorium on March 23, 2017. But Principal Elaine Carlene Murray told the Blade the auditorium was not open on that day and school security officials could not confirm exactly where the incident took place.

Plymouth, UK: Man “punches lesbian in face after she rejects him”

Plymouth-Crown-Court

A man reportedly punched a lesbian in the face and called her a “Spanish whore” after she rejected him, a court has heard. Olarenwaju Adetunji, who allegedly said that homosexuality is “unnatural,” is on trial at Plymouth Crown Court for assaulting the 26-year-old woman in August 2017, reports Plymouth Live.  The unnamed woman told the court she had let Adetunji sleep in her king-sized bed on August 16 last year, so that he did not have to walk back to his home in Keyham as he was up early in the morning. She said that Adetunji knew about her sexuality.

Continue reading at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/11/14/man-punch-lesbian-face-plymouth-whore/ (Source)

Nigeria: Smartphone maker Infinix targets lesbians

Infinix targets lesbians

The China-based phone manufacturing company has sponsored homophobic messages displayed on billboards placed around school campuses in Nigeria.

The University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) now has a large billboard near its campus with the homophobic slogan “Say No to Lesbianism, Homosexuality and Drug Abuse” sponsored by Infinix.

Continue reading at: https://76crimes.com/2018/11/13/smartphone-maker-launches-anti-gay-campaign-in-nigeria/ (Source)

Edmonton, Canada: Lesbian kiss “Not allowed” at White Stripes concert

 

allyson-macivor

“I embraced my girlfriend, and some staff member came in between us, and she said, ‘This is not allowed here,'” MacIvor said. The usher placed her hand in between them and asked them to stop, MacIvor said. “It was very violating and invasive,” MacIvor said. “It’s not something I’d ever imagine experiencing, honestly.” The usher then escorted them to talk to a manager. After telling the manager what happened, the employee was told to resume her post.

Continue reading at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/rogers-place-kiss-jack-white-concert-lgbtq-community-shocked-1.4893318 (Source)

West Sumatra, Indonesia: 10 women arrested for ‘being lesbians’

West Sumatra Lesbian persecution

Police said the women were arrested on Sunday (November 4) on suspicion of “lesbian deviant behaviour.” In a statement, head of police Pol Yadrison explained that intelligence authorities had been monitoring the women’s activities on social media.

Yadrison said that one of the women’s Facebook account showed her “kissing and cuddling” with another woman, as if they were “men and women.” “From this discovery the officer finally conducted a search and managed to find the identity and whereabouts of the photo uploader,” said Yadrison.

Continue reading at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/11/06/indonesia-women-arrested-lesbians/ (Source)

Thoughts on the words “queer” and “lesbian” from a twenty-two year old who only connects to one of them

Thoughts Essay Photo - Erin

Guest Post by Erin

It started in 6th grade with an offhand comment to a classmate I thought was my friend. We were in our one shared class, gym, talking about – as girls of this age often did – boys. I never understood why so many hours could be spent talking about them. Sure, some were cool, and they were my friends, but why are we always talking about them? Aren’t there cooler things going on?

Confessing this confusion was my first mistake. An offhand comment led to a rumor that persisted in at least some form for seven years and led to nearly a decade of strong and unrelenting self-hatred. “Who do you like?” she asked, as we did jumping jacks in gym. Unable to pick a random boy fast enough, I answered simply “I don’t like boys yet.” Spoiler alert: even though I pretended to because girls are supposed to like boys, I never did start liking them.

This wasn’t so strange, right? I was only eleven. Didn’t I have better things to worry about then whether or not the cute boy that sat next to me in math looked at me? Was it so strange I was more interested in staring at numbers than boys?

Yes. It was. Soon after this small conversation in the middle of warm-ups in our tiny gym, I first heard it. “Lesbian,” they called me. I didn’t understand why. Of course I knew what a lesbian was. My parents were pretty progressive and didn’t shelter me from things like this. A lesbian is a girl who only likes other girls. But that wasn’t me. I just didn’t like boys yet. That didn’t mean I liked girls. This logic didn’t stop them. They continued, among other taunts, to call me a “lesbian,” the most common taunt.

I started liking boys. I pretended to, at least. I was so good at pretending that I fooled myself. It didn’t matter that I barely knew these boys. Every other girl liked him. I did too. It didn’t matter the thought of actually talking or getting close to him created an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. That was just the butterflies, right? Easier to pretend with were the few boys I was friends with. I was mostly comfortable around them, and I liked talking to them. That’s all a relationship was supposed to be right? We were friends. I could like him and not have to do anything about it for fear of “ruining the friendship.” Just because I never did anything about these crushes didn’t mean I didn’t actually like boys. I was just shy.

The taunts continued. I still didn’t understand. I had relented; I was behaving like a normal girl should. I could point to a growing list of crushes as evidence. This was when I began to understand. I was using the wrong definition of the word “lesbian.” Their definition, the definition they were trying to communicate when they threw the word at me with a sneer and hate in their eyes, was much darker. To them, a lesbian is a girl who only likes girls. But that’s not all they meant. A lesbian is also gross. She’s dirty. She’s wrong and predatory. A lesbian is someone unworthy of love or kindness. The only part of this they didn’t know or care to communicate was the “girl who only likes girls” part.

I understood now. I was gross. I was dirty. I was wrong and predatory. I was unworthy of love and kindness. When this definition became known to me, it’s the one that started to bury itself into my brain every time I heard the insult. Every time I saw one of the ones that called me it. I started to withdraw. I talked less. I stopped hanging out with friends so much. I began to see myself as they did. At age eleven, I began to believe I was gross, dirty, wrong, and predatory. I didn’t deserve love and kindness.

When you are eleven, and your brain is still developing, it develops with the environment you are in. Despite a loving family, I was losing friends and surrounded by hate for most of my day. So I started to internalize it. I isolated myself from the love I believed I didn’t deserve. I hated myself, most of the kids at school hated me, even my friends started forgetting about me the more I ignored their texts and invitations.

All of this started because I was known as the lesbian of the school. I was terrified of this word. It was scary and ugly every time I saw it. It reminded me of all the torment I faced at school, and later online. There are never positive stories about lesbians. They’re beaten up or murdered in the news. They are a porn category for men online. They are mocked in public. They are predatory monsters in movies and television Every time I saw the word lesbian, I believed more and more than lesbian meant someone dirty, predatory, and unworthy.

Fast forward seven years and I’m in college. I don’t know anyone here. No one here knows me. I don’t have to be what I’ve been told I am all these years. Then something terrifying happens. A couple friends I reconnected with take me to a meeting of the campus LGBT club. Suddenly I’m surrounded by people who are what I’ve been called all my life, and they don’t fit the definition of “lesbian” I had had forced upon me. They are women who like other women. They aren’t gross or predatory or unworthy. Scarier still, I realize I may be like them.

Years of telling myself I was all parts of the definition of “lesbian” except the only true definition caught up with me. I avoid this word at all costs. I am pansexual. No, I am asexual. No, I am bisexual. No, I am bisexual with a preference for women. No, I am bisexual with a strong preference for women. No, I am bisexual with a very strong preference for women. No, I…suddenly realize I am what I’ve been avoiding.

I am a lesbian. So, what does this word mean now? Does it still mean dirty, predatory, and unworthy? I don’t know. I don’t think it does, not anymore. At least not fully. I am nineteen now, and the fears I held at age eleven aren’t so scary anymore. I begin to reach out. I follow lesbians online. I look for positive representation in media. I start to identify with the word bit by bit.

But then, I’m back in school after winter break ends and there are people all around and now the fears I held at age eleven seem more real. I start throwing up every day and making jokes about my sexuality. If I make jokes about it then it’s not so scary and I can maybe eventually confront it, right? But the jokes don’t stop and neither does the throwing up. I wasn’t okay. But I was trying to be.

I begin to have more lesbians in my life. I follow more lesbians on Tumblr and other social media. I join some lesbian-centric Facebook groups. I find a musical celebrating what it is to be a butch lesbian. I watch rom-coms where lesbians get to end up happy. I listen to lesbian singers. I meet and work with lesbians at my summer job, and see them being happy and secure.

Lesbian begins to take on a whole new meaning for me. These women I know, through work or the Internet, through stories on stage or screen, aren’t what I’ve been told and internalized a lesbian is my whole life. They are not gross or predatory or unworthy. These women are strong. They are powerful. They are full of love and light and confidence in who they are. They have people who love them.

And I am like them. I am strong and powerful and full of love and light. I am worthy. “Lesbian” is no longer a scary concept for me. I am a lesbian, and no one will take that away from me ever again. Being a lesbian is a beautiful thing to be. I am proud.

But as I began to assert my new proud identity, words like “gay” and “lesbian” and “bisexual” started to disappear. The new word that took their place was the word “queer.” Originally meaning words like strange, odd, ruin, and spoil, the word became used as a slur against the LGBT community. Slurs typically have a way of becoming reclaimed. They are taken from the negative group and turned into a war cry.

Suddenly, so many things are becoming queer. More and more people are dropping more “standard” LGBT identities and choosing to identify as queer. There aren’t lists of lesbian, or bi, or trans, or gay, or LGBT musicians – there are lists of queer musicians. The formerly “gay & lesbian” section has become the “queer” section. The LGBT groups are disappearing, and queer groups are taking their place. In retrospect, this isn’t such a bad idea. Reclaiming slurs can be a powerful concept, and reclaiming them on such a large scale can show more power. But forcing people to identify with the term, even accidentally, isn’t powerful – it takes away their personal choice.

I never identified as queer. To those that do, you have my full support and your identity should be celebrated. But your identity isn’t my identity. I spent eight years hating myself for even being assumed a lesbian. I spent another year terrified when I discovered I actually was. To me, lesbian is a powerful word. Lesbian is a word that can be twisted into something so ugly if you let it. And I let it. But then, I twisted it into something beautiful, and I became something beautiful.

I spent seven years being called a lesbian in the worst way by people who did not know me. I let them take the best way, the true way, away from me to. The day I decided that I am a proud, bold, unapologetic, unafraid lesbian was the day that I forgave my childhood self for being so miserable and self-hating. It was the day I found myself. It was the day I fell in love with myself. It was the scariest and most freeing day of my life. No one will ever take this beautiful, bold, proud word away from me again

Queer is like this for so many people. Queer is their identity. It is their support system. It is their connector with other people who are like them in a world that is not kind to people like them. An identity like this is so important for a person’s wellbeing. We need to connect with people like us, because it is hard to survive in a world that doesn’t want people like us.

Expecting everyone to identify with this word is when it becomes dangerous. Calling everyone who falls under the “not cis and/or straight” umbrella queer erases all these other beautiful, powerful identities. So much negativity is placed on words like bisexual, transgender, pansexual, gay, and lesbian. Proudly identifying with these terms is powerful. It is taking our power back from those who tried to take it from us. Queer is also a word that was made negative, and is now being used in a positive way.

Continue to take back the words they took from us. But let everyone do it in their own way.

I am twenty-two now, and the fears I had at eleven and later at nineteen no longer hold power over me. I still hold them, and I still remember them. On my worst days, they try to creep back into my mind. On these days, I remember the miserable girl I was at eleven. She survived and blossomed. On these days, I remember the terrified woman I was at nineteen. She survived despite her fear and fell in love with herself. On these days, I know the woman I am at twenty-two. She will survive, and become the person the miserable eleven year old needed, and the terrified nineteen year old found.

Belgium: Lesbian couple victim of lesbophobic violence in asylum centre

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‘From day one we already got threats. In one way or another the news spread very quickly that a lesbian couple was staying in the center. Since then, we are being chased and spitting at our feet. Once they threw balls at us, which caused me to suffer scrapes.But it quickly became a lot worse, “says an emotional Gona. 

The couple say she feels unsafe. ‘Our first room was completely behind the asylum center, far away from the employees. If something went wrong, it took a long time before an employee could come on the spot. ‘ They say it did not help that they were so far away from the employees. ‘In the evening only two staff members are present for the complete asylum center. If it goes wrong here, then all help will come too late. ” 

They were offered another room. But when they went to visit, the residents who stayed in the new hallway did not want to let them through. “A lesbian couple is not welcome in their ‘department'”.

Continue reading at: https://zizo-online.be/article/13252 (Source – Dutch)

Lesbian couple victim of LGBT violence in asylum center ZiZo-Online (Translated pdf – English)

Kazakhstan: Lesbian Activist arrested over menstruation picture

zhanar-sekerbaeva.jpg

Kazakhstan: Zhanar Sekerbaeva, prominent LGBT activist from Kazakhstan and co-founder of feminist initiative Feminita, based in Almaty, was detained on Wednesday, August 14, 2018. According to Feminita, Zhanar, together with Elena Ivanova, Alina Nevidimko and Polina Pollinium, organized photo session at Arbat street in Almaty on August 9th, 2018, dedicated to de-stigmatization of menstruation that attracted a lot of attention both online and during the session itself. Despite that the photo session was peaceful, it was interrupted by men, who pulled out posters in aggressive manner and threatened to take away mobile phone from one of the participant. The participants decided to leave the venue since they did not want to become witnesses of the violence.

Continue reading at: https://centralasien.org/2018/08/17/lgbt-activist-is-charged-for-organising-peaceful-photo-session-in-kazakhstan/ (Source)

Nashville, USA: Man attacks lesbian

Nashville lesbophobic attack

A lesbian in Nashville, Tennessee is hoping there are consequences for the man who attacked her and her car after she rebuffed his advances. Bailey Cantrell was at a Kwik Sak gas station near Centennial Park when the man approached her. She said her friend was inside while she waited by the car when the man came up, calling her names and asking for her phone number.

‘After I declined, still a little bit mad, then the second I declined the third time and said “I’m gay, I’m just not interested,” that’s when it triggered him and he got very aggressive,’ she told Wave3 News. Security camera footage shows the man jumping onto the car, while Cantrell was in it, and kicking in the windshield.

Continue reading at: https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/nashville-man-attacks-lesbian-car/#gs.knkdbCY (Source)

St Peter, USA: Lesbians raise funds against workplace hate campaign

Jaime Angie Mace

The Maces and their attorney suspect an individual who works with them at the hospital sent all of the letters. “There’s some really sick person out there,” said attorney Lori Peterson. “This person needs to be locked up for a really long time.”

The notes the Maces were mailed last year say they “should be locked up” because they are ruining the country. The letters, which are posted on the Maces’ fundraising page, make multiple threats against the couple and their daughter, including references to a gun and burning down their house.

Jaime Mace said new threatening notes were mailed in May to two of their gay friends who also work at the hospital and live in St. Peter.

Continue reading at: http://www.mankatofreepress.com/news/local_news/more-threatening-anonymous-letters-reported-in-st-peter/article_07ec6036-969f-11e8-9743-6b65382eb58d.html (Source)

Columbus, USA: lesbian couple files discrimination suit against Columbus Urban League

Columbus Urban League

Two Columbus women say a local organization aimed at ending discrimination, fired them for being gay.

The couple worked at the Columbus Urban League and says shortly after management learned they were dating, they were both fired.

Wednesday they filed a federal discrimination lawsuit. The Urban League calls the allegations “bogus” and “absurd.”

Continue reading at: https://www.10tv.com/article/same-sex-couple-files-discrimination-suit-against-columbus-urban-league (Source)