Tag Archives: compulsory heterosexuality

Methodist court ruling a blow for openly lesbian bishop

The court said Oliveto’s marriage violates church law that bars clergy who are in same-sex relationships. The court said she’s now subject to a disciplinary review that could end with her being ousted from the job.

Continue reading at: Methodist court ruling a blow for openly lesbian bishop – NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida (Source)

Chelsea Savage: Lesbian, cult survivor, politician, sets her sights on Virginia House seat

Chelsea Savage survived life in a cult, found the strength to leave her husband, and is now an out and proud lesbian looking to begin a political career.

Continue reading at: Lesbian cult survivor sets her sights on Virginia House seat / LGBTQ Nation (Source)

Methodists to consider expulsion of married lesbian bishop

The United Methodist Church is to hold a hearing tomorrow to consider the future of a married lesbian who was elected as a bishop.  San Francisco pastor Karen Oliveto was elected unanimously to serve as bishop of the UMC Western Jurisdiction last year, in spite of official rules which ban LGBT ministers from serving openly.

Continue reading at: Methodists to consider expulsion of married lesbian bishop · PinkNews (Source)

Chinese women’s basketball team wants lesbians away from sports

What exactly did the banner say? The New York Times had a translation:

“Protect traditional Chinese morals. Defend core socialist values. Resist corrosion from decadent Western thoughts. Keep homosexuality far from campus.”

 

Continue reading at: Chinese women’s basketball team wants to keep gays ‘far from campus’ – Outsports (Source)

Uganda: Lesbian refugee shares her story 

Yudaya is a member of Out and Proud Africa which is an African Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex rights and human rights activist charity. Their mission is to defend human dignity, freedom, justice and equality for LGBTI people in Africa.

Continue watching at: WATCH: This refugee’s story will open your eyes to the fears LGBTIs face in Uganda (Source)

Australian research project documents lesbian witch-hunts in military before ban lifted

“They were doing these big witch-hunts on us… it was terrifying to a 17-year-old kid,” Jeffries said. “They’d been following us. They’d done a log, like at 2.35 on Thursday afternoon you drove 4.6km and you stopped at this hamburger shop, then you drove down the river and were there for 3.5 hours.”

Continue reading at: This Is What Happened To Gay People In The Military Before The Ban Was Lifted (Source)

Muslim lesbian couple defy death threats to tie the knot in civil ceremony

Two former Birmingham students have defied death threats to make legal history by becoming the first Muslim lesbian couple to get married in a civil ceremony in the UK. Rehana Kausar, 34, and Sobia Kamar, 29, from Pakistan, tied the knot at a registration office in front of their solicitors and two Pakistani friends earlier this month.

Continue reading at: Muslim lesbian couple defy death threats to tie the knot in civil ceremony – Birmingham Mail (Source)

No action taken against principal who outed ‘lesbian’ pupils

It appears that the principal accused of the homophobic abuse of 38 high school pupils in the Eastern Cape will not face any disciplinary action.

It was reported last month that Principal Nomampondomise Kosani of Ulwazi High School ‘outed’ the girls, aged 14 to 18, as lesbians to their parents, guardians and teachers after two female pupils were found kissing in the toilets. The humiliated girls were allegedly subjected to insults and were told to ‘stop’ being gay’.  Some of the parents reacted with anger and said they were prepared to use violence to ‘make their children straight’.

Continue reading at: No action taken against principal who outed ‘lesbian’ pupils – MambaOnline – Gay South Africa online (Source)

Corrective Rape Culture: Rugby player sexually assaulted teenage lesbian after saying he was the ‘only one who could turn her straight’

Innes Frazer, 30, who is engaged to be married, confessed to describing the vulnerable 18-year-old autism sufferer to others as “my favourite lesbian”.

Continue reading at: Rugby player sexually assaulted teenage lesbian after saying he was the ‘only one who could turn her straight’ (Source)

Ontario Pioneer Camp alumni fight to end anti-lesbian, anti-gay staff policy

A group of alumni from one of Ontario’s largest Christian summer camps is fighting to end an anti-gay policy that requires staff to condemn “homosexual and lesbian sexual conduct” if a camper asks them about it.

Continue reading at: Ontario Pioneer Camp alumni fight to end anti-gay staff policy – Toronto – CBC News (Source)

Lesbian Choices: An Indian Tragedy

A recent murder case in Gujarat India highlights the plight of lesbians who are trapped in abusive situations in countries with high rates of family imposed sex-based abuse and homophobia and where living independently as a woman and lesbian is difficult. Where there are few to no legal or social remedies to prevent violence against themselves and their loved ones, abused lesbians may have no meaningful choices other than to remain in danger or breach legal or social rules. All courses of action open to them will be harmful, and possibly dangerous. Retaliating to stop the violence may stop familial abuse but results in exposure to significant legal sanctions. The emotional and psychological toll of facing these choices and their consequences adds to the tragedy of women trapped in this way.

In early April 2017, the body of a man, Yunis Maniya, was found in Bharuch dictrict of Gujarat, India. A woman (Mayaben), reportedly the lesbian partner of the victim’s daughter (Jaheda), and an unrelated male (Jayendra) have been charged with the man’s murder. The motive for the murder is reported by the local police responsible for the investigation as the ending of sexuality-based domestic violence:

“The motive behind the murder was the victim’s opposition to the lesbian relationship. The accused was having an affair with the daughter of the deceased. He used to beat his daughter in a bid to discourage her from having a relationship with the accused. This incited the automobile broker who later hatched the plan to murder him,” said deputy SP of Bharuch N D Chauhan.

Information on this case is scarce in English and the articles do not appear sympathetic to the plight of the abused daughter or her partner accused of the murder. What isn’t clear, reading only the English articles, is what the options would be for women experiencing domestic violence on the basis of their sexuality in a country where sex-based violence against women alone is endemic, homophobia is widespread and women’s capacity to leave the family circle is limited.

While domestic violence is illegal in India, women and girls remain highly susceptible to abuse within the family. In 2016 it was reported that so-called honour killings had risen by 800% year on year, although it is unclear whether this represents an increase in the killings or an increase in reporting.

Lesbians are particularly vulnerable given the criminalisation of same sex activities under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, introduced in 1860 and only repealed in 2009. In 2016 the Indian Supreme Court committed to reviewing Section 377 after a 2013 decision had reinstated the law . Only months before, a 2 judge bench of the Supreme Court named homosexuality “a social evil for some” in a tax ruling on a Gujurati film on homosexuality. The Supreme Court action was reportedly the last chance for law reform, save only an appeal to the conservative politicians of India.

Although the legal sanctions are not directly applied, they remain a potent backdrop to social sanctions and persecution in a country where national surveys report a 75% disapproval rate of homosexuality and in which lesbians face a double oppression as both women and lesbians.

A brief reading of lesbian writings about their life in India demonstrates some of the risks lesbians face, both on the basis of their sex and their sexuality.

This Gujurati case represents the catch-22 lesbian around the world can face – how do lesbians being abused for their sexuality and relationships defend themselves in societies where violence against women is endemic and where homosexuality is punished? This is a no win situation for lesbians who are trapped in violent situations with few options for escape or defense, and where retaliatory violence exposes them to far greater legal sanctions.

When lesbians have no safe way to leave or stay, what meaningful choice remains?


We have tried to ensure information presented in this piece is accurate, however if you notice any inaccuracies or accidental misrepresentations, please email us with additional information at liz@listening2lesbians.com or lisa@listening2lesbians.com.

Sources:

More on the legal situation and processes:

 

 

Lesbians in the News – 14 November 2015

Lesbians in the News 14 November 2015

Young lesbian couple found murdered

Tatianna Diz and Alexandra King

Tatianna Diz and Alexandra King

Searchers recovered the bodies of Alexandra King, 22, and Tatianna Diz, 20, from the French Broad River in Ashville, North Carolina. The couple had gone missing on October 27th after giving Pierre Lamont Griffin II a ride to a nearby apartment complex. Griffin was later arrested and charged with felony robbery with a dangerous weapon, felony first-degree murder, and reckless driving and fleeing to elude arrest in the murder of another man earlier in the evening. Griffin was initially considered a suspect in the couple’s murder, and has subsequently been charged with murder over their deaths.

Arts & Entertainment

  • Help make season 2 of The Lesbian Collective a reality by donating to their Kickstarter campaign. The Lavender Collective is a web-based comedy about a group of lesbians that meet up every week to talk stuff out.
  • Domestic violence organization, Safe Horizon, presented an all-female reading of Shakespeare’s Othello, titled “An Evening with Desdemona and Emilia,” on October 27th. The reading included out lesbian performer and playwright Lisa Kron and LGBT activist StaceyAnn Chin.
  • Nigerian director Elizabeth Funke Obisanya took away the best short film prize for her movie “Magda’s Lesbian Lover” at the Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts (BEFFTA) awards ceremony in London.

Laws, Politics and Policies

Social and Health Issues

  • Lesbian couples discuss the issues and difficulties they face when trying to conceive.
  • The first same-sex marriage certificate in Tokyo was issued to a lesbian couple on November 5th. While their certificate only applies to two wards at this time, many see it as an important first step towards full marriage equality in historically conservative Japan.
  • A study of 7,200 young adults from England found that LBG teenagers are twice as likely to be bullied and socially excluded at school, than their straight peers.
  • A new study out of the University of Essex is claiming that women are either bisexual or lesbian, and never straight. Among other things, the researchers are trying “to test the theory that because lesbians can be more masculine in many of their non-sexual behaviours (for example, the way they dress), they are also more masculine in their sexual responses.” Anyone else questioning the motivations and conclusions of this study?
  • A Change.org petition has been started to take the L out of LGBT. Petitioners are arguing that LGBT organizations are not only prioritizing T over L, but also “actively discriminate against L interests.”
  • The Mormon Church has announced that children of same-sex couples will be denied entry into the church until they are 18 years old, move out of their parents’ home and disavow all same-sex relationships. This announcement came soon after Salt Lake City elected its first lesbian mayor on November 11th.
  • The Curacao Tourist Board wants to welcome gay and lesbian travelers to experience the island’s ‘live and let live’ atmosphere.
  • With lesbian visibility an ever present issue, do we have language specific to lesbian communities or an archetypal “lesbian voice”? What lesbian specific language  do you see, and is it location specific?

Events

  • Aussie movie All About E arrives for a screening in NYC on December 2nd. Described as a “crime caper with strong lesbian characters,” it will also be released by Wolfe on DVD on December 1st.
  • The Lambda Literary Foundation is accepting applications for the Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices to be held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles beginning July 24, 2016. Applications are due by January 5, 2016.

Thanks to Lisa for compiling this fortnightly edition of Lesbians in the News.

If you have any other stories, please add them in the comments or email them to me at liz@listening2lesbians.com.

Lesbians in the News – 30 October 2015

Lesbians in the News 30 October 2015

Guyana loses Woman of Courage Zenita Temall Nicholson

Guyanese LGBT activist, Zenita Temall Nicholson died on October 26th. Temall Nicholson was honoured last year by the US Embassy in Georgetown as an International Woman of Courage. She was the Country Coordinator for Caribbean Vulnerable Communities/PANCAP Global Fund, and past Secretary on the SASOD Board of Trustees (Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Guyana).

On presentation of the Woman of Courage award in March 2014, Temall Nicholson was described as being “an energetic, effective and passionate advocate at both the national and international levels for the principle that both women’s rights and the rights of lesbian, gays, bi – sexual and transgender persons are human rights, deserving of equal attention and protection”.

Guyana remains the only country in South America where homosexuality remains illegal and is punishable by imprisonment, with additional laws criminalising gender non conforming dress, although men may cross dress or express their gender identity as long as it is not for “improper purposes”. Women may wear trousers but do not appear to be covered by the same ruling enabling cross dressing.

As reported in a 2012 report to the UN CEDAW Committee, Guyanese lesbians remain subjected to harassment and sexual threats, compulsory heterosexuality, compulsory femininity and/or gender conformity.

Zenita Temall Nicholson’s activism will be missed in a country which requires significant improvements to secure the safety and wellbeing of lesbians, and our thoughts are with her family.

 

Arts & Entertainment

  • Curve magazine will contain an in-depth story on lesbian erasing in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) in their January issue.
  • Listen to author Michael Helquist discuss his new book about Marie Equi; lesbian doctor, activist and anarchist.
  • Follow bloggers Wandering Wives, a UK lesbian couple that sold everything they owned to travel the world.
  • Copies of Blood and Visions: Reconciling with Being Female by Autotomous Womyn’s Press are now available at Green Woman Store. It includes writing by ten womyn who stopped their transition from female to male.
  • Listen to the recording of “The Sounds of MichFest 2015: a Radio Documentary of the 40th and Final Fest” on WORT. It can be found under “Access Hour” in the archives from October 26th.

Laws, Politics and Policies

Social and Health Issues

Crimes against Lesbians

  • A lesbian couple vacationing in Hawaii was attacked and arrested by a police officer that didn’t like their public displays of affection in a grocery store. Taylor Guerrero and Courtney Wilson spent three days in jail before charges were dropped. The Honolulu Police Department has launched an investigation into the incident. Wilson and Guerrero have filed a lawsuit against the officer for discrimination.
  • A Welsh lesbian is speaking out after her attackers received a slap on the wrist for verbally and physically attacking her in north Wales in July. 44-year old Jackie Hatton-Kesketh says the attack left her unable to continue working at her job and contributed to the breakup of her 12-year relationship.

Events

  • The leading scorer in the history of international soccer, Abby Wambach, announced her retirement on October 27th. Wambach finishes her amazing career as the 2012 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, only the second American to win the title since Mia Hamm (2011 & 2002).
  • Jamaica held its first Montego Bay Pride on October 25th and announced it was a complete success. The event included music, networking, a 10-minute Flash Stand in front of the Summit Police Station and a speech by leading Jamaican activist Yvonne McCalla-Sobers.

Lesbians in the News compiled by Liz and Lisa.

If you have any other stories, corrections or comments, please add them below or email them to liz@listening2lesbians.com.

Lesbian allies – a reality check

After seeing yet another post about how to be an ally to anyone but women, let alone lesbians, I wondered – what would you say about being allies to lesbians?

Is this even the right way to approach the issue?

These are the collective thoughts from my wall and a public FB group – names removed to protect the innocent* but I’ve tried to keep women’s words….

Don’t see what you would say? Add your thoughts in the comments section or email me at liz@listening2lesbians.com.

Protecting lesbians

Protecting lesbians – how do we do it?

How to be an ally to Lesbians:

PRIORITISING

  • Stop centring men over women.
  • Stop censoring us when we talk, and particularly do not censor us when we talk about things like the contents of this post.
  • Some of us ARE Separatists and put other Lesbians and born female women first and foremost in EVERY aspect in our lives..including spiritually. Stop considering that a bad thing or belittling it and us.
  • Don’t only talk about us when we’re dead or celebrities… *snort* yeah, us too kthx.

LOOKS

  • Don’t measure us against media-fuelled, patriarchal (heteronormative) beauty standards. the media (and capitalism) is BS – we all know that.
  • Don’t judge a lesbian by how butch she looks. Don’t say shit like “you’re so pretty though!” to a more feminine looking lesbian. Fuck off with judging by appearances ever, okay?
  • Do NOT put down Butches and accuse us of being “wanna be men” or on the way station to transitioning. Many of us are fierce FEMALE PROUD Butch DykeAmazons and been in the trenches fighting FOR Dykes and womyn for DECADES!!
  • Women – support your gender non-conforming sisters whether you are lesbian or not.

SEX

  • The damn obsession with men and their penises – don’t ask lesbians if they’ve been with a man, or tell them they haven’t found the right man or offer to fuck them straight. Just fucking don’t.
  • Don’t assume we have been with a man. Don’t assume we haven’t. Just don’t assume.
  • Preaching to us about who we should be obligated to sleep with is fucking rapey…
  • Don’t tell us we are bigots for being lesbian, for attraction only to other women. It’s bloody homophobic. And don’t apologise to or soothe men who are upset when we say this.
  • Don’t accuse lesbians of being “shallow” for not wanting to sleep with someone who has a dick.
  • In fact, Don’t. Try. To. Invade. Our. Spaces. Or. Our. Bodies. Ever.
  • Don’t tell us we are going to hell. Our spiritual lives are our own and we have our metaphysical shit in order.
  • If you’re a straight man, don’t act like we’re trying to steal your gf/wife.
  • And don’t EVER assume that what you see in “lesbian” porn bears any relation to most actual lesbians, or that it was created for us.

WHY WE ARE LESBIAN

  • Don’t tell us we’re pretty enough to get a man if we tried. We are not with women because we can’t “get a man”. We don’t WANT a man.
  • Don’t assume we’re lesbians because someone hurt us. In other words, don’t assume our lesbianism is a symptom of trauma or that it is a pathology in itself.
  • Don’t assume being lesbian is a phase. But DO remember that we were socialised to heterosexuality so it can take time to work free of that.
  • Don’t assume being a ‘political’ lesbian means asexuality or het-women-trying-to-be-‘gay’ (sic).
  • Don’t assume we were born this way. Don’t assume we weren’t. We’re lesbian now and that’s what matters.
  • Don’t rely on the born this way script. Compulsory heterosexuality is a fucking thing. Look it up.

REALITY AND NAMING

  • Remember that biological sex actually fucking means something and is a reality that women, even lesbians!, cannot fucking escape.
  • Don’t tell a woman she isn’t ‘lesbian enough’ or buy into the ‘gold-star lesbian’ type thinking. pls and thx.
  • Don’t use words to describe lesbians as insults. Dykes are awesome, thank you very much…
  • Stop harassing mental health professionals who attempt to help women with internalised lesbophobia and misogyny.
  • Do not assume we wish to be called “queer”, in fact do not argue with us when we refuse to be called queer or gay. These are male-centred concepts that render us invisible, and many of us reject them, even if your lesbian BFF thinks they’re ok.
  • Don’t call men lesbians.
  • Particularly, don’t think that if lesbian porn turns you on that you, as a male bodied person, are either a lesbian or a woman! (This suggestion came with sources to show it wasn’t a paranoid “fantasy”.)
  • Don’t think that disagreement about who is and isn’t lesbian is transphobia. Lesbians have a right to self determination and to resist appropriation.
  • On that note…

APPROPRIATION – JUST DON’T!

STEREOTYPES

  • Stop considering us the scary ugly feminists that you distance yourself from. Has anything really changed since the days of the lavender menace?
  • Do not ever insinuate that we want to be men or need to transition. Nope. No way.
  • Don’t say stupid shit like “who is the man/woman in the relationship?”
  • Do not put down those of us who are primarily Butch on Butch or “what a waste of a good Butch.” Lesbian sexuality is way more diverse than Butch/Femme or two lipstick types together.
  • In fact, don’t rely on stereotypes or sex roles to understand us. We’re actual individuals. There might be common culture but we are wildly diverse. Don’t reduce us to a 2 dimensional cartoon.
  • If we somehow look to you like we fit a stereotype, don’t assume our choices have anything to do with those stereotypes. We aren’t cartoons, we’re real people.
  • Don’t portray us as weak, sad, terminally ill, pathetic, two-dimensional, perpetual victims and lost. We are strong wonderful women.
  •  Don’t expect our relationships to be just like het relationships just with a strap on.
  • We are not failed attempts at straight people.
  • Don’t assume you know anything about lesbians because you watch OITNB.
  • Don’t assume I know that other lesbian you met one time… you know, the one with the long brown hair? I think her name’s Tracy or Sarah or something. You even kind of look like her, isn’t that weird?

DON’T FUCK WITH US

  • If you’re not a lesbian – and you’re sure about that – don’t flirt with us just because you think it will be some harmless fun.
  • Don’t assume visible/butch lesbians exist to affirm your desirability. Don’t assume we’re perpetually DTF.

STOP HARASSMENT

  • Upon being informed that a lesbian is with her partner, DO NOT ask if you can watch (hey… it’s happened more than once, ok?). Don’t joke about that either. It’s not funny; it’s creepy.
  • When a lesbian says “no” that doesn’t give you the go ahead to harass her for not sexing herself to entitled pricks.
  • When you see lesbians being abused, intimidated or  sexually harassed, don’t look away. Get involved and stick up for us, particularly young lesbians.

POLITICAL CHANGE

LESBIANS AS A DERAIL

  • Don’t use lesbians as your token “but women rape too!” in response to women talking about rape and other forms of male sexual violence.

WHAT I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO SAY

These things happen around the world, including in YOUR country…

TL:DNR SUMMARY

Don’t prioritise and centre men. Most of this flows from systemic male dominance, and the violence and subjugation used to reinforce it…

Every time I think the list is complete enough, another suggestion comes in. I’m aware this is far from comprehensive, which says a lot about how lesbians are regarded and treated around the world.

………..

So the pointers from lesbians around the world on how to be an ally really made me wonder…..

WHAT DOES BEING AN ALLY EVEN MEAN?

Is this concept even worth using? What does being an ally mean to you?

Articles like the one that triggered this one seem to be about performance of socially required (and superficial/unquestioning) support more than any genuine commitment or action that demonstrates actual solidarity.  The articles seem to be about visible ways to look like you are guilty about your privilege and identify as supportive, rather than outlining really practical ways to help change the world behind the scenes.

Does this help any group or is this kind of two dimensional tokenism merely about paying lip service rather than demonstrating solidarity and working to make the world better for those who are marginalised?

There’s certainly an expectation that women demonstrate allyship by quashing their questions, indulging in self flagellation – classic female socialisation. Femsoc tells us to genuflect before the needs of others, and ignore that voice telling us that we are betraying our own needs.

Genuine solidarity does not require this. Genuine solidarity should be based on analysis that can be challenged and debated. Genuine solidarity does not ask you to harm yourself.

This is all of a piece with identity politics which prioritises identification and performance over reality. Identifying as an ally replaces being an ally. Once you have identified as an ally to whichever group, irrespective of your actual actions, you can dispense with the culturally created guilt (usually of women), congratulate yourself on a job well done with honour satisfied and carry on being self righteous about those not liberal enough to be allies. Despite everyone paying lip service to supporting the marginalised group, nothing actually changes.

And this squanders the good intentions of many people, who may well read the articles and want to be supportive. It also provides a get out of jail free card to those who don’t much care but want to be seen to do the right thing…

Either way, perhaps the concept is too shallow to be of any use.

……….

LISTEN TO LESBIAN VOICES

Regardless of the validity of the “ally” concept, the list of what not to do to lesbians is pretty clear. Each one of those points was written based on personal experience of being abused, exploited and erased, on the basis of being lesbian.

If you want to take anything to heart, listen to what lesbians have said here and don’t re/name us, don’t redefine us out of existence. Don’t harass, belittle, or dismiss us. Don’t appropriate us. Support and encourage us to focus on each other, on women, as women. And help us fight to change the structures that enable and benefit from our eradication.

If you have anything to add to this, please share your thoughts in the comments below or email them to me at liz@listening2lesbians.com.


* I tried to keep original wording but names were removed. If you would like credit for your comment, please let me know and I will add your name in. 🙂

Banning lesbians – same sex attraction is not bigotry

I have avoided writing about this because I know what the reaction can be like and I have seen what happens to women who do speak publicly about this.

I have tried quite hard to discuss various issues WITHOUT addressing this because it is polarising, causes people to stop thinking, and leads to abuse and harassment. Moreover it is difficult to write anything nuanced on this topic without people misinterpreting and wilfully misrepresenting your words. And then there’s the ever-so-trendy hate that rains down on those that state publicly what others keep quiet about.

But I know that not writing about this is being silenced. I have “allowed” myself to be silenced on this just as many other women have, because of potential fallout.

And there is no amount of staying quiet that can keep us safe as lesbians, because there is an attempt from some to redefine the word lesbian to exclude us.

lesbians banned

This includes a clear attempt to coercively redraw lesbian women’s sexual boundaries and to silence the lesbians who protest this.

I have no interest in defining and complicating others’ lives* but words have meanings and language matters.

We cannot stay silent while we are told that we are bigots for being lesbian.

To be a lesbian is to be a female who is romantically, emotionally and sexually attracted to other females. This is same-sex attraction.

There are those who argue a different definition of this word.

The debate hinges on

a) whether you think transwomen are women or not**
and
b) whether you think sexuality is attraction on the basis of gender*** or sex

If you think that sexuality is about same SEX attraction, you may have noticed something going on.

Women who say that they are lesbian and ONLY attracted to females are being told they are bigots, and are being abused on this basis.

I don’t care if women are attracted to (and in relationships with) transwomen but what concerns me is the use of the word lesbian to describe that relationship because of the implications for same-sex attracted lesbians. My interest is solely caused by the implications for same-sex attracted lesbians of that language use – this is about the difference between self-affecting acts and other-affecting acts.

There are real consequences if the word lesbian includes transwomen.

When those of us who are same-sex attracted lesbians try to describe ourselves, our relationships or our sexuality, what word are we to use if we cannot use ‘lesbian’? If the word used for some time to describe us, as understood by most people, is no longer representative of us what language are we to use?

More than this, if the word lesbian cannot be used in a context that excludes transwomen then we are even more marginalised. And this is what I see happening, this is what has happened to women I know, what has happened to me.

Lesbians are being told they are bigots, transphobes, transmysogynists and TERFs for considering it ACCEPTABLE  for lesbians to be solely attracted to other females.

Originally when this was not such an extreme situation, I was not as concerned, assuming that using the word ‘female’ to specify same-sex attraction would be sufficient and unproblematic.

However, this is now a problem for two reasons. Firstly, any number of transwomen define themselves as female, rendering the qualifier useless in some conversations. But for those who consider the word female to denote biological sex, it is apparently unacceptable to exclude “non-female lesbians”.

In a lesbian group, amongst lesbians, I was told that it is transphobic for lesbians to be solely attracted to females. It is not a sexuality, apparently, it is a bigotry!! This happens repeatedly to lesbians around the world.

Lesbians must be able to name our own reality and we need that word to describe female-to-female same-sex attraction. We have no other word.

For centuries we have been socially sanctioned for our sexuality, we have been closeted, persecuted, abused, correctively raped, and killed, solely on the basis of being lesbian. Compulsory heterosexuality has weighed heavily on us, and we have borne the burden of oppression as women AND as lesbians.

And now we find that, in a lesbian community, being a dyke is suddenly outlawed?

In what way is this not just the continuation of compulsory heterosexuality?

When we are told that not being attracted to someone who was born male****  is immoral, this is exactly the same as being told that we are deviants for attraction to women and non-attraction to men, but it is now clothed in language that frames and proclaims us as oppressive for acknowledging biological facts and our own sexuality.

I see young lesbians confused by this, trying to do the “right” thing. Baby dykes asking if being lesbian CAN mean only being attracted to females, trying hard to be inclusive even in their own sexual experiences.

That women are still asking if sexual boundaries are acceptable means that the rape culture which constantly erodes and undermines women’s sexual boundaries and attacks our determination to maintain them, carries on, stronger than ever.

We MUST name our own sexual boundaries.

We MUST name our own sexuality.

Any attempt to stop us, to oppose our right to speak on this and our right to use the only language we have to describe our reality, is profoundly anti lesbian.

Don’t you dare tell us our sexuality is bigotry and pretend that it is social justice. This is nothing but a continuation of lesbian erasure through culturally sanctioned male sexual entitlement to women.

That anyone is convinced of the opposite is a testament to how marginalised and misrepresented lesbians are.

I am not saying that women cannot be in relationships with transwomen, nor am I am devaluing those relationships or the people in them, but I AM saying that if the term lesbian is broadened beyond same sex attraction, and indeed redefined to exclude it, then we are silenced, and by our own community.

That this silencing is accepted speaks of a deep and continuing hatred of lesbians.

There is so much more that needs to be said.

Every element of what has been happening needs to be named, but unfortunately it all leads back to our silence, the silence of women – especially of lesbians – about our own lives, both individually and collectively.


The many caveats:

* I have zero interest in policing anyone else’s life, and even less interest in policing who people love. But we need to analyse the meaning of what is happening. I’m certainly not interested in supporting systems that make it even harder for people to be gender non conforming.

** I am using transwomen for the sake of common understanding. There are alternate terms, including trans*women, trans women, M2F and so on. While I’m not exploring that debate now, I have to acknowledge that it is contested and fraught territory with real political significance.

*** Gender – personal identity vs oppressive hierarchy…

**** Born male – more contested language here. Male, born male, AMAB (assigned male at birth), and so on. There’s a lot out there on this. I’m not rewriting or exploring it now.

Because I know I will be asked this – I do not advocate violence, I abhor it. I do not advocate discrimination, I oppose it. Gender critical analysis is compatible with my beliefs that all humans should be able to access basic social infrastructure equally, irrespective of sex, sexuality, gender conformity, race, religion, ability/medical condition, marital status, pregnancy, parental responsibilities and other characteristics or group affiliations, be they perceived or actual.

That I feel the need to state these caveats has a lot to do with the framing of the broader debate, and the way in which lesbians and feminists are misrepresented…

Lesbians in the News 18/04/2015

Lesbians in the news

12/04/2015 – 18/04/2015

Violent Crimes against Lesbians:

Mary Kristene Chapa

Mary Kristene Chapa

Laws, Politics and Policies:

Representation:

Social and Health Issues:

Remembering our sisters:

Religion:

***If I have missed an important news story, please either post a link in the comments section here or email it to me at liz@listening2lesbians.com.

On stereotypes and lesbian (in)visibility

She was chatting away with me quite happily, this older woman in the shop. I was holding my goddaughter and she was cooing over her. She was bringing out the tired old “just like a girl” tropes but was very friendly and warmly talking about children. I mentioned mine. She smiled.

I mentioned that my ex partner gave birth. She stopped dead.

And she wouldn’t speak to me, or look at me.

From one second to the next, what been an animated and warm conversation became the pointed ignoring of a customer.

I wondered, what was it that upset her so much. Was it that she couldn’t tell? Was it the fear that if you can’t spot a lesbian, then they could be anywhere

While “readily identifiable” lesbians provoke one sort of reaction, and one they are unable to avoid, do “invisible” lesbians kindle an anxiety precisely because we cannot be readily identified and guarded against?

And what is this if not yet another manifestation of gender policing? The idea is that there is one way to be female, with appropriate levels of femininity and heterosexuality. Perhaps if you are going to violate mainstream cultural norms, then at least you should be identifiable in your “non-normality”?  Being unidentifiable is threatening because you are hidden, seemingly deceptive in your perceived “normality”.

Of course, being identifiably other is also punished, in that classic double bind. But we do not all look the same, even if it would make society more comfortable for us to fit a contrived stereotype. One size does not fit all and there is no single way to be or look lesbian. To expect that is to reduce us to two dimensional cartoons.

One size does not fit all – there is no one way to be lesbian

But the hostility we face and the stereotypes we are assumed to fit are self supporting. The hostility we face for being open has a silencing effect. And when we are silent, the stereotypes are reinforced because the only visible lesbians are those who happen to fit the stereotype.

The women who stay silent are not responsible for this dynamic either. We cannot always speak for a myriad of reasons based in the reality of our lives. I try to speak whenever I can, because I can, but I have not always chosen to and it is not always safe or prudent to. The consequences of speaking are somewhat unpredictable and the responsibility lies with the society that vilifies and silences us.

As I spoke today, I could almost see the images through her eyes – the stereotypes cascading through her mind, superimposed on the reality of me, guiding her response to me, to all of us, informing the instantly invoked lesbophobia.

That cusp moment of sudden realisation is so telling in its liminality – it is a moment in which both connection and withdrawing coexist for a short time and when reactions are unwillingly written on the body in facial expressions and body language. It is that moment in which a shared sisterhood is abruptly and palpably sheared off.

Just for a second you can see the sense of betrayal, that shock at feeling deceived, that physical recoil.

These moments of withdrawal are less confronting than overt hostility and aggression, far less damaging than overt violence. But this rejection is not subtle and it shows that no matter how much they liked you and related to you a minute ago, you are now beyond the pale and the social constructs informing their perceptions prevent them from relating now.

At that moment I want to say – we are not hiding – we are just being ourselves. You are using false stereotypes and gender roles to assess and judge those around you. Blame the misleading stereotypes, and not, us for your confusion and discomfort. Challenge the gender roles used to judge women, certainly lesbians and especially gender non conforming women.  Understand that whether you think you can identify us or not, we are not other and you are not morally superior. Understand that your lesbophobia might be common, but it is hate filled and damages women.

But the words echo blankly – she had already stopped listening.

Lesbians in the News 11/04/2015

Lesbians in the news

05/04/2015 – 011/04/2015

Fight Homophobia–Help a Lesbian

Mary Kristene Chapa and Mollie Olgin (Image source: Curve Magazine)

Mary Kristene Chapa and Mollie Olgin (Image source: Curve Magazine)

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.

Please read more about Mollie and Mary in Victoria A Brownworth’s piece and please donate to help Mary Kristene Chapa with her medical expenses.


Violent Crimes against Lesbians:

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:

Representation:

  • 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.
  • Jaanese celebrity Ayaka Ichinose and her partner hope to raise awareness through publicity following their wedding ceremony, despite the effect on her career.
  •  Mad, bad or dead: why do we have the Psycho Killer Lesbian plot back again?  “The pathology linked to the lesbian is actually a displacement of the feared pathology of patriarchal culture… The very challenge to order contained in representations of lesbians is restrained by depictions that, in their evocations of nonsense or pathology, disenfranchise the out-of-the-law as the outlaw. This is why lesbians are often figured as murderers and vice-versa. The murderous lesbian characters in Paul Verhoeven’s BASIC INSTINCT (1992), as well as the association of lesbians with vampires…highlight fears that lesbians threaten the death of patriarchy.” Are male supremacy insecurities at the heart of this familiar trope mixing fear and fetish?
  • 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:

***If I have missed an important news story, please either post a link in the comments section here or email it to me at liz@listening2lesbians.com.

Lesbians and monosexual privilege – as if!

I came across a new concept last year – that of monosexuality.

The idea is that monosexuality is attraction to only people of one sex. So for women this is attraction to either only men or women.

I wasn’t convinced that heterosexuality and homosexuality with their entirely different relationships to power were analogous enough to justify being conflated like this. The social meaning of being heterosexual and conforming to our expected norms is not the same as being a lesbian, a woman who by definition is not centring a man in her life. Hesitations over the concept notwithstanding, I kept reading.

It turns out there is also a a concept of monosexual privilege* which goes further than merely naming the sexual attraction to a single sex – it explicitly frames monosexuality as a negative and an oppressive construct.

There is even a monosexual privilege checklist.

While there may well be problems faced by bi/pansexual people, the framing of them under the term monosexual privilege is deeply problematic where it is applied to lesbians, as the analysis confers power and responsibility where it does not and can not exist.

Homosexuality, and lesbianism in particular, does not occupy a dominant position with respect to other sexualities. That position is reserved for heterosexuality.

Heterosexuality is described as compulsory because much of our society is based on it and conformity to it is enforced. We are socialised to heterosexuality, we are pressured or groomed to be straight. Our structures, our endorsed social meaning, our media – all of it combines to present heterosexuality as the default and required.

No such dominant power structure exists to frame lesbianism as the powerful default, with all that entails, and lesbian sexuality can not meaningfully be framed as oppressive.  Lesbianism being framed as negative, as inferred by using a pejorative word to describe it, is reminiscent of the centuries of society judging that female same sex attraction was immoral, to be prohibited and punished accordingly.

Framing lesbianism as oppressive is ludicrous. There is no institutional and social power that lesbians have in relation to sexuality. We do not have any means to exert power over anyone on the basis of our sexuality, making this a misleading reversal. This framing flies in the face of centuries of silencing, violence, erasure, corrective rape and punishment that lesbians have endured for simply being lesbian.

At the same time as the term “monosexuality” sets up lesbians as negative and oppressive, it also removes our ability to talk about the specificity of our lives, our sexuality. Because heterosexuality is utterly dominant (based on male primacy), even as we are tainted and judged by the term, the frame simultaneously erases lesbians from the debate.

In addition to being framed as negative and oppressive, monosexuality is often framed as staid and stodgy in comparison to bisexuality or pansexuality, as if it were an absence of imagination or diversity, rather than an expression of sexuality. The concept of monosexuality, and the way in which it is used, appears to undermine the social acceptance of particular sexualities and their social meaning, in framing that sexuality as problematic. As always, the implications vary based on power dynamics. I do not witness men called upon to broaden their horizons, particularly not straight men, nor are women encouraged to do this except to titillate men. In practise, it is lesbians whose sexuality is criticised.

In addition to asking why we are being framed in these ways and in whose interests it is, we need to consider what the practical, not just symbolic, implications are for lesbians.

The pressure that results from this approach is clearly uneven – heterosexuality is in an unassailable position as our dominant sexuality, numerically and in terms of power. All of our institutions are set up to align with and support heterosexuality and male dominance. The spurious concept of monosexuality will only have an effect on women, specifically lesbians. The concept represents women being told that their sexuality is flawed and oppressive.

And at this point it becomes clear that the concept of monosexuality, while presented as progressive, is anything but – it is not progressive to criticise lesbian sexuality. It is nothing more than the status quo of male dominance and entitlement seeking to impose itself in a different way.

Sadly, the consequences are real. We now see women who would once have called themselves lesbian now loath to do so, now reluctant to use that term given how it is portrayed and criticised, and this erases us from within….

How can we maintain a lesbian-affirming environment for women and girls if we become so shamed and harassed that we cannot use the word or support our sisters? How can we work to develop better representation of and protection for lesbians if our own existence is under threat?

The word monosexuality is presented as a morally neutral concept used to analyse how sexuality is represented. In practise, it undermines lesbians.

So, before you accuse lesbians of monosexual privilege, please reflect on what it means and what you are actually saying…


* The term privilege can, on occasion, be extremely useful but it is overused and functions to silence debate by denying that one party has any right to discuss the topic at hand on the basis of their purportedly privileged, or powerful, position in the dynamic under discussion.


Just in case you think no one would propose monosexuality, below is a collection of links and photos on the topic…

Nothing says dialogue like a gun

Monosexual privilege – not about lesbians and gays but here’s why they benefit?

Radfem lesbians and monosexual privilege

Are we sure this isn’t just anti feminist and anti lesbian?

Monosexual privilege as gay privilege - never mind the reality of heteronormativity

Monosexual privilege as gay privilege – never mind the reality of heteronormativity

Monosplaining....

Monosplaining…..

Metonymy justifies "monosexual privilege"?

Metonymy justifies “monosexual privilege”?

The logic (?) of monosexual privilege

The logic (?) of monosexual privilege

Homonormativity and monosexual privilege

Homonormativity and monosexual privilege

Monosexual privilege - the privilege - not a privilege but a benefit?

Monosexual privilege – the privilege that isn’t a privilege but a benefit?

Monosexual privilege - mostly aimed at lesbians

Monosexual privilege – mostly aimed at lesbians

Monosexual Privilege and who can define it

Monosexual Privilege and who can define it

4thWaveNow — “Monosexual privilege”

4thWaveNow — “Monosexual privilege”