“There are lesbian women who fear going to the doctor and spend years and years without attending. Doctors say awful things when they see that you don’t meet the classic image of a woman painted and wearing heels, and that’s hard. So, given that rejection, women don’t go to the clinic anymore, ” Isbrailda Ruiz Bell tells SEMlac.
Ruiz Bell is an activist and member of the group of lesbian and bisexual women Las Isabelas, in the province of Santiago de Cuba, 762 km from the capital. According to her experience, stereotypes and prejudices can be found in different medical consultations, but in some there is more abuse.
“The gynecology consultation is a service where lesbian woman are subjected to more abuse. For example, they should ask for consent for students to attend the physical exam, but that does not happen, ”says Ruiz Bell.
Among the main problems are the low perception of risk of sexually transmitted infections, poor self-care and prevention of cervical and breast cancer, as well as depression and anxiety caused by lesbophobic discrimination.
“There are women who have been diagnosed with diseases at very advanced stages because of their fear of being rejected in a medical institution, I tell you from local experience and also because we have seen it in the workshops organized by Las Isabelas,” recalls Ruiz Bell.
The study confirms what the testimonies say: “The vast majority of women express having received a differentiated attention, nuanced by prejudices and stereotypes, attitudes expressed in gestures and a rigid body language, unfriendly and lacking sympathy, which becomes in an obstacle that limits their attendance to specialized health consultations”, the authors subscribe.
“Hay mujeres lesbianas que temen ir al médico y pasan años y años sin atenderse. Los médicos te dicen cosas feas cuando ven que no repites el prototipo clásico de mujer pintada y con tacones, y eso es duro. Entonces, ante ese rechazo, la persona no va más a la consulta”, dice Isbrailda Ruiz Bell a SEMlac.
Ruiz Bell es activista e integrante del colectivo de mujeres lesbianas y bisexuales Las Isabelas, en la provincia Santiago de Cuba, a 762 km de la capital. Según su experiencia, los estereotipos y ofensas pueden encontrarse en distintas consultas médicas, pero en algunas existe mayor maltrato.
“La consulta de ginecología es un servicio donde la mujer lesbiana es más agredida. Por ejemplo, debieran pedir el consentimiento para que estudiantes asistan al examen físico, pero eso no sucede”, afirma Ruiz Bell.
Entre los principales problemas aparecen la baja percepción de riesgo ante las infecciones de transmisión sexual, el escaso autocuidado y prevención del cáncer cérvico uterino y de mama, además de depresión y ansiedad producto de la discriminación lesbofóbica.
“Hay mujeres a quienes se les han descubierto enfermedades en estadios muy avanzados por miedo a ser rechazadas en una institución médica, te lo digo por experiencias cercanas y también porque lo hemos visto en los talleres que organizan Las Isabelas”, recuerda Ruiz Bell.
El estudio confirma lo que los testimonios denuncian: “La gran mayoría de las mujeres expresa haber recibido una atención diferenciada, matizada por prejuicios y estereotipos, actitudes expresadas en gestos y un lenguaje corporal rígido, poco cordial y carente de simpatía, lo cual se convierte en un obstáculo que limita su asistencia a consultas especializadas de salud”, suscriben sus autores.
“If we don’t have enough anecdotal evidence proving how trifling we are, it’s there in dollars and cents. Out of 424 million dollars budgeted for international LGBTI issues in 2013-2014, only a measly two percent went toward projects for LBQ (lesbian, bi, queer) women. And out of hundreds of recommendations put forward at the United Nations in recent years, only one addressed specifically lesbian issues.
Those figures come from the first European Lesbian* Conference that took place early this month in Vienna, and they were the proverbial last drop that pushed the organizers into action. (They should crunch the numbers for women’s projects, too, which I suspect are no more eager to embrace lesbian issues than queer NGOs often headed by gay men.)
The two researchers who presented a report to the conference on lesbian lives in Europe discovered that we were almost on par with unicorns when it came to mining data even among countries in the relatively progressive European Union.
This meant that not only were they limited in the conclusions they could draw, but that we would hit a brick wall if we wanted to propose a project on lesbian mental health, for instance, because we wouldn’t have enough figures proving it was needed or to create a model for how it might work. Ditto for projects addressing violence against lesbians. No data. Therefore, no funding. And no action. As a result, almost every researcher at the conference begged the lesbian participants from Iceland to Uzbekistan to get involved collecting data on their own communities.”
“Many people talked about how health-care practitioners would not look them in the eye, seemed flustered by them or just generally communicated through body language that they were uncomfortable,” McPhail said.
A 23-year-old Sydneysider told Daily Mail Australia that her girlfriend has been unable to leave the house for fear of being harassed or abused again.
‘A couple of years ago, she was beaten severely enough to go into a coma because she kissed her [same-sex] partner goodbye in public,’ the woman said.
‘Despite this, she’s had mail in her letterbox telling her that she’s wrong and an abomination, and it we’ve also had our front door vandalised (graffiti with ‘die f*gs’) because we chalked a rainbow on our front wall.’It’s been horrible for her mental health; to top it off, because she hasn’t been able to make it into work, she recently lost her job.’
“I can’t speak to the response of people who have never transitioned, or again, to detransitioned men, but, I can tell you I’ve never heard a detransitioned woman say we should be using reparative therapy. Most of us did transition due to gender non-conformity, either in whole or in part. A lot of us are lesbians.”
“When I was transitioning nobody in the medical or psychological field ever tried to dissuade me, to offer other options, to really do anything to try and stop me except say I should wait until I’m 18.”
“Detransition is not about re-training ourselves to conform. It’s about accepting our non-conformity as part of our womanhood rather than taking it as a sign that we were meant to be men.”
Being a lesbian can sometimes be an extremely isolating experience. The purpose of this gathering was to combat that by connecting a group of us to each other, and by using our time spent together to support lesbian artists and celebrate lesbian achievements.
‘They grabbed me, held both my arms tight and brought me to a McDonalds near the train station. My father slapped three tickets on the table and said “you’re coming with us to Ivanovo.” That was their ultimatum for me, and it was the first time that I ever disagreed with them in my life.’
Encounter, an organization that provides, “professional development training in LGBTI issues and culture in Australia,” has announced it’s lineup of speakers for the May 29-30 Encounter Course in Melbourne. According to the organizations website, this introductory course, “covers the ten most common myths surrounding the LGBTI community and sets the record straight by presenting the latest research and lived experience.” The description goes on to say, “we look at the common issues in the LGBTI community, with a special emphasis on the ‘coming out’ journey'”
Unfortunately, this important professional development course will feature no lesbians, as according to their Facebook page, “we have two on our team, but both have had to pull out.”
(This comment has since been removed)
If this series is so, “essential for those working with LGBTI clients, employing LGBTI people or simply those wanting to gain a better understanding of the journey of a person they care for,” why were they unable to find a single lesbian on the east coast of Australia who could share her experience as a lesbian?
Without the “L” represented as the title proclaims, this organization is at the very least being disingenuous and at most, erasing lesbian lived experience and lesbian voice from the community it claims to represent.
After several people voiced concerns that there was no lesbian representation in their course, the Facebook page moderators removed all questions and comments related to this matter.
From the time I was a teenager, I was attracted to women, but it was difficult back then to even think about my sexuality. I was born 71 years ago, when the social and cultural repression around homosexuality was at its peak in the US. As a young adult I had several intense friendships – crushes really – on women, including one that was loving, sensual and addictive. However, the idea that it could ever be sexual didn’t occur to me. My sister remembers me saying, a few years later, that I found relationships with my women friends difficult – the feelings were just that strong. Because I didn’t know what to do with them, there was a lot of internal conflict.
Lesbian representation on television and in movies gets a critical eye. Is there a ‘Need Not Apply’ sign for lesbians that are not white, thin and femme?
FujiTV in Japan will debut a new drama on November 7th featuring a love story between two women. Some argue the series isn’t going far enough in portraying current real world situations for Japan’s lesbian community.
Lesbian playwright and head writer of The Laramie Project, Leigh Fondakowski, is opening a new play, Spill, about the BP Oil spill in the Gulf Coast in 2010.
Civil unions began in heavily Catholic Chile on October 22nd.
The American Civil Liberties Union is taking on a northern California high school that sent a student home for wearing a ‘Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian’ t-shirt. According to the school, the t-shirt was an “open invitation to sex,” which sounds scarily similar to accusations leveraged against rape survivors. The student fears she will be expelled if she wears the t-shirt to school again. On the opposite coast, a lesbian teacher in New York details the harassment and bullying she experienced from the principal and assistant principal of her school. When she complained about the bullying her son was getting at school she was told, “It is an abomination against God, and you made this child a victim of your poor choices.” Charming.
Did you ever wonder how Roberta Kaplan and Edie Windsor met? The Advocate does a great story on the powerhouse these two women created in changing the fight for marriage equality in the U.S. forever.
New Zealand lesbians are looking to have some fun with the introduction of a new lesbian ball in West Auckland. The organizers are hoping to draw in lesbians from all over New Zealand for this glamorous event.
Profound thanks to Lisa for compiling the vast majority of this edition of Lesbians in the News.
A South African discrimination case has been settled with the owners apologising for the consequences of their refusing accommodation to a gay couple. It was acknowledged that the matter was small compared to the violent homophobia may LGBT South Africans face but that it was a part of the broader picture of addressing dehumanising treatment of lesbian, bisexual and gay South Africans.
Lesbian suicide is a neglected issue in India with a toxic combination of blatant lesbophobia in Bollywood and minimal representation, with reporting of lesbian suicides not including supporting information or openly reporting the facts of stories. A country of over 1.25 billion people, India seems to have only 5 organisations supporting lesbian and bisexual women, reflecting their lack of visibility.
Organisations representing lesbians in the tech field work to support women who are significantly less satisfied with their jobs on average and receive lower pays. This support includes mentor programs.
South African photographer Zanele Muholi sees the role of her exhibition to be to bear witness, saying “Looking at where we’re at right now in the struggle [against homophobic violence], there’s nothing to laugh at, there’s nothing to enjoy except when one is intimate with her lover. I ask my sitters to think about the situation, think about being black, being a lesbian, being a woman.”
Night Fliers is a film by Sara St. Martin Lynne which can be watched here. Sara St Martin Lynne says of the film: “My friends and I saw very few reflections of ourselves and our friendships and romantic interests in the media. Night Fliers is free because it should be seen by the young people for whom it was made, regardless of an ability to pay a rental fee. In 2015, 60% profits for this film will be donated to organizations and projects that directly impact and empower girls.”
Bullying remains a significant issue for LGBT youth with a CDC study finding that 12-28% of LGBT students had been threatened or injured at school in the previous year, and a 2011 study showing that 82% had reported problems with bullying overall. A recent study found that peers were most likely to intervene in homophobic bullying based on “the values of altruism, leadership, courage, having LGBT friends, and beliefs in justice.”
A new book Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women explores the forgotten victims of Ravensbrook which notably included lesbians in the Nazi concentration camp built specifically for women.
An Iranian Ayatollah has blamed homosexuality on bizarre causes including a man thinking of a woman other than his wife when she conceives and women not wearing the hijab correctly. Iran remains a dangerous country in which to be lesbian, with four counts of sex between women being punishable by death.
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.
There seemed to be surprisingly few violent crimes reported against lesbians this week. Given what we know about crime against women and specifically lesbians, it seems unlikely that the crimes have ceased, and more likely that the crimes are either not reported or the reports are not making it to the mass media. How do we change this and how do we access accurate information about violent crimes against lesbians?
The 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.
A Colombian lesbian adoption court case highlights the mixed picture for lesbians in Latin America. What is curious is how many of these articles reference same sex marriage as if that is a panacea to the structural oppression, social exclusion and sanctioned abuse and violence lesbians face around the world.
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.
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…
After a public outcry, Louisiana Teen Claudetteia Love has been told she may wear a tuxedo to her school prom. Originally the student had been advised that she was not allowed to wear a tuxedo to the prom as part of gendered dress codes that require girls to wear dresses.