Tag Archives: LGBTI community

The best decision I’ve ever made? Coming out at 65

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.

Continue reading at: The best decision I’ve ever made? Coming out at 65 | Opinion | The Guardian (Source)

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On the Indigo Girls Boycotting the 2014 Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

On the Indigo Girls Boycotting the 2014 Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
Guest post by Syd Mutschler, cross-posted with Liberation Collective


Editor’s Note: This commentary by Syd Mutschler is originally from June 2014, not long after the Indigo Girls reneged on an agreement to play at MichFest in August of 2014. At the time, they made quite a public show of their sudden boycott of an event that the Indigo Girls as a group and Amy Ray individually had played many times. They gave the organizer of the event very little notice that they were pulling out and did so well after brochures, posters, and other materials had been printed and women had bought tickets expecting to hear them at the Festival. Treating women who had supported them financially and in other ways over many years this badly would be ugly enough, but they undertook this boycott after many years of the exact same controversy, yet it hadn’t stopped them from playing and spending time at the Festival at any time before that. This was very likely a decision based purely on finances (they were afraid that they would be boycotted, yet they continued to play at a venue with an owner with extremely questionable ethics), not deeply-held beliefs about “inclusivity”.
As the yearly debate about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival heats up, I have been having a lot of thoughts around boycotts, artists pulling out from the line-up, or artists who have stated they will not play again until the intention of the festival is changed from a gender/sex separate space to only a gender separate space. Artists and trans activists such as Red Durkin have made a lot of statements about why they will not play or why the festival should be boycotted, but I find them to be vague, condescending, emotionally manipulative, and intentionally inflammatory.
The artists’ statements, while varied, all imply that any connection to MWMF and Lisa Vogel is untenable. This claim deserves deconstruction. Let’s try playing Ok Cupid! With this situation, shall we? Let’s imagine that artists and venue owners fill out a political survey and the results will show the percentage of friend/enemy each match is. We will start with Lisa Vogel and the Indigo Girls.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to guess that Lisa Vogel, Amy Ray, and Emily Saliers agree on most subjects, except for the fact that Lisa Vogel believes sex is a class, that the female sex is a subjugated class, and therefore believes that separate space can be framed by that class. Since the Indigo Girls indicated they would play again if the intention was changed to one only based on gender, we can assume that they do support class-based separate space. That leaves us with Lisa Vogel believes sex is a class, and Indigo Girls do not. I will estimate that the test will put them at 99% friends, and 1% enemy.
Being from New Orleans, my next selection will be a venue Indigo Girls often play here, Tipitina’s. Tips is owned by Roland C. Karnatowski III. He is a white, heterosexual, wealthy male who owns somewhere around 7,000 rental properties around the Gulf Coast. His landlord practices are questionable (Google search for yourself) and the Tipitina’s Foundation (a charity) scores so low on finances and transparency, it certainly makes a thinking person wonder what’s going on there. As a straight, white, male, it’s doubtful he has ever spent much time thinking about the benefits of class-based space. Karnatowski has the privilege of not speaking his intentions about anything, unlike Lisa Vogel. Beyond that, since he will take anyone’s money at the door, I guess that makes him a good and enlightened guy. Is that the bar we are setting? Someone who is willing to profit off anyone?
I just used the venue in my hometown as an example, but many of the venues the Indigo Girls play are owned by questionable people. I did some investigating of House of Blues, for example, and could have used them as well.
Do we even need to think about who these venue owners might vote for, or who might make the greater contribution to the Lesbian community or the GBT community? Do silence and capitalism trump the contributions and integrity of an outspoken and compassionate community member like Lisa Vogel? Of course, artists can refuse to play for anyone, but if one does choose to set a political bar on that choice and the bar is set at Lisa Vogel, the bar has been set extremely high. I have to assume that this bar will be applied to everyone, and not just one lesbian who has stated her intention for a sex and gender based space. In the case of Roland Karnatowski III, it is clear he falls below that bar. He makes zero contribution to the Lesbian and GBT communities, has questionable practices as a landlord with working class people, has supported political candidates accused of racism…what do we think? Let’s go with 5% friend and 95% enemy.  Goodbye Tipitina’s!
Lisa Vogel and many womyn who support the festival understand that each of us – not just the performers among us – is responsible for the way our money affects our community. This is why MWMF has no corporate sponsorship. None. This isn’t Lilith Fair or Dinah Shore. Politics and capitalism are hopelessly intertwined, especially in the U.S. Once upon a time, we were much more thoughtful about politics and our money. I don’t see much of a discussion happening about how our dollars are circulating when we buy a ticket to MWMF versus when we purchase a ticket to a show at a place like Tipitina’s. Where are our dollars causing the most good and where are they causing the most damage? Capitalism permeates everything, and those who are ignoring this cannot stand up to their own moral high-grounding.
When politics lead someone to a place where they call for and/or participate in a boycott against an event like MWMF, I have to seriously question those politics. Boycotting is a strong weapon, one that has serious consequences.  Boycotting MWMF is not political. It is female socialization. It is internalized misogyny. I reject this as political. For myself, I will put my dollars in the hands of MWMF without hesitation and with total confidence. The boycotting artists have made me think more carefully about the other places I put my money. After looking at the venues and their owners in New Orleans and stacking them up against MWMF, I will not be going to many shows other than at festival. I will support the artists I love in other ways, such as buying their music directly or contributing to musicians’ funding campaigns.
Why is all of this important? Your money is political. Everyone in the community should be thinking about the impact of their dollars, especially if they are supporting or contributing in any way to the boycott against MWMF. The Indigo Girls are looking me in the eye and asking me to refuse my money to Lisa Vogel while having no problem asking me to give it to Roland C. Karnatowski III. Girls, we have a problem.

Please add your thoughts in the comments below. If you are interested in writing a guest post please email me at liz@listening2lesbians.com.

 

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.

Lesbians in the News – 24 October 2015

Lesbians in the News 24 October 2015

“Lethal threat for the whole of humankind” – ongoing persecution in Russia

anti-gay propaganda

News for Russian lesbians gets grimmer as new legislation flags the possibility of being fined or arrested for merely coming out on the grounds of homosexuality posing a “lethal threat for the whole of humankind”.  The legislation is matched by public opinion reportedly showing an increase in the percentage of the population who believe that lesbians and gay men should be “isolated from the population”, with one fifth purportedly supporting the “liquidation” of the LGBTI  community. Following previous anti lesbian and gay crackdowns, including the banning of “anti gay propaganda” in 2013, the proposed legislation would fine Russian lesbians and gay men for publicly declaring their sexuality, with proposed incarceration for making the “declaration” in a school, cultural institution or public building.
The situation for lesbians in many parts of the world remains dire, with legal sanctions complementing social sanctions including horrific rates of corrective rape, as reported by Victoria A. Brownworth.

Arts & Entertainment

  • 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.

Laws, Politics and Policies

  • The State of Utah is paying up after denying a lesbian couple a birth certificate for their child with the names of both mothers included on it.
  • 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.

Social and Health Issues

Crimes against Lesbians

  • A woman in Louisiana has been arrested for cruelty towards her lesbian daughter, including suggesting on more than one occasion that her daughter commit suicide.
  • UK figures report a dramatic rise in homophobic hate crimes, although it’s not clear what percentage is against men and women, and what percentage of crimes are even reported.
  • Lesbian and gay asylum seekers face homophobia in Europe from fellow asylum seekers, according to the Washington Post. The article is notably silent on the experiences of Lesbians.

Events

Profound thanks to Lisa for compiling the vast majority of this 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.

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.

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”

Lesbians in the News 04/04/2015

Lesbians in the news

29/03/2015 – 04/04/2015

Even identity politics doesn’t protect lesbians – Aderonke Apata “not a lesbian”

Aderonke Apata, source: The Independent

Aderonke Apata had appealed to the High Court in the UK when her bid for asylum for sexuality-based persecution was rejected. The UK government argued that she was not a lesbian on the grounds that she had previously been in a heterosexual relationship in her home country of Nigeria, and that she had previously appeared more feminine. Her claim that her ex girlfriend, brother and son were killed and her submissions of sex tapes did not affect the outcome. The Home Office representative declared “The “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.”

The judge decided that she was not a lesbian and that she “played the system”, despite a very real fear of persecution if she returns to Nigeria, having been internationally publicised as a lesbian, where lesbians are punished by law and through (increasingly violent) homophobia.

We now have the bizarre position in the UK where you are able to identify as a woman and legally change your recorded sex on public records, if you meet the criteria, but you are not able to identify your own sexuality – clear proof of identifying and living/acting AS A LESBIAN  is insufficient.

In the words of Antilla Dean:

So if you are male, you can identify as a woman and that’s cool.

If you are, actually, a lesbian, and identify as one, and dress as one, and love another female as a female, you are gaming the system.

A campaign in support of Aderonke Apata has been launched by the Proud2Be Project, whose patron she is.


Violent Crimes against Lesbians:

Conversion therapy and social homophobia:

Laws, Politics and Policies:

  • Indiana Passes Anti-Gay/ Lesbian Discrimination Law – Lesbians Are Being Discriminated Against in Every State, Not Just Indiana, by Victoria Brownworth. Not just about wedding cakes and videos, this law which purports to protect religious freedoms permits situations like the paediatrician who recently refused to see the baby of lesbian mothers, and the refusal to hold a funeral service unless a family edit being lesbian out. These are not frivolous or options services, these are basic services that everyone should be able to access at the beginning and the end of their life, regardless of who they are. The refusal to provide them shows a distressing lack of compassion and love. National LGBTI and civil rights groups are lobbying for the  introduction of protections for Indiana’s LGBTI community.
  • The anti-gay backlash continues in America with 20 anti-gay proposals in Texas, including one prohibiting the “burden” of religious exercise without a compelling state interest. Setting the bar this low, without the normal phrasing to prevent only “substantial burden”, could have horrific unintended consequences as religious practices could used to justify a wide variety of unacceptable behaviour.
  • Confederate license plates are seemingly acceptable while the words gay and lesbian are banned. A court case in Texas reminds us of the existing situation in Maryland.
  • The Civil Rights Commission in Michigan released an ordinance template to enable cities and townships to roll out anti-discrimination members for LGBTI residents. 35 municipalities already provide some form of local protection from discrimination.
  • Dallas mayoral candidate Richard Sheridan, an anti-gay activist, has been charged in connection with vandalism linked to homophobia.
  • Bob Jones III has finally apologised for violent homophobia from the 1980s. Although the Bob Jones university continues to actively exclude LGBTI students and alumni, is this apology the start of a shift?
  • The US healthcare system continues to fail meeting the needs of the LGBTI community, including lesbians who are reportedly at a higher risk of breast cancer, have higher rates of smoking, and whose needs for HPV and cervical cancer screening are not met, no doubt for a variety of reasons. As laws supporting religious freedom gain traction, it is likely that the provision of healthcare to lesbians will suffer, as it will for women in general.
  • Indiana Governor defends the state’s religious freedom laws and claims that they aren’t intended to discriminate against lesbians and gays but he is not planning to make lesbian or gay residents a protected class.  If existing legal mechanisms that exist to protect residents from intentional discrimination are not used, the claimed intent to not discriminate seems dubious at best.
  • Meanwhile in Maryland, laws are being developed to provide fertility treatment to married lesbian couples.
  • North Dakota is another state with laws permitting discrimination on the basis of religious freedom, but unlike other states has practically no anti-discrimination legislation with legislation that would ban sexuality-based discrimination soundly rejected by lawmakers for the third time in six years.
  • In an optimistic note perhaps, one of the lawyers who successfully argued against California’s Proposition 8 in the Supreme Court believes that the US will see federal protections for lesbian and gay Americans in the next couple of years.
  • Lawyers for the same sex marriage case in the US Supreme Court prepare for the case to be heard later this month.
  • In a Japanese first, the Tokyo Ward recognises same-sex marriage.
  • What is the affect of same sex marriage – an interesting question posed in lessons From One Year of Same-Sex Marriage in England and Wales. Equality before the law is undoubtedly critical, as is protection of lesbians and our families, but the introduction of same sex marriage is not a silver bullet solving social problems and/or homophobia. In places where the protections for lesbians and their families already exists, the fight for marriage equality ahead of more concrete needs like adequate and appropriate healthcare, for example, seems to prioritise symbolic mainstreaming over these urgent practical needs. Perhaps as national LGBTI communities we need to consider our immediate needs and develop a strategy to achieve them?

Representation:

Social and Health Issues:

  • Homophobia in aged care – the documentary Gen Silent illuminates the homophobia ageing lesbians and gays may face and their consequent return to the closet. Previous studies have raised similar concerns about treatment of ageing lesbian and gay Australians.
  • According to the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, lesbians earn less than straight or gay men but more than straight women, based purely on working longer hours. This backs up an assessment of society as a structured around male dominance and heterosexuality – that is, supporting heterosexual men and penalising women, irrespective of their sexuality.
  • A University of Illinois study reportedly shows that a sexuality shift early in life is tied to depression. It is curious that they didn’t suggest that the study could be showing how is that coming out is difficult and stressful for many kids, in the absence of a supportive and accepting community.  Most societies groom children to heterosexuality from birth, with social institutions and rituals promoting and supporting them, and social attitudes, structures, laws and behaviours strongly opposing homosexuality in many cases. It makes perfect sense, in that context, for kids coming to terms with or deciding to be open about their homosexuality to have increased rates of depression, especially if familiar, peer and social rejection (both emotional and physical) are taken into account.  It also makes sense for that process to be delayed by the social and cultural hostility surrounding the kids.
  • Lesbian and bisexual women reportedly experience unequal outcomes under Cuba’s healthcare system, with lesbian specific needs and issues either ignored or overlooked. Of particular concern, similar to experiences in other countries, is the way lesbian-specific sexual and reproductive health needs are not met. Many gynaecological processes are discouragingly invasive; lesbian-specific risks for sexually transmitted infections (STI) are not well understood or communicated; and the problems involved in disclosing personal details to health care providers, especially around sexual activity, and discourage women from receiving the required health care.
  • Millenials, the current generation of young adults, are reportedly the generation with the highest rate of “identification” as LGBTI, with the rates doubling since the last survey in 2011.  Much of the change may be in the reported rates of bisexuality, although it is unclear whether the data in the two reports compares similarly segmented generation groups and whether the methodology used to determine LGBT identification was comparable. Interestingly, nearly 40% of millennials also reported that same sex behaviour was morally wrong, with a further 13% reporting that it depended on the situation, significantly undermining the argument that Millennials are a lesbian, gay and bisexual friendly generation. The reported rates of LGB identification are not close to Kinsey’s reported 10%, but factoring in same sex contact but not identity may explain some of this variation, according to a new book on sexual behaviour and statistics.
  • Schools that actively protect LGBT kids may be contributing to lowered rates of depression and suicidality, although it is unclear from the report whether this is based on sexuality specific measures or school wide attitudes against bullying on multiple fronts. What is not reported is the rates of sexual harassment of girls, which will also affect lesbians, and which education institutions around the US, and the world, have systemically failed to address .
  • A Canadian lesbian couple were denied daycare spot due to their sexual orientation and will be filing a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.
  • In Switzerland, priests have started blessing same sex couples, with one removed for blessing a lesbian couple in 2014.

***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.

Interview: Queerfest and Violence against Lesbians

Interview: Violence against Lesbians

The New Standard interview: Violence against Lesbians

In a follow up to my post When Lesbians Become Targets: Leeds Queerfest 2015, Serena Ryan from The New Standard and I discuss the meaning of publicly endorsed violence against lesbians.

Baseline: there is nothing that justifies violence against women – actual or symbolic. I don’t think this is complicated.

We might threaten the gender dynamics of male dominance gender dynamics, but the attempt to blame shift is an elaborate attempt to justify and mask the misogyny involved in threatening and silencing women.

We need to be able to discuss our political disagreements like we manage in every other area of political life, rather than responding by silencing women.

There’s nothing progressive about threatening lesbians or promoting violence against us – it’s a centuries old story of woman hating, so let’s move beyond it…

Interview: Violence Against Lesbians

If you have any feedback or would like to know more, please feel free to contact me at liz@listening2lesbians.com.

***Just a reminder, this is a blog about lesbians, and I discuss lesbians alone, as a response to the silencing. Please respect the intent.***

When Lesbians Become Targets: Leeds Queerfest 2015

By anonymous

Recently a group of people in Leeds decided to create and promote an event called the Queer Leeds Fest. It was described as “an entire fun weekend of the best things, in the best place, with the best people” and the promotion for the event included a schedule of activities. I was interested and so read through what would be included, but was shocked to see that one activity was called the “TERF dartboard.” After looking further I discovered that event organizers intended to set up a dartboard with the photographs of specific, real women on it and encourage participants to throw darts at those photos. The women pictured in those photos are all lesbians.

Leeds queerfest event with TERF dartboard

I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking about this. I don’t personally know the women pictured, but I know of them online and I know that they are lesbian activists and writers. The hatred directed at them by this intention to “have fun” by throwing darts at their photos made me personally feel that I as a lesbian would not be welcome at this event. It seemed to be making a point that certain lesbians invite abuse because of their political opinions. If it could be those women at fault, then it could be any lesbian who had a difference of opinion with the people organizing and attending this event.

Not VAW

Concerned about what seemed to be blatant hatred of lesbians and invitation to symbolically attack them, I decided to read the Facebook page for the event. Someone had posted a question about the “TERF dartboard” — what it would be and why. What happened next convinced me that certain lesbians would not be welcome among the queer community in Leeds. It wasn’t clear exactly why those lesbians wouldn’t be welcome except for differing political opinions, but it was very clear that a whole group of people had decided they hated those lesbians and saw no problem with symbolic violence toward them.

Literal scum

Some of the quotes in the comment thread about the women pictured and anyone else with certain political opinions included, “they are literally scum”

and “we dislike their views; this is us showing that.” A debate formed on the Facebook page among a number of people for quite a while before one of the organizers commented: “we were making a statement against people, who are indeed specific, powerful women.” This made it plain to me that the intention all along was to invite hatred of those specific lesbians. More people commented in response and then another organizer commented to make clear that they did not want certain women at the event: “Thanks for helping us figure out which women to exclude from our event.” Within a few more comments was this: “We’re deciding here is and isn’t allowed in OUR queer community.”

Our queer community

The discussion continued that way for hours and I understood very plainly that there is a level of hatred of some lesbians that I believe could lead to real-world violence against lesbians.

Who is welcome


This is a reader-submitted story from within our own community.

It’s so concerning that even when the implications of this were pointed out, no one stopped to rethink what they were doing, even when women were very specific about what they were seeing, namely the explicit promotion of violence against women.

Dartboard isn't violence

Hate crime women

Against VAW or not

So what does this mean for the LGBTI community?

One commenter summed it up this way:

Patriarchy with glitter

target final

If you have any experiences of being silenced or attacked as a lesbian, inside the LGBTI or broader communities, please contact me on liz@listening2lesbians.com or here.

This blog is about listening to lesbians and, as such, focuses on lesbians alone.

Please respect that intent.

Lesbians in the News 21/03/2015

Lesbians in the news

16/03/2015 – 21/03/2015

Corrective Rape: “I became their playground” – a short film exploration

Corrective rape, the attempt to cure lesbians of their homosexuality, is escalating in severity in South Africa. This film explores the phenomenon through the story of a gay single mother from near Johannesburg.  Busisiwe’s five children are all the offspring of corrective rape. As a lesbian, she was raped in order to be ‘cured’ of her homosexuality. Despite that they’re a product of the hate crime, her relationship with her children is not destroyed: “I only want them to succeed in life, to have the things I didn’t.” In Gauteng near Johannesburg, crime and violence are on the increase and life is tough. With the courage found in her children, Busisiwe helps to educate the young about being safe on the streets.”

Anti-lesbian violence elsewhere in Africa: 

Odorkor Lesbians in Hiding after vicious attacks, as violence against lesbians continues in Accra, Ghana with ongoing police inaction. The violence includes torture by local youth.

Attacks in Swaziland are on the rise with a young lesbian killed in Nhlangano, Swaziland in a horrific hate crime.


Representation Matters – Julie Enszer, Poet, scholar and curator of the Lesbian Poetry Archive Speaks on the stories we tell and why they matter

Anniversary of a lesbian murder – Kitty Genovese died 51 years ago in a vicious hate crime against women.

Longtime political activist Jean Hardisty dies

“Jean was a force in the lives of all who knew her. A visionary, she anticipated many of the political and economic shifts the country has endured over the past several decades. Undaunted by the implications of her insights, she dedicated herself tirelessly—and with uncommon skill, humor, and compassion—to the cause of social justice. She was a friend, mentor, colleague, and inspiration to us, and to countless people and organizations.”

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to The Highlander Center, highlandercenter.org or to the Boston Women’s Fund, bostonwomensfund.org .

Lesbian Couple Denied services – Community rallies after Wedding Video denied The big question is – would the community rally if what was demanded was not quite so conforming with standard community values??

Lesbian Movies – the struggle to stay relevant – perhaps more support from the broader community would also help, as indicated by the fact that Perth film maker Tessa Rooney runs an independent lesbian film festival Dyke Drama after the Pride Film Festival failed to show a single lesbian movie

Meanwhile Last call chronicles New Orleans Lesbian bars.

Tasmania, Australia: Schools to be given option to reject students – will sexuality be targeted? 

US Reform Rabbis first Openly Lesbian Leader

Toronto Canada: hate crimes rise by 11%

California’s LGBT Caucus files complaint against OC lawyer who wants to “kill the gays”. Unfortunately, it seems that the petition is hard to stop

Interesting information on why lesbians and gays often don’t live in the same suburbs – the gendered wage gap contributes to the phenomenon…

LGB groups march in Boston St Patrick’s Day parade after years of opposition

NSFW: footage of homophobia at previous marches in the 90s.

Baptist College stands firm on married lesbian bishop speaker: “true Christians” advocate social justice 

Changing Irish views on Same sex marriage Mark decrease in homophobia?

Specialist Toolkit Aimed at helping prevent Lesbian and Gay youth suicides as suicide and self harm rates rise

Puerto Rico may drop opposition to same-sex marriage

Australia: Gold Coast lesbian wins right to be mother of non-biological child

Islamic scholars in Indonesia push for death penalty for sex abuse and gay and lesbian ‘crimes’

US: Cross Burned on lesbians’ Lawn

US: In 16 states, same-sex couples can legally marry and then later that day get fired from their job for doing so. Federa; Panel Discusses LGB protections. 

Celibacy no longer demanded of San Francisco’s Evangelical City Church

Homophobia in the US – what’s it like for LGBT refugees?

Maryland US – A bill that on fertility treatment access for married lesbians progresses and will be voted on this week. 

US: Lesbian sacked for starting a family


Please send me information on any lesbian news I have missed at liz@listening2lesbians.com.