Tag Archives: listening2lesbians

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.

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.

Interview: Identifying and combating misogyny in the gay community

interview: Identifying and combating misogyny in the gay community

The New Standard interview: Identifying and combating misogyny in the gay community

Today, on International Women’s Day, I was thrilled to be speaking with Serena Ryan from The New Standard.

Serena, who is known for her interview showing the Salvation Army think lesbians and gay men should be put to death, spoke with me about misogyny in the gay community, as outlined in my piece in the Star Observer, and what we can do to combat it.

The 2015 International Woman’s Day theme is “Make It Happen” – hopefully this website will be help identify and combat abuse and silencing experienced by lesbians.

Interview: International Women’s Day and misogyny in the gay community.

You can help #MakeItHappen by sharing your stories with Listening2Lesbians.

Sanitised violence

Immense gratitude to this wonderful woman for sharing her experience…


23 years ago. I thought no one suspected I was lesbian, after all, I wasn’t in a relationship at the time and I ‘looked straight’. I was wrong.

As member of the student council, I was required to attend certain formal functions which often included dinner and entertainment which ran into late hours, we slept over in one of the smaller lecture rooms.

One night, on my way to the room, a huge man appeared out of nowhere on the dark staircase landing. He cornered me before I knew what happened. I can’t bring myself to think, much less write, of what happened next. Afterwards, he told me that I was the second dyke that week that he showed what a woman really needs. I was frightened out of my mind, so I agreed with him in hopes he would leave.

‘Corrective’ rape is such a sanitised word, isn’t it?

Respecting your stories

I am asking lesbians to share what can be very personal experiences, some of which will have been quite traumatic with ongoing consequences.

This will require a degree of trust that the information will not be misused, shared without permission and that there will be no blaming or belittling of victims for their experiences.

Many of us have experienced telling our stories only to have them disbelieved, disregarded or interpreted as our fault.  Many of us have been blamed for our own experiences of abuse, either directly or implicitly. This is not an accident, but one of the ways in which women’s voices are intentionally silenced in our societies, with the consequence of preventing us understanding our shared realities.

Without that collective picture, we can struggle to see the pattern of what happens to us, who silences us, and who benefits from both that abuse and the subsequent silence.  Preventing us from analysing and speaking out against this maintains the status quo.

All information shared with this blog will be treated with the utmost care and respect, as will the women who are sharing. All information shared will remain private unless explicit permission is given to make it public, and no information that identifies women will be shared unless they choose this.

I have asked for basic demographic information for future analysis. Information submitted may be used for analysis and advocacy purposes.

Although listening2lesbians is not covered by the Australian Privacy Principles, all personal information will be managed broadly in line with them as outlined here.

If you have any questions about how information you share will be treated, please contact me to talk about it. I want to hear from you.

Why listening2lesbians?

After experiencing abuse while calling out sexism in the online LGBTI community, I wrote a short piece asking the community to reflect on its misogyny.

Hearing women’s responses to the article, I started to wonder about the extent of lesbian abuse and silencing, both in the LGBTI and the broader communities.

What I discovered is that we don’t know the extent of the problem, except anecdotally. Acts of violence, up to and including murder, go practically unnoted, with little or no community outrage.  Abuse and silencing are not uncommon but are practically invisible, in the absence of a way to share what happens to us except on a one-to-one basis.

Without recording our collective experiences, and only hearing them as individualised stories, we cannot readily see or demonstrate patterns.

How, then, can we name, analyse or address a problem we can’t even quantify?

I care about stopping the abuse of women, particularly lesbians.

Listening2lesbians was born to allow women to submit their experiences of being abused or silenced as lesbians, of being subjected to misogyny and lesbophobia within and outside the community.

Please share your stories so we can be heard.

If you have any questions about listening2lesbians, please contact me.