Tag Archives: Pride

Lesbian “gay bashing”

Lesbian "gay bashing"

Guest post by Kate Hansen, with thanks to the women who so generously shared their experiences.

 

For feedback or to share your experiences, please email Liz@listening2lesbians.com or message us at https://www.facebook.com/LlSTEN2LESBlANS/


I was in a Facebook lesbian group, when someone posted the question: “Have you ever been gay bashed?” The stories which followed gripped me and moved me.  I decided to pose the same question on other group pages, and I made sure to ask everyone if they would allow their stories to be shared anonymously online.  I felt like these were something which needed to be shared with a wider audience. I don’t know if people even know the level of violence and hate that lesbians face, even in the modern world.  It can be straight up physical violence, or it can be just a series of microaggressions which erode the soul over time. There was no clear distinction between regions represented, dykes in the UK face the same level of violence in the USA.  I do appreciate the uniqueness of the voices. Another thing to note is that the flat out physical violence seemed to happen to those who were gender non conforming or butch, while more feminine presenting women deal with classic sexual harassment.

This story is dynamic and changing.  I believe this is the tip of the iceberg, and we would like to ask for contributions to this project.  If you have experienced gay bashing as a lesbian, please write to us and share, care of Listening 2 Lesbians.

-Kate Hansen


Run over by a car, kidnapped and held for five days. 21 stab wounds, no food and very little water, raped repeatedly and left for dead on the side of the road. I lost contracts in business. Umm ya this is a very sensitive subject. The younger people in our community sometimes forget the sacrifices we’ve made so that they can enjoy the freedoms we have today. Not preaching, just pointing out how violent it once was.


Yes indeed in downtown Baltimore many moons ago but was told I was a waste of a woman. Hate has no room in my life.


As a butch lesbian, born and raised in Alabama and travel for a living, I’ve never been bashed, i have been called out in bathrooms more times than I can count, but once they realized who they’re speaking to they apologized. I also open carry.


Yup. Lost all “friends” in my neighbourhood, went thru 4 yrs of bitches calling me out nearly every day in high school even tho I never came out about it.  Recently blocked a cousin for sending me bible quotes and messages about being an abomination.️ I’m still on top. Honestly Millennials and Zs don’t know how easy they have it.


Got stones thrown at me I came out to a friend and she yelled out ew your gay and a guy heard and he started to throwing them or some Christians quoting bible and parents blaming my auntie about her being gay for me turning out gay.


I’ve had issues with former coworkers on my life choices. Once I was told I was the devil and I was going to hell. She wouldn’t work with me because she didn’t want to catch the gay.


Just the usual from family and sometimes complete strangers. Had one kid start yelling Faggots from his truck to an ex and I when we were driving together. Hit a stop light and he kept smirking until we started talking trash back very loudly. Made him look like an ass. He rolled up his window pretty quickly and turned down a side street. My ex was in the military and I’m built like Xena, so I think we scared him.


Had friends bashed leaving the bar. One friend almost got killed because they hit him with a baseball bat. Put him in a coma for two weeks. He left Tucson after he recovered.. Most of the drag queens carry mace or razors when they leave.


Yeah, 1970s lost jobs and evicted, raped, and TONS of verbal bashing in public places and I was like having the attitude and VOICE to say “FUCK OFF just because my women are hotter than what you get” OR I would say “Your mom didn’t think so last night.” WHEN IN PUBLIC they can’t hit you because the first blow is a violent attack and if I wait I can kick ’em in the nuts in self defense. Always wait to clip the nuts in self defense, then no charges can be pressed really.


Yeah. From the college I attended, as well as several revoked job opportunities when they found out I was gay. Oh and my dad trying to kill me, as well as being kicked out.


When there’s a violent male, the energy is usually directed at my butch partner. We’ve never been bashed, but we’ve gotten out of minor scrapes. For example, my butch ex and I were at a blues bar, and this man became irate with me because I didn’t want to dance with him. She said “buddy, she doesn’t want to dance, leave her alone”. He got annoyed, ok angry, that I chose to be with a butch female instead of him. We left after that. Someone mentioned that we should have got him kicked out, but honestly we just weren’t feeling it after that.

Also my ex husband was violent with me when he figured out that I’m gay.


My girlfriend and I had big rocks thrown at us from a passing pickup truck when we were holding hands walking down the street. She got chased by a man who saw us kissing goodbye at a greyhound station, and he was yelling at her that he would make her like dick while he was chasing her. We were also chased together once, after going to the park around midnight and not realizing there were other people there. This was all around 1992. I haven’t been bashed recently, but I’m more careful now.

I should add that 2 of these events happened in San Francisco.


Beat up by 3 men, 14 broken bones and won’t even say what they did to my girlfriend at the time. Something we couldn’t get over because of my guilt not being able to stop it.


I’m an intimidating bitch, I have issues with guys, I don’t take shit from nobody.

However it’s sad in a way that my family uses it against me when we fight or make stupid comments about gays

Fuck em anyways.

Can’t tell me they aren’t a bit curious!


I navigated the Army during the mid eighties – early nineties; before even “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” I was raped by 4 “fellow” soldiers; they knew they could get away with it; one accusation of homosexuality and my career was over.  We all stayed quiet about it; they didn’t go to prison; I didn’t get a dishonourable discharge……just a vicious case of PTSD.


I have when I lived in a homophobic city/country my dad and a few neighbours my mom shut him up and I confronted the bs with the neighbour’s kid and to say the mom was not happy with him is a understatement . After my mom passed I got thrown out and bounced sofa to sofa ’til I got my own place then was sexually assaulted by a downstairs neighbour and now I got real bad anxiety and ptsd but my ex gf doesn’t understand I don’t want to be around men too much, esp. straight guys like her brother, but you know fuck it I’m about to be out of here real.


Yup,  beat up by three dudes for being a ‘fucking dyke’ one thing I did learn is I can fly through the air like Superman  just need to work on my landing though!


Yes my son’s father told people, I mean like most of our little city that he don’t want that fruity shit around my son that my son is gonna be gay because of me, I’m making him gay! This is my first time ever being attacked like this … And for a dude that hasn’t been around in 5 yrs (my son is 5) but my girl has been around since my son’s first birthday … What the fuck is he, right?   But my god did this really hurt me horribly. I also think that my son’s father is in the closet and maybe mad that we are out and having a good life while he is still hiding. But that’s not my fault I’m a woman no matter what, I’m gonna be a woman whether I’m with a man or a woman, I do women shit everything I do know I’ve done my whole life. Not just since I’ve been with my girl .. I was sooooo offended and felt embarrassed that he went to everyone we know and said shit like this.  Hurts.


1 Circa 1987/88 was a student in Bradford. 21 years old living with a girlfriend, also student but we worked the same bar. She was a barmaid, me DJ. One night walking home from a night out socializing, playing pool, we came home early. 9pm. About 1 minute from our flat, crossing the pub car park neighbouring us, two men stepped out and confronted us. One grabbed g/f basically sexually assaulting her, I naturally objected and he threw a punch at me. Then, I was as strong and as fit as a butcher’s dog. (I can also box, dad taught me) I’m fortunate, know how to look after self and am risk savvy, but this happened so quick. Both men attacked me as I prevented them tearing my g/f’s clothes.One punched her to the side of the head, knocking her out. They both set about me, but realized that I was a going to be a hand full. Eventually, they ran off when they realized about 30 or so punters from the straight pub were onlookers. I got to my feet, picked my g/f up and managed to stagger back to the flat, where our housemates got us attention at hospital. Not one person intervened, watching. When the police questioned us at the hospital, they told us not one witness could be found at the pub! Indeed, they questioned us as to why we were out at that time of night!?! 9pm? My g/f needed stitches to a wound in her ear and I was concussed but the police were determined to dismiss me as drunk. I had been playing pool for the lesbian pub team…not a drop!

One other occasion, same city and about the same time, g/f and I had gone to dinner; celebrating something. We were walking to the lesbian/gay bar in town for ‘after’ when a group of young men, about 15 or so, started catcalling insults. Dykes, queers, etc. What we really needed, you know the score. They ran up to us and I told her to go ahead into the bar and not turn round and if not there in 5 get help! For once, she, reluctantly did as she was told, as she knew what was going to happen, and she had never left me in a situation like that. I turned to face the group but no reasoning was to be had they simply piled on me and began punching, kicking etc. So, I did what I was taught in those situations, God Bless my working class, dog tough old dad, he was a bastard but as hard as nails! I latched onto the biggest by sinking my teeth into his crotch. Face protected, head tucked right into his groin so they could kick me, but he was getting it too. It seemed like forever, but the police came, called by Sarah et al. The mob ran off. Leaving me and the big lad locked on the pavement! I was dazed to say the least and he was yelping like a scalded puppy! Police were going to arrest me for assault, as seemingly, as one police officer said, I could have seriously injured the poor lad biting him there! No witnesses, no admissions from the lesbophobic shit who had started the beating, just me looking bruised and battered. I didn’t cut easily, so must not have been as bad in their opinion. Wouldn’t listen to us…I was a student teacher, my g/f a student social worker, he was a knuckle dragging arsehole, but male so must tell the truth. This was West Yorkshire, 30 years ago, at the height of Clause 28, where attitudes were shocking. However, this is the same constabulary, hounding women for saying there is no such thing as men becoming women! In my early 50s we are experiencing a blatant openness in aggression towards us. This Brexit debacle is emboldening the ignorant, vicious bigots who have lain dormant for so many years.

So many other occasions. Verbal to physical. I’m fortunate, I know how I react in these situations and as old as I get know that my mentality won’t change. My lesbianism is sacrosanct, my love and obligation to protect my partner has meant she has been spared this, as I would lay my life down to protect her, and she knows that. Lesbians need to ally with each other; women. Not men, not interested in what they think they know about us, we must take lessons from what has happened, carrying it into the present so that this blatant aggression surfacing against us doesn’t take us by surprise. It has always been thus!


The really bad one was in 2009 in Thousand Oaks, CA. I had been working on my car all evening replacing the starter, oil change etc., finally finishing around 11 pm. So I took the car out for a drive to see how it was running. I was sitting at a stop light waiting when all of the sudden I was rear ended. The light turns green so I pull through the intersection and then pull over to the side. I get out of the car and start walking to the back to car check the damage and swap information if needed. I never saw him coming because I was looking at my bumper he sucker punched me in the jaw. Next thing I remember I’m waking up on the road in a pool of my own vomit with my rainbow sticker on the ground next to me.

I ended having a broken jaw and a few facial fractures. However that was the last time anyone landed a hand on me, like that.

He did get caught a few months later because he did it again but this time was a gay man that had a camera in his car that caught the license plate of the guy. He was never charged with my incident because no evidence.


I was head butted by a skinhead, I’d left the Pride march, with a few others, to use the loo & when I came out there was a bunch of skinheads waiting outside the mens toilets & a couple outside the women’s. One of them called me a queer & tried to head butt me in the face, but he was way too tall and caught me on the forehead/top of the head, I was shocked more than hurt & I just took of running as fast as I could (I’d have given FloJo a run for her money) I wanted to shout a warning to anyone else in the toilets, but my voice wouldn’t work. It took me ages to get back to the Pride march – I’d run off in the wrong direction & the 1985 London Pride was nowhere near the size it is now – not so many qweer hetz. When I found the women I’d gone to the loos with, they’d come out in a group so they weren’t attacked, just verbal abuse & they’d forgotten me. I’ve had abuse shouted at me in the street, threatened & spat at, but that’s the worst physical violence I’ve suffered for being a lesbian. I have friends who were beaten up coming out of gay clubs & pubs.


Rocks thrown through windows, rainbow flag burned, all windows in both vehicles in driveway shattered and anti-gay language scrawled all over both cars with a sharpie

Motorcycle knocked to the ground

Contents of truck stolen and thrown into the streets of the neighbourhood

Happened around 1AM


When I came out in middle school a boy in my band class would hit me in the head on a daily basis with his drumstick and call me a nasty dyke. Another boy on my school bus would sit next to me and describe how it would feel to suck his dick the whole ride home. I was too scared to report him.


Yes, I’ve been bashed physically by some men; by the police and then the regular verbal butch bashings as well. I think the first time was coming out of a gay bar in my 20s. We were confronted by a group of young men who yelled and threw rocks at us and cornered us. I remember, thinking, why? Why is who I love a concern of yours? It’s inane. As a butch, the verbal lashings have been a constant fare in my life.


Coming out of the Blue Goose, a gay bar in Des Moines, in 1976-77 ish, carloads of straight high school boys would drive by repeatedly shouting slurs. One carload followed me as I walked to my car one night. Thankfully they didn’t do anything except yell. Long ago, far away.


I had  a neighbourhood kid set fire in my house in 1980. She had found out I am a lesbian. 


Several times over my lifetime, but the one time it was pretty bad was after my two friends and I had attended a show in Seattle (I think it might have been Concrete Blonde) and we were walking back to the car and walked past a group of young teens, about 5-6 young men and one woman.  The young woman said “which one of you’s the man???!!! fuckin’ dykes” and my friend who was a smartass (and stupidly risky) said “I am, and aren’t I cute??” and that woman did not like being sassed, so she ran after my friend and started beating her up and my other friend and I tried intervening, but every time we tried to protect our friend, the young men would kick us from behind and knock us down.  We felt trapped and fighting for our lives when we ran up to a bus that was parked at a bus stop and begged the driver to help us. The driver didn’t give a shit and refused to call the cops or help. But luckily, since there were people on the bus and multiple witnesses, the attackers took off. We got back to car and went to the hospital… the one friend had two broken ribs and my other one had a broken wrist, and my back was all bruised from being kicked in the back.  I was truly afraid they would kill us.


I was physically knocked down by a very large man when I was in New York visiting my family. This was maybe 12 yrs ago. My sister and I were walking home from the train and it was in the early evening. A really large wild haired dude came up to us and said Hello ladies. We said nothing back to him and he became irate very quickly. Then he looked at me and said Oh this one’s not a lady! I looked at him and said Fuck you! My sister and I started walking quickly ahead of him but he came up behind us screaming and yelling his head off and then he knocked me down. I fell on the ground, got back up but my hand was injured as I had fallen on it. My sister and I ran really fast and we were able to get away from him. We went to the police later and reported it and they drove around trying to find him. It was a fairly small town, my home town in NY. But they could not find him. In retrospect I think we were in a lot more danger than we realized at the moment. He was like a powder keg of  rage just looking for someone to go off on. Luckily we got away from him but my hand was injured for quite a while after that because my fingers had gotten pushed backward. It’s still scary when I think about it now, his rage.

Now as I write this I’m thinking that that was probably the first and only time in my life that I felt insulted not to be considered a “lady.”


Having people yell “fag” and “dyke” out of cars while walking with my girlfriends.

Having cars full of college age boys honk at us, pull over in front of us as we were walking on the side of the road late at night, open their doors and start to get out to scare us before driving off (or maybe someone in the car talked them out of it.)

Being told “What you should be holding is a dick” by a young male stranger while holding hands on the street.

Being harassed by my girlfriend’s farm boss about my “sexy” clothes one day, and hearing him say he loved saying that stuff to lesbians in particular. When I told others in the farming community about it, they fired me from my volunteer job, said they didn’t believe me and shunned me.

There are others I’d rather not recall or I’ve selectively forgotten.

I’ve lost more than 3 jobs over issues related to being a lesbian, also. People in general become more suspicious of me if I come out to them, even if they act accepting at first, and will sew all kinds of weird rumors about me & bash my reputation behind my back, the moment it would be convenient to silence me. Which really poisons communities against you and makes it difficult to hold your head up and move freely.

I’ve had men act like they were going to hit me, mostly for telling them to leave my gf alone when they were too persistent in bars and she didn’t have the nerve to, but when they turn around and actually look at me, they suddenly don’t want to hit anymore! I’m very small and usually pretty girl-looking, I think they realize it would be absurd.

It’s a constant series of daily microaggressions for me that have affected my life & forced me to have many career paths, put crushing stress on my relationships & given me diagnosed C-PTSD. If I could trade all that for getting hit once or twice, I would!


When I was about 28 I was leaving a gay bar in Buffalo NY, as I was unlocking my car a guy grabbed me around my neck from behind…he called me homophobic slurs and told me he was going to show me a real man…it was summer and very warm, all I had on was a tank top and shorts, he ripped them off of me, punched and slapped me  several times and raped me vaginally and annally…I did not scream, it was in the back of a very dark parking lot…all I did was cry…he threatened to kill me as he left….i was able to crawl back to the bar, bloodied and naked…the few women in the bar took me in, they locked the door, cleaned me up and found me some clothes…we did not call the police out of fear, they called my lover who came and picked me up.

I did not know who he was, nor had I ever seen him before…a few weeks later at work I started getting notes and threats left on my desk at work…this went on for weeks and I was terrified…this was in 1978 and there was nowhere to go to complain, if the company had known I was gay I would have lost my job, so I suffered for many months and eventually quit my job.  The man that raped me was someone I worked with, but I was never able to figure out who he was (big company)…I never went out again alone, received no mental health help, just suffered…My lover, a very large male identified butch, protected and shielded me as did our friends from the bar….but the rape and harassment I keep locked up inside of me for more than 20 years, finally I received therapy and am able to reconcile internally what happened, but it never goes away, it is always there lurking in the back of my mind…


I expected and was heavily defended against the gay bashing and was bashed several times. But what hurt me the most was the butch bashing from within the lesbian community. There was a woman who professed to be a Wiccan witch, who never, ever miss the opportunity to remind myself and others about how male identified I was.  How unacceptable that was, to be a lesbian within a lesbian community and male identify. At the time I was a total separatist. I had no man in my life. I had no interest in them. But the fact that I dressed and conducted myself without femininity, did not rely on any kind of feminine tricks, meant I was male identified. The most devastating Butch bashing, for me, came from my feminist sisters. Ultimately I decided that the wiccans weren’t any nicer than the Christians and let them all go.


I have been shot at, had a person try to kill me by stabbing me with an ice pick, had brake lines cut, lug nuts loosened, been threatened lots back in the day.  Got bashed by women also–“Baby Killer” because I wanted to keep my military job. Lost custody of my daughter because the judge thought she should experience a “real traditional family.”  Didn’t see her for 3 years. There’s more, but I won’t bore you.


1. Yelled at “dyke!” In a shopping mall …

2. Nearly run over by a guy in a car…

3. Threatened with rape by a couple of straight teenage boys who grabbed my breasts and shirt.

4. Three drunk Gay men threatened to rape me. “Hey cunt, you just need a man! stop being such an angry bulldyke. We know a man who will make you like men! Hah hah!

5. Transwoman raped me. ” this will teach you!! You are a bad girl and you made me mad! And don’t you dare say no nasty butch dyke!”

6. Transwoman raped me. “You owe me. I took you to a party, you stupid Lez, you f-ing dyke!!”!

7. Construction workers yelling dyke! Etc.

I have a hella PTSD. And I find most LGBT people are actually not aware of or sensitive to the fact that gay men and transwomen can be misogynistic and lesbophobic and / or rapists or sexual harassment or assault perpetrators.


I’ve been followed when I left a gay bar.  Had to outrun them, first on foot, then in my car.  I finally made it to a police station. I didn’t think that the cops would help me, but I hoped that the men chasing me thought otherwise.  They did give up the chase and I never had to directly interact with those cops. Another time a girlfriend and I had very sinister men calling us slurs for lesbian and woman while coming at us.  We ended up dodging cars (on foot) across a highway to get away from them.


While working@ amazon warehouse on lane letter D someone was trying to close/open pallets and looking for small boxes of like d005 and large boxes for d026 or something and I’m doing a 2 person conveyor job with my back turned and the young republican who during election time routinely yelled “hail trump” and “trump is god” and loved WWE yelled “oh here’s a big D for you, need another one? There’s a D right here!”

I believe that was simple harassment but I reported it instantly and when leaving work he and a friend attempted to run me off the road!

Also had a “queer” female with a “he/him” nametag give me this line following my refusal to declare my pronouns to “him” she went on to say how she never would have guessed I’m a lesbian and went on to talk about how she “used to be a lesbian” and that felt grimey AF to me.


Was out @ 14 so got gum in my hair a lot, probably why I refuse to shave my head ever to prove any point ever because I meticulously cut those candies out of my hair about 4x/mo


I was out with women friends for my 21st birthday. We were all dancing. This guy kept offering to buy me drinks and wanting my number. I repeatedly and politely told him thanks but I wasn’t interested. He kept trying so I finally told him I’m gay. He then became verbally abusive saying  I thought I was too good for him and hoped I got raped. Thankfully his friends pulled him away and they left. I was shaken and thankful my friends were there.


 

Advertisements

A lesbian story of survival and the power of community Pride

tumblr_op1a6zg89R1v6m5vmo1_500

Gay Freedom Day Parade, San Francisco, California, June 1979. Photographer unknown, c/o @chicagotribune.

BY FELON EVANS

The end of Pride weekend. I skipped the Parade but went to a concert Friday and then to a Lesbian Potluck this afternoon.

Pride has lost a lot of its meaning for me, but the reason why we have a Pride has not. I came out in the mid-70s. Coming out to family and friends was not difficult for me but coming out to the larger world often felt dangerous. I was closeted with neighbors and landlords because it could cost you your housing. My girlfriend became my “roommate.” There was the bedroom you shared and then a spare room made to look like a second bedroom in case family visited. We would de-dyke the house before certain people would come over. If you had friendly neighbors, it was likely that you kept your lesbian books out of the living room.

I was closeted at work, too, and it meant that I kept a distance from co-workers, especially when they were talking about their personal relationships. Going to work meant always hiding a secret about who you were. Even being closeted, I was still fired from my job at a domestic violence shelter for being a lesbian. The Reagan Administration put a proviso on grants to DV shelters across America that in order to receive federal funding, they had to get rid of their lesbian staff. The Board called me in and said “You are a lesbian and can no longer work here.” When I went to an attorney, he asked me to show him where it was illegal to fire me for my sexual orientation.

Being a lesbian in the 70s and 80s also meant going to bars. We had wonderful music and dances and concerts and AA meetings, and bars were an important part of that community. We could not afford to be oblivious to the fact that something as ordinary as one’s own life could induce hatred in someone else. The bar I went to in Cleveland had one of those little windows in the door they would peep out of to check you out before you could gain admittance. Bars had to be careful. One night , two lesbians in our community left the bar and were kidnapped, raped, and shot and left for dead. One of them survived. It rocked our community to its core, and yet we still went to the bar because it was part of our community.

Not being able to talk openly about being a lesbian meant that you had to send out signals in a conversation or an interaction if you thought another woman was gay. A certain type of direct eye-contact, held a bit longer than usual, a nod of the head as you walked by each other on the sidewalk were used to determine if someone was likely a lesbian. Lesbians hug differently than do straight women and that was often a sign you could count on.

I was both disadvantaged and advantaged in being a Lesbian. It is stressful to hide something as fundamental as your relationships and community. There was danger and discrimination, the times we would get yelled at on the street or at a concert or denied admittance to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day or how your girlfriend would be treated differently by hospital staff if you went to the hospital . Once a van full of men pulled up and several men jumped out with baseball bats and ran at my girlfriend and I. She had her large dog with us and the dog growled and lunged at them. They jumped back in the van and peeled off. I don’t know what would have happened had we not had the dog, but I have every reason to believe we would have been hurt by them.

Through it all, community is what helped us survive that type of emotional and psychic trauma, it’s what ameliorated shame, what provided us with some great coping skills and survival strategies. Our community is where we went after the bad family interactions, after the bad work experiences, after the firing or the insensitive doctor asking again what kind of birth control you use, even after you came out to her.

We so often get attached to a narrative of suffering as if that makes us more “authentic.” Anyone who came out back in the day has been through the shit. It takes a toll on a human being. And yet it also has allowed me to be part of a community of survivors who faced bigotry with both anger and humor, with resilience and guts.

What I want to celebrate on Pride is not the freedom to be myself but rather the gift of a community that held one another up, that endured shitty treatment and insensitivity and outright hate and still insisted on loving other women.

Tonight I went to a lesbian potluck with typical potluck food and ordinary lesbians talking about our commonplace lives, remarking on how much easier things are now. And yet we are all part of an extraordinary phenomenon, a community of women in what has been a lesbophobic culture, many of whom have endured decades of hostility for our choices, and who are undeterred in our insistence on loving each other.

Thank you Lesbian community. You are who I celebrate on Pride Weekend.

 

ARAB and GAY PRIDE? I was on the cover of the London Evening Standard and here’s why I’m lucky.

Rola
Poetic Hands

“What is hard to see behind the sheer pride in my eyes is the journey I embarked on at a very young age as a gay Lebanese woman, and the destination I eventually reached which not many others in my shoes, particularly Middle Eastern women, are lucky enough to attain.”

Continue reading more of Rola at: ARAB and GAY PRIDE? I was on the cover of the London Evening Standard and here’s why I’m lucky. – Poetic Hands (Source)

Facebook Has a Problem With Dykes

By Lisa A. Mallett and Liz Waterhouse @ www.listening2lesbians.com

Banned Dykes

For years many of us have repeatedly reported revenge porn, child exploitation material, harassment and misogyny, rape and death threats, and been told that what we have reported, “doesn’t contravene Facebook’s community standards.”

We are now seeing an ever-increasing number of women, lesbians and our allies, having posts deleted and being banned for using the word dyke.

While it has been wonderful to see women clustering informally around this issue in defense of lesbians, the Facebook control mechanisms, as illuminated by this wave of removal and banning, are alarming.

“Dyke” a banned word?

I started hearing about women banned for using the word dyke in early 2017.

Prompted by an irate post in a lesbian group in June 2017, I went to look at the San Francisco Dyke March page, having been advised the event page included anti-lesbian content.  This is far from the first such occurrence, with the recent Chicago Dyke March 2017 explicitly telling female only, same-sex attracted lesbians to keep their bigoted selves away.

In response to the comments I had read on the SF Dyke March, I made this comment:

2017-06-23_LI.jpg

(It should not be controversial that women’s sexual boundaries should be respected and that our sexual orientation should be supported within the broader LGBT community.)

Then a woman in my group told me about this happening;

No automatic alt text available.

It had been posted on the very same page.

These two experiences, as well as reports I had been hearing since early 2017, prompted me to make a public post calling for screen caps of the word dyke being banned. Sometime later, I could not access the SF Dyke March thread or my comment, even through notifications, and assumed it had been deleted. Furious, I posted a screen cap of my comment to my page saying;

“The San Francisco dyke march deleted this comment from their wall. The lesbophobia is staggering.”

I didn’t tag the event, or broadcast it beyond my friends list, but soon afterwards discovered that the post had been deleted.

 

LW deleted comment_LI

I’m not sure if the post was reported or auto-removed by Facebook.

And then it turned out that I was banned from Facebook, for calling a dyke march lesbophobic.

LW blocked

I took from this that it was socially acceptable to:

  • tell lesbians that lesbian includes anyone who identifies as lesbian;
  • tell lesbians that dyke includes anyone who identifies as a dyke;
  • tell lesbians to stay away from lesbian originating events;
  • prioritise absolutely everyone over lesbians, even at nominally lesbian events.

As my 24-hour ban began, I started receiving screen caps and stories from women everywhere:

You say dyke like it's a bad thing.jpg

I love dykes!!! breaches standards_LI (2)

And these are just a small sample.  Please scroll to the bottom to see the Hall of Shame for more images and stories of banned, blocked and deleted dykes.

So this is only words and who cares about the identities of others, I hear you say?

Why do we care?

Well, words matter. If every single term used to describe us (female, woman, female-only same-sex attracted, lesbian, dyke) is redefined to either include others, or explicitly exclude us, how do we describe ourselves, and analyse what happens to the group of women who form their primary focus around women? And in a male-centered society, the (attempted) removal of that capacity has strong political meaning.

Even if you don’t agree with where we draw the lines, it shouldn’t be forbidden for lesbians to defend the language we need to discuss ourselves. We certainly shouldn’t be told we are not allowed to reclaim our own word and declare them with pride.  In an age of endlessly touted freedom of speech, it is telling who is told to shut up and who does the telling.  It is becoming increasingly obvious that dykes are on the losing end and are experiencing systematic erasure from public spaces.

 

So what IS Facebook’s problem with dykes?

Facebook has always logistically, socially and ethically, had issues with censorship.  It has managed to dig itself deeper and deeper with every new algorithm, AI, program, corporate/NGO cooperative, and office it creates, to deal with the over 1 billion users using its platform.  As many have noted over the years, transparency at Facebook has been lacking with regards to many of the company’s functions, but perhaps most importantly, how it decides what content we are allowed to post and see.  This lack of transparency makes it extremely difficult to determine how and why dyke content is being censored, as well as why we believe there has been a very recent increase in the number of women experiencing post deletion and bans or blocks, by Facebook.  What we are left with is reporting on what we do know and asking questions on the rest.  At Listening2Lesbians.com, we believe we may be witnessing a perfect storm brewing.  The convergence of programs, politics, social discord, hate speech, censorship and Dyke Pride, that Facebook management understand very little about and show very little regard for, allowing unchecked erasure of lesbian content, interaction, movement and cooperation.

Here are the old and new storms heading towards a dyke post near you.

The Community Operations Team

The Community Operations Team is actually a bunch of teams located in California, USA, Texas, USA, Dublin, Ireland and Hyderabad, India that uses Facebook’s Community Standards to evaluate posts for, among other things, terrorism and hate speech.  Time and again, Facebook has declared that the team relies mostly on users reporting questionable posts (Sherr, 2016) and that every post that is reported is looked at and acted upon by a member of the team, for content and context (Green, 2015).  Julie de Bailliencourt, Facebook’s Safety Policy Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has stated that it is a myth that the more a post is reported, the more likely it will be deleted and that, “one report is enough” (Green, 2015).  Monika Bickert, Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management has also confirmed that they rely on user reports, that all reports are viewed by an actual human being, but added in 2015 that Facebook had no plans to automatically scan for and remove content, otherwise known as an algorithm (Goel, 2015).  However, we now know that Facebook is indeed using algorithmic tools to scan news content and now, user posts.  It’s just unclear to what extent it is being utilized and how.  More on that later.

There have been few insights into the inner workings of the Community Operations Team, but what we have been able to learn is truly disturbing and has potentially huge consequences for dykes on Facebook and all of Facebook’s other platforms.  That interview with Julie de Bailliencourt took place at Facebook’s largest headquarters in Dublin, where it was reported that the team is under immense pressure and often has heated arguments about what content meets community standards.  “We don’t hire people to just press the same button X amount of times per hour,” says de Bailliencourt. “We hire people with very different backgrounds, and they sometimes disagree. It feels almost like the UN sometimes” (Green, 2015).

However, there are hints that the troubles run much deeper.  In 2016, NPR was given rare access to employees working on the Community Operations Team and found that many feel they are in way over their heads.  Sources told NPR in 2010 that Facebook found it needed more workers fast to carry the immense load the team was under.  At first they tried crowdsourcing solutions like CrowdFlower, but eventually turned to Accenture who made a team of subcontractors consisting of several thousand people in offices located in the Philippines and Poland (Shahani, 2016).  If these locations scare you, they should.  Poland was ranked the third worst country to be LGBTI in Europe, according to a 2016 report (Sheftalovich, 2016) and although the Philippines has shown tolerance for LGB people, it is generally viewed as a country that does not really understand homosexuality, or support it.

Adding to the climate of these countries with regards to lesbian rights, are further reports that these subcontractors are worked extremely hard, are expected to make a decision on a piece of content in 10 seconds and often are not able to view the entire post for content and context.  This has led NPR to conclude that Facebook’s Community Operations Team may be, “the biggest editing — aka censorship — operation in the history of media” (Shahani, 2016).

In order to grasp the potential consequences of the functionality of Facebook’s Community Operations Team on the lesbian community, consider this example.  In the same NPR article, it was reported that when India first opened its office, employees interpreted French kissing as inappropriate sexual content and senior management was floored.  They had not anticipated such a cultural influence on interpretations of Community Standards.  Seriously, what was Facebook thinking? It appears they weren’t.  So the questions are: “Who is sitting in the cubicle judging your dyke post?”, “Did they even see your post?” and “What exactly do they believe about dykes”?

Facebook’s Network of Support (NOS)

In 2010, Facebook responded to bullying, harassment, hate speech and increasing suicides in LBGT youth by forming a consultation group of LGBT advocacy organizations to offer guidance on what, how and who to monitor for hate speech against LGBT youth.  The organizations are GLAAD (formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) , GLSEN (formerly known as the Gay, Lesbian and Staright Education Network), The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), PFLAG (formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and The Trevor Project (Facebook, 2017).  Although we don’t have enough information on the extent of their influence seven years later, we do know that several of these organizations have taken adversarial stances against lesbians, including changing definitions of lesbian and woman and working against protections for women and girls.  Many in the feminist community know that members of the radical feminist community do not support these new definitions.  Regardless of how someone feels about this, it is crucial to understand the impact that organizations can have on influencing what can be seen by the public, and that someday, these organizations might just decide to come after you through mediums like Facebook.  At this time, that focus is on limiting the voices of lesbians and their allies and it appears a lot of people are okay with that.  More on the NOS later (and algorithms!).

Facebook’s Online Civil Courage Initiative

In January of 2016, Facebook was experiencing extreme pressure from European countries, led by Germany, to combat online hate speech.  The result was a pilot program called the Online Civil Courage Initiative, which focused its efforts in France, Germany and the UK.  By September 2016, they had decided to expand their program by offering advertising credits and marketing advice to NGOs and other groups willing to work online to “counteract extremist messaging” (Toor, 2016).  On June 23, 2017, Facebook announced that it had officially launched this program in the UK to “curb the spread of hate speech and extremist material online,’ by offering “funding and training to help local organizations track and counteract hate speech and terrorist propaganda” (Toor, 2017).

Just a week earlier, on June 15th  2017, Facebook announced new measures it was taking to combat terrorist propaganda and violent material.  Organizations that participate in this program will be able to communicate to Facebook via a “dedicated support desk” (Toor, 2017).  They also announced a new series of blogs, to be released over time that Facebook will use to convey to its users information about how it works behind-the-scenes, especially in the area of controlling its content.  The first blog, entitled, “Hard Questions: How We Counter Terrorism”, was written by By Monika Bickert (see above) and Brian Fishman, Counterterrorism Policy Manager.  In the first section labeled “Artificial Intelligence”, they lay out the following methods Facebook will be using.  I will add Facebook’s own description of each, but in abbreviated form.

They are:

  • Image matching: When someone tries to upload a terrorist photo or video, our systems look for whether the image matches a known terrorism photo or video.
  • Language understanding: We have also recently started to experiment with using AI to understand text that might be advocating for terrorism. That analysis goes into an algorithm that is in the early stages of learning how to detect similar posts. The machine learning algorithms work on a feedback loop and get better over time.
  • Removing terrorist clusters: [When] we identify Pages, groups, posts or profiles as supporting terrorism, we also use algorithms to “fan out” to try to identify related material that may also support terrorism. We use signals like whether an account is friends with a high number of accounts that have been disabled for terrorism, or whether an account shares the same attributes as a disabled account.
  • Recidivism: We’ve also gotten much faster at detecting new fake accounts created by repeat offenders.
  • Cross-platform collaboration: [We] have begun work on systems to enable us to take action against terrorist accounts across all our platforms, including WhatsApp and Instagram (Bickert & Fishman, 2017).

They also acknowledge their use of “human expertise” through the Community Operations Team, as well as their partnerships with governments and organizations to run these initiatives.  Finally, they mention something called “counterspeech training,’ in which they have partnered with NGOs and community groups to “empower the voices that matter most”.  Even in a counter-terrorism context, this sent shivers down my dyke spine.  And now we see that there is an AI actually running amok on Facebook looking for those voices that don’t “matter most”, partnering with organizations that are dictating what those important voices are saying (I’m thinking here about Network of Safety!) and being judged by an underpaid and overworked Community Operations employee from I-don’t-know-where, who thinks I-don’t-know-what about lesbians and our right to exist anywhere, let alone Facebook.

Remember, algorithms are not neutral and an AI is a bunch of algorithms written by people with a mess of biases and prejudices.  We all know that logically, none of these entities at play here are chock-full of dykes and dyke influence.  In fact, if history holds, it’s quite the opposite.  So if you’ve been seeing your dyke posts getting removed faster and faster, and your bans getting longer and longer, look at what policies, procedures, programs and personnel Facebook has been bringing to their platform over the last seven years, and especially over the last year and a half.  And if you have seen, like we have, a huge increase in anti-dyke activity by Facebook in June 2017, look at what Facebook has introduced in this month alone.

But wait…

The perfect storm continues…

US Pride and Dyke March

So we know Facebook relies heavily on its community members sending in reports of material they deem inappropriate and those hard working Community Operations employees get to work putting our posts into context and pushing the red button or the green button.  They see lovely posts that say “I LOVE DYKES!!!”, laugh, and hit the green button and they see “DYKES BURN IN HELL!!!”, get very angry, and hit the red button.

Yeah, right. We wish.

As we explored earlier, it just doesn’t work that way at Facebook HQs around the world and we’re all smart enough to know that any algorithms are going to struggle with having to make a distinction between nice dyke posts and hate speech.  We also have no idea who is actually influencing the Online Civil Courage Initiative, or the guidelines for “counterspeech’ measures.  So, into this Facebook created hell we bring US Pride Month and Dyke March!

Yesss!

Oh no.

You would have to be living under a rock (or not be a dyke) to know that the L is having issues with the GBT.  Whatever side you are on, we are where we are.  Dykes are being told to stay away from Dyke Marches if they won’t accept dick into their life and Pride has become a practice in extreme queer theory with a tendency to alienate and shame lesbians for being all about each other.  Again, believe what you want, but June has been an intense month for lesbians.

What I am suggesting here, and I’m sure many of you have guessed already, is that trolls are abound this June and any dyke-positive group or individual is at greater risk for being reported, even if we are just a bunch of dykes going out for a walk.  However, this is only a piece of the perfect storm that is converging on June.

Victoria Brownworth wrote:

Lesbians are being no-platformed out of our very existence, whether through the insidiousness of silencing or the oppressive demands of compulsory heterosexuality or through violence that at best leaves us shattered and at worst, dead. Lesbians deserve the same level of autonomy as any other group, be it minority or majority. If you aren’t supporting that autonomy, then you are inadvertently or directly a participant in the erasure that is perhaps slowly but very definitely steadily, wiping us off the face of the earth. (Brownworth, 2015)

Here’s What We Can Do

Join Listening2Lesbians in asking Facebook the hard questions.  On June 15th 2017,  Facebook said, “the decisions we make at Facebook affect the way people find out about the world and communicate with their loved ones” (Bickert & Fishman, 2017).  They also said, “we take seriously our responsibility — and accountability — for our impact and influence.  We want to broaden that conversation” (Schrage, 2017).

This sounds really good to me!  Dykes are awesome at conversation!

Send your dyke concerns, screencaps, stories, experiences and more to hardquestions@fb.com. Listening2Lesbians will also be sending a version of this piece.  Let’s try to find out what is going on and raise a stink.  Speaking out about the silencing of dykes needs to happen now, because we really don’t know what it’s going to look like for us once this storm passes.

UPDATE:
Here is what we wrote to Facebook Press and Hard Questions at Facebook (hardquestions@fb.com, press@fb.com): https://listening2lesbians.com/2017/06/27/listening-2-lesbians-asks-facebook-the-hard-questions-about-dyke-bans/.

They have not responded yet.

Thanks

We would like to thank all the dykes out there for coming together and helping us see what has been happening to us on Facebook these days.  We would also like to thank our bisexual and straight women allies who also threw themselves in front of the Facebook bus to test out this theory.  Their love of dykes got them the ban hammer too.  Looking back at the last couple of days, we actually created women’s space on the very ground of the oppressor.  We did that.   We can do it again.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Less than 3 days after posting this story I was banned again after posting this article with this commentary:

banned again postbanned again

HALL OF SHAME

Women who have had their posts removed or been banned for a pro-lesbian use of the word dyke:

 

  • On the same SF dyke march thread, another lesbian had this comment removed by Facebook for apparently breaching the Facebook Community Standards:
    No automatic alt text available.

 

  • This lesbian was had her post removed and was banned for 30 days for enjoying a dyke band at a farmer’s market.

 

  • This lesbian was banned three times for posting this picture – once in January 2017 for 24 hours, once in early March 2017 for 3 days and once in late march for 30 days.
    You say dyke like it's a bad thing.jpg
  • This was also removed in March 2017 but without a Facebook ban.

    Enter a caption

Other comments removed for breaching the standards:

  • Another post removed in the context of identity and US dyke marches
    Dykes are lesbian
  • A telling example is the woman, a lesbian ally, who posted “I love dykes!!!!” to test for us all if dyke really was a banned word. This post does nothing but support lesbians and still she had the post removed and she was banned from Facebook for 7 days.I love dykes!!! breaches standards_LI (2)Banned for I love dykes!!!!
  • This young lesbian posted this video of the lesbian avengers starting dyke marches with the comment “When dyke marches were still for dykes ❤ “.
    Her post was removed.
    She was banned.
  • An older dyke, well known in international lesbian circles, had a post inviting friends to go for a walk in nature (with dyke in the text) removed three times for breaching Facebook Community Standards. She was later banned.
  • Kate Hansen, also lesbian, was banned for 30 days after posting that lesbians were getting banned for using the word dyke.
  • Another woman posted, on a rainbow background, “I love dykes! Dykes for Dykes!” Her post was removed for breaching community standards and she was banned from Facebook for 24 hours.
  • The post of this tweet was removed on June 10, presumably for the comment about dyke action and visibility. The poster was banned for 24 hours, banned for another 24 after that and threatened with a permanent ban after 9 years on Facebook without any warnings. She submitted an appeal which Facebook did not respond to. Others reposted the original tweet without the comment and were not banned.
  •  Another woman posted about dykes on bikes, with hearts, and the post was removed. This ocurred in Pride Month.
  • Another woman had a photo of her and her partner, captioned dyke pride, removed, again still in Pride Month.

Other women have been banned by Facebook for using the word dyke but we haven’t been able to contact them due to their ban, which speaks to the power of banning and consequently isolating women.

Removal and ban photos and stories sent to us after this was posted:

  • This lesbian had her post removed and banned after sharing the video of the Lesbian Avengers starting dyke marches and was banned for 3 days. Facebook has not responded to her appeal.
  • This woman has had yet another dyke post removed (her 5th that we know about).
  • Yet more removal and blocking for self determination 
  • Dyke removal and block experimentation

    Post 3 remains up so far…
  • Max Dashu, legendary lesbian herstorian of the Suppressed Histories Archives, had her post removed and was banned for 7 days for using dyke in a post introduction. The article she posted was apparently this one: “Facebook “censoring feminism” with ban on mentioning women, say activists“. Women who shared her post have also been banned.
  • Some of these are plain ironic
    weird dyke ban
  • Not lesbians
  • A lesbian was banned for posting “The debutching of Alison Bechdel”
    What is dyke

If you have more screen caps of lesbians being banned or having posts removed for using the word dyke or pro-lesbian statements please:

References

Bickert, M., & Fishman, B. (2017, June 15). Hard Questions: How We Counter Terrorism. Retrieved from Facebook Newsroom: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/06/how-we-counter-terrorism/

Brownworth, V. (2015, March 5). ERASURE: THE NEW NORMAL FOR LESBIANS BY @VABVOX. Retrieved from A Room of Our Own: http://www.aroomofourown.org/erasure-the-new-normal-for-lesbians-by-vabvoc/2015

Facebook. (2017). What is the Facebook Network of Support (NOS) and what NOS resources are available for LGBTQ people? Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/202924156415780

Goel, V. (2015, March 16). Facebook Clarifies Rules on What It Bans and Why. Retrieved from The New York Times: https://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/bits/2015/03/16/facebook-explains-what-it-bans-and-why/?referer=

Green, C. (2015, February 13). What Happens When You ‘Report Abuse’? The Secretive Facebook Censors Who Decide What Is-and What Isn’t Abuse. Retrieved from Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/what-happens-when-you-report-abuse-the-secretive-facebook-censors-who-decide-what-is-and-what-isnt-10045437.html

Schrage, E. (2017, June 15). Hard Questions. Retrieved from Facebook Newsroom: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/06/hard-questions/

Shahani, A. (2016, November 17). From Hate Speech To Fake News: The Content Crisis Facing Mark Zuckerberg. Retrieved from NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/17/495827410/from-hate-speech-to-fake-news-the-content-crisis-facing-mark-zuckerberg

Sheftalovich, Z. (2016, May 11). Latvia, Lithuania and Poland worst countries to be gay in EU. Retrieved from Politico: http://www.politico.eu/article/latvia-lithuania-and-poland-worst-countries-to-be-gay-in-eu/

Sherr, I. (2016, September 9). How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ). Retrieved from CNET: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnet.com/google-amp/news/how-zuckerberg-facebook-censors-korryn-gaines-philando-castile-dallas-police-your-posts-faq/

Toor, A. (2016, September 22). Facebook is expanding its campaign to combat hate speech. Retrieved from The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/22/13013440/facebook-hate-speech-campaign-expansion

Toor, A. (2017, June 23). Facebook launches program to combat hate speech and terrorist propaganda in the UK. Retrieved from The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/23/15860868/facebook-hate-speech-terrorism-uk-online-civil-courage-initiative?yptr=yahoo

Banned Dykes

 

Chicago Dyke March tells lesbians to stay away if they don’t like dick

dyke-march-2017dyke-march-1

The homophobic “queer” community doesn’t think that lesbians belong at a Dyke March.

Continue reading at: https://purplesagefem.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/happy-pride/Purple Sage | Lesbian, feminist, gender abolitionist. (Source)