By Liz Waterhouse
As 2018 draws to a close, we look back on lesbian news through the year. The articles located, written and shared were assessed by location, issue and perpetrator or source of the issue. Community responses to articles were also reviewed.
In 2018 Listening2Lesbians found and shared 152 stories from 35 countries of the world, with 146 of these articles country specific.
The USA was the greatest source of stories with 65 pieces, as many as the next 18 countries combined.
The USA and United Kingdom were reported on 76 times, exactly half of the total articles for the year. This stark overrepresentation of the USA and the UK reflects various factors including a cultural dominance which is mirrored in media resourcing and output as well as our current reliance on English language media.
In the context of existing analyses of global lesbian experiences, the stories we were able to source this year do not adequately represent the reality of lesbian lives around the world.
There remain overwhelming gaps in representation, with 135 countries or territories never having been reported on by Listening2Lesbians. In 47 of these 135 unreported countries, homosexuality is strictly or defacto illegal and it is implausible that discrimination, harassment and persecution of lesbians do not exist in these countries.
The underreporting of lesbian experiences in these countries is almost certainly exacerbated by the (LGBTI and mainstream) media focus on other groups within the LGBTI community. It has been a source of frustration in 2018 how often lesbians are not included in reports on legal changes, persecution and their effects even when it is evident that they will be affected, and that their experiences will be further exacerbated by cultural expectations of and pressures on women and the punishment levied against women who do not meet these cultural norms/sex roles.
Listening2Lesbians will continue working to discover, document and share the experiences of lesbians in these countries as part of our commitment to global lesbian wellbeing.
Discrimination and harassment were the dominant issue reported in 2018, representing 47% of the global stories reported in the English media.
Physical and sexual violence against lesbians, including murder, represented 30% of reported stories with persecution a further 16%, often including stories of lesbians seeking asylum to escape it.
This breakdown is not globally representative with the USA breakdown between discrimination and harassment and persecution significantly different to that in the rest of the world. Discrimination and harassment in the US represent 61% of the stories with persecution representing just 5%.
For the rest of the world, minus the USA, discrimination and harassment represent just 36% of the stories in 2018 with persecution representing 24%.
Physical or sexual violence, including murder, was reported at similar rates of approximately 30% of the stories.
It seems likely that there would be further variation across the regions of the world but there is not yet enough data held by Listening2Lesbians to assess it in greater detail.
After looking at what happens to lesbians, and where, the next question is who – who is manifesting this hostility and opposition to lesbians, what is the source of the abuse.
Stories reported in 2018 were coded for source and while some of the assessments are subjective, the intent was to provide insight into the nature of the opposition to lesbians.
Global data was considered first, with governments the global primary source of hostility and opposition to lesbians (28% of the reports). Individuals and strangers were not far behind at 23% of the reports.
The USA vs global minus USA data was also assessed, with the results reflecting a similar variation as noted in the reported issue breakdown.
Mirroring the discrimination-harassment vs persecution focus of the issues reported charts, the source charts show a marked difference between the USA and other countries. It is possible that this variation would be greater with more comprehensive data for countries with potentially greater overlap with the USA (such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand).
The USA hostility source data shows relatively low levels of reported family and friend hostility, with strangers and individuals the dominant hostility source. Government is an additional notable hostility source, with discrimination the primary issue.
For countries other than the USA, Government remains the primary hostility source at 34% of stories, with persecution the dominant issue. Individuals and strangers remain a significant hostility source in non-USA countries with elevated rates of community and family- and friends-based hostility. The hostility resulting from family and friends and individuals and strangers for non-USA reports is predominantly physical violence, including murder. Persecution is notable in the community-based hostility for non-USA reports.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The data on both the source of hostility and nature of the hostility demonstrates a difference across the global lesbian experience, with a focus on discrimination in the USA, and a significantly elevated rate of government persecution and interpersonal hostility in other countries.
Additional data in future years will allow for enhanced analysis of these variations.
While there remains social and legal hostility in a variety of countries, the situation of lesbians in countries with profound violent social opposition and government persecution is evidently of a different nature to that of lesbians facing harassment and discrimination, with civil remedies available to them and a state which will not punish them on reporting a crime.
Civil remedies and greater community acceptance do not appear to have resolved the issue of interpersonal violence which remains consistent at approximately 30% of reports across the board. An assessment of the magnitude or severity of the interpersonal violence cannot be made with the current data.
RESPONSE TO THE NEWS
In 2018, the Listening2Lesbians story with the most individual views was California: Court update on alleged murder of lesbian couple and adult child.
The most shared blog post (from WordPress) was U.S: Man Breaks Woman’s Spine in Anti-Lesbian Hate Crime.
The Facebook post with the greatest engagement was the personally devastating announcement of my partner and Listening2Lesbians powerhouse Lisa Mallet’s death: Listening2Lesbians Mourns loss of Lisa Mallett.
The pattern of engagement with Listening2Lesbians stories shows that violent individual attacks garner the most attention, particularly where those attacks occur in the first world. It was notable that, as in previous years, some significant stories of personal trauma and persecution did not appear to capture the imagination of Listening2Lesbians readership, mirroring a phenomenon well established in the mainstream media.
Crimes and hostility against lesbians seem under reported relative to the mainstream and LGBTI populations in both media sectors which is broadly in line with previously identified trends. The stories which were reported predominantly focus on crimes against lesbians in the English speaking first world countries. Additional stories were located through thorough reviews of English-speaking local media around the world.
In addition to sex, race and class remain significant factors in what is reported (and how), and also appear to influence the community response to those reports. Social and legal structures which prevent lesbians from reporting crimes and hostility against them exacerbate these tendencies, with language barriers inhibiting a deeper investigation of the experiences of lesbians as reported in the non-English media landscape.
As with reporting on crimes against women more generally, there remains little interest in reporting and responding to institutional, family or communal violence or persecution, which appears to be the dominant global lesbian experience as reported in 2018 once the USA data is excluded.
Listening2lesbians remains committed to broadening the information reported on the global lesbian experience, with our focus remaining on seeking to highlight the experiences of profoundly marginalised lesbian communities around the world.
Posts from 2018: