Elizabeth Hunter says she became suicidal after Bob Jones University administrators grilled the former student about her sexuality for tweeting “happy Pride” and writing a book with lesbian characters. She was fined, sent to anti-gay counseling and removed from her job at the campus TV station. Veronica Penales says she’s told officials at Baylor University, where she is a sophomore, that people leave anti-gay notes on her door, but they don’t investigate. Lucas Wilson said he graduated from Liberty University with “a profound sense of shame” after being encouraged to go to conversion therapy.
The three are among 33 current and past students at federally funded Christian colleges and universities cited in a federal lawsuit filed Monday against the U.S. Department of Education. The suit says the religious exemption the schools are given that allow them to have discriminatory policies is unconstitutional because they receive government funding. The class-action suit, filed by the nonprofit Religious Exemption Accountability Project, references 25 schools across the country.
Two former Birmingham students have defied death threats to make legal history by becoming the first Muslim lesbian couple to get married in a civil ceremony in the UK. Rehana Kausar, 34, and Sobia Kamar, 29, from Pakistan, tied the knot at a registration office in front of their solicitors and two Pakistani friends earlier this month.
A South African discrimination case has been settled with the owners apologising for the consequences of their refusing accommodation to a gay couple. It was acknowledged that the matter was small compared to the violent homophobia may LGBT South Africans face but that it was a part of the broader picture of addressing dehumanising treatment of lesbian, bisexual and gay South Africans.
Lesbian suicide is a neglected issue in India with a toxic combination of blatant lesbophobia in Bollywood and minimal representation, with reporting of lesbian suicides not including supporting information or openly reporting the facts of stories. A country of over 1.25 billion people, India seems to have only 5 organisations supporting lesbian and bisexual women, reflecting their lack of visibility.
Organisations representing lesbians in the tech field work to support women who are significantly less satisfied with their jobs on average and receive lower pays. This support includes mentor programs.
South African photographer Zanele Muholi sees the role of her exhibition to be to bear witness, saying “Looking at where we’re at right now in the struggle [against homophobic violence], there’s nothing to laugh at, there’s nothing to enjoy except when one is intimate with her lover. I ask my sitters to think about the situation, think about being black, being a lesbian, being a woman.”
Night Fliers is a film by Sara St. Martin Lynne which can be watched here. Sara St Martin Lynne says of the film: “My friends and I saw very few reflections of ourselves and our friendships and romantic interests in the media. Night Fliers is free because it should be seen by the young people for whom it was made, regardless of an ability to pay a rental fee. In 2015, 60% profits for this film will be donated to organizations and projects that directly impact and empower girls.”
Bullying remains a significant issue for LGBT youth with a CDC study finding that 12-28% of LGBT students had been threatened or injured at school in the previous year, and a 2011 study showing that 82% had reported problems with bullying overall. A recent study found that peers were most likely to intervene in homophobic bullying based on “the values of altruism, leadership, courage, having LGBT friends, and beliefs in justice.”
A new book Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women explores the forgotten victims of Ravensbrook which notably included lesbians in the Nazi concentration camp built specifically for women.
An Iranian Ayatollah has blamed homosexuality on bizarre causes including a man thinking of a woman other than his wife when she conceives and women not wearing the hijab correctly. Iran remains a dangerous country in which to be lesbian, with four counts of sex between women being punishable by death.
Mary Kristene Chapa and Mollie Olgin (Image source: Curve Magazine)
In an example of an appalling hate crime in 2012, two two young lesbians went on a date but were viciously attacked. Mollie Olgin was killed and Mary Kristene Chapa was left for dead.
Their attacker was arrested in 2014 but was not charged with a hate crime, despite sufficient evidence to justify it.
Despite the horror of the crime, Mary Kristene Chapa’s medical fund has only raised $12,882, compared to the over $800,000 raised for Memories Pizza, the pizzeria that declined to cater same sex weddings.
Horrific anti lesbian crime occur routinely and they are not reported. When they are, this is the level of interest they garner.
There seemed to be surprisingly few violent crimes reported against lesbians this week. Given what we know about crime against women and specifically lesbians, it seems unlikely that the crimes have ceased, and more likely that the crimes are either not reported or the reports are not making it to the mass media. How do we change this and how do we access accurate information about violent crimes against lesbians?
The Obama administration has called for an end to conversion therapy for lesbian, gay and transgender children. Conversion therapy for lesbians and gay men has a dark history from elimination of “inversion” to ongoing Christian conversion practices. These practices were and are about enforcing gender conformity and discouraging gender non conformity through the linking of sex and required behaviours and attributes (sex stereotypes), and are primarily aimed at eliminating homosexuality. A concern about any concrete bans on all forms of therapy is that it could inadvertently ban the kind of counselling that children diagnosed as transgender may need given that 75-80% of transgender children go on to be not transgender as adults but predominantly lesbian and gay. These children, in particular, need access to supports that validate gender non conformity and homosexuality in the absence of any broad media representation or social acceptance.
A Colombian lesbian adoption court case highlights the mixed picture for lesbians in Latin America. What is curious is how many of these articles reference same sex marriage as if that is a panacea to the structural oppression, social exclusion and sanctioned abuse and violence lesbians face around the world.
Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, Canada and first lesbian Premier, says being lesbian makes her feel more responsible: “It is part of who I am and it is important for me to be clear that I have a responsibility because of who I am . . . to make our society safer and more inclusive”.
Two organisations, NCLR and the National LGBTQ Task Force have removed their names from the Equality Michigan petition calling on the Michfest to include transwomen, without having changed their opinion on inclusion. To a non-American the choice of a single (less than) week-long woman’s music event as the symbol of well being for transwoman seems odd in the context of employment discrimination and abuse.
Mad, bad or dead: why do we have the Psycho Killer Lesbian plot back again? “The pathology linked to the lesbian is actually a displacement of the feared pathology of patriarchal culture… The very challenge to order contained in representations of lesbians is restrained by depictions that, in their evocations of nonsense or pathology, disenfranchise the out-of-the-law as the outlaw. This is why lesbians are often figured as murderers and vice-versa. The murderous lesbian characters in Paul Verhoeven’s BASIC INSTINCT (1992), as well as the association of lesbians with vampires…highlight fears that lesbians threaten the death of patriarchy.” Are male supremacy insecurities at the heart of this familiar trope mixing fear and fetish?
Love it or hate it – do we need another (better) L word? Are we better served by individual characters in mainstream television or entire shows about us? Perhaps we need both, and to ensure that they are more broadly representative of our diversity than the narrow range of representation we have seen before? Do we know what good representation looks like?
On a really trivial front, LGBT emoji have come to iOS but what do they look like? We have identical blondes in pink dresses and women in bunny ears doing synchronised dancing…
After a public outcry, Louisiana Teen Claudetteia Love has been told she may wear a tuxedo to her school prom. Originally the student had been advised that she was not allowed to wear a tuxedo to the prom as part of gendered dress codes that require girls to wear dresses.
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.
According to Sizwe, a Western Cape woman’s charity, at least 10 lesbians are raped or gang raped in Cape Town alone. The escalating violence against lesbians reflects deep seated beliefs in male supremacy, as well as endemic rates of poverty and unemployment. The South African government has offered words but no action, in response to these brutal crimes.
The Council of Indonesian Ulema, Indonesia’s primary Muslin Clerical body, recently released a fatwa condemning homosexuals, with LGBTI bodies responding calmly. While homosexuality is not criminal in Indonesia, it is listed as a sexual deviance under the anti-pornography law and is punished under Sharia Law in Aceh. The Fatwa is not enforceable by law but will fuel homophobia and perhaps anti-gay violence.
In what is known as “cooperative marriage”, Chinese lesbians and gay men are marrying and having children together. The formally organised arrangements allow them to comply with social pressures and maintain their lesbian and gay relationships.
Beyond Blue finds worrying rates of homophobia in teenage boys in Australia: “The study found 40 per cent of teenage boys felt “anxious or uncomfortable” around same-sex attracted people, more than a third wouldn’t be happy to have a gay person in their social group, and a quarter felt it was okay to use the term “gay” as a derogatory term.”
Student writes to men explaining why it is wrong to pursue lesbians… Women’s sexual boundaries are still not being respected, and women’s sexuality is still seen as of lesser importance than male sexual entitlement. That young women are still restating this speaks volumes about the magnitude of the fight still to come before women are free, safe and equal.
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.
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.
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?
Openly lesbian athletes speak out and hope to challenge the culture of silence that remains in (some? most?) sporting culture. It’s wonderful that women are speaking out, but we will also need male attitudes to change, both in sports administration and at a broader community level.
A portrait of two Russian women, Lyudmila and Natasha, morphs from a simple photographic project to a more profound look at a lesbian couple in a country where their lives become more precarious as the legal situation worsens with the introduction of article 6.21, the “anti-gay propaganda” law.
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 .