‘No More Lesbophobia’ was the global focus issue for the (then) ‘International Day Against Homophobia’ in 2006. Since then, fighting violence and discrimination against lesbian and bisexual women has continued to be a popular issue for many people and groups to organise around for May 17. On this page you will find arguments for action around this issue as well as some links to further resources.
Arguments for Action
Lesbophobia comes in many forms. It comes in the form of prejudiced remarks about lesbians being ugly, lacking style, or being too manly. It comes in the form of co-workers and friends using the word “lesbian” as if it were an insult. It comes from the sleazy eye you get from men who use lesbianism as an ornament in their fantasies. It comes from peers at school, where “gay” remains young people’s first choice of insult…
A lot has changed in the last decade, and society is arguably more open to positive images of lesbian and bisexual women than before. Or is it?
Lesbophobia is homophobia with a side-order of sexism. It’s homophobia directed particularly at lesbians. It’s the belief that women should look and behave in specific ways – keep rules that lesbians break simply by being. It can be casual or it can be violent. It happens in schools, workplaces, pubs and shops – on the street and in our own homes.
Are all women heterosexual?
Well, certainly not. But in a world where you are presumed to have a certain (straight) identity unless you express who you really are, lesbian and bisexual women are often written out of discussion before they even open their mouths! Even when lesbian and bisexual women do express their sexual identities publicly, how often do we hear, ‘which one is the man?’ – a question which erases the fact that hetero norms might not, actually, shape our relationships with each other! Another way of erasing the reality of our relationships…
“Asking who’s ‘the man’ and who’s ‘the woman’ in a same sex relationship is like asking which chopstick is the fork.”
– Ellen Degeneres
Bottom line is, the world’s women – in every corner of the world – are so often stripped off their right to express not only their identities, but also how they feel, their dreams and wishes, pain and everyday struggles. And Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans women also suffer particular oppression in regard to this, as homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and lesbophobia affect their lives too.
This brings us to the position of the global women’s movement, and its being clear on one question: “Where are all the lesbians?” At the same time as the global women’s movement is gaining power, hate crimes and hate speech, rape, discrimination and sexual assaults, violence at home and on the streets, and under-representation in the economy, in politics and society, also continue to impact on women’s lives. But where do we keep the existence of lesbians in our minds when we strive to pull together all this information? Where are lesbians in rape cases? Where are lesbians in domestic violence programmes? Where are lesbians in questions of forced marriages? Where are lesbians when we address bullying and street violence?
The invisibility of violence and discrimination that lesbians face poses a great threat to the enrichment to feminist power, and to the advance of women’s movements!
Where are women in the big bubble of queer movements?
A few decades ago gays and lesbians were fully invisible in the media, and in social and political platforms. With the lesbian and gay liberation movement came a new sense of queer community and empowerment, and the arrival of gay people onto various stages in life. Even though the public conversation is turning toward a greater recognition of diversity, the “visibility” of gay men and women fails to do justice to expressing the complexity of their experience. Lesbians continue to have significantly lower representation in so many areas of social life.
While positive representations of gays and lesbians are growing more and more, the complexity of experiences and struggles that queer women have within the global gay bubble is still under-represented. A broad gay identity on the one hand all too often grabs the larger share of visibility in today’s world, while sweeping off some of the challenges and differences under a rug.
Celebrating male sexuality – twin invisibility of women?
It is obvious in our daily lives that male sexuality is considered to be the most important kind of any sexuality out there. All over the world, societies are simply more eager and happy to celebrate men and maleness. But guess what! Lesbians too are serious about their sexuality and they are awesome with the way they look and make love!
Always celebrating men and male sexualities contributes a lot to widespread sexism, and add up to the challenges lesbians face when coming out to themselves and to the people they care about. Our goal is to challenge the backbone of many problems: How can we get lesbians wanting to talk about their sexuality, desires, wishes, dreams, passion and anger, and to fight and strive for a world they wish to live in, with fulfillment of all rights and freedoms?
Fighting against feeding straight men’s mind with lesbian erotica!
Our bodies are ours. So are our loves, passions, joys, eroticism and desires! It is time to celebrate our identities by claiming them!
Throughout much of history, lesbianism was considered taboo, in many cultures. Perhaps recently it has increasingly become a topic with ups and downs. There is still a huge lack of representation of lesbians in literature, movies, and the visual arts. When lesbianism is indeed included in these forms, it mostly does not manage to get beyond spicing up the main messages, feeding stereotypes, and is often simply about feeding the straight minds of men, and geared towards a male audience!
May 17 is one of many opportunities to claim our right to our own bodies and desires and express that they are unconditionally ours.
A panel, workshop, reading session, or movie screening could be possible tools to bring attention to the lesbian community and particular challenges that lesbians face.
There are various ideas for community protests and activities on our Ideas for Action pages, which could make for a great way to say No More Lesbophobia!
- Everyday Lesbophobia campaign – Set up by London-based Diva Magazine, in 2013
- Feminispire: Everyday Lesbophobia: “Because You Just Haven’t Met the Right Man Yet”
- Gay Star News: 30 of the Most Bizarre Questions Lesbians are Asked
- Human Rights Watch: “We’ll Show You You’re a Woman” Violence and Discrimination against Black Lesbians and Transgender Men in South Arfica (pdf download)
- Russian LGBT Network: Discrimination and Violence Against Lesbian and Bisexual Women and Transgender People in Russia (pdf download)
Links to groups taking action around the world