Lesbian Visibility? Why? | Lesbian Visibility Week 2022
“Lesbian visibility? Why??” I was once asked, before I was then given an unsolicited crash course on etymology, in an attempt to persuade me that homosexuality represents same sex-attraction and that lesbian visibility or awareness was pointless. If these people are to be believed, then answer me this: why were two women attacked on a London bus for not kissing each other, whilst a man was attacked for kissing his boyfriend? Exactly.
On the surface, Lesbian Visibility Week is another LGBTQ+ calendar event but it’s the only national event that specifically targets and celebrates LBTQ+ women. It’s a much-needed week. You only have to look at things such as violence against women, the gender pay gap or opportunities within the workplace to see that things are stacked against women, even in such a modern age. Then there are things such as race, disability, financial background or sexuality on top of that, creating a situation where women are having to fight to be seen and heard. Lesbian visibility is a chance to not only see and hear queer women, but to actively commit to doing something about the inequalities.
As a trans woman, I used to feel like I wasn’t allowed to participate in Lesbian Visibility Week. I heard people talk of being gold star lesbians and cringed as I realised it served no purpose other than to create hierarchy. Like with being trans, not everyone knows straight away or from a young age. Some people don’t realise till much later in life. And that’s ok. We live in a world where we’re conditioned to follow unwritten rules, regardless of how right or wrong those rules are…regardless of how outdated they are. We’re bound to have internalised homophobia and/or transphobia that distorts how we see ourselves in this world.
I also felt that my transness meant I wasn’t allowed to take up another letter of the LGBTQ+ community. Just one letter? That’s such a binary view. If there’s anything my transition has taught me, it’s that life is not always binary. It’s intersectional. Our identities are made up of different parts, which come together and overlap like a fluid Venn diagram. Why fluid? Because not all the circles are the same size. The overlapping parts can change as we move through life, depending on what life throws at us at any given time. Intersectionality plays an important part in our fight for social justice too. After all, fundamental issues are intersectional.
If we were to simply define a person based on same-sex attraction, then we quickly run into a major problem – as highlighted by my question at the start. Men and women have very similar and very different struggles. These struggles must be acknowledged and respected. Sadly, the truth is that the struggles of queer women aren’t as acknowledged as they should be. We hear more about hate crime against gays than we do of lesbians. In fact, I sit on the Crown Prosecution Service’s hate crime panel and even then, it’s grouped as homophobia when lesbophobia should be acknowledged. Hate is hate, yes…but we must ask ourselves where the motive for that hate lies. In our bid to create equality, we must also create equity – and that undoubtedly starts with creating space and discussion for the under-represented. So yes, Lesbian Visibility Week is more than just another calendar event.
Like lesbians, trans women are sexualised and fetishized. We’re seen in a certain light that holds us back against a backdrop of masculinity and dominance. Sadly, the dominance isn’t exclusively from men. When the BBC published an article claiming trans women were pressuring lesbians into having sex (at a time when there was already a lot of animosity against trans people in the media, I might add) I realised that there’s still so much work to do, both inside and outside of the wider LGBTQ+ community. Not only do we have to prove our womanity to the general population, we’re also having to prove it to some who have no right to gate-keep because they should know better because our struggles are the same. Fortunately, those that try to exclude us are a minority but it goes to show why we need visibility and awareness to help normalise the fact that lesbians can be trans too. Trans women are women, and therefore trans women can be lesbians too. It’s that simple.
With so much focus on our gender identity, our sexuality is overlooked. The media focuses on the elements it can weaponise whilst those that disapprove of our trans existence try to reduce us to genitals or a label we were assigned at birth. Let’s be clear, Lesbian Visibility Week is for all women, and it needs to be whilst we still exist in male-dominated world.
This article was written by Eva Echo (She/They).
Eva is an activist, writer and public speaker with a focus on transgender rights and mental health. She uses her own experiences to shed light on what it is to be transgender and to challenge the obstacles which gender diverse people face within today’s society. She is a brand ambassador for the London Transgender Clinic, part of Gendered Intelligence’s GIANTS
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