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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

Lesbian Visibility Day: Put some respect on the ‘L’ in LGBTQIA+!

#LesbianVisibilityDay 🏳️‍🌈This Lesbian Visibility Day, we want all our lesbian friends out there to know that we see you and love you!

❤️‍🔥The definition of 'lesbian' is widely used to define a woman who is sexually and/or romantically attracted only to other women. We also want to expand on the widely used definition and highlight that lesbians can simultaneously identify as nonbinary and/or trans! As intersectional feminists, we reject TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) ideology; all lesbians, of all gender identities are valid. Lesbians are essential to the LGBTQIA+ community, and our global community as a whole. 

👩‍❤️‍💋‍👩Lesbians experience the intersectional struggles associated with both gender and sexuality marginalisation. This is an important thing to highlight, to show how the LGBTQIA+ community is not a monolith. 

  • Though lesbians can likely relate heavily to the experiences of other members of the LGBTQIA+ community, such as gay cis men, lesbians likely also deal with a lot of issues that gay cis men cannot relate to, and so on. Some examples of violence and issues experienced by many lesbians include…

  • …being forced into marriages with men so that they conform to normative society.

  • …being fetishised because of their identities, often by men who identify as cis and straight. This is reflected in violent, dehumanising media catered to the ‘male gaze,’ such as pornography and television shows.

  • …being repressed their entire lives and having to suffer in silence, especially if they are also of other marginalised identities (e.g. racially marginalised, neurodistinct, of lower socioeconomic class). Since being able to love freely is considered by many to not be a basic necessity for life, lesbians of intersecting marginalised identities often feel the need to put aside their lesbian identities to focus on overcoming other boundaries to their lives. Compounded by the expectation in many societies for women and nonbinary people to be ‘of service’ to others, many lesbians are forced to remain closeted and/or repressed for the majority, or even entirety, of their lives.

  • …heightened risk of being sexually abused and having their boundaries crossed.

  • …sent to ‘conversion camps’ to psychologically abuse them, causing them to fear their identity.

  • …internal/external pressures to ‘perform heterosexuality.’

  • …being constantly invalidated for their lesbian identity, with normative forces trying to convince them that they don’t know themselves.

📍Human Dignity Trust reports that 64 nations criminalise private, consensual, 'same-sex' sexual activity. In 40 of these nations, specifically anti-lesbian language is used. It is particularly notable that a significant proportion of these countries are 'Commonwealth' nations, and that all of these nations are considered ‘Global South’ nations, all with some legacy of being colonised by Western powers (e.g. various nations in Africa). This is no coincidence! The oppression of queer people, as many other injustices of this world are, are upheld and aggravated by #Colonial and #Capitalist bigotry. 

A common misconception, rooted in a lack of historical understanding, is acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community as a ‘Western’ or ‘Global North’ custom. This is simply not true. Perpetuating this myth is incredibly harmful, not only to the queer people of these nations, but also for the Global South as a whole. Queer people - including lesbians - have existed everywhere since the beginning of time. We would recommend, as part of decolonising our collective minds, taking the time to do research into the connection between homophobia and colonialism, and how societies were before European colonialism took over (e.g. in African Indigenous communities such as those of the Igbo, Yoruba, and Imbangala). Pre-colonial lesbian history of ‘Global South’ communities, in particular, is very rich with stories of lesbian matriarchies playing core roles in leading communities, and living in equity among other members of their societies.

It is clearly noticeable in so many of the pre-colonial histories of ‘Global South’ nations that there is a correlation between the adoption of rigid gender/sexuality norms and the rise of European colonialism.

🌫️Why is lesbian VISIBILITY so important, and how does this help fight lesbophobic and homophobic/queerphobic oppression? Lesbians are actively erased by society in so many ways, whether it be through invalidation (e.g. through macro- and micro-aggressive sentiments against lesbians such as “you’re not really a lesbian,” “this is just a phase,” or “you just haven’t found the right man yet”), the perpetuation of lesbophobic social norms by oppressive legislation, governing bodies, media, and education (e.g. censoring lesbian stories in the media), as well as external/internal pressures that make lesbians fear expressing their true selves.

It makes sense why some lesbians might want to keep a low profile; being ‘out’ and/or ‘visible’ in such a homophobic society is not a privilege afforded by all. Nevertheless, we dream of a world where all lesbians and other queer people can be out and proud, loving whoever they want, expressing themselves however they want, without having to hide. In order for us to achieve this world, we MUST show all lesbians that we see them and love them for who they are, and want to see them happy.

How can we support the lesbian community and support #LesbianVisibility?

  • Validate the lesbians in your life. Respect their self-identification. Avoid suggesting or insinuating that they change who they are - because they cannot, and they will not!

  • If you do not identify as a lesbian or member of the LGBTQIA+ community, continue to educate yourself about their experiences by listening to lesbian activists, engaging with lesbian-made media and artforms, and challenging your internalised homophobia, lesbophobia, and misogyny. 

  • Speak up and defend lesbians when they experience erasure or other forms of violence at the hands of bigots.

  • Set a good example for the next generation (e.g. your children, younger relatives, friends) and your broader community - be the change you want to see! By creating a safe space for people, especially young people, to explore their identities, we are collectively making the future a safer, more inclusive place for queer people to flourish in the way they deserve to.

✊ Manushya stands in solidarity with the lesbian community, as well as the rest of the LGBTQIA+ community. To our lesbian friends of the world, we see you and love you. Whether you realised your lesbian identity a long time ago or have recently come to terms with it, whether you are in a loving and affirming lesbian relationship or dream of one, and whether or not you are ‘out’ to your community, we send you our endless love and strength. Your identity is valid and you deserve to love who you want and be who you want, regardless of what others think!

Thank you @zorageraldus for the beautiful artwork 🎨

#WeAreManushyan ♾ Equal Human Beings

👉 While you’re here, have a look at our previous work supporting social justice and equal rights:



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