“Improved visibility should be about queer voices being heard. Period”
BY EMMA FLINT, IMAGE BY ZACKARY DRUCKER FOR BROADLY’S GENDER SPECTRUM COLLECTION
Ever since Lesbian Visibility Day was introduced in 2008, 26 April has become synonymously viewed as a time of lesbian celebration. A celebration that’s become a weeklong affair since DIVA’s Linda Riley started Lesbian Visibility Week in 2020. However, this event is more than a show of pride. It’s also a time for challenging intolerance and asking for more support of those within our community.
Despite increased acceptance over the years, we still have many obstacles to overcome, some of which come from within. As a community, we still need to better come together in the name of inclusivity. This is why I think Lesbian Visibility Week goes beyond the traditional, binary definition of lesbianism. It’s inclusive of different genders and sexualities, such as non-binary, genderqueer, asexuality, pansexuality, bisexuality, abrosexuality, and many others.
When I think about what LVW stands for, I see it as a time for all women and marginalised genders within our community. Yes, we need to raise up the voices of the lesbians in our lives, whether we know them personally or not, but that act of solidarity also extends further. This very message is plastered across the LVW website, in which it proudly states, “Lesbian Visibility Week aims to show our solidarity with all LGBTQI woman and non-binary people in the community, as well as celebrate lesbians.”
An all too common misconception is that specific national events, like LVW, can only focus on what the masses understand. But what these events stand for goes beyond the rigidity of definitions which were coined decades ago, definitions which many of us now understand with a lens of fluidity rather than static knowledge. If we begin to embrace LVW in this way, it then becomes about providing a safe space in which marginalised genders within the community can be heard.
When I think of lesbianism, I think of the common understanding of this identity – women who like women. And yes, many who identify as lesbian are women. But there’s also those who are non-binary/gender non-conforming who are lesbians too. This belief that lesbianism can only mean one thing risks alienating others within the community; people who can relate to the lesbian experience. I think that once our understanding moves beyond the binary, lesbianism becomes a more fluid expression of our sexuality and identity.
To some, the idea that more sexualities be included in LVW feels like erasure. To me, that’s an oversimplification that creates an “us vs. them” mentality. I understand why people fear erasure so deeply – we’ve spent decades fighting for acknowledgement and validation. After so much fighting for small steps of progress, the worry is that we’ll lose what little visibility we’ve gained. But if visibility can only come from denying others their place within our community, during events such as this, then we have to ask ourselves if that’s the right kind of visibility we want.
We’re all marginalised voices in some sense. That’s one of the ways in which we’re marked as queer; it isn’t just about sexuality and identity. It’s about being viewed as different when compared to “societal norms”, a belief system that means some of us are more marginalised than others. The fact that we’re all experiencing similar difficulties means there’s no need to deem one sexuality as attempting to erase or harm another. None of us should want to harm one another because we have enough harm from external sources. Consequently, improved visibility should be about queer voices being heard. Period.
Then, of course, you have the fact that those who identify as bi, pan, abro, etc., have an attraction to other women/people who were assigned female at birth (AFAB), meaning that there’s a crossover and interconnectivity of these sexualities. This isn’t to say that if you’re bisexual and date a woman you’re now a lesbian, but rather that you share that experience of loving someone other than a man.
If you break lesbianism down to its core, essentially about non-men liking other non-men, a sentiment which queer influencer, Zoe Stoller, recently highlighted on her feed. Naturally, those who don’t identify as lesbian may date, marry, and have sex with men, but they’re still part of the same queer bubble that unites us. This is why some non-binary folks celebrate International Women’s Day even though they no longer identify as women. There’s a solidarity, a connection, that unites us. If you feel part of lesbianism in some way, then you are. Equally however, if you don’t then that’s valid too; there’s no right way to identify and be involved.
The LGBTQIA+ community is a space that’s free from either/or. We’re a rainbow of different experiences, so why should we take that rich tapestry of diversity and shrink it down to suit a limited understanding of terminology? We can’t, nor should we.
This is why LVW is an inclusive experience for me. It’s a week of honouring all the wonderful non-men loving other non-men across the globe. Far too often we can feel isolated, even within the queer community; we can be divided in our bid to be heard. LVW helps to change that by championing all LGBTQIA+ women and marginalised genders, regardless of who they love.
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