By Iman Ali Mounged
Lesbian Visibility Week (26th April – 2nd May), along with Lesbian Visibility Day on the 26th of April, works to celebrate lesbians and queer womxn in all facets of the LGBTQ+ community. It celebrates their advocacy, artistry and activism through the years and into today.
“Our aim is BOTH TO celebrate lesbians and show solidarity with all LGBTQI women and non binary people in our community. We believe in unity, and lifting up those who are most marginalised”.
Lesbian Visibility Week campaign
Visibility days are useful in all contexts and must recognise all “invisible” identities and/or minorities of society. Even if a workplace or an organisation recognises lesbians for only one day in the year, it is one day more than it once was and it is one day of honouring and supporting the community. It’s a beautiful initiative to have on a worldwide, global scale that is universal enough to be adapted across different functions of society and policy arrangements.
But we need to consider what it means when we talk about lesbians. We mean all womxn loving womxn. We mean black lesbians, Asian lesbians, trans and non-binary lesbians… Despite the efforts of global initiatives to support diverse identities, there are often those whose voices remain unheard. Visibility days are a way to amplify those voices and recognise their struggles to better fight for their welfare and their rights.
Let’s talk about labels. Sure it works for some people, but it doesn’t have to be the case for all. Labels are best suited if they resonate, not if you need to fit a mould that’s created on your behalf. Coming out is extremely difficult and is not a singular moment of “figuring it out”. It is a struggle and a journey that should be cherished and supported by those around you.
Identities are not one-size-fits-all. People of the queer community, in particular, yearn for a sense of belonging that’s explicated through labels of identification, whether that’s with regards to gender identity, your sexuality or your relationships. But there is no prerequisite to belong or to identify.
You can be a womxn loving womxn and not resonate with the term “lesbian”.
You can be more feminine-presenting one day and more-masculine presenting the next. You can be both and neither at the same time.
You can be androgynous.
Your appearance can fluctuate in your expression.
Identities are fluid and they are best expressed when your true, authentic self is represented.
- Queer womxn are twice as likely to hide their identity in workplaces as opposed to their mxle counterparts.
- 31% of lesbians don’t feel welcome at Pride events.
- 3 in 4 queer womxn and non-binary people in the UK suffer from mental health issues, even more so during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Over half of those surveyed had subsequently accessed mental health services, while about 12% tried but were unsuccessful in accessing help.
- In 2018, 12% of queer BAME people have lost their jobs because of their sexuality and identity.
- Queer people of ethnic and religious minorities are susceptible to so much more violence, aggression and intolerance in society.
Honouring the community
Philosopher Angela Davis, modern-day nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, civil rights leader Barbara Jordan, jazz artist Billie Holiday, writer Virginia Woolf and British LGBTQ+ rights campaigner Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah are among some of the greatest names of queer womxn in history. They are some of the brilliant and brave characters who have shaped the way for LGBTQ+ people.
This is one of the ways in which we honour them and carry their legacy into the future to ensure that quality of life and social recognition of queer identities can continue to flourish in modern society. We can continue to do so by supporting local, femxle/queer-owned businesses. We can also donate to charities that work for the welfare of marginalised members of society. We can even just do our part by watching documentaries on queer history and feminism and learning more about our culture and history.
Whatever way you choose to advocate for the equality of marginalised identities, you are already taking part in a beautiful movement of progress and advocacy. The movement for LGBTQ+ equality has made great strides over the years, but the battle is not over yet. We must continue to educate, advocate and celebrate our identities to honour those before us, those with us and those who will come after us.
Remember, feminism is intersectional. One is not a true feminist unless they consider all intersections of feminist identities and advocate for the welfare of all who identify.
On that note, this week is packed full of educational and insightful panel discussions about being a queer womxn in media, the representation of queer identities in art and queer womxn in politics.
Here are some places where you can access these events:
Happy Lesbian Visibility Week!