by Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy, UoR Diversity and Inclusion Advisors
This year Lesbian Visibility Week runs from Monday 26 April – Sunday 2 May. The aim of this week, according to the organisers 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.”
Lesbians are a marginalised community within the marginalised community that is LGBTQ+. Lesbian visibility week is important because lesbians have been erased, ignored, and misunderstood, so many times throughout history. When homosexuality was illegal, lesbians were not criminalised which could be considered as leniency, though it would be naïve not to consider that this might have been erasure or incomprehension of lawmakers at the time.
Fast forward to present day, and lesbian representation in mainstream media and entertainment still has a long way to go. Too often, characters are at best engaged in the likes of a coming of age drama or straight-woman-turned-lesbian tragedy, and at worst fetishized for the male gaze.
Even representation falters when interpretation can lead to erasure.
Consider the incident of famous actor and lesbian, Samira Wiley, whose wedding photo went viral after a fan requested pictures of her and her wife’s ‘husbands. Assumptions of ‘bffs’, ‘galpal’ relationships, ‘special friendships’ and various other euphemistic language serves only to minimise, erase and extinguish the validity, nuance, and depth of lesbian relationships.
Like many marginalised groups right now, the community is also challenged by a period in time where opinions within it are polarised. Lesbians are being pressured to take opposing sides and energy is being drawn away from unity against the oppression, to in–fighting amongst the community. While the subjects dividing opinion are no doubt important, one has to question whether the division of a marginalised group is helpful for any of it’s members, and who this division ultimately benefits. The message of this year’s lesbian visibility week is one of unity and carries a loud and clear call for solidarity among all LGBTQ+ women and non binary people in the community.
Below you can find some inspirational LGBTQ+ women, media outlets and organisations who are keeping lesbians visible every day of the year and represent the multifaceted lesbian experience.
First published in 1994, the world’s best-selling magazine for LGBTQI women, DIVA magazine who are sponsors of Lesbian Visibility Week, produce content which does not fit within the narrow lines often prescribed to the lesbian experience.
Tanya Compass, an award-winning youth worker, community organiser and founder of Queer Black Christmas. After working in the charity sector for 6 years delivering programming and supporting vulnerable young people, Tanya realised that there was no better time than now to finally set up Exist Loudly, an official organisation and create programming for Queer Black Young People in London.
Hannah Gadsby, comedian, writer and actress shares her experiences both as a lesbian and as a neurodiverse person. Her beautifully honest stand up is both heart-breaking and hilarious. Watch Nanette on Netflix (have tissues ready!).
Organisations Around Reading – Learn More, Get Support
SupportU provide awareness raising events and support to the entire LGBTQ+ community in the Berkshire area. SupportU are currently producing an online series in collaboration with Club F.O.D, a charity dedicated to combatting LGBTQ+ social isolation, titled ‘Sofa Talks’. The series covers a wide range of issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
Reading Culture Live have been showcasing a series of events, ‘Under the Brolly’ in collaboration with local organisation myumbrella LGBT+, and they are exploring marginalised identities within the LGBTQ+ community, including this video, covering Lesbian Visibility Week and World Autism Day. This is a really wonderful series, raising awareness and celebrating lesser known identities within the community.
Lesbian Visibility Week events are FREE and will be live streamed through Facebook and YouTube unless otherwise stated.
View all events taking place from Monday 26 April to Saturday 01 May 2021 over on the Lesbian Visibility Week Events Webpage. Here’s a peek at what’s going on!