Lesbian Visibility – what’s that all about?
Catherine Surtees from the Cities and Local Growth Unit shares how she's celebrating Lesbian Visibility Week.
By Catherine Surtees
Among these events, my favourite titles so far:
- Lesbian Inclusion at Work
- LGBTQI Women in Politics
- Queer Women of Colour
I’m planning to attend a few of the evening ones.
So why is lesbian visibility an important thing? Well there are many reasons. There are a selection of stories from women on Stonewall’s website describing their experiences of growing up without visible lesbian role models.
When I read these stories at the time they were published, I hadn’t realised that this was an experience that other lesbians had. In my solipsistic way, I thought I was the only one.
I grew up in the 1970s where lesbians seemed only to be discussed either by adults in hushed tones, by tabloid newspapers with red banner headings or by fellow schoolchildren, where ‘lesbian’ or ‘lezzer’ were words generally used as a powerful insult.
As a schoolchild, I wasn’t necessarily certain that I was a lesbian (though I can say in retrospect, there wasn’t much doubt). I didn’t fit the stereotypes: I wasn’t a tomboy, I didn’t have short hair and I didn’t wear dungarees. So what did that make me then? Confused? I think so!
If I had been able to be clear in my own mind, I wouldn’t have known what to do about it. Even as a young adult, I had no idea, for example, that lesbians could live together in the same way as other couples do. I don’t know whether I imagined someone would actively stop it. A policeman knocking at the door perhaps, saying ‘what’s going on here then? Oh no, we can’t have this, you’re under arrest!’
So what’s the problem now, you may ask? The world has moved on, particularly in the UK – we blazed the trail for LGBTQ rights, so surely all this is over?
Well, it seems not yet. I urge you to read some of the stories I linked above, written by people much younger than me about their experiences of being a lesbian, and to check out the events planned by DIVA and Stonewall next week, also linked above.
We still have some way to go.
If you are LGBT+ or an ally, please join the Civil Service LGBT+ Network.