A funny thing happened on the way to GLBT Equality – Lesbians, long the worker bees of the Movement, got left behind, with Lesbian-specific issues abandoned in favor of advancing socially regressive causes such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal and Gender Identity legislation. For years, Lesbians have dropped out of the GLBT Movement or simply shouldered this new burden as we always do, working in the vineyard of other people’s interests.
Critics of Lesbian awakening love to perpetrate the myth that I am the only Lesbian who notices that the GLBT Movement has morphed into a Conservative Movement. If you get your news from Gay and Trans blogs, you might believe this. In reality, many Female and Female-identified people have noticed that the GLBT Movement has abandoned Female-specific issues and has marginalized Lesbians for simply recognizing our own lives. We began this conversation in private, because no more dangerous phrase exists in the modern GLBT Movement than “But how does this impact Females?” Acknowledging Female reality earns Lesbians numerous labels from the Male-dominated GLBT Movement: bigot, transphobe, Republican, Man Hater. Still, Lesbians kept talking, to one another and to allies who recognize that you cannot attain full Equality on the backs of Females – and what had previously been a conversation in hushed whispers for fear of reprisal has become a more public discussion of how to ensure that the GLBT Movement serves Female interests.
This conversation surfaced recently at the 24th Annual Creating Change Conference, an event organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This year, Creating Change – held in Charm City – generated some controversy when Lesbians noticed that Creating Change seemed to ignore the reality of the lives of the L in our alphabet community. In response to outcry from Lesbians over the lack of representation and discussion of our issues at the conference, NGLTF scheduled a “Lesbian Caucus” to allow Lesbians the opportunity to come together as Lesbians and discuss the issues that affect our lives as Female homosexuals.
The Reverend Mother Meredith Moise, a Creating Change co-chair, introduced the discussion moderators, the Honorable Judge Shannon E. Avery and University of Maryland, Baltimore County Professor Jodi Kelber-Kaye. The one-hour event – attended by upwards of 85 individuals – kick started discussion in person and online about Lesbian-specific issues seemingly ignored by Creating Change and the GLBT Movement, including:
- A desire to discuss “sex vs. gender” and how to navigate that space in a manner respectful of all members of the GLBT Community – including Lesbians.
- A need for concrete, practical guidance with regard to legal, health/medical and insurance issues as Lesbians age.
- A need for an experiential, intergenerational dialogue among Lesbians of all ages.
- Lesbian invisibility.
- Lesbian-safe space away from Male-dominated space. One commenter noted that the welcome conference bag provided by NGLTF included a condom and lube, but nothing for Females. Other participants noted that the conference’s “gender neutral bathrooms” forced Lesbians to relieve themselves in space with Males – not trans women, mind you, but nontrans Gay Males. If you’ve ever been to Gay club on any given weekend night, you will recall that such “sharing” invariably results in a negative experience for Females. Guys, no offense, but none of us want to pee with you.
As a result of this discussion, the Caucus asked NGLTF to, among other things:
- Address oppression of Females in the GLBT Movement.
- Create images of women created by women.
- Create Lesbians-safe space, including the establishment of a Lesbian Suite at Creating Change.
- Establish the Women’s/Lesbian/Women Same-Gender Loving Caucus as a permanent caucus.
- Respect that the word “Queer” does not always include Females and use language inclusive of Females.
- Extend scholarships to Women living in poverty so that can attend Creating Change, including scholarships for travel and accommodations.
Since the Lesbian Caucus was held January 28, more amazing things have happened – Lesbians have continued the conversation, both in our communities and on the Internet. We established an email list and a Facebook group (with more than 500 members) to allow us space to speak to one another and to find ways to rebuild our community, which has been decimated by years of discussion that affirmed Queer reality and discounted Lesbian Female reality.
We as Lesbians feel a renewed sense of purpose and community. Although it is still too early to say a new day is dawning for Females in the GLBT Movement, conversation for and among Lesbians and our allies can only result in increased community for us. It is our hope that the Lesbian Caucus convened in Baltimore represents a new beginning to increase Lesbian visibility and to ensure that Sisters are not left behind in this struggle for Equality.
Friday, 10 February 2012