Lesbian Caucus 2013

Lesbian Caucus

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)

25th Annual Creating Change Conference

Atlanta, Georgia

Saturday, January 26, 2013

6:30-8:00 p.m.

Room 205

The format of the Lesbian Caucus was a facilitated discussion led by Dr. Laurie Young, Ph.D., Aging and Economic Security Director of NGLTF, and Darlene Nipper, Deputy Executive Director of NGLTF. Approximately 40 women participated in the discussion where they were free to address their needs. We decided as a group that this was a women-only space. The following topics were noted as important to those in attendance:

  • Ways in which we can increase some of the proposals that focus on lesbian issues and lesbian communities- framing them in a way to build community while arming women and lesbians in a way that they take/ensure a seat at the table
  • Training female activists
  • Why are there only half of the amount of women in the Lesbian caucus today in relation to the 85-women at the 2012 Lesbian Caucus, Baltimore, Maryland?
  • Are lesbian identities divided as a result of having to choose which space to attend (ie. Muslim caucus and Lesbian caucus at the same time- is our lesbian identity taking a back seat?)
  • Lack of lesbian spaces in our environments at home (is that mirrored at Creating Change?)
  • Many women expressed that they were excited about the Lesbian Caucus because the “L” in LGBT was singled out- the “L” has a way of getting lost
  • How do we encourage lesbians and women to step up to the table and participate in our communities
  • Intersections between feminism and the evolution of the LGBT and queer movements
  • Ageing Concerns: what is critical and particular to those concerns
  • Lesbians of Color- what are our needs and how to address them
  • MAJOR concerns of invisibility: Lack of space in the Creating Change program book- Lesbians are not clearly identified
  • Lesbians must submit proposals and take back the space in our community and at Creating Change or we will continue to stay invisible
  • There wasn’t information on lesbian health- why are women dying, why are lesbians dying, and how can we prevent health problems for lesbians. Information on gay men’s health is everywhere (including contraception in our Creating Change goody bags), lesbians need to be safe too. Where is our goody bag?
  • Within the oppression of women, access to physician care- assumed heteronormativity/compulsory heterosexuality
  • Sexism in the community is dividing the community
  • The ways in which societal -isms play out in the context of our movement
  • What’s in a name- why are younger lesbian women ashamed to identify as lesbians- as a result, they are identifying as queer/gay: Using gay or using lesbian or whatever name- in my corner of the generation, gay encompasses gay and lesbian- is it one in the same? It may not be that we are uncomfortable with lesbian but other people are – what about the word dyke?
  • Lesbian 101 for young people: I would like to see the history from our elders expanded upon
  • Lesbian elder/youth perspective seminars
  • Yoga session on wellness and self-care for lesbian women
  • If you are a lesbian you are not a feminist- Why? How?
    • Looking at patriarchy and sexism and how women as a group are oppressed. Being around a lot of young women at the center, older lesbians are experiencing that young women and lesbians do not acknowledge feminism. They see themselves as lesbians but lack the political analysis that older women have. WHY?
  • Am I in the right space? I have never used the word lesbian, so I did wonder when looking at the list- who belongs in the room? Is this a women’s space? Queer women and lesbian and bisexual space?
    • Who should be in the room?
      • The description in the program should change: It needs to state Women Only (Unfortunately, we did not dive in further as to who is allowed/can/cannot/should be able to claim it).
  • Growing up, “lesbian” was a bad word. And it was rude. I call myself a lesbian. But I tell my straight friends: they shouldn’t call me that? WHY?
  • Encourage conversations about how we cross generations and how long we have fought for the name lesbian and to name ourselves as lesbians, and every gay in particular erased us completely. As we see generational shifts and as the queer movement rises, lesbians struggle with it. Queer was evil and derogatory. It has taken a lot of internal work to say the word queer. Language is an important part of social change. Language can put people off and can cause people to feel excluded and included. Be conscious of it.
  • Lesbian writers conference- women who write?? She went mostly because it was a place where she could be with women, dykes, and lesbians, in a deeply satisfying and fabulous space. She does not go anymore and she doesn’t have a space. (Darlene and Laura are going to seek out sponsors for a lesbian hospitality suite; Task Force will provide food)
  • I do use queer to identify myself- I think its because lesbian is a word that so many understand. Lots of folks know the word. But queer is not a word that folks know. If I say it to someone and they act positive they obviously have an understanding of it.  Queer is not something that is used as a positive term where lesbian is, so by using queer, I normalize it. What’s problematic about this?
    • What’s in a name? everything. Women’s history- they fought and died for our name. Genuine exploration of why or why don’t we use the word? Lesbian history is being erased. I teach queer studies and there’s no chapter on lesbians. Women are forced to take back seats.
  • One thing I have seen historically is that they are snatching our word away. They are making it a song lyric. It almost incites me to write. People are taking away what I have fought so hard to become. You have made my lesbian identity into a porn name.  It is not the same that your man’s girlfriend has a girlfriend.  Separate yourself from my power. Lesbians are women who love women and only women. REMAKE OUR IMAGE! STAND UP AND SAY THAT WE WILL EMPOWER OUR LESBIAN COMMUNITY.
  • It is not acceptable for people to call us butch or bull-daggers.
  • No one in my community talks about it- there’s so much sexism and such a huge idea that queer is super progressive and inclusive- its bananas- people don’t have the gumption to say “I love women.“ And that’s important. Unfortunately, I don’t see it.
  • Queer erases lesbian experiences!
  • Where’s our music- we have a huge history of lesbian music- where is it???
  • Men in our community are funding us. Not the women. Lesbians were there for the AIDS crisis. We need to learn that economic models make us viable. Maybe a workshop that teaches skills to build power. Why did I have to reach outside the lesbian community to do that?
  • Need for more lesbian and women specific health workshops. Medical research is based on men as the only participants
  • How much would it cost to bring a mammogram van to creating change?
  • Maybe one of the pressing issues for lesbians is to continue the conversation on how we are using the term.
  • Its difficult to tackle other issues as lesbians until we have an idea of who we are talking about-  I have been exclusively with women for ten years. But what If I end up with a man in 10 more years? Am I allowed in this space? Women’s space- what identities does that include?
  • “All men are created equal”- its important to say lesbian because it is exclusively for women.
  • Resource center- so many men are coming into her LGBT center-  are there a lot more gay men than lesbians? Its harder for a woman to say I’m a lesbian because I’m just comfortable with women?
  • Respect is a huge part- if someone identifies as a woman, should they be able to come?
  • Lesbian- sexism can attack it. There is nothing that leaves men out more.
  • Challenge and hope that the task force can proactively work on scheduling. Rather than wait for things to be submitted.
  • There are different ways than just proposals- there are ways to infiltrate lesbians into the conference (like in the institution’s). And workshops. And plenary’s.
  • Lesbian education and mentorship from older lesbians.
  • There’s a well of loneliness in the lesbian community
  • It would be great to have a historical section at CC that recognizes lesbian history because history books, projects, and workshops do not recognize lesbians and women’s issues. We need to bring forth lesbian struggles and make them know.
  • Lesbians losing children in a breakup
  • Ageism is a women’s issue. It affects everyone. Its never been addressed at a plenary at CC to talk about ageism. How we need to challenge it and challenge the idea that we all want to look young, feel young, be young, and act young.
  • Lessons that feminism has for the queer movement
  • What have we lost by losing feminist consciousness in the LGBTQ movement.
  • We need to remember that we are the ones that need to make this happen. Take our power back.
  • Its beautiful to see lesbians in here. They don’t think lesbians get old. 80 year old lesbians- what’s that? Kids think that lesbians grow out of it.

Darlene: Decisions are made by the end of September. Call for proposals are in the summer. There is specific criteria. Follow it on the website. See what they look for. Make sure the workshops are interactive- and focused on organizing and building community.  You want a track- give us enough proposals. If there are women in Houston, we can have a lesbian institute.

Goals for Houston, Texas, 2014:

  • Find out how many of the 650 proposals and 250 accepted (for Atlanta CC), how many were Lesbian and female identified? Are they not being submitted versus are they just getting rejected?
  • Submit a proposal for a Lesbian Institute (all day 6 hour session)- organize together: maybe 6 workshops/one hour each?
  • Lesbian Caucus must be held in the beginning of the conference because we do not have a space to meet lesbian women- ensure that the program book states “Lesbian Women Only.”
  • Having a Women Only mixer in the beginning of the conference
  • Lesbian Hospitality Suite
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