Lesbian Day Of Visibility gives us an important moment to celebrate the progress we’ve made
Stonewall Chief Executive Ruth Hunt has a message for you on #LDOV
When I first came out in 1993, the word “lesbian” wasn’t something you’d ever really hear. Section 28 was in place, so talking about LGBT issues and same-sex relationships was effectively banned at school. The media portrayed lesbians as people to fear, people who would steal your wives and corrupt your children. For a young Catholic girl just starting to explore her sexuality, it was a difficult, often painful time.
Role models were few and far between, so I was left to hang on to every reference of lesbians in any form of popular culture I could find. Watching Beth Jordache kiss a girl on Brookside and reading books like Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit were incredibly powerful experiences. My friend taped Ellen Degeneres’ coming out episode for me on Channel 4 and I watched it over and over again. The VHS still sits in my bottom drawer. Amid such negativity, positive moments like these were nothing short of transformative.
We have come a long way since 1993. Sue Perkins and Sandi Toksvig regularly host national TV shows, Clare Balding commentates on nearly all international sporting events, and Pearl Mackie plays Doctor Who’s first lesbian assistant. We have more visible lesbians than ever before and they all help us challenge the status quo and diversify representations of female sexuality.
But lesbian representation is still often fleeting. Lesbian characters rarely survive more than one season on TV and style magazines don’t publish features that give fashion advice to dykes like me who prefer suits over dresses.
We’re still not mainstream and not all lesbians are visible. Representations of diverse lesbian identities continue to be extremely limited. There’s much more to be done before lesbians from all backgrounds feel included and see themselves reflected in society.
Now, more than ever, we need to recognise that lesbians exist in all communities and raise the profile of diverse lesbian identities. We need to listen to the experiences of lesbians who are disabled, older, black, Asian and minority ethnic and trans, as we continue to push for film, TV and literature to tell their stories.
The diversity of our community is one of our greatest strengths. We should be able to form common cause across all our different identities to change the world for all women out there.
Today, on Lesbian Day of Visibility, let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, but also look ahead to how we can create a world where all people are accepted without exception.
By Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall
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