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  • Leeds LGBT+ Literature Festival

Lesbian Visibility Day - Visibility and Representation

Content Warnings: References to hate crime, lesbophobia, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Includes a link to a BBC News report which includes images and descriptions of hate crime in the form of verbal and physical abuse.

I think it’s really important that LVD provides a platform in an accessible way – not just in the form of celebrities, but also our friends, family and colleagues.

By Kirsty Smith

Monday 26 April 2021 is Lesbian Visibility Day (“LVD”), a day celebrating the diversity in our community since 2008, as well as to break some of the prevalent stereotypes about what it means to be a lesbian.

Part of this is having visible role models, but I think it’s really important that LVD provides a platform in an accessible way – not just in the form of celebrities, but also our friends, family and colleagues. Nobody is the same and we all have different experiences but often we have things in common. Sharing experiences can enable others to connect and feel like they are not alone.

What about those lesbians (and GBTQIA+ people) who aren’t in a position to be ‘out’?

Some people don’t feel safe to come out. Many have felt it necessary to ‘go back in the closet’ due to consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic (for example, where they have had to live with someone who is lesbophobic/homophobic/biphobic/transphobic). LGBT+ hate crime reports continue to rise, having nearly tripled since 2015 and with a 20% increase between 2019 and 2020. I have been truly saddened to hear of LGBTQIA+ people feeling forced into hiding over the past year as a result of experiencing hate crime.

For some, being able to escape from an oppressive environment to discreetly attend an LGBT+ event, even if just for half an hour, can make all the difference. In person meet-ups have not been possible for a considerable period, and whilst there have been lots of online events, it’s still not possible for everyone to participate, even online.

Feeling cut off from your community can impact your sense of self and pride in your identity. In those circumstances, being visible might simply be reading an LGBTQIA+ blog or book, attending an online LGBTQIA+ event, or watching a TV programme/film with diverse queer representation.

For those of us who have the privilege of being able and comfortable to be ‘out’, it’s important that we share our experiences, talk about LGBTQIA+ role models and means of accessing the LGBTQIA+ community in a safe way, to help provide connections for those who can’t.

It’s great to hear that some of the pandemic-related restrictions are starting to ease for some of us. But just because those circumstances are shifting positively doesn’t mean that personal circumstances will also. So, check in with your colleagues, friends and family and keep talking about days like LVD and the events that are available around them. Having a short conversation about diverse queer books you’ve read or programmes/films with positive LGBTQIA+ representation might just be the lifeline someone needs.

We have so many amazing activists within the LGBTQIA+ community. Many of us have access to local LGBTQIA+ businesses who provide products, services and safe spaces for the community. We’ve also seen an increase in LGBTQIA+ events being held, with more online access as a result of COVID-19 which can mean that wider audiences are reached. Often these events are organised by volunteers from within the community, who love being able to dedicate time to something they are passionate about – inclusion for all within our amazing LGBTQIA+ community. All of these people are role models. They enrich our community. But so too do those people who aren’t able to openly participate in or organise such things.

Being a role model doesn’t always require being in a spotlight. It doesn’t have to be shouting from the rooftops about your sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. It doesn’t have to be public. It can be existing. It can be quiet, and subtle, and staying safe.

For anyone who doesn’t feel safe or comfortable to be ‘out’, either in part or wholly at present, I want you to know that your identity is valid, that I’m celebrating with you this LVD and that it’s enough for you to be visible in your own way.

Kirsty is the secretary of Leeds LGBT+ Book Club and co-organiser of our Literature Festival. She is married to her wife, Louise, and has two dogs who enjoy long walks and snuggles with Kirsty whilst she’s reading!

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