Challenging Lesbian Myths

V0007359 Sarah Ponsonby (left) and Lady Eleanor Butler, known as the

[Image: Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler, known as the the Ladies of Llangollen via Wikimedia Commons] 

This is a guest post from RadFem_Kat. You can follow her on Twitter.
 
In honour of everyone’s favourite lockdown activity, this blog post is going to begin with a mini quiz about lesbians in popular culture. Easy, right?
 
1) Which of the actors below, famous for their portrayal of a lesbian character on TV/film, is also an out lesbian?
  1. Natasha Lyonne (the actor of Megan in But I’m a Cheerleader)
  2. Katherine Moening (the actor of Shane in The L Word)
  3. Laura Prepon (the actor of Alex Vause in Orange is the New Black)
  4. Annette Bening (the actor of Nic in The Kids are Alright)
Answer: b)
 
2) Which of the films below originally contained a lesbian characterisation/ lesbian storyline that was removed before the film was released?
  1. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
  2. Bend it like Beckham (2002)
  3. 101 Dalmatians (1996)
  4. Love Actually (2003)
Answer: Trick question (sorry), they all had lesbian characters or storylines cut before release.
 
3) When was the first lesbian kiss shown on British TV pre-watershed?
  1. 2001
  2. 1985
  3. 1994
  4. 1972
Answer: 1994
 
4) And final question (for lots of points here), name as many out lesbian women in pop culture as you can.
Answer: This can’t be answered really over a blog post, but count them up. Get over 5? Over 10? How easy was this to do?
 
So did any of these questions surprise you? I hope so. Despite being the first letter of the LGBT, lesbians and lesbian culture are not often at the forefront of Pride month, or of LGBT campaigns. Why is that? Well, there are lots of misconceptions around lesbians in today’s society. Lots of people have the opinion that lesbians have it ‘easy’ in comparison to other people in the LGBT, that lesbians don’t face persecution or homophobia as frequently as other LGBT people, or that the homophobia that is faced is less dangerous. Part of this is due to the lack of UK legislation that ever criminalised lesbianism. Whilst true that lesbianism was never illegal, it was not socially accepted. Politicians did also try and pass laws to criminalise lesbianism alongside male homosexuality, but the laws failed to pass as people didn’t actually believe lesbianism existed, rather than viewed it as more acceptable. Lesbian relationships when they did catch the public’s eye (Ladies of LLangollen, we see you) were framed as immature ‘romantic friendships’. Women were threatened with convents, or married away to men, to separate them from the same-sex partners they had chosen. Lesbianism was used as a political tool to attack women, Marie Antoinette being a prime example. It was a sign of loose morals, of poor judgement, or of childish behaviour.
 
Another myth is that, given that there has been a 400% increase in women participating in same-sex experimentation since 1991[1], that lesbianism is clearly accepted and lesbians are abundant in number. However, this is also not true. In a survey in 2016, it was found that 4% of women identify as lesbians or bisexual, however there was no distinction made between these two[2]. In fact, there is no survey in the UK that separates lesbian women from either bisexual women or from homosexual men in its results when collecting data on the experiences of the LGBT. However, given that the number of lesbian exclusive bars has significantly decreased in both the UK and the US[3], and that there has been a notable rise in young women choosing to identify as ‘queer’ over lesbian[4], it can be suggested that lesbian culture is not quite as abundant as first thought.
 
All of this, of course, also comes from a UK focus. What about globally? 73 countries have laws still against homosexual ‘activity’ or relationships. Of these countries, 45 have laws that specifically prohibit sexual relationships between women, or actively mention lesbianism (although that is not to say that in the other 38 countries, lesbians are safe). 12 countries have the death penalty for both male and female homosexuality[5]. In addition to legal punishment, lesbophobic rape is a threat, reported on in at least 16 countries Worldwide. Lesbophobic rape, previously called corrective rape, is carried out with the aim of making the victim heterosexual through sexual assault. First reported on in South Africa, it has been reported in countries such as India, Haiti, the Netherlands and the US amongst others[6]. Lesbians globally are threatened with violence. The UK was shocked with the report of a violent attack on a lesbian couple in May 2019. Statistics state that 90% of lesbians experience verbal abuse in their lifetimes, with 40% experiencing sexual assault and 20% experiencing physical assault for their sexualities[7].
 
These statistics are shocking, and hopefully go some way to challenge some of the myths that exist about lesbianism and the challenges lesbians face still in 2020. This is not to say, of course, that there hasn’t been progress. One of the most important progressions has been lesbian visibility, especially historical lesbian visibility. To continue this, below are just a few lesbians from history who deserve to be more well-known.
 
The Ladies of Llangollen
Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby were aristocratic Irish women who eloped in 1778 to live together for the rest of their lives in Llangollen, Wales. Their relationship was not accepted by either of the families, with Eleanor’s family threatening to send her to a convent and Sarah’s attempting to marry her to a widowed family friend. The two women were unable to work due to the social situation of the 18th Century (a situation that forced many lesbian women in this era into heterosexual marriage), and so instead made money by allowing visitors to their home and garden. Through this, Eleanor and Sarah became seen as novelties of the area and attracted guests such as political thinker Edmund Burke. Eleanor’s diary provides historians with the daily events of their lives together, including the affection they clearly felt for each other, with Eleanor referring to Sarah frequently as her ‘other half, and the ‘darling of my heart.
 
Anne Lister
A more well known lesbian of the 19th Century is Anne Lister, who has achieved recognition recently with the TV series Gentleman Jack. Anne Lister has often been referred to as the ‘first modern lesbian’ for her understanding of her own sexuality during an era which did not accept ideas of female homosexuality, and her sexual expression. Anne Lister was a landowner during a time which frequently denied women the right to own property, an academic, a seasoned traveller and a businesswoman. In addition to this, she spent her life in pursuit of a ‘wife’. She engaged in multiple semi-public relationships with female friends, including a long-term relationship with Marianna Lawlor that continued even after Marianna’s marriage. Anne Lister eventually settled with her neighbour, Ann Walker, a local heiress. The marriage was one of convenience as opposed to love, but they lived their lives together publicly, with Ann Walker moving into Anne Lister’s home, Shibden Hall. Anne Lister’s strong lesbian identity was recorded by her in diaries that spanned her entire life, and allowed historians to understand lesbianism in the 19th Century.
 
Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper
Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper were a lesbian couple who worked within the early women’s Suffrage movement to encourage working class support in the North of England. They worked together, alongside other Suffragists, to draw the link between the poor working conditions of the cotton mills of Lancashire and the need for women’s suffrage. Eva and Esther’s work inspired Christabel Pankhurst, who later began the militant activism of the Suffrage group, the WSPU. Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper’s relationship was recorded in Eva’s poetry, and the two women lived together from the late 1890s until Eva’s death in 1926.
 
Stormé DeLarverie
No list would really be complete without Stormé DeLarverie. Stormé was a butch lesbian who has been held by many to be the instigator of the Stonewall Riots, the 1969 riots against the homophobia of the American police at the Stonewall Inn. She performed as a drag king during the 1970s, having performed in a famous American circus for much of her teenage years, as well as performing at many benefits for victims of domestic abuse. Stormé saw herself as the ‘protector’ of the lesbians in New York and worked as a bouncer for many lesbian bars. People reported that she frequently patrolled the streets to prevent homophobic attacks on lesbian women. Stormé maintained an active presence in the New York LGBT scene for her entire life, working still at bars until she was 85 years old.
 
 
 
[1] ‘Why Men Are Less Sexually Fluid Than Women’, Huffpost Canada, 2014
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_sexual_orientation#United_Kingdom
[3] https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/11/15/we-need-to-pay-attention-to-how-many-lesbian-venues-are-shutting-down/
[4] https://slate.com/human-interest/2016/12/young-queer-women-dont-like-lesbian-as-a-name-heres-why.html
[5] https://www.humandignitytrust.org/lgbt-the-law/map-of-criminalisation/
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrective_rape
[7] https://ec.europa.eu/justice/grants/results/daphne-toolkit/content/violence-against-lesbians-education-research-public-campaigns_en

Statement on LGB Alliance UK 05/02/2020

During one of our workshops at Woman’s Place UK the question of our position regarding LGB Alliance UK was raised. We are therefore making an official statement.
 
As lesbian radical feminists supporting women- and lesbian-only spaces, our initial reaction is one of both support and doubts. Doubts because we will never trust that men can ever truly support women and lesbian liberation. We have seen that past alliances with them led to the dire situation of todays lesbian erasure within communities and groups lesbians initially created. But we also know that the LGB Alliance UK is currently lesbian-led and we are truly happy about that and hope lesbians within this group will flourish and find sisterhood.
 
We also understand that Get The L Out UK and the LGB Alliance UK do not have the same role in this movement. We are not interested in reformist politics and lobbying as we feel male institutions and male politics cannot be changed from within, but we sincerely respect that some lesbians want to do this work and fully understand that it is necessary work to do given the emergency.
 
We however want to insist that it is very important to politically and financially support lesbian- and women-only group on the same level, or even more, than mixed groups.
 
We will always support lesbians, whichever group they belong to, and we will always welcome the ones who might want to focus on women-centred politics and autonomous lesbian activism in the future.

Get The L Out UK – Statement 16/09/2019

WE ARE NOW GET THE L OUT UK!!!
 
 
 
 
 
As lesbian feminists, we aspire to be truly internationalists and foster lesbians’ solidarity and unity across borders. Thanks to Get The L Out Korea and to the many individual Korean lesbian feminists who have been using the hashtag #getthelout, we have realised that the name of our activist group and Facebook page, Get The L Out, needs to be changed to Get The L Out UK to reflect the truth: Get The L Out as an idea and political movement does not belong exclusively to the UK.
 
Lesbians from many countries in Europe, East Asia, South America and North America are organising with this slogan, and us Get The L Out UK need to drop the universal term Get The L Out to acknowledge this work and respect lesbians’ self-determination and autonomy across the world.
 
We hope that there will be more and more national Get The L Out and we will be very happy to be in touch and provide support.
 
Special thanks to lesbians in Korea, Serbia, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil for being so strong and inspiring, we are learning a lot from what you are doing.
 
Get The L Out UK
 
 
 
Other Get The L Out groups (NB: we are fully autonomous and separate groups):
 
Get The L Out Spain (online): Facebook 
 
Get The L Out Sweden (online): Facebook and Twitter
 
Get The L Out Asia (online): Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
 
Get The L Out Korea (IRL event on 14/09/2020):
 
 

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Get The L Out UK at FiLiA Conference 2019 – What is the Cotton Ceiling – Angela Wild

 
Get The L Out UK was present on two levels at FiLiA Conference in Bradford (19th and 20th October 2019): Angela Wild spoke at the Violence against Lesbians panel and several Get The L Out UK organisers and sympathisers were involved in the security team led by Liane. Thank you FiLiA for providing a platform to lesbian radical feminist activists.
 
Angela presented transgenderism’s violence against lesbians in a talk outlining the main ideological and political underpinnings of the Cotton Ceiling as part of the latest version of rape culture against lesbians within trans, queer, and gay communities [see the video of her talk above]
The panel also included Susan Hawthorne, Consuelo Rivera Fuentes, and Hilary McCollum. The recording of the whole session is available here.
 
Angela had previously took part in a FiLiA podcast in which she talks about lesbianism, radical feminism, motherhood, anti-racism, and other important feminist issues.
 
As Claire Heuchan wrote in AfterElleneach panelist took the discussion about violence against lesbians in a different direction. This mosaic of women’s perspectives builds an extraordinary picture. There is the sorrow of life in a world where violence against lesbians is endemic. And there is the magic of women uniting, resisting, building our own platforms and communities.
 
On the same day, the security team had to deal with a handful of transactivists [picture right below] who protested the Conference for a few hours outside of the venue.
 
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Pictures of some women of the security team and Get The L Out UK activists and sympathisers

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FEMINIST CURRENT ARTICLE: Lesbian visibility matters now more than ever

Video version of the article – recorded somewhere in Europe on the 10th May 2019.
 
 
From https://www.feministcurrent.com/2019/06/18/lesbian-visibility-matters-now-more-than-ever/
 
 
« Get The L Out is about more than defending lesbian’s sexual and political boundaries — it is also about creating a common future for lesbians and other women.
 
 
by  

FEMINIST CURRENT PODCAST: Lesbians at ground zero — Angela C. Wild on gender identity ideology and lesbian autonomy

Podcast available at https://www.feministcurrent.com/2019/04/11/podcast-lesbians-at-ground-zero-angela-c-wild-on-gender-identity-ideology-and-lesbian-autonomy/
 

« Meghan Murphy speaks with Angela C. Wild of #GetTheLOut about her new report about the impact of trans ideology on lesbians.

 

FEMINIST CURRENT INTERVIEW: Angela C. Wild of #GetTheLOut on Pride in London and Lesbian erasure

From https://www.feministcurrent.com/2018/07/17/interview-angela-c-wild-getthelout-pride-london-lesbian-erasure/
 
« Meghan Murphy interviews Angela C. Wild about the recent Lesbian protest at Pride in London and the state of the LGBT movement today.
 

Why “Get The L Out” ?

Who We Are

Get the L Out is an autonomous lesbian feminist group opposing the increasingly anti-lesbian and misogynistic LGBT movement and the erasure of lesbians.

Why We Organise

We believe that lesbian rights are under attack by the trans movement and we encourage lesbians everywhere to leave the LGBT and form their own independent movement, as well as to be vocal and take action against the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

Get the L Out believes trans politics (with uncritical support from the LGBT movement) does the following:

Promotes the social transition of lesbians, encouraging them to present as straight men thus favouring the pretence of heterosexuality over lesbianism – this is nothing more than a form of conversion therapy.
Promotes the medical transition of lesbians and pushes harmful drugs (untested hormone blockers, Lupron etc.) as well as unnecessary medical practices on perfectly healthy bodies – these are a form of misogynist medical abuse against lesbians.
Promotes the rights of heterosexual males who “identify” as women and lesbians (despite most of them still retaining their male genitals) over the rights of lesbians to choose their sexual partners. This new ‘queer’ LGBT politics thus coerces lesbians to accept the penis as a female organ and promotes heterosexual intercourse between male and female as a form of lesbian sex. This is simply a new facet to rape culture and compulsory heterosexuality.


What We Believe

“The trans movement with the complicity of ‘queer’ LGBT politics is coercing lesbians to have sex with men. We firmly condemn this vicious form of anti-lesbianism disguised as progress”.

“We stand for the rights of lesbians to choose their sexual partners on the basis of their sex not their “gender identity” and condemn any pressure on lesbians to accept so called “trans women” as potential sex partners and the penis as a female organ as coercive and a manifestation of rape culture”

“we oppose the transition of young lesbians on the basis that their appearances or behaviour does not conform to socially accepted images of women. Having short hair and disliking pink is not a sign of having a male brain and does not mean one requires transition. The trans movement is a conservative movement which reinforces sexist sex stereotypes.”

“We oppose proposed changes to the GRA and view self-identification as a threat to women’s and girls rights.

“We demand stronger sex-based protections for women and girls and that women maintain the right to sex-segregated spaces at the exclusion of male regardless of their “identity”.”

More info contact :

GetTheLOutUK@gmail.com

 

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