5 min read

Happy Lesbian Visibility Week

Happy Lesbian Visibility Week
Sign saying "Queer Love" in bottle caps at Pride in London 2022, photo by Ændra Rininsland.

Part of why I want to start writing more on a platform that's more specifically personal to me than a microblog is so I can talk about my experience as a queer trans nonbinary woman in a space that allows for more of a longform style of writing, without having people commenting on and decontextualising through quote skeets or boosts. I think one reason for the experience of trans identity in this present age being so fragmented is that we do so much creative work in ephemeral piecemeal formats prone to context collapse; I myself am probably as guilty of this as any trans femme, much of my earlier posting is lost on dead Mastodon instances or deleted through any number of auto-deleter misconfigurations...

A big part of what's pushed me to want to write in this format is a desire to talk about Lesbian Visibility Week, and what it means to me. I am, in many ways, a lesbian — I'd probably even go as far as the more political term "dyke", in that I subscribe to the idea of building a world free of gendered violence, where women and nonbinary people are allowed to create their own destinies not subjected to marginalisation by the cruelties inflicted upon the LGBTQ+ community by a capitalistic society that is both endlessly oppressive and cisheteronormative.¹

I started thinking about the topic because I was asked by my co-chair on my company's LGBTQ+ employee network whether I'd be interested in being on a panel talk for LVW, and I initially didn't think I'd have much to offer the discussion. I'm not really out at work, as a lesbian anyway, insomuch that people think I'm a T in the Alphabet Gang and how that factors into my sexuality is secondary to that fact itself. It's like you can be straight, gay, bi or shrug. I think I'm often put in the last of those boxes, perhaps because it's really easy to be visibly trans on Slack but much harder for people to gauge someone's sexual orientation, especially when they mostly work from home. I don't mind that if I'm honest, my life is scary enough being a trans woman in the British media that the thought of anyone thinking about me that way in a professional context is absolutely mortifying (especially given my dance card is rather full already with my two lovely nonbinary partners). But it does make talking about your experiences as a lesbian in the workplace rather challenging (mercifully, the panel got moved to Pride Week given we had too much going on for LVW already).

I think, with Trans Visibility Day at the end of March (which I've personally begun to see less as an expression of trans joy and more as a moment when every bigot and fascist on the Internet feels empowered to tell us exactly how visible we already are to them) that by the time Lesbian Visibility Week rolls around I'm quite tired of being visible already and would prefer to be imperceptible for the remainder of the year. I've thus not gotten involved with LVW much previously, though gosh dang it I've wanted to post something a few years in a row now, or go to a talk, or yes, even be perceived.

So yes, I'm a lesbian, even if a fairly invisible one. Well, I'm technically bi, but every meaningful romantic relationship I've ever had has been with women and enbies and I've always wondered who came out worse, him or me, every time I've tried to date a guy. I can't speak to the experience of being perceived as a lesbian at work, because I don't think people really perceive me as one. But I know the difference between being in a hetero relationship with a woman when you're perceived as a man, and being a woman in a sapphic relationship. I think perhaps I talk less about my experiences as a lesbian because I worry people still see me as a man, and so assume it's closer to the former than the latter.

This is That Fear. I think a big part of why trans women (at least, those of us not exclusively into men) are more likely to identify as "queer" than "lesbian" is that fear, and especially fear of that perception by other lesbians (even though lesbians on a whole are extremely supportive of trans people). I think, like many of the ills that afflict the trans community, the perception that lesbians are transphobic is something magnified by a few loud hateful voices online and in the press, which causes my community to retreat into itself and not take pride in the richness of our experience as lesbians, T4T or otherwise. Lesbians who are afraid to talk to other lesbians are sometimes affectionately referred to as "useless," and in many ways, trans women are often the most useless, useless lesbians.

Or at least some of us are; I know a few, it's certainly a type. Or maybe I'm projecting here, I'm not sure.

That scepticism towards talking to other women manifests in other ways too. I often worry I'm taking up too much space, and indeed my earlier reticence to speak on that panel was driven largely by that feeling. It's a kind of internalised transphobia I visit upon myself — I directed attention so easily when people saw me as a man and I'm sure probably talked over a few women as a result; the last thing I ever want to do, having now been talked over many times myself, is that. This, combined with That Fear, means I'm often extremely hesitant to go to lesbian spaces. Which means I continue to be a useless lesbian as described above, and lose out on a community that is in many ways very accepting of me. It's kind of tragic, speaking as someone who's always struggled to find community. I worry many of my trans sisters feel similar, and I hope that the emergence of spaces that are explicitly both trans-inclusive and lesbian (like the soon-to-be-open La Camionera in London!) is a sign things are moving in the right direction.

I'm extremely proud of my lesbian sisters, both trans and cis, and cannot begin to express my gratitude that the broader WLW community is working hard to make trans voices feel welcome in this year's Lesbian Visibility Week celebrations. This year is shaping up to be a struggle for women everywhere, and we need to work together and fight for each other because although the things that worry me aren't necessarily identical to that of a cis lesbian, we will always share so many of the same fights: the freedom to love the people we love, the freedom to be comfortable in our bodies and gender presentation, the freedom to choose what we do with our bodies. We also share the utter urgency to protect our healthcare from regressive forces that would seek to push it back a century.

It's never been more important to come together and support each other, but also to celebrate each other's joy, because it is that joy that will sustain us through hardship, no matter what the world throws at us this year.

Happy Lesbian Visibility Week.


¹ Yes, this is indeed my blog and I'm going to write run-on sentences like that which conform to every stereotype about the verbosity of leftist writers, caveat lector (I'll also drop latin phrases like "caveat lector" not because I ever studied latin but because they make me sound impressive, just like everyone else who's ever dropped latin phrases into a piece of writing — at least I'm honest about it).