Thursday marks the 10th anniversary of Lesbian Visibility Day, an annual call to recognize queer women and avoid their erasure from LGBTQ past and present.
Although its exact origins are unclear, most sources claim Lesbian Visibility Day started in 2008. Over the last decade, LGBTQ folks in America have won many rights and protections once denied to them because of their sexuality, like the right to marry, and to adopt children.
Worldwide, the picture is less rosy, and homophobic discrimination and violence persists in our backyard. Lesbian Visibility Day remains a chance to commemorate how much queer women have accomplished and acknowledge those still working to represent their communities in politics, media, pop culture and beyond.
Pink News interviewed several women about what Lesbian Visibility Day means for them. Ruth Hunt of Stonewall championed for more diversity to be reflected in pop culture. “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,” she said.
Human rights activist Aderonke Apata told the outlet, “The more we celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day and continue the conversation, the more we raise awareness about the fact that love is not illegal. We can encourage lesbians in the closet to ‘come out’ and demand their freedom.”
The site AfterEllen has good news for a number of same-sex couples. For the first time in U.S. history, the Census will allow couples to report if they are in a same-sex marriage. However, the counting will not include couples in outside-of-marriage partnerships and will not ask for individuals’ sexuality.
Last year, Jessica Borham of Stonewall, wrote an impassioned defense for Lesbian Visibility Day as a means to breaking down stereotypes and help the next generation of lesbian women feel like they’re supported.
“This April, I am proud to celebrate the strong lesbian women in my life,” she wrote. “They are all different. They are not what you think they are. They are wonderful and diverse.”
Her optimistic message is an important, mission-affirming one in the light of two recent studies suggest that adults are still having a difficult time coming out to their coworkers and LGBTQ students don’t feel safe expressing their sexuality on campus. A recent Seattle Times article reports that lesbian and bisexual girls are more likely to face suspension than their straight classmates.
In a thought-provoking essay on lesbian representation in film and TV, Karen Frost writes in AfterEllen about the lack of lesbian representation in LGBTQ characters. Proposing that the exclusion of LGBTQ talent, writers and executives may slow down the inclusion of queer stories, Frost wrote, “...it may not occur to straight people to add gay characters, flesh out existing gay characters, or study the history of LGBT representation to avoid falling into common tropes.”
Last year, GLAAD reported lesbian women made up only 24 percent of queer characters, the majority of which are still overwhelmingly white and male. Only about 6 percent of all characters in the over 900 broadcast shows are LGBTQ identifying.
Follow the #LesbianVisibilityDay hashtag on Twitter to read more women share their experiences, photos and recommendations for April 26.