For all of my adult life, I’ve self- identified as a “Gay Activist.” I became politicized while attending a Jesuit university in New York City, where I worked in a progressive student’s organization and loosely affiliated with the newly emerging gay student’s organization. The virulent homophobia of other students on the campus politicized me and made me a dedicated advocate for all things Gay (remind me to tell you about the time I asked my dad to pick up a crate of condoms for me during finals at Gay Men’s Health Crisis).
A funny thing has happened, though, since the Halcyon Days of the 1990s. Despite aligning with the LGBT Movement and its “goals” for much of my adult activist life, I’ve been consistently disappointed in how Gay men – as a group – seem unable or unwilling to take on Female-specific concerns. A Lesbian who voices a Female-specific concern, be it concern about initiatives that reinforce sex stereotypes or the fact that a Gay Organization’s board is top-heavy with men, is quickly silenced and shamed.
Usually, this occurs in the most blatant of ways – “oh, she hates men, she’s a Lesbian.” Other times, the marginalization is more subtle and occurs in whisper campaigns – or now, in snarky Facebook postings about “radical lesbian feminists.” Time and time again, I’ve seen it happen to Lesbian Activists who bring a Female-specific point of view to the LGBT Agenda.
The brick wall of Male Domination in the Gay Movement begs the question of “Why bother?” Why do Lesbians bother with the LGBT Movement? In Maryland, what are the agenda items of the LGBT Movement that benefit Females specifically that Equality Maryland supports? EQMD’s website shows work on the bread-and-butter issues of the Movement. Hate crimes? Check. Marriage? Check. HIV/AIDS? Check.
Where are the Female-specific issues? The National Organization for Women notes that Females comprise over 47% of the labor force in Maryland, yet employers continue to deny equal opportunity on the basis of sex alone. Females working full-time earn about 73¢ for every dollar men earn. Despite the fact that Females work in nearly equal numbers to Males, we have not realized economic equality. Why doesn’t the LGBT Movement care about this?
Female health concerns also differ from Male issues – yet I haven’t seen any organizing by EQMD on the health issues specific to Females (which, of course, includes Lesbians). The two biggest risk factors for breast cancer are (1) being Females and (2) aging. Being overweight, especially after menopause, and drinking alcohol increase risk. Females who have not had children or breast-fed, have not used oral contraceptives, or are older when they first give birth are also more likely to develop breast cancer. All of these factors are far more likely to affect Lesbians and Bisexual Females. We have known this for years, but do we educate the Females in the LGBT Community about this? Chase-Brexton does. EQMD and the GLCCB apparently don’t. Good enough?
What of family law issues? Females are more likely to live in poverty then Males, placing us at a disadvantage when we seek redress in court stemming from a custody or other family law dispute. The double whammy of being Female and Lesbian means a disadvantage in court. Although legal resources exist for low-income Lesbians, these resources are few and far between, and only recently created. Can we put these issues front and center in the LGBT Agenda? Why aren’t we doing this?
The LGBT Agenda seems wholly uninterested in Lesbian concerns. Lesbians suffer disproportionately from the negative effects of sex stereotyping. Yet, a cornerstone item of the LGBT Agenda is to enact legislation to ban discrimination based on “gender identity,” a theory that turns the notion of sex stereotypes on its head and elevates them to the level of one’s Identity. We have come a long way from the “Free to be you and me” days, which, by the way, was a Feminist project of the Ms. Foundation. These days, the LGBT Movement and some people of trans* identity would rather tell Lesbians that they are bigots for not wanting to date or sleep with transwomen with penises.
Really? The LGBT Movement thinks it should tell Lesbians whom we should date? Shouldn’t bodily integrity – the ability to do what one wants with one’s own body – be an essential cornerstone of Female Liberation?
Lesbian participation in the LGBT Movement has dropped precipitously, and no wonder – the LGBT Movement pushes an agenda that does not serve Female-specific interests. So what can politically interested and aware Lesbians do? We can continue to labor in the vineyard to advance agenda items that do not help us. We can look the other way while our interests are not served. Or, we can envision a Movement that serves us, for a change.