article about WDL appeared inTalking
Speak Out Edited by Valerie Mason-John, Published by Cassell 1995
Current political organizations 19: Herstoric Moments
"Political organizations almost seem to be a thing of the past. Organizations like OWAAD (Organisation of Women of African and Asian descent) have disbanded, and although there is still a feminist movement of sorts, many group activities seem to be quite dormant. However, there are two political groups which continue to take an active role in issues relating to Black lesbians and national and international politics. [Wages Due Lesbians is one of these.]
Wages Due Lesbians
Wages Due lesbians (WDL), is one of the longest-standing lesbian groups in Britain. It was set up in 1975 by both Black and white lesbians on the platform of anti-racism. Although some of the lesbians belong to Black Women for Wages for Housework (BWWFH), for specific issues, WDL is perhaps one of the most successful examples of Black and white lesbians working together. Although the group is based in London, it has members scattered all over Britain. The organization's aims lie in the roots of the international Black movement: reparations. Hence, it demands that lesbians (and all other women) should be compensated for their unrecognized work.
Since its formation WDL has fought for the Black woman not to be torn between her Black and lesbian identity, and has highlighted the link between homophobia, poverty and economic exploitation. It has continued to promote this debate because it believes that these are the concerns of the Black community, and consequently it has tried to bridge the gap between the lesbian, gay and Black movements by pinpointing all our common interests. WDL also believes that by connecting economics and homophobia, Black lesbians will continue campaigning for the issues which Black working-class people have to fight for, namely better housing, health care and wages. In WDL's book, Policing the Bedroom it reports: 'The fact is that greater economic possibilities for women definitely help to overcome the barriers of being lesbian, promoting lesbian visibility and discouraging sexism. Increasing cuts and unemployment make it much harder to come out." The organization argues that the lesbian movement is actually far bigger than it appears, but because of our lack of economic power Black lesbians are more likely to remain closeted. The organization has spearheaded several campaigns during the past two decades. In particular, it has championed the rights of lesbian mothers and has recently taken a leading role in the campaign against the Child Support Act, highlighting its effects on Black and white mothers, including lesbian mothers. Along with BWWFH, it has worked together to ensure Black women's visibility and to protect them against the effects of the 1991 Child Support Act.
WDL was also active in the Clause 28 campaign against the prevention of promoting lesbian and gay literature; the campaign against Paragraph 16, banning lesbians and gay men from adopting and fostering children; anti-racism movements; international campaigns against, e.g. the Gulf War; and has fought for anti-racist politics to be included at the national lesbian and gay festival, Gay Pride. Today WDL are at the forefront of the campaign to stop genocidal experiments - the testing of AZT on HIV-positive African children - and many other national and global campaigns which concern the Black and lesbian communities. One of its founder members, Wilmette Brown, believes WDL's success in attracting Black lesbians and women lies in its healthy mix of politicizing and socializing. She believes that lesbian cultural activity has often been guilty of racism, by excluding the Black lesbian experience. The organization continues to give Black lesbians an opportunity to network with lesbians from all over the world."