like to hear from YOU
From our own experience we know that most lesbian women worldwide have to hide who we are - including by getting married - from our families, communities and the authorities, and may not be able to “come out” (be public) even in our own organisations. Some of us emigrated to Barcelona, London, San Francisco, etc., because they are cities with established and recognised lesbian and gay communities, where we could live more openly.
Over 50% of families in the world are headed by women – no one knows how many are lesbian, or how many of the women who are living with men are lesbian. Most lesbian women do the same caring work that other women do, looking after families and communities. We often do work for the family or the organisations and movements we belong to, which other women are not in a position to do because they are caring for children and male partners. Instead of recognition we get discrimination – in our communities, at our waged jobs and even in our own homes. We have to hide or fight to keep jobs, homes and sometimes our children, as lesbian mothers are considered unnatural, “unfit”, “pretended families” because we have relationships with other women. Yet it is women who, often with the support of other women, give birth to and care for children everywhere. But once those who give care and support are also in a sexual relationship, our contribution is denied and we are severely punished.
Despite working very hard most women in the world have no wages or welfare for their work. Poverty, lack of financial independence and affordable housing makes it much harder for any woman to be economically independent of her family and of men who earn more than she does. Like other women who are heads of household, we are poorer because we don’t have a man’s wage to rely on. And like single women who are not lesbian, we may face the threat of violence and even death if we live independently.
We meet as lesbian women to discuss what issues are important to us, and what demands we want to make, both in the Global Women's Strike and in other initiatives. On that basis we work together with non-lesbian women in the Campaign and with men – gay and straight - in Payday, and in other organisations. Our Global Women’s Strike initiative is called Dykes on Strike. We are not lesbian separatists who think everyone should be a lesbian, and dismiss women who are or have been with men. Just because we have intimate relationships with women doesn’t mean we’ve stopped being mothers, daughters, sisters, carers, friends, work colleagues and neighbours of women and children, and of men!
We’d like to know more about the situation of lesbian women in other countries and what issues are most important to you. We want to make sure that IWDL and the Strike speak to and open the way for lesbian women in every country – starting with those in the South where women have the least social and economic power and are therefore least able to "come out" and face the fiercest repression if they do.
There are many ways in which lesbian and bisexual women can make their voices heard without endangering themselves and their children. We have often read statements from women who wanted to remain anonymous so that the power of those of us who could be public was used to give a voice to those of us who could not rather then to make us feel guilty for being afraid. In this way, we were able to address and undermine the power relations among us, the women who had the power to be public did not dominate and we could make visible all our experiences, whether or not any particular individual could afford to.
While repression and discrimination continue to rage, the lesbian and gay movement have transformed the world we live in. In a growing number of countries, the visibility and power of the lesbian and gay movement has made it possible for more people, especially young people, to have same-sex relationships and call themselves bisexual, or refuse any label. Many now assume that sex is not about gender but about who you fancy and want to have a relationship with. Movements for social change which previously would have denied that there were lesbians, gays, sex workers or any other ‘undesirables’ in their midst, are now gaining strength by making visible every sector and their contribution to the movement. The Zapatistas are a good example: they consistently acknowledge not only every Indigenous nation in Mexico but other people who face and struggle against discrimination, lesbian and gay people, housewives and women and grassroots people generally.
We look forward to hearing from you, wherever you are and to help make your voice heard.