Why celebrate International Lesbian Day? Here are some reasons, beginning with:
Honouring the life and death of Monica Briones
A creative and different woman," titled a magazine of the time with a small profile of the artist. There she confessed, probably to an insistent journalist: "I have not married because it would take time from my art.”
from an online site I depend on for news.
Today, October 8 is International Lesbian Day. Some say April 26. A day little known but important to those of us who are lesbians. You might say, “Oh no, not another ‘Day’”. But as women, and as lesbians who live openly in defiance of the messages we are given as girls, told that women must not live independently of men, that women must not love each other too deeply, this is a day which I felt important to write about this year here on World Pulse. Defending the rights of women to live freely. What have we been taught about women who live and love as independently as lesbians do? Are we aware of and including the violence, psychological, economical, sexual, imprisoning and murderous acts specifically toward women who are lesbians? Or thought to be lesbians for breaking some rule of dress or behaviour?
Earlier I wrote with trepidation here on World Pulse of my being an “out” lesbian activist. “Out” meaning "out of the closet", not willing to hide, not wanting to work for every woman’s freedom without including my own, and that of my lesbian sisters. I wrote with trepidation as this global movement for women’s rights means everything to me, yet I know too that many do not understand or include lesbians, seeing us more as "wrong", as a “too extreme” embarrassment. Being “out” for a lesbian always carries risks. We insist on our independence. We are punished for breaking the rules. We are ostracized for being too radical. But writing as my lesbian self here on World Pulse I was warmly and respectfully understood and I knew that I had, as I had hoped, joined this global movement that includes me, and my lesbian sisters. My original story: https://www.worldpulse.com/voices-rising/stories/coming-out-my-global-si.... Some of us knew from when we were children. Some from teenage years, young adulthood, some in old age.
This year, through private online groups where we share information with each other safely, as we do here within our cherished World Pulse, I want to share this news. This is the news we have on our shoulders, news that tears my heart, news that needs to be part of the list of changes we are working for together.
In many countries, being anything other than heterosexual is punishable by death. These include Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE, parts of Nigeria, parts of Somalia, parts of Syria and parts of Iraq. In many more countries, bans are in place to prohibit 'propaganda' interpreted as promoting LGBTQI2S communities. These include Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lithuania and Russia.
This is not a full list, but it brings forward what we are up against. It is a list of violence toward all under the LGBTQI2S umbrella, but today I want to focus on lesbians. We are not safe even in countries that have changed laws. As lesbians and as women, we grow up under the specific rules, regulations and cultural assumptions demanded of girls and women, and we suffer the consequences when we are visibly women who break these rules. Here are the lesbians on my mind today as I write. Monica Briones, I quoted at the start, because she was murdered for being a lesbian. A young woman and gifted artist, Chilean, murdered by a man in the street yelling at her for being a lesbian. Two lesbians in Bolivia, yelled at by the bus driver for holding hands. A talented lesbian DJ killed at 19 in Brazil. Two killed attending a Pride march in the Netherlands, another couple attacked recently there in the street. In the US a couple kicked out of an Uber and another couple kicked out of their church. A young lesbian recently brutally murdered in Atlanta, US. A couple thrown out of a bar, threatened and exposed to, and a young lesbian couple sought safety from a father, in India. A young lesbian abducted and beaten in Brazil. Assaulted on a bus in Germany. Many have suffered “Corrective Rape” in South Africa and other countries. A couple attacked in Argentina. Forced into “Conversion Therapy” in Chile, and also the US. Two young lesbians attacked on a train in Britain. Poland has set up “LGBT Free Zones”. A lesbian murdered in St Petersburg Russia, many more subjected to death threats. Many stories other countries, and from Canada as well.
As lesbians, known to be or not, we have been at the forefront of human rights movements for many years. Activism is in our bones as we face threats, prejudices and violence for standing visibly as women who believe in the right of women to choose the path of our own lives, to be economically independent, to have or not have children, to be respected, to be heard. We know that this right to independence and respect is a right recently lost in the scheme of time, that we threaten patriarchy by speaking about this, that we have researched history and know that this era of patriarchal control is relatively new, as recent as 10,000 years, and that the male domination we are working to end has not always been in control, nor is it today, in many cultures. Governments, legal systems, individual men and gangs of men are determined to punish us as independent women. We live visibly in defiance of male domination. With the list of all we need to change, let’s make sure that lesbians are part of who we are working for, for basic Human Rights. We are already here in this women's movement. Our freedom is tied implicitly with the freedom of all women. Today is October 8. In memory of all who have died, in a call of connection with all who have been injured, discriminated against, denied work, correctively raped, and who continue to be strong beautiful sisters, let's celebrate International Lesbian Day together.