Lesbian Visibility Week has been annually celebrated since 2008, and this year it runs from Monday 25th April to Sunday 1st May, with Lesbian Visibility Day celebrated on the 26th of April. The event was created to recognise, celebrate and importantly support lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women across the UK and beyond to be comfortable as their true selves in all aspects of their lives. It’s a chance to focus on the ‘L’ of ‘LGBT+, looking to the past history that got us to where we are today, the present triumphs in progress, and what can be done in the future to ensure there is full equality and acceptance. It is important that all members of the lesbian community are validated, including those that are non-binary, transgender, and from marginalised communities.
There is not always an awareness of the difficulties that lesbians can face and why they need extra appreciation and validation. It can be tough on mental health because there is still prejudice and misunderstanding about this sexuality, with the added prejudice of facing sexism. Research has shown that gay women are almost twice as unlikely to be out in the workplace as gay male colleagues. The word ‘lesbian’ can be uncomfortable for people to use or can be used as a joke or an insult. And the media, for example films and television, particularly reality tv, are still behind on representation, or accurate representation, of lesbian relationships, and can portray them as being over sexualised, for the benefit of the straight male audience.
There can be a strain put on mental health, because of the pressures of either coming out or keeping identity and relationships hidden, worrying about not meeting expectations, and fearing prejudice and homophobia. There can be a sense of shame felt about having feelings or attraction for someone the same gender, or confusion and guilt. It can be lonely and isolating, particularly on young people. So it can make a huge positive impact when you have supportive people around you that accept and affirm your identity. There is great positivity to be found in realising this is who I love, and this is who I am. I am not alone in how I feel and there are many others who are just like me in not feeling attraction or romantic feelings towards men.
Looking after your mental wellbeing and building your sense of self-worth can be extra important as a lesbian, as well as being kind to yourself and being able to find self-acceptance. At Space Youth Project we are committed to being a supportive, understanding and freeing space for LGBT+ young people, including those identifying as lesbian. There are many ways to get involved with space, including regular, free youth groups across Dorset, special events and school talks, 1 to 1 support and counselling, and through social media, all of which you can find more info about on our website.
Mind Out (mindout.org.uk) is a mental health service aimed specifically at those who are in LGBT+ communities, or have a relationship with someone who identifies as LGBT+.
And Dorset Mind Your Head (www.dorsetmindyourhead.co.uk) have plenty of helpful resources, information and support available on mental well-being for young people.
In summary, lesbians are valid, important, and completely deserving of respect and acceptance!
Sources / links:
Written by Katie, in collaboration with Dorset Mind Your Head