Hearing the word lesbian all week has been a joy! I love being a lesbian, I love being with lesbians and I love talking about lesbians, so Lesbian Visibility Week 2021 was a real gift.
Despite rumours to the contrary, this won’t be the year lesbians become extinct. In fact, young women are more (not less) likely to identify as lesbians, and dramatically more likely to identify as bi. As social acceptance for LGBTQ+ people rises more and more of us feel able to embrace who we are, and our community of LBTQ+ women gets richer and more beautiful (we recruit!)
Yet while we aren’t dying out, lesbians still don’t get the celebrated as much we deserve, so when Linda Riley, founder of LVW asked me if Stonewall could partner with DIVA to bring a week of excitement for Lesbian Visibility Week 2021, I couldn’t wait for it to happen – and wow, has there been a lot.
On Monday, to launch the week itself, DIVA published The DIVA Survey: LGBTQI Women and Non-Binary People’s Insight 2021, in partnership with Stonewall and Kantar. The report looked into the lives of lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer women and non-binary people and the challenges they’re facing. What was most revealing about the survey this year was the clear impact that the pandemic and lockdowns have had on our community. The figures showed that 3 in 4 LGBT+ women and non-binary people (77 per cent) reported worse mental health as the result of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns. Over half (52 per cent) of respondents had accessed mental health services in the past 12 months, while a further 12 per cent had tried to access mental health services but were unsuccessful. We know that the LGBT+ community have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, but there is still little evidence to show the extent of this impact. These statistics are a crucial start in showing the effects on our community and enabling us to access support.
What also struck me from the survey was that of respondents with children, more than 1 in 3 (36 per cent) experienced barriers or challenges whilst trying to start or grow their family. This statistic is a reminder that while things like getting married and starting a family are now possible for us, it doesn’t mean that its easy. Laura-Rose, lesbian mother and founder of LGBT+ Mummies Tribe spoke out about her own experiences as a lesbian mum on TikTok, and in PinkNews this week. As a lesbian mum myself to two wonderful boys, I feel passionately that all LGBTQ+ people should be treated fairly when it comes to starting a family, whether through IVF, surrogacy, or adoption and fostering. At Stonewall, this is something we will keep fighting for.
But our community is much more than the challenges we face, and this week has had no shortage of joy, love, laughs and inspiration – much of which I’ve felt privileged to be part of.
On Monday morning, I had the pleasure of being on the week’s opening panel; Why Lesbian Visibility is Needed beside Linda Riley, founder of the week, Lady Phyll, Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust and UK Black Pride, and chaired by Dawn Butler. Even though I am an out and proud lesbian every day of the year, it still felt SO good to have space to talk about our community, celebrate the strength, tenacity and visibility of the lesbians who came before us and paved the way, and to think about our role in doing that for the younger generations.
Since that panel, there have been too many events to mention throughout the week (more than 25!), all of them platforming incredible lesbians and LBTQ+ women and non-binary people. Together, we have discussed topics from allyship to leadership, including Lesbians Beyond the Binary, conversations about Faith and Sexuality, Housing Solutions led by Tonic Housing, and an incredible Queer Women of Colour panel chaired by Char Bailey. With so many to watch, you’ll be pleased to know that almost all of the sessions are available to watch on catch up at your own pace, and as many times as you like on this link.
On Wednesday evening, more than two hundred people virtually attended the laugh of our year at Stonewall Presents GIGLESS. The hour was packed full of belly laughs, hosted by the incredible Catherine Bohart, and featuring the brilliant line up of Jen Ives, Sophie Duker and Rosie Jones. Being in such a packed (virtual!) room of lesbians and allies really was awesome.
Thursday brought us the iconic DIVA Awards in a night full of well-earned celebration and recognition. When lesbians are so often over-looked, it feels even more important and exciting to come together and acknowledge the incredible work of individuals and role models, who do so much for us all. This year the Awards were live streamed and recorded for all who wanted to attend.
Yesterday, for those of us who love a Pride event, DIVA put on their own Pride - bringing us performances from Heather Peace, Horse MacDonald, the sensational Heather Small and many more.
Across social media, the reaction has also been incredible, from stories shared on TikTok, to lesbians across the globe sharing their own stories. If you thought it couldn’t get any better, Friday left my timeline filled with pictures of lesbians and their furry friends and canine companions using the hashtag #PetsOfLesbianTwitter – the moment my puppy Peggy has been waiting for!
Now that this uplifting week is coming to a close, I am left with a feeling of pure pride for our community. I am delighted at the restoration, energy and empowerment that LVW has channelled for us all, and I hope that we all take this energy with us into whatever next week brings.