The Invisible LBT in Gay Pride

The tendency for the LGBT rights movement to focus on gay men marginalizes any LGBT issue that doesn't directly affect gay men, regardless of their importance.

[Ed. Note, this is a guest post from Nicole Bedera. Nicole is a sociology student at Westminster College and an LGBT and women's rights activist.]

Earlier this week, my partner and I poured over the schedule of events for this weekend’s Pride celebration. When we learned about the DYKE and Transgender March, we were incredibly excited. Lately, we’ve been feeling like lesbians have been a little left out of the LGBT rights movement. For instance, George Takei has taken a permanent spot on the Howard Stern show, but there aren’t any recurring lesbian roles on primetime TV, my partner and I still get howled at when we walk down the street, and none of our gay male friends even want to talk about these issues.

The DYKE and Transgender March seemed like the perfect solution to this feeling of exclusion.

But then another thought entered my head: isn’t the pride parade supposed to include a dyke and transgender march? Of the evermore popular LGBT acronym, half of the letters are looking to a different event to get some recognition. What does it say about pride parade events that lesbians and transgender individuals need an additional march to feel visible?

Even though the first national DYKE March was twenty years ago, lesbians are still struggling to get attention in the LGBT rights movement. Flip through the next gay magazine that you find and take a look at the advertisements. Most of them will feature and target gay men because the writers and advertisers assume that, just like straight women, lesbians will have a higher tolerance for being left out and still remain interested and active. Lesbians all over the Salt Lake valley read Q and The Advocate, but when was the last time you saw a gay man flipping through a copy of Curve? And if there isn’t a strong lesbian presence in LGBT literature, the transgender community has been almost entirely left out.

But this isn’t about a bunch of magazines or where we spend Saturday afternoon. Regularly pushing aside the LBT to let the G take center stage has serious ramifications for the communities being overlooked. In Utah, almost a third of college-aged rape victims identify as lesbian or bisexual. The transgender community still has trouble finding a safe bathroom. 

This Pride weekend, I intend to join the DYKE and Transgender March at the capitol, but I hope that we won’t always need our own event. I hope that our issues can join the rest at the forefront of the movement. In the interim, I hope that gay men will support the LBT members of the queer rights movement not just by rallying around our marches, but by making more room for us, our voices, and the issues that we care about in mainstream LGBT culture.

Comments

  1. TheRiverJordan says:

    Preach it! :) This all just stems from sexism; men are supposed to be center stage, everyone else take a back seat. I’m Bi and it’s like I’m not even real! If I’m with a man, it’s because I’m actually straight; if I’m with a women, it’s because I’m actually a lesbian. These comments are worse from the queer community. I have to admit, being part of a liberal, straight community is sometimes easier for bisexual people, because at least they just shut up if they don’t agree with you, because they don’t want to be bigoted!

  2. As bi-sexual, I often am invisible from any conversation. I am stigmatized in each group due to the fact that I am neither straight or lesbian. People just see me as a whore who can’t decide on what I want. What does that say about a group who has made such wide strides and still can’t focus on all identities?

  3. Hell yeah! Great piece Nicole! Thanks so much for this. As a bisexual female, I’m still trying to be taken seriously. A couple of family members of mine are very supportive, but some others still believe that I am “confused” and that one of these days, I’ll either “wake up” and realize that I’m actually either straight, or gay. That’s what they actually think. It’s very frustrating! It’s also frustrating for my other bisexual friends. Including my very close bisexual male friend who is in the military and is deathly afraid of the men in his platoon finding out, for fear of who knows what the hell they would do to him. Especially since he has a wife and children.

    Anyway yes! Gay women, bisexual and trans people need to be respected more, and out in the open more. And of course we need to be at the forefront with the rest of the gay men, because we are just as important!

    Although, I would like to mention that I’m pretty sure magazines like “The Advocate” and “Out” actually are for gay men and women (with bi’s and trans people on the side), and not just for gay men. And there was a magazine issue recently that featured same-sex marriage, and what was interesting was that they made two different copies. One that featured two men kissing and the other that featured two women kissing. So I thought that was progress! And another magazine talking about gay marriage that featured two female dolls wearing wedding dresses. I was shocked! It didn’t have a male character at all! Sadly I can’t remember what the magazine was, but I distinctly remember seeing it. And I can think of at least two shows on ABC Family that are featuring more gay female characters.

    I understand that all of these things I listed isn’t exactly much, since gay male figures still dominate practically everything. However, I do think we are making some form of progress, even though it’s very small. We just need to try harder, and make more of an effort! I definitely agree. :)

  4. Who didn’t know that women crave more attention than men?
    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/02/prweb212334.htm

    I would agree that the LGBT stuff does seem to be all about the G most of the time though, there are tons of movies, TV shows, etc that address G rights, while hardly any will go near L, B, or T.

  5. As a lesbian in Pittsburgh, I find that lesbians represent themselves fairly well in the Pride Parade and festival here. There is also a Dyke and Trans March at later date than the Pride Parade. I’m not sure why they have a separate parade but, I think it is because they want to separate themselves as a little bit of a different group. I am sure that if they wanted to, the Dyke and Trans March organizers could join the main Pride Parade. Your Parade site in Utah has a link to an application page where a social group of dykes and trans folks could march for a fee of $150.00. Maybe next year, you could organize something.

    Athough I identify myself as a lesbian, I don’t really identify as a dyke but, I think that lesbians in all forms should be 100% included. If I am understanding the way the parades run, any group or organization can choose to join the parade and pay the fee for it. Dykes on Bikes always kick off the Pittsburgh Pride Parade. I definitely think that the Dyke/Trans community is looking for additional individual attention for their respective groups. Many people don’t understand the lesbians who identify as dyke or butch because of that stereotypical question, “If you love women, why do you dress like a boy.” I think that is part of why they want to be individually recognized. The trans community is also full of stigma because people don’t understand them either. I fully support the trans community but, I am not sure that they gay community is fully accepting of them. One reason is that let’s say, hypothetically, a born man, attracted to men, transitioned to a woman, attracted to men. Is that person gay? I don’t think so. Same with a born woman, attracted to women who becomes a man attracted to women. They would be straight. They are transgendered, yes but, not gay. Now, if a born man attracted to women, transitions to a woman, attracted to women, then yes, she would be considered a lesbian. So you see, there are reasons for them to have an individual parade. Please don’t think I am being discriminatory here, I am just pointing out an argument that I have heard.

    Now, you live in Utah so, what you are exposed to very different than in NYC, San Fran, or even here in Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, the lesbian community, although close knit, is big, and there is a lot for us to do.

    The lesbian community is well represented at Pride in my opinion and they are well represented in the general Pittsburgh, NYC, LA, San Fran… communities as well. In more rural areas, maybe not so much.

    I did want to point out that Cali and Arizona a married lesbian couple have been well represented on Grey’s Anatomy for years. Ellen is the most loved lesbian on the planet with her talk show. Lesbians are all over YouTube with Online TV Shows. Showtime represents. And Primetime just got a new show called The Fosters on ABC Family about an interracial lesbian couple fostering children. It’s there. Could it be better? Always but, it is there.

  6. PS: The fight for equal rights in the Supreme Court is being led by 3 lesbians and 2 gay men.

    And gay men don’t read Curve because they are flabbergasted and particularly horrified by the vagina so, they stay away… so I’ve heard. Autostraddle is a great lesbian blog and there is a lot of Trans representation in it.

    My advice to you is be the change. If you want it to happen, make it happen. Just by pointing issues out, you already have a start.

  7. Jellybean says:

    While I certainly agree with many of your points, I must disagree about representation in prime time. There are actually many queer characters on television, and most of them are wonderfully written and well drawn. Here are just a few: Santana Lopez, Brittany Pierce, Unique on Glee, Emily Fields and Paige McCullers on Pretty Little Liars, Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife, Pam and Tara on True Blood, Lena and Stef Foster on The Fosters, Cosmina on Orphan Black, Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins on Greys Anatomy. Television and movies are one of the places where LBT characters and issues are actually making leaps and bounds.

  8. It would be helpful to understand your point if you provided some salient examples. You mention magazines, but then demur on that point. In NYC, there is no issue with lesbian visibility. Our sisters are well-represented and I have heard no complaints about lesbians being marginalized in the parade or gay organizations. The dyke march is a successor to the women’s marches of the 70′s and 80′s. If I recall correctly, women wanted a separate march the evening before the main parade because the AIDS crisis did marginalize lesbian issues. But the dyke march is not intended as a counter to a gay male centered pride parade, but as an additional opportunity for women to come together to increase visibility to women’s issues. I appreciate it may be different in Utah, which is why I would enjoy reading a fuller exegesis of your experience as a lesbian living there. Go to both parades and have a great time. Best,

  9. Winifred says:

    Like their straight counterparts, gay *men* make more money than lesbians, or straight women for that matter. Thus, advertisers, whose goal is to get you to spend money, are more focused on gay men, who have more money to spend. I suspect cis men have more money than trans men or trans women also, so same argument. I think the solution is equal pay and more feminism. When women have the spending power that men do — people will start to advertise to us.

  10. I really appreciate this perspective. As a white thin gay middle class man, I often consider that only one of those things classifies me as a “minority” or under represented or whatever you’d like to label “gay” being. One of the things in life I am most thankful for is knowing what it DOES feel like to sometimes be “the other.”

    In my own writing I always try to consider all 4 of those perspectives (one reason why I really try to use “LGBT” as much as I can – don’t you hate it when someone writes “GLBT”? Always catches me off guard). And then there are even more perspectives that I don’t even know much about such as I and Q and then our allies.

    Always educating, always moving forward. I wish I had control over what is produced, but I do have control over what I consume. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Perhaps this is a Utah phenomenon. In Maryland, our successful marriage equality campaign last year had both genders well represented. Lesbian State Rep. Heather Mizeur is even exploring a run for Governor next year.

    The “T” is not forgotten either. Trans non-discrimination legislation was the highest priority for local activists in this spring’s legislative session. It was blocked, however, when a state senator who had previously committed to voting for the bill switched his vote unexpectedly. It is certain to be re-introduced again next spring.

    Great blog, btw.

  12. Why don’t more women choose to join the lgbt marches? Why must we insist on a different label, “lesbian”, rather than say “gay men and women”? Last I checked, magazines like Curve cater specifically to women, while the Advocate caters to all the in the lgbt community. Lesbians want their own bars, their own marches, their own events (hell, ever the Dance on the River the Day before the NYC Pride is women only). Look at MichFest, for women only and one that excludes trans women.

    Gay men in our group I found were always the most inclusive. The Advocate, while run mostly by gay men, includes a good amount of articles catering specifically to trans, bi, and gay women. It’s the lesbians (gay women who insist on the term so I don’t sound hypocritical) and transgenders who are more separatist, often because of radical feminism. Why don’t the LBT get more involved with gay pride?

    I am tired of being called the “cool” butch, the “awesome” lesbian because I am not separatist, most of friends just happen to be gay men and fag hags, because I don’t play gender politics and policing, because I don’t trash camp or drag culture, because I don’t separate myself from gay male peers just because I am born female. I’m gay, not “queer’. Maybe because I wear what they wear. Maybe because I drink and enjoy the same things they do, from the traditional bar culture they grew up in, to the drag shows, to the club scenes. Maybe it’s because I go to the local gay bar here in the boondocks not just on ladies’ night, but whenever they go.

    Gay men are the inclusive ones, while I tend to find most LBT exclusive, they want their own things but still expect gay men to be inclusive. BULLSHIT.

  13. People don’t like listening to me talk about my struggles as a gay man, either. That certainly includes LGBT people. I think that people are just insensitive. It’s tough, but all we can really do is try to be more sensitive to others, yeah?

    All in all, fair points, and I hope that we move in that direction, as well. And hey, if the problem is that gay men dominate the conversations, do your part and keep a-talkin’!

Trackbacks

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  3. […] Why don’t more women choose to join the lgbt marches? Why must we insist on a different label, “lesbian”, rather than say “gay men and women”? Last I checked, magazines like Curve cater specifically to women, while the Advocate caters to all the in the lgbt community. Lesbians want their own bars, their own marches, their own events (hell, ever the Dance on the River the Day before the NYC Pride is women only). Look at MichFest, for women only and one that excludes trans women. […]

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