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Lesbian Visibility Week: The L of the LGBTQIA+ Community






In the vast landscape of human relationships, the love between lesbian women represents a precious and vibrant pillar of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is a journey of intimacy, of obstacles yet to be overcome, of challenges already faced, and victories celebrated. Through their stories, a world rich in diversity, courage, and deep connections emerges. In this article, on the occasion of Lesbian Visibility Week 2024, we will explore together the nuances, joys, and struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community in exalting love as a pure and universal feeling.


Lesbian couple relaxing on grass, emphasising the importance of the LGBTQIA+ community




Quick Summary


  • In the current world, where estimating the precise number of people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community is difficult, as there are still too many countries where being gay is illegal, it is crucial to organize events like Lesbian Visibility Week.

  • At the same time, it is important to educate and raise awareness in oneself and others about the history, challenges, and successes of the LGBTQIA+ community, spread awareness about relevant issues, promote inclusion, use social media to disseminate messages of positivity, kindness, respect, fight discrimination and homophobia.

  • Those who operate in the beauty industry can also contribute to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, breaking down a series of erroneous stereotypes (for example, lesbian women depicted as men) and focusing on the production of gender-neutral cosmetics to truly support the cause and not as a marketing strategy to increase sales and gain economic benefits.



What is Lesbian Visibility Week?



Lesbian Visibility Week is an annual event held primarily in the United States and the United Kingdom, aimed at raising awareness about lesbian women and their issues and challenges. The observance originally started in Los Angeles in 1990 and continued until 1992. The motivation remained consistent: lesbians were frustrated by their "invisibility to straight America" and the disproportionate attention given to gay men compared to lesbians (Parade, 2024).


After 1992, the observance faded until International Lesbian Visibility Day was established in 2008. However, it wasn't until 2020 that a full week of visibility resumed. Linda Riley, the publisher of DIVA Magazine - a prominent LGBTQIA+ media outlet in Europe and the UK - felt that a single day of celebration was "simply insufficient" (Stonewall, 2021). Motivated by this belief, she initiated Lesbian Visibility Week, garnering support from several UK and international organizations, including GLAAD, Stonewall, Kaleidoscope Trust, UK Black Pride, Albert Kennedy Trust, LGBT Foundation, Mermaids, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.


The goal is to exalt the power of sisterhood through the stories of incredible women belonging to the LGBTQIA+, in the hope of creating one big community and family for people of all ages and from every country.

Lesbian Visibility Week is celebrated every year in April, and in 2024 it falls from April 22 to 28.


This event still represents a huge taboo that leads to further divide those with an open mind from those who continue to remain anchored to the past and to ideas that do not keep pace with the times.


Because of this situation, events and initiatives during Lesbian Visibility Week are (unfortunately) limited to small parades, gatherings, articles, and posts to make this reality increasingly known, normalize every form of love, and communicate messages of solidarity and inclusion... The most important thing is to treat others as a human being, regardless of age, skin color, religion, gender, or sexual orientation (Lesbian Visibility Week)!



Lesbian women showing love for each other, representing affection within the LGBTQIA+ community


How Can You Support Lesbian Visibility Week?


Supporting Lesbian Visibility Week is relatively easy: no donations or participation in rallies or parades are required. Supporting the LGBTQIA+ means being able to open one's mind, accept and include any other person as such.

  • Educate and raise awareness in yourself and others about the history, challenges, and successes of the lesbian community, spread awareness of important issues such as LGBTQIA+ rights, marriage equality, and discrimination.

  • Promote inclusion in the workplace, creating a welcoming and hospitable environment for all, ensuring, both as an employee and as an employer, that company policies are respectful of everyone's sexual orientation and fighting all forms of discrimination.

  • Use social media to disseminate messages of positivity, kindness, respect, acceptance, self-confidence, and solidarity, to listen to and share stories, information, and resources that exalt equality and support for the lesbian community.

  • Recognize and fight discrimination: challenge homophobia, lesbophobia, and discrimination wherever you encounter it, especially if you see it applied to a friend.

  • Promote health and well-being: speak openly and "dismantle" prejudices, trying to raise self-esteem and be a better help.


The LGBTQIA+ Community Worldwide


Lesbian Visibility Week is largely confined to the UK and the USA and is thus not widely recognized elsewhere in the world. Writing this article, I was unpleasantly surprised by the lack of official data regarding the actual number of lesbian women globally. Most data and statistics concern the entire LGBTQIA+ community, but even these are uncertain since many prefer not to come out for various reasons.


One reason is that too many countries still do not accept the LGBTQIA+ community. In fact, 70 nations make it illegal to belong to this community. Specifically, in countries like Nigeria, India, Morocco, Cameroon, and Burundi, homosexuals are punished with many years of imprisonment, up to life sentences as in Brunei and Qatar.


The situation is more severe in countries with laws that target "homophily" even as a form of opinion crime, where such acts are condemned with the death penalty. In places like Pakistan, Mauritania, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates, being homosexual is equated with committing murder (Gay.it, 2020). 


Statistics are stark: in a more modern and welcoming world like the United States, in 2023, there were 13.9 million adults belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, making up 5.5% of the total population (UCLA, 2023). However, in Pakistan, there are no official figures. It is only known that 87% of the population is not tolerant of forms of love different from heterosexual relationships  (Pew Research Center, 2013).


It is assumed that in a city the size of Wajid, with about 20 million residents, more than 50,000 would be homosexual. Nothing, however, is certain! The lack of actual numbers is caused, on one hand, by the fact that homosexuality starkly contradicts the moral values professed by the religion, which holds a privileged position in everyone's life; on the other hand, we reiterate that here homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death... most people prefer to save their skin and keep their orientation secret.


Paradoxically, being transgender is more accepted due to an ancient royal legend: it is said that the transgender population of Pakistan was used as servants for the royal families of Muslim emperors in the 18th and 19th centuries, as there was no risk of queens and princesses receiving unwanted advances.


Conversely, lesbianism is the most challenging sexual orientation: in a male-dominated society, women's freedom is already extremely limited... We can only imagine the obstacles faced by women who love other women (Equal Times, 2014).



Various Approaches to Lesbian Visibility Week


Opinions on initiatives like Lesbian Visibility Week vary widely among those not belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, heavily influenced by factors such as the cultural context in which they live, the education they have received, personal beliefs shaped by their openness, interest, and curiosity to learn about other expressions of love, and closeness to people with experiences closely related to the LGBTQIA+ community.


Many outside the community view Lesbian Visibility Week as an important opportunity to show support and solidarity. They recognize that these initiatives can play a crucial role in combating discrimination, increasing self-confidence and awareness, and encouraging the acceptance and inclusion of lesbian women and other sexual minorities. There are individuals who, although not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, see Lesbian Visibility Week as a useful occasion to learn more about the lives, challenges, and successes of lesbian people. This can lead to greater commitment and understanding of LGBTQIA+ issues.


At the same time, there are individuals who lack strong opinions on the topic or, worse, consider such initiatives insignificant and irrelevant: this indifference may stem from a lack of knowledge or interest in LGBTQIA+ issues or from believing that these issues do not directly affect them and therefore do not influence or change their lives.


To this, add those who are radically opposed for personal, religious, or ideological reasons, believing that events like Lesbian Visibility Week conflict with their beliefs or promote values they do not share.


True progress, in my opinion, would be to normalize diversity: while recognizing the importance of visibility for sexual minorities, we should aim for a society where sexual orientation or gender identity are no longer reasons for discrimination nor require special visibility, as everyone would be accepted and treated equally and with respect.



Stereotypes and Prejudices about Lesbian Women


Every day we see on the internet, on TV, and on social media, perfect boys and girls: although today, fortunately, efforts are being made to break down traditional beauty standards, unfortunately, aesthetic standards that affect both male and female figures still persist.


Lesbian women also face aesthetic stereotypes, which are the result of prejudices and simplifications and can vary widely depending on the culture and social context. However, there are some common stereotypes that are widespread in the media and popular perception. Starting with the reality close to me (Italy), primarily, there is the incorrect prejudice that all lesbian women are masculine in appearance and behavior: they would wear traditionally male clothing, have short hair, and engage in sports or activities considered masculine. This generalization ignores the wide range of gender expressions present in the lesbian community and wrongly homogenizes all lesbian women, without considering individual diversity. Before being lesbian women, they are people, with unique tastes and styles.



Lesbian couple in a flower field, loving each other and raising awareness


Furthermore, the stereotype that lesbian women cannot be feminine or that those who appear feminine are less visible or not taken seriously in their sexual identity truly develops a sort of "lesbian invisibility," where women who do not conform to the aforementioned masculine aesthetic are less recognized as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.


It is necessary to challenge and critically reflect on these stereotypes: the identities and expressions of lesbian women are varied and complex, and reducing them to clichés does not do justice to the richness of human experiences; promoting visibility and understanding through authentic stories and representations in the media and society can help dispel myths related to physical appearance.


Representation of Lesbian Women in the Cosmetic Industry


Every year, for Pride Month, numerous cosmetic product campaigns are launched to celebrate and support the LGBTQIA+ community. One of the most commonly used words in these campaigns is "gender neutrality". But can this buzzword actually represent progress?


Consumers are divided in their response, but those who would respond with a firm NO predominate. And the data is clear: "gender-neutral" beauty content from influencers has increased by 35% in the past year, but engagement has decreased by 9% (Vogue, 2021).


This is due to the fact that terms like "neutrality" are overly vague and superficial: bottles of perfume with rainbow colors or packaging intertwined with gender identity symbols are not enough. Consumers appreciate brands that support social justice issues: according to Edelman, about 86% of consumers worldwide expect CEOs to speak openly about issues such as discrimination.


However, global acceptance of LGBTQIA+ individuals remains a challenge: only a third of companies have a clear, documented, and fully implemented approach to diversity and inclusion, according to a report by WARC on over 1,000 marketing experts globally. Some activists would like a firmer and more proactive stance from brands, which should convey their message globally, even in places where it is seen as controversial. The efforts of too many brands seem insincere, rather driven by simple market reasons: the impression is that beauty brands tend to produce gender-neutral products more for convenience, for sales. Involving LGBTQIA+ members in the process greatly helps (Vogue, 2021).


Just to give an example, one of the brands that embraces the cause in the most "pure" way is Non Gender Specific, which focuses on sustainability (producing vegan, cruelty-free, allergen-free cosmetics) and inclusivity, completely forgetting traditional beauty norms and offering cosmetic products that are genderless, suitable for anyone.


For this reason, Non Gender Specific has received numerous accolades over the past three years, including the "Best Gender Neutral Fragrance" award in 2023. Their inclusivity (evident even just by scrolling through the posts on their Instagram profile) has been appreciated both by magazines such as Vogue and Elle and by prominent retailers in the field of gender neutrality, such as Free People and Fenwick



Lesbian Influencers and Activists


I must admit that writing this article has been more challenging than ever: behind every publication, there is significant research and sourcing involved for us authors. However, despite the LGBTQIA+ community being a current topic, there is a complete lack of concrete data, statistics, and information. It seems there's still a huge taboo surrounding this subject.


Fortunately, social media plays a positive role here, providing a platform where (despite the presence of haters) it is possible to openly discuss one's sexuality. The benefits are twofold: on one hand, those who share their stories can gain more confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness; on the other, followers can find role models to inspire them.


With this in mind, I'd like to introduce some influencers who openly discuss their experiences as lesbian women.




Firstly, there is Kai Mata, a musician and activist fighting for the rights of lesbian women in her home country of Indonesia, a nation still not very tolerant towards the LGBTQIA+ community. Regarded as the first openly lesbian musician in Indonesia, she uses the lyrics of her songs to foster empathy and raise awareness about the lack of rights in Indonesia for the LGBTQIA+ community.


In America, specifically in New York, we have The Lipstick Lesbians, a married couple of women who, through their respective professions (Alexis is a cosmetic product developer, Christina an educator), are trying to promote a new way of using makeup. They see cosmetics as an educational and therapeutic tool, helping people confront, overcome, and heal from our insecurities and "weaknesses" caused by aesthetic appearances, much like medicine heals us in times of poor health.


In Great Britain, we find Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, better known as Lady Phyll. She is the co-founder, director, and as of January 1, 2024, the CEO of UK Black Pride, the largest global celebration of Pride for those who, like her, experience dual discrimination: both from lesbophobia and racism. This Pride event usually takes place at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and attracts tens of thousands of people from the African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American, and Middle Eastern LGBTQIA+ communities.


Last, but certainly not least, is the Italian writer and TikToker Sara Fregosi. In addition to Instagram and TikTok videos in which she addresses, with a certain irony, what it means to be a lesbian woman in Italy and the prejudices concerning it, Sara published her first novel in 2023 titled "Ho sempre amato troppo" ("I Have Always Loved Too Much"). The book addresses the challenges of adolescence and the emotional vulnerabilities of young people in the era of social media, where courtship is based on superficial online interactions and where, despite global connectivity, souls remain distant, hidden behind a false image.



Final Reflections on Lesbian Visibility Week and the LGBTQIA+ Community


Regardless of one's sexual orientation or gender identity, I strongly believe that supporting the cause is of vital importance. We must remember that, first and foremost, the LGBTQIA+ community is made up of People who, as such, must enjoy the same rights as anyone else and must be free to express their love, even if it is not the "traditional, canonical, and religiously recognized" heterosexuality.


Supporting lesbianism means going beyond the stereotypes linked to gender identity, beyond all those erroneous beliefs that relegate women to a particular vision, the result of a society still too ancient, obtuse, and standardized. It means going beyond the fixed idea that love must necessarily be defined as heterosexual or homosexual, to start seeing love as a free and universal feeling that unites and does not divide souls.



FAQs


What is Lesbian Visibility Week?


Lesbian Visibility Week is an annual event held primarily in the United States and the United Kingdom. It is designed to raise awareness about lesbian women, their issues, and challenges, and to celebrate their contributions to society.



When did Lesbian Visibility Week first start?


The observance originally started in 1990 in Los Angeles and was celebrated annually until 1992. After a period of dormancy, it was revived in 2020 with a week-long series of events.



Why was Lesbian Visibility Week reintroduced in 2020?


The week was reintroduced to provide more extensive recognition and celebration of lesbian women than what was felt to be achievable in just one day, International Lesbian Visibility Day.



Who initiated the revival of Lesbian Visibility Week?


Linda Riley, the publisher of DIVA Magazine, a major LGBTQIA+ media outlet in Europe and the UK, initiated the revival, advocating that a single day of celebration was insufficient.



What are the main goals of Lesbian Visibility Week?


The main goals are to promote visibility, create a greater understanding of lesbian issues, and foster an inclusive community that recognizes and respects lesbian identities.



How can people support Lesbian Visibility Week?


People can support by educating themselves and others about lesbian issues, promoting inclusion, using social media to spread positive messages, and actively participating in or organizing events that celebrate lesbian visibility.



What challenges do lesbians face that the visibility week aims to address?


The week addresses issues like discrimination, invisibility in mainstream media, and the lesser attention given to lesbian issues compared to other parts of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.



What stereotypes do lesbian women face?


Lesbian women face stereotypes such as being perceived as masculine or not being taken seriously in their sexual identity if they appear feminine. These prejudices can contribute to a sort of "lesbian invisibility" in social and media representations.



How does the cosmetic industry impact the visibility of lesbians?


The cosmetic industry has attempted to support the LGBTQIA+ community with gender-neutral product campaigns, but often these initiatives are seen as superficial or driven by market motives. Brands like Non Gender Specific are examples of how a genuine and inclusive approach can be implemented.



Who are some notable lesbian influencers and activists mentioned?


Influencers and activists like Kai Mata, The Lipstick Lesbians, and Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Lady Phyll) are mentioned as key figures who use their platforms to advocate for lesbian rights and visibility.



What is the significance of the global perspective on lesbian visibility?


The global perspective underscores the varying degrees of acceptance and legal challenges faced by lesbians worldwide, emphasizing the need for international support and recognition of LGBTQIA+ rights.

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