Showing posts with label Lesbian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lesbian. Show all posts

July 31, 2015

‘Straight' is the New Lesbian in Germany


Spiting digitalization, Germany's magazine industry remains one of the largest in the world. There are magazines for teddy bear lovers ("Teddy & Co"), for men passionate about food ("Beef!"), and for city dwellers dreaming of a countryside lifestyle. Altogether, there are nearly 1,600 popular magazines available in German kiosks.
And now a new lifestyle magazine has recently come out: "Straight" caters to lesbians, but carefully avoids using the L-word. In Germany, just like its counterpart for men, "schwul" (gay), it is still used as a pejorative term.
Still, it might take a while for people to get it: "Straight," a designation which normally refers to heterosexuals, might confuse a few people. It probably wouldn't be the first word to come to mind when thinking of homosexual women.
Yet beyond the antithesis created by the title, the editors also picked it to show that they aim to be straightforward and frank: "That's exactly what we are," says editor-in-chief Felicia Mutterer, "'Straight' embodies self-confidence and obviously wants to provoke."
Cut the lesbian clichés
The creators of the magazine want to avoid the usual clichés of the short-haired man-hating lesbian wearing lumberjack shirts and driving with a rainbow sticker on her car.
"It's difficult to convey the idea that you can be a lesbian without conforming to the stereotypes," says Mutterer. Fashion pieces ("Cool Summer Looks"), cosmetic tips ("Miracle Cures for Your Skin") can be found in this publication just like in any other women's lifestyle magazine.
Felicia Mutterer, Straight chief editor, Copyright: Straight
Felicia Mutterer, chief editor of "Straight" magazine
This is new. The other lesbian magazine published in Germany, the "L-Mag," deliberately avoids such content. Its co-publisher, Gudrun Fertig, feels it propagates an established image of women, which only suits part of their readership.
Felicia Mutterer, on the other hand, says it's ok if other publications chose not to write about make-up, but "Straight" will. "Straight" follows the lines of a typical women's magazine, but throws in issues specific to a lesbian audience. Alongside articles covering issues such as same-sex marriage, coming out at work and bondage games, you'll find interviews with a lesbian filmmaker and a sperm donor, as well as relationship advice, book and music reviews, recipes and travel stories. 
Angela Merkel, a lesbian?
The magazine's marketing campaign didn't go unnoticed. They created a video showing a Merkel lookalike - who's suddenly embraced from behind by another woman.
Is Chancellor Angela Merkel a lesbian? No. She is married to a man and has said that she is opposed to recognizing same-sex marriages, even though some other members of her party conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union, would be ready to accept it. Civil unions among homosexuals are legal in Germany, but unlike married couples, these unions are restricted and don't allow, for instance, adoption.
Magazines aims to make lesbian lifestyle self-evident 
The magazine has a circulation of 15,000 copies. Its target market not only includes the estimated two million gay women in Germany, but also all women who love women or who want to find out more about lesbian issues.
The editor-in-chief told DW she was very satisfied with the magazine's sales just a week after its release. She says they didn't have any international model for "Straight," but aimed to create something original.
"We did everything on our own and didn't align with anything that already exists," says Mutterer. Although the publication strives to entertain, it is also political: "We want to create different role models to get things moving in society," she explains.
CSD Cologne 2015, Copyright: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
In Russia, allegedly for youth protection, it is illegal to discuss homosexuality 
As long as rights remain unequal and homosexuality is still punishable with the death penalty in nine countries, there's still a lot to do. Still "Straight" wants to redefine the way this battle is tackled: "We don't want to be using the old 'fight for rights' approach, but rather show this lifestyle as a given," Mutterer says.
The "L-Mag" also shares the goal of making lesbian lifestyle self-evident. Although the new magazine is a direct competitor for ads, co-publisher Gudrun Fertig still sees "Straight" as a gain: "Anything that adds to lesbian visibility is a good thing."
Happy without extra labels
In countries where gay women can live openly, there seems to be a fundamental problem: They feel falsely represented in popular media. This has a simple cause. Lesbians only have one little thing in common: They love women. They are very different in all other respects.
Gay women can just as well be the closeted-type who prefer to stay discrete on their relations as activists involved in all same-sex marriage protests. They can put on a butch or femme appearance - or, as most happily do, just prefer to stay invisible, says Felicia Mutterer. Women tend not to be as demonstrative as men in this area, she adds.
Yet there aren't that many more magazines in Germany for gay men, if you don't take into consideration the free leaflets and erotic booklets which can be found in pubs and clubs. And it appears to be the same internationally. 
Online magazines instead of print media
If state legislations were more liberal towards homosexuals, there would also be more magazines, believes Gudrun Fertig. But even in the US or in the UK there is only one magazine clearly directed at lesbian readers.
There are more online, says Klaus Jetz, director of the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation, which fights for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide. In countries like Russia as well as in many African countries, there is not even one print publication for gays. In comparison, two magazines for lesbians is a great exception.

March 7, 2015

The Home Office Tells Lesbian Applying for Stay She can’t be a Lesbian Because She is got Kids


The Home Office has been accused of having ‘outdated’ views on sexuality, after it rejected an asylum claim made by a Nigerian lesbian. 
Aderonke Apata, 47, came to Britain in 2004 and is an award-winning LGBT rights activist. 
Now, she is challenging the Government’s decision not to grant her asylum in Britain and fears that deportation to Africa would compromise her safety. 
Yesterday, she appeared in London’s High Court to appeal her case. 
She was accompanied by her fiancée Happiness Agboro and a group of gay-rights activists. Apata has even submitted footage and photographic evidence of her sex life to prove that she is homosexual.  However, the Home Office has refused to recognise her sexuality – arguing she can’t be classified as a lesbian because she has children from a previous heterosexual relationship.  
Barrister Andrew Bird, on behalf of the Home Secretary, claimed that Apata wasn’t “part of the social group known as lesbians,” although he conceded that she had “indulged in same-sex activity.” 
“You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race,” he added during the hearing. 
Apata’s barrister, Abid Mahmood, called these views: “highly offensive”. 
“Some members of the public may have those views but it doesn’t mean a government department should be putting these views forward in evidence,” he told the court. 
He added that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, had called Apata’s case a “publicity stunt” in court documents. 
Until recently, gay asylum seekers were liable to be asked ‘intrusive’ and personal questions about their sex lives, in order to establish the validity of claims about their sexuality. 
Nigeria passed a law criminalising homosexuality in January 2014and it’s punishable by up to 14 years in prison (for attempting to enter a gay marriage. Supporting a LGBT organisation can get you 10 years jail time).  
Since the anti-gay law was implemented, there has been a noticeable backlash against the homosexual community, with vigilante attacks against gay people increasing dramatically. 
In March last year, four Nigerian men were publically whipped after being convicted of gay sex. 
Apata’s fragile mental state also forms part of her case. She has previously been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. She attempted suicide while being kept in prison and facing deportation. 
Mahmood added: “There is evidence of the genuineness of her case, that she will be picked out as a lesbian if she is returned.” 
After the hearing, Apata said: “The Home Office has treated me badly from day one. Staying in Britain means staying safe, staying with my partner and continuing my campaigning.” 
petition to overturn the decision and grant Apata refugee statushas, so far, had almost 29,000 signatures. 
A ruling is expected by the end of March.

July 4, 2014

Gay men and Lesbians, same coin with two sides?


"We have absolutely nothing in common with gay men," says Eda, a young lesbian, "so I have no idea why we are lumped in together."

Not everyone agrees. Since the late 1980s, lesbians and gay men have been treated almost as one generic group. In recent years, other sexual minorities and preferences have joined them.

The term LGBT, representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, has been in widespread use since the early 1990s. Recent additions - queer, "questioning" and intersex - have seen the term expand to LGBTQQI in many places. But do lesbians and gay men, let alone the others on the list, share the same issues, values and goals?

Anthony Lorenzo, a young gay journalist, says the list has become so long, "We've had to start using Sanskrit because we've run out of letters."

Bisexuals have argued that they are disliked and mistrusted by both straight and gay people. Trans people say they should be included because they experience hatred and discrimination, and thereby are campaigning along similar lines as the gay community for equality.  Julie Bindel is the author of Straight Expectations: How We Are Gay Today
But what about those who wish to add asexual to the pot? Are asexual people facing the same category of discrimination. And "polyamorous"? Would it end at LGBTQQIAP?

There is scepticism from some activists. Paul Burston, long-time gay rights campaigner, suggests that one could even take a longer formulation and add NQBHTHOWTB (Not Queer But Happy To Help Out When They're Busy). Or it could be shortened to GLW (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever).

An event in Canada is currently advertising itself as an "annual festival of LGBTTIQQ2SA culture and human rights", with LGBTTIQQ2SA representing "a broad array of identities such as, but not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, and allies". Two-spirited is a term used by Native Americans to describe more than one gender identity.

Gay men and lesbians have always faced different challenges.

Until 1967 consenting sex between men, of any age, was criminalised in the UK. Following decriminalisation, prejudice prevailed, with police entrapment operations to seek out men "cottaging" - having sex in public toilets and parks - creating fear and insecurity.
Lesbianism was never criminalised, but lesbians suffered a different and equally pernicious form of discrimination. When married women fell in love with another woman and their marriages ended, they invariably lost custody of their children, even when the father was known to be violent.

I came out as a lesbian aged 15 in 1977. At that time, neither the law nor the majority of heterosexuals protected or defended us. It was the heyday of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and lesbians and gay men worked together to fight for the most basic of rights - an end to discrimination in the workplace, violence in the streets and schools, and the recognition that being lesbian or gay was not an illness. 
There were so few of us able to be out and proud that gay women and men stuck together. But by the end of the 1970s, most of the lesbians had walked out of GLF. One founder member, who asked not to be named, says: "We were fed up with sexism from the very men who should know better."

During the next few years lesbians, including myself, fought for women's liberation as well as lesbian and gay rights. Some gay men drifted away from campaigning.

Then, in the mid 1980s came the Aids crisis, and the appalling anti-gay prejudice and hate prompted by the prevailing myth that Aids was a "gay plague". Building on the homophobic climate, the Thatcher government introduced pernicious new legislation known as Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1986. It became law on 24 May 1988. This amendment made it illegal for local authorities to "promote homosexuality" in state schools, perpetuating the idea that homosexuality destroys traditional family values.

When Section 28 became law, for the first time, lesbians and gay men were being targeted by the same legislation.

But do we really experience homophobia in the same way? This was one of the questions I have asked in a series of online surveys, disseminated through the gay and mainstream press, during the research for my book.

The surveys, completed by 9,500 gay men, lesbians and heterosexual people in total, included the question: "Do lesbians and gay men suffer homophobia in the same or different ways?" More than two-thirds of both groups said no, they did not believe that lesbians and gay men have the same experience of bigotry.
Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship"

Introduced by Conservative MP Jill Knight who said she was concerned for "parents who strongly objected to their children at school being encouraged into homosexuality and being taught that a normal family with mummy and daddy was outdated".
According to gay pressure group Stonewall, which was formed to oppose it, Section 28 made teachers "confused about what they could and could not say and do... Local authorities were unclear as to what legitimate services they could provide for lesbian, gay and bisexual members of their communities”.

Section 28 was repealed in Scotland in 2000 and in England and Wales in 2003 - a number of senior Conservatives later said the legislation had been “a mistake".

Are gay men and lesbians cut from the same cloth? Yes, says Jane Czyzselska, editor of the lesbian magazine Diva, but only in terms of some experiences of discrimination. When the issue of sexism is factored in, the answer must be no: "Lesbians suffer the double whammy of sexism and homophobia, because we are punished for transgressing traditional gender behaviours and expectations." This type of abuse, which Czyzselska names, "lesbophobia", can lead to a variety of psychological responses, including self-harm, mental health issues, substance misuse and eating disorders.

One significant difference between lesbians and gay men is that of the visibility of the ageing population. Researcher Jane Traies conducted a study entitled The Lives of British Lesbians Over Sixty. Traies found that older lesbians are under-represented not only in popular culture and the media, but also in academic research, hidden from view by a particular combination of prejudices that renders them unrepresentable.
It is wrong to assume that gay men are not sexist towards their lesbian sisters. According to Lorenzo, there is a significant problem in the gay community with misogyny. I and other lesbians have experienced this first hand.

Whatever our differences - and there are many - until we are truly free from the reality of bigotry, lesbians and gay men will need to continue to work together.

"We are stronger together than apart," says Lisa Power, co-founder of the gay rights charity Stonewall. "Our homophobic enemies generally don't distinguish between us in their attacks - and while I agree with many feminist arguments and will always call myself a feminist, sexism is not the only form of oppression out there and we have to make alliances."

Now that lesbians and gay men in the UK have full legal equality, only time will tell whether we are truly free from homophobic bigotry, and whether old alliances will need to be reformed, or if we will finally go our separate ways.

One thing, however, seems certain. LGBTQQI will continue to be added to until the only person not represented in the list will be a straight, monogamous man.

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