A few of my friends and I started the Lesbian Rights Alliance Aotearoa in early 2018.
We were excited to attend Out in the Park on March 16 this year, but we were banned because we are a group for lesbians who won’t cater to men. We weren’t going to let that deter us though, so on March the 23rd we held a lesbian-only event at Thistle Hall.
Considering we only advertised our event a day or two ahead of time, we had great attendance. At least 16 women showed up, and we met with a few who couldn’t make it the following week. At the meeting there were two main cohorts of us, under 25 year olds and over 50 year olds.
First I gave a short introduction about why we started the LRAA. We’d found queer spaces hostile towards young lesbians, so we’d decided it was time to put forward a constructive alternative.
I outlined some ground rules, we did a round of introductions and then we all heard an update on the ILGA World Conference in Wellington from someone who attended.
This was really interesting because we found out what little time lesbian-specific concerns got, how hostile the conference was to all lesbians who think lesbians are female and what organisations and countries were represented.
After that, I went to address the next point on the agenda which was looking at preliminary data from our ‘Lesbian Experiences Worldwide’ survey. The plan was to talk in detail about how we can act in solidarity with lesbian movements overseas.
That might have been optimistic scheduling on my behalf because about then a very good question was raised by one of the older lesbians. “Could you tell us what it’s been like being a young lesbian in queer spaces?”
I wasn’t sure whether us ‘stroppy young dykes’ should answer because I knew that us sharing our experiences could be disheartening. We were sitting in a circle and (unintentionally) the group of us younger women were facing the older women. So we sat across from these women who’d fought for us to be able to be out and proud since before we were even born and one by one told our stories.
We talked about some of the messages queer spaces and politics had sent us, e.g.
– that being lesbian was problematic and something we should try change,
– that being a woman is femininity,
– that being a woman is something to be ashamed of,
– that butch lesbians have male privilege and need to ‘take up less space’ because of it,
as well as the impact medical transition and/or pressure to transition (to appear male or ‘gender neutral’) had had on us.
Not all of us younger lesbians had met before that event, or experienced the same queer community, but our stories had a lot in common.
After that important but unscheduled discussion, we split into two groups to cover the solidarity discussion and to talk about where to from here. Both groups brought up really important points:
– it is really important we continue meeting up offline
– we need to figure out a good way to keep women in the loop about meetings, activities etc
– outdoor activities are fun
– increased visibility matters
– learn from the past
– do further research into how Immigration NZ is treating lesbians
I closed up the meeting by thanking everyone for coming along, then many of us went to the pub.