The word “lesbian” can bring to mind a lot of different images based on the stereotypes associated with the term. In the past, the term lesbian had a “butch” or “sexless” connotation while today influences like the porn industry have oversxualized the word, according to sixth-semester psychology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies major Kayla Paris. For this reason, the Rainbow Center acknowledges days like April 26, Lesbian Visibility Day, to educate people on and celebrate an often-overlooked identity.
Although the origins of the holiday are somewhat blurry, it is accepted that Lesbian Visibility Day was created in 2008, adding to a long list of LGBTQ recognition and celebration holidays. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LGBT_awareness_periods) Although the holiday is Friday, the Rainbow Center had a table in the Student Union on Tuesday with fliers and swag for students to pick up.
“I think it’s a day in which a certain identity is highlighted in a time and a place in which it can be overlooked or misinterpreted,” Paris said.
Paris and fourth-semester human development and family sciences major Natalia Gayle manned the table and explained how education is one of the most important aspects of the holiday. Besides educating students on stereotypes, they also felt some students may lack basic knowledge of what the word “lesbian” means.
Since vast terminology associated with the LGBTQ community can get overwhelming, Paris referred students to the Rainbow Center’s webpage, where they have an LGBTQ dictionary. This dictionary defines lesbian very simply as “a woman who is attracted to women,” a word which “derives from Greek isle of Lesbos” where the poet Sappho wrote about love between women.
Paris also touched on how even the term lesbian stigmatizes the identity in a way other LGBTQ terms don’t. While words like “gay” or “pansexual” are commonly used as adjectives, the term “lesbian” is almost always used as a noun: “She’s a lesbian.”
The stigma and stereotypes that Paris and Gayle identified make visibility of this identity doubly important to them.
“It doesn’t even have to be anything extravagant, it’s just acknowledging somebody’s identity,” Gayle said. “Most people tend to ignore someone’s sexuality if it makes them uncomfortable.”
Visibility should also include an element of intersectionality, the tablers said, because other identities lesbian-identifying women have will also change the experiences that they have.
“Specific experiences or specific concerns that face people that identify as lesbians are different depending on the different identities they hold,” Paris said.
Ultimately, the biggest thing the Rainbow Center encouraged was education: On stereotypes, the lesbian identity and how to be an ally. This education is something they hope they can help with, with Lesbian Visibility Day and beyond.
“People should educate themselves more before they are quick to judge someone based on sexuality,” Gayle said. “Even if you’re confused, the best way to go about that is speaking to someone.”
“It doesn’t even have to be anything extravagant, it’s just acknowledging somebody’s identity … most peole tend to ignore someone’s sexuality if it makes them uncomfortable.”
Letting somebody else know that you’re not judging or against them. I think that would be a start. – N
Common day stereotypes, to have positive and realistic representation in the media, that goes for a lot of identities in general, specifically a lot of identities under the LGBTQ+ umbrella; there’s over oversexualization with that word lesbian” -K
“People should educate themselves more before they are quick to judge someone based on sexuality and even if you’re confused the best way to go about that is speaking to someone.”
Alex Houdeshell is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.