Posted by: eshne | March 31, 2008

How Can Invisible Lesbians Become Visible?

I came across an article by Stella Duffy over the weekend called Standing In The Shadows: Invisible Lesbians. Stella Duffy calls for lesbians everywhere to come out and be counted, but I’m in two minds about whether this is something I could do – and unsure about the process.

Stella Duffy urges that “It’s up to all of us to step up, come out and start showing ourselves. Time’s up for the incredible invisible women.”

I’m out to my close friends, and what started being just a few people at work has snow-balled into what feels like the whole company. Lesbian rumours spread quicker than wild fire! Luckily my work life is completely separate to my home life so the Chinese whisper of my sexuality did not reach my family. I was able to tell them myself when I was prepared. So I am out. But I do not openly talk about my girlfriend at work, or advertise my sexuality, so in other ways I suppose I am still in?

I agree with Stella Duffy that as a minority, gay women need to be visible in order to fight for equality, or stand up against discrimination. However, I think for a lot of people coming out can be incredibly complicated and a scary experience. The imagination is a powerful thing, and although I have not yet had to deal with a really bad reaction, it took a huge amount of courage to think I can do this and move things forward in just my personal spheres.

There must be lots of women like me who are out in some parts of their world, and hidden in others. In what parts of the world would Duffy like us to make ourselves visible? Should I be out protesting calling for equal rights, or is not enough that I am challenging every colleague, friend and family member that I out myself to? It would have been useful if Duffy could have been clearer about exactly the shape of this mass “outing.”

As Duffy points out, I too am hugely indebted to the women and men of all sexual orientations, who won for us the freedoms and rights in the West that we frequently take for granted. But does every challenge need to be public to be important?

Other stuff about Stella Duffy I found along the way:



  1. First, I’m really glad to see you moved to WordPress. I had been reading your blog since you left such a wonderful comment on my blog, but couldn’t even comment on yours.

    Second, coming out has always been an interesting process for me because it’s something I never really did. As a butch, and someone who always presented very masculinely since childhood, my sexual orientation was kind of assumed. I just dropped a tid bit into conversation and everyone was like “yeah, duh!”. And in the environment I am in now, talking about your girlfriend is like talking about what you had for breakfast this morning… no one bats an eye at most things, let alone that you’re gay. Outside of the bubble I think I am much more private though, I always say that being gay is a part of me, but it’s far from the whole of who I am.

  2. Thanks Dylan. I didn’t mean to disappear but got caught up in moving and blah blah. I appreciate you reading my posts and for being patient!

    I’ve always taken it for granted that I can hide my sexuality – especially in situations where it could be dangerous or unnecessarily awkward. (I’m a big wuss when it comes to confrontation).

    It must take a lot of courage to be that open with people… although if they correctly make assumptions about your sexuality I can see how it would make things a lot less complicated in the long run.

  3. hi Eshne,
    glad you found the article. I don’t think I was suggesting that it’s possible to come out once and for all and be done with it. I think it’s simply that the more of us who are out, as a matter of course, as if it’s perfectly ordinary (while aware that for all too many people our sexuality is anything but their interpretation of ‘normal’) then the sooner it will stop being a big deal and the sooner we can make a difference for those who really are persecuted (prosecuted, imprisoned, physically attacked, abused) for their sexuality. I don’t think I’ve ever suggested it’s always easy. Just that’s it’s most certainly worth doing. Not merely for ourselves, but for others. I also profoundly believe that small, personal changes, which inevitably ripple out into the wider community, are invariably of as much – if not more – value than large scale revolutionary acts. If we keep coming out to those closest they’ll usually do the rest of the work for us!
    good luck,
    Stella Duffy

  4. Thanks for your comment Stella, I appreciate you taking the time to respond and it’s reassuring that you advocate small personal changes – as they can often feel like large scale revolutionary acts.

    Someone who has really inspired me recently is Aquafortis who is based in liberal Italy…her blog is called A Gay Heart Flutter

    ps. love the idea of Tart City

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