Northern Soul

Oh lesbians, wherefore art thou?

October 7, 2015 Northern Soul writes... Comments Off on Oh lesbians, wherefore art thou?
Sian and Violet in Banana

There isn’t a massive amount out there that I relate to lezzy-wise. Lesbian shiz is kinda elusive. In terms of visibility, well, we just ain’t that visible. It’s slowly changing yes – we’ll get a cheeky whiffage of lesbian existence every now and then – but, on the whole, we seem to have a quiet murmur of an existence. Why the fudge is that huh? We’re bloody everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time.

I’ve mentioned in Lesbian Outings before that massive gay-fest Queer As Folk was a driving force in my determination to escape the Home Counties for the gay holy grail of Manc-Land. But Queer As Folk wasn’t even about lesbians. It’s not that often that anything is about lesbians. Yes yes, occasionally we’re thrown an enticing bone of lesbian content but more as a quietening pat on the head than anything else.

I could digress into a whole other mumble about lesbian representation on film and TV, including the intriguing ‘lesbian death cliché’ conspiracy theory. But alas, that is a mahoosive can of pesky worms that I’ll back away from until another day.

When I landed in the glorious gay motherland a decade ago, there was and still is only one official lesbian bar in Manchester. If I’m honest, I’d love to frequent it but it’s not really for me. That’s fine to admit right? It’s not one-size-fits-all. So why only one venue? Yes, there’s the odd club night catering specifically to lesbian/bi women but again, that elusive level of diversity catering for the ever-widening spectrum of dykios eludes.

It’s interesting to note that there are a couple of other Manchester bars in existence which are lesbian heavy but, intriguingly, despite being known as lesbian venues among the community, they apparently adamantly refuse to label themselves such.

There are of course more services, societies, clubs and what-not which serve gay ladies slowly breaking out into the community, but nowhere near the breadth and widening reach of that for gay men. That’s not a slight against gay men (big up the gay guys) it’s just fact yo.

Northern WaveBut things are sloooooowly changing. It reet warms my cockles to see more fellow lesbians furtively peek their heads out of their hiding places. As a super-proud member of a gay sports group, it’s blinking marvellous to see the attendance at our women’s session grow in numbers. More women-specific sports sessions are starting to add themselves to the mix and it’s a definitive sign that there are plenty of lesbian and bi women out there ready and waiting to engage.

I ain’t gonna lie though, as far as my swimming group is concerned, it’s been incredibly hard to recruit women. It was touch and go in the early days; it’s no mean feat to engage LGBT women to get into their cossies and dive in the pool.

But the issue of lesbian diversity and visibility is a wider issue beyond immediate communities, it still prevails in popular culture and the media. When I was growing up, there wasn’t one out lesbian within the media who I could relate to. Maybe I wasn’t a lesbian, I thought, because I didn’t look or act like the rare lesbians I saw growing up. Oh the mind muddle.

We have moved on, just a teensy bit. I watch on with a fist pump at the ready as more lady-lovers come out in the public eye. Some do it with it with a fabulous f*ck you like Ellen Page. Some with a ‘yeah, and what of it’ a la Cara Delevigne. Then you have the likes of Ruby Rose who seems to have straight and gay women alike getting themselves all kinds of unnecessary. Slowly it’s happening and the world is seeing more women coming out in the public eye; femme, butch, androgynous and in between – yay to diversity!

I know from many a deep drunken conflab that the lack of lesbian visibility isn’t just something that occupies me. Plenty of my gay lady friends share my frustrations at the lack of lesbian-centric stuff; why isn’t there a bar like such-and-such but for lesbians? Why isn’t there this for us? Or that?! We should sooooo set up our own…

Indeed we should. The only way to build momentum is to turn our pondering vexations into action. After all, nowt usually comes from drunken rant other than a hangover and that bitter taste of the beer fear.

There are of course people out there already starting to move and shake the lesbian community but we need more. There is room for SO much more. So dear lesbians, let’s get on this!

By Hayley-Jane Sims

Main image: Sian and Violet in TV’s Banana

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