DIVA’s publisher explains why it’s vital to keep fighting for the LGBTQI community
WORDS BY LINDA RILEY, DIVA PUBLISHER, IMAGE FROM FACEBOOK/MELANIA GEYMONAT
Tonight (7 June 2019) DIVA magazine, the long-established title for lesbians and bisexual women which I publish, is hosting the annual DIVA Awards, where the achievements of gay and bi women from all walks of life are celebrated. In one month’s time, at Pride In London, thousands of women will be enjoying the first class entertainment on offer at the DIVA Women’s Stage in Leicester Square.
I mention this because I am frequently asked why, in an age of equal marriage, same-sex parenting, gay people in the military, out and proud politicians and so on, the LGBTQI community still needs to hold events like these. Haven’t those old battles of the 70s and 80s already been fought and won?
It is true that Great Britain (not the UK – Northern Ireland remains a shameful exception) has some of the most progressive legislation in the world but, while all equality legislation has to be welcomed, laws and statutes do not change attitudes.
This is why I was shocked, but not at all surprised, at the reports in today’s newspapers of two lesbians being beaten up by a group of men on a bus in north London.
Melania Geymonat, a 28-year-old flight attendant, was travelling on the bus with her girlfriend Chris. A group of men asked them to kiss – in effect, to put on a show for the purposes of both humiliation and titillation. The women refused and were consequently attacked and beaten until they bled.
I do not know a single lesbian who has not been asked to “perform” for men in this way. Of course, I cannot pretend that a refusal always ends in violence – most men, however misguided, would put their tiresome request down to cheeky banter rather than anything more sinister but, newsflash, it isn’t cheeky banter. It isn’t funny and it is, in fact, quite demeaning.
The sexualisation of lesbians for the benefit of the straight male gaze is something that has been completely normalised by pornography in the internet age, and in so doing reduces gay women to pieces of sexualised meat who exist for no other reason than to turn on straight men.
I sincerely hope Melania and Chris are ok and send them my thoughts. This assault coincides with the ongoing protests about inclusive sex and relationships education in Birmingham. Let’s bear in mind that the syllabus about which those parents are objecting is not an instruction manual for gay sex, it is simply a gentle and respectful acknowledgement that relationships and families in 21st century Britain come in all shapes and sizes.
The assault in London and the protests in Birmingham are clear evidence that, while the battle for equality may well have been fought, it most definitely hasn’t been won. And until every gay and lesbian couple can travel on public transport without fear of homophobic assault, and until we can give all our children the progressive education they deserve, that battle has to continue.
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