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.

@LindaRiley8

Only reading DIVA online? You’re missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It’s pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.

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4 thoughts on “Linda Riley: “The battle for equality is far from won””

  1. I have shared this on my timeline as it speaks to me in a very personal way! Linda’s words encompassed all which I couldn’t articulate! It is 2019! No wonder some of our community have become hardened or militant or feel their souls have had to hide when this kind of crap still happens! There are so many wonderful allies out there and for them I am so grateful but I am also disgusted that in the 50th year since the Stonewall riots and all that has followed our our own side of the Atlantic that some feel they have the right to invade, humiliate and hurt another person.

  2. This is an issue that I too, as bisexual female, have faced. In an era where we are all trying our hardest to educate the uneducated, I can’t help but feel that the omission to include bisexuals in this article is somewhat biphobic itself. We hold our girlfriends hands too – this isn’t just a lesbian or gay issue – we too are sexualised by straight men.

  3. I have just read this and it is shameful that people can behave like this, 75 years after brave men and women gave thier life’s for our freedom

  4. Disgusting behaviour. Hopefully the ‘men’ involved have received a custodial sentence? Does anyone know?

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