Why charities should get involved with the first ever Lesbian Visibility Week
As this week marks the first ever Lesbian Visibility Week taking place from 20 to 26 April, former Fundraising Director Polly Shute looks at the importance of Lesbian visibility, and explains why community is so much more important at time of crisis.
There are many weeks and even months of celebration in the LGBTQI equality calendar, but, until this year, only one day devoted to lesbians. Lesbian Visibility Day, on 26 April, has been in existence since 2008, but has received little traction or media attention.
Yet Lesbian visibility is a very real thing, even in a world that seems full of Prides, often LGBTQI women feel unsupported, ignored and – more worryingly – abused. DIVA research, launched today shows that 79% of LGBTQI women feel that LGBTQI men have more visibility in public life, almost half want more events targeted at LGBTQI women and 1 in 3 women have suffered verbal or physical abuse because of their sexuality.
'I was determined to change this experience for other queer women'
My own personal story is that I did not come out until I was 41, and much of this was driven by a lack of visibility as well as unhelpful misconceptions and stereotypes around lesbians. I was determined to change this for other queer women. For 4 years I was on the board of Pride in London and it was here that I really saw the many issues LGBTQI women face, and the challenges in tackling them, that’s why I was so keen to join DIVA and work on developing a global week of visibility.
DIVA Magazine, Europe’s biggest LGBTQ title for LGBTQI women, has set up the first ever Lesbian Visibility Week as a platform to engage support and empower queer women. We wanted to create an inclusive week that celebrates all the amazing lesbian, bi, trans, queer and non-binary women that are out there.
The week kicks off with the launch of the Visible Lesbian 100 in The Guardian on 20 April. This includes a section on not for profits and campaigners. DIVA will also be launching the results of the biggest ever survey into LGBTQI women, which we are making available free to all charities.
During the week we will be running a free Development Week of seminars and workshops. This will be opened by BBC newsreader Jane Hill and include sessions hosted by amazing LGBTQI experts and leaders. As part of this there will be a session on Thursday from the charity sector.
The week will be supported by an interactive marketing campaign developed solely by some amazing LGBTQI women creatives, marketing and comms professionals. We would love charities to get their own LGBTQI women involved with #ThisIsMe.
Although this initiative is DIVA led, we aim for it to become an integral part of the LGBTQI calendar globally. We are very pleased to have support from leading LGBTQ charities, including Stonewall, LGBT Switchboard, Mermaids, Diversity Role Models and GLADD.
'Community is more important than ever'
In times of crisis, community is more important than ever. We created the new DIVA Community Facebook digital hangout to connect and support LGBTQI women and non-binary people who are self-isolating and social distancing. In just two weeks, this group has amassed well over 4,000 members from across the world, including countries like Uganda and Poland, where LGBTQI rights are under threat. The #DIVACommunity is a private, warm, welcoming and supportive place for LGBTQI women to meet, chat and be informed and entertained.
Supporting diversity and inclusion needs to be year-round, not just during Pride season. During my time in the charity sector I was proud to be involved with the launch of The Change Collective, by the Institute of Fundraising. As the charity sector represents millions of beneficiaries from a range of ever changing backgrounds, being diverse and inclusive is really key both internally and externally.
And supporting these values is especially important during times of crisis, when anxiety and stress levels are heightened. In fact, our DIVA survey shows that more than 1/3 of respondents have sought mental health support in the last year. So please get your charity and LGBTQI colleagues involved with the first ever Lesbian Visibility Week.
Polly Shute is a former Fundraising Director, a Trustee for Guide Dogs and currently Partnership Director for DIVA Media Group