By Joan Burnett
It is a well-known fact that lesbians are invisible… really - we don't need a magic cloak or a spell, we just are. When the mainstream media talk about women, they mean hetero women. They don't include our voices or think our opinions might be relevant. We are always an afterthought - even liberal media like The Guardian pull off this amazing trick. They cover lesbian and bi issues in separate articles, sometimes a bit sniggery in attitude, and very, very rarely as part of an inclusive article about how women are living their lives today.
It doesn't get much better when you turn to the "Gay Scene". When I was taking my first steps out of the closet back in the early 1990's, you could still hear misogynist banter in gay bars referring to women as "fish" and even now, in more enlightened times, it's rare to find events on the "scene" that are put together with women in mind. It's assumed we'll like what the men like - not always the case at all.
When I was asked to join the Board of Liverpool Pride, it was because that fledgling organisation already recognised that lesbian and bi women's voices are often unheard and they had noticed that I have a big gob! My contribution is to programme events around the main festival, including cultural and social events as well as ensuring that women's voices are listened to when the main event is being planned. I am looking to reflect the diversity of tastes in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities around me - not everyone is a white male between the ages of 18 and 25, lovely though they may be.
Liverpool Pride 2011 attracted over 35,000 people to the Pier Head for the main festival with at least another 5,000 (probably many more) heading to the Stanley Street area for events organised by the Gay Business Association and friends. Liverpool has proved it wants to celebrate its LGBT population and move away from the blight of being characterised as homophobic. The day at the Pier Head was markedly family friendly without being "de-gayed". It felt safe and funny, welcoming and entertaining, inclusive and invigorating, just as any celebration should. It also felt very women-friendly and offered a diverse range of talent - in every sense!
A personal Pride 2011 highlight was having Break My Fall as our fundraising film event - a film written and directed by a British female filmmaker who is a lesbian. It was a risky choice as the film is a no-holds-barred look at a disintegrating lesbian relationship, but our audience was right behind it, showing our maturity as a community that we can look at the tough side of life as well as the celebratory. It was great having filmmaker Kanchi Wichmann here in Liverpool, especially as her partner, Lin Sangster, Sound Designer on the film, is from the city. It was a grand homecoming.
It should never be forgotten that Liverpool Pride is a human rights campaign, not just a big party for "the gays". We are campaigning to make Liverpool a safer place for all LGBT people and, by extension, for everyone else regardless of sexuality or gender.
I wish to work hard to help make an inclusive series of events across the city for 2012 and beyond. Anyone can be involved as long as they prove they hold our aims as a charity to be important and understand our essential belief in diversity and equality. Exceptional contractors like Orb Events and Dave Robinson and our wonderful volunteers who have worked tirelessly alongside us both years have been inspirational - women, men, older and younger, LGBT and not - every one of them has left an indelible mark on my heart - there's no other way to put it!
My vision is of a Liverpool that continues to develop its relationship with the LGBT communities. It's very exciting that our City Council is continuing its commitment to renewing the Stanley Street area with the "Gay Quarter" identity even in these hard times. Remember, traditionally, one of our Liver Birds is female, looking in over the city with her keen eye. It's important that lesbians and bi women add their voices and influence to ensure this Quarter becomes friendly for all. We can create something where everyone feels safe and at home and has a VISIBLE presence.
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