Hey, everyone! Did you have a nice lesbian Visibility Day on April 26? I sure did! To celebrate, I went shopping at Costco and bought one of their renowned rotisserie chickens. I was fully masked, of course (Covid, you know), but I’ve been feeling so empowered since I received my Pfizer booster vaccine that I took off my mask before I got to my car! I revealed my whole, naked face right there in the Costco parking lot. I know — max visibility!
And that, dear friends, was my moment of visibility on National Lesbian Visibility Day.
Truth be told, even though I have considered myself to be a relatively visible lesbian since 1977, I was not aware that April 26 is Lesbian Visibility Day. That’s why you didn’t get a card. I only found out it was a holiday that same morning when I received an email that announced the National LGBTQ Task Force was sponsoring a Zoom chat that very evening with a panel of highly visible lesbians. Sign me up!
The announcement noted that the panelists would engage in a conversation with topics ranging from “the paradox of lesbian visibility versus lesbian erasure to gender-critical and anti-trans sentiment in the lesbian community to the role feminism is playing in the larger queer community.”
Of the eight women who took part in the discussion, I recognized only one: Urvashi Vaid, who many of you know as possibly the quintessential lesbian intellectual of our movement. I won’t list all of Urvashi’s accomplishments here, but suffice it to say that our community’s quest for equality might likely have been dramatically delayed without her influence. She’s a best-selling author whose work tackles the intricacies of HIV/AIDS, as well as public policy, sexuality, and civil rights. Years ago, she even established her own personal think tank, The Vaid Group, for crying out loud.
Brains are sexy, don’t you agree?
Perhaps the most compelling evidence of Urvashi’s demonstrated wisdom and good judgment is her choice of life partner. She and the legendary Godmother of Dyke Comedy, Kate Clinton, have been together since 1988.
The online session was titled “What the L?: Lesbians, Feminism and Where We Fit in the Queer Universe in 2021”. It turned out to be an appropriate name because the live comments section was rife with women intent on doing battle with each other. The point of contention was largely focused on if biologically born women and lesbians have the right to meet and organize and just generally live their lives without accepting transwomen — for whatever reason — into their world. The transwomen identifying as lesbians who had also logged on to the session weren’t having it, to say the least.
Unfortunately, this conversation, as important as it is, dominated the message boards throughout most of the online discussion, pulling focus from the panelists’ comments. Regardless of which side of the issue one falls on, that was just rude and very unproductive. When I logged off, instead of feeling inspired or empowered, I felt sad and frustrated: sad that there is still so much division within our lesbian community, and frustrated that this was how so many of our lesbian sisters — trans or not — chose to celebrate their visibility.
Plus, there was no cake. What the L kind of celebration is that?
Then, at the very end of the session, Just as I was about to bail in disgust, another woman posted the following:
“I’m crying. I loved this. I’m not out yet, but this has been wonderful. Thank you so much.”
I don’t know her name, but this woman absolutely made my Lesbian Visibility Day. She reminded me that even when we as a community have a conflict with each other, rolling around in the weeds, getting all dirty as we try to claim our own patch of ground. It’s fine to tussle, figuratively, as long as once in a while, we all look to the sky to find our individual and collective rainbow. Where’s my insulin?
“One of the things I’ve learned from being a lesbian is realizing how many different kinds of lesbians there are, and how wide and interesting and huge our communities are. It’s plural — it’s not just one community,” Urvashi diplomatically offered as the comments battle raged on.
Then, appearing in an unexpected, welcomed cameo, Kate Clinton herself popped her head into Urvashi’s zoom space. Suddenly the comments box was filled with friendly greetings: ”Hi, Kate!” “We love you, Kate!” And calm and sisterhood were restored — at least temporarily, until the next time we all meet.
Thanks, Kate; you saved the day. But next year I’m bringing cake.