Controlling the means of production sounds like terminology from The Communist Manifesto – and it is, but it’s also a belief held by many lesbians in publishing and other media that if we do not control the queer media ourselves, gay men will ignore us completely, and also put us out of business.
In June of 2007, I published an article in Curve Magazine entitled “Lesbians Last” with the subtitle, “Does queer media conglomeration affect diversity and lesbian visibility.” The piece focused on a discussion about the dominance of PlanetOut, Inc., which had recently purchased Alyson Publications and gobbled up, as I wrote, “everything from small adult publications to travel companies, becoming the largest queer media company in the United States.”
Today, I could talk about a different gay media conglomerate, change the names of the publishers, writers and critics I quoted, and the article would be the same and still totally relevant. In fact, you can read that article here, and I won’t write that same article again, but will instead discuss what I and my lesbian and queer female sisters in publishing and other media have been discussing and saying to each other privately (and sometimes publicly) since “Lesbians Last” was published.
First and foremost, those of us who are journalists (and comedians) know that there is an unspoken rule set by gay men that there cannot be more than one L in a line-up, whether it be an LGBT comedy show or LGBT publication. The emphasis is, of course, on the G both as producers and audience in these LGBT venues. Because if there’s already one lesbian on board, then we’ve already covered our bases. That’s really the idea.
This has happened to many a lesbian journalist who cannot break into the boys club of so-called LBGT publishing, just as our comic sisters cannot play together in any comedy lineup on an LGBT comedy bill. The line goes like this, “Hey, so-and-so bailed and we need to find someone to fill his slot.” The lone lesbian comedian (or perhaps a lesbian ally) suggests a particular woman, and the chorus whines, “But we’ve already got a woman.” No matter that three or five or nine or twenty-five of the other comedians, writers, editors, producers, directors, panelists, bloggers, critics, speakers, actors, poets, etc., are gay men…lesbians are simply not invited.
The door to LGBT media is not just closed to lesbians, it’s locked from the inside.
My Sapphic sisters and I don’t know for certain what goes on inside that LGBT media machine that is really just G media in any case; lesbians—and our trans and bi brothers, sisters and others—just know we rarely, if ever, are assigned an article, called to perform in a comedy show, or asked to speak on a panel (though we might be invited to moderate once in a while to give the illusion of inclusion).
We also sometimes front and shill for the gay boys club at one or another publication, organization or event. We know we’re not really wanted, but we feel kind of special, too, being the only L invited to sit at the G table.
When asked about diversity, gay men will point to the one lesbian employed by their publication and say, “See, we don’t [insert here: discriminate against women, ignore lesbian issues].” Oh yes, my brothers, you do. Tokenism is discrimination; to put a false lesbian face on gay male intolerance and disregard for Ls in the proverbial LGBT community is a huge disgrace – to gay men and LGBT media organizations alike.
And I’m not talking about gay, lesbian, trans or bi media exclusively focused on and published for one of those specific niche communities. I’m pointing out the falsity and misnomer of “LGBT,” which puts the L first to placate lesbians, keep up the pretense of lesbian (and trans and bi) inclusion and maintain the illusion that we are all one community.
Like Darla in The Little Rascals, banned from Alfalfa’s private He-Man Woman Haters Club, lesbians are locked, tightly, out of the private lGbt boys club.
[NOTE: This article is about lesbian exclusion from “LGBT” media/mediums. I do not purport to represent trans or bi perspectives.]