Lesbians and Human Rights

What does it mean to be a lesbian?

According to www.youth.org, an information organization geared towards young people, lesbians are "women-loving-women. We are women who are sexually attracted to other women. We are women who may feel emotionally and spiritually closer to women. We are women who prefer women as our partners.

As lesbians, we are not alone. One out of ten teenagers is lesbian or gay. Lesbians are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist. Lesbians are rich, poor, working class, and middle class. Some lesbians are in heterosexual marriages. Some lesbians are disabled. Lesbians are young women and old women. You name it, we are it. (www.youth.org/yao/docs/i-think-article-lesbian.html)

Heterosexual Questionnaire

It is often difficult for heterosexual people to understand all of the subtle, heterocentric assumptions that are placed on lesbians everyday. The following questionnaire is reprinted from "Are You Still My Mother?" by Gloria Buss Back, Warner Books, 1985. The actual questionnaire is attributed to Martin Rochlin, Ph.D.

  1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?

  2. When and how did you decide that you were a heterosexual?

  3. Is it possible that your heterosexuality is just a phase that you may

    grow out of?

  4. Is it possible you heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?

  5. If you've never slept with a person of the same sex, is it possible that all you need is a good gay or lesbian lover?

  6. To whom have you disclosed your heterosexual tendencies? How did they react?

  7. Why do you heterosexuals feel compelled to seduce others into your lifestyle?

  8. Why do you insist on flaunting your heterosexuality? Why can't you just be what you are and keep quiet about it?

  9. Would you want your children to be heterosexual knowing the problems that they'd face?

  10. A disproportionate majority of child molesters are heterosexual. Do you consider it safe to expose your children to heterosexual teachers?

  11. With all the societal support marriage receives, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable among heterosexuals?

  12. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?

  13. Considering the menace of overpopulation, how could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual like you?

  14. Could you trust a heterosexual therapist to be objective? Don't you fear (s)he might be inclined to influence you in the direction of her/his own leanings?

  15. How can you become a whole person if you limit yourself to compulsive, exclusive heterosexuality, and fail to develop your natural, healthy
  16. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Techniques have been developed that might enable you to change if you really want to. Have you considered trying aversion therapy?

This questionnaire can be useful as a tool to help heterosexual people understand the implications behind seemingly neutral questions. (ncf.davin.ottawa.on.ca/freeport/sigs/life/gay/oppress/hetqa)

Why Lesbian Rights?

In a Lesbian Caucus open letter to the United Nations in Beijing on June 8, 2000, a group of women gathered because of their shared concern that the recognition of sexual rights and issues of sexuality had not been recognized by the Beijing Platform for Action.

"Our demand is not just about sex and sexuality, nor is it just about the lives of lesbians. It is about the totality of our lives. It is about recognizing that human rights are universal, interrelated, interdependent, and indivisible. It is about recognizing that human rights must be not only protected and respected, but realized. If one woman is denied human rights protections, then the human rights of all women are at risk. When the safety of any group of women is not considered worthy of protection, then no woman is truly safe. The attack on the human rights of lesbians is an attack on the sexual autonomy of every woman.

We deplore the undermining of the human rights of lesbians, part of a systematic attack on the rights of all women that is being mounted at this conference. Fundamentalist forces, both in the halls of the UN and in the world outside, politicize "culture" and "religion" to serve as alibis for torture and murder, or to defend practices of violence and abuse. We condemn this distortion of the notion of sovereignty and the nature of faith. We affirm, in the words of Paragraph 9 that 'While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural, and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind," it is the duty of all States 'to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.'

We, who have been dispossessed of our human rights, stand in solidarity with the dispossessed. Lesbians come from every region, every country, every religion, every culture, every race, every age group, every class, every part of every society. We are citizens of the world. We demand that governments recognize our human rights. We demand that the United Nations guarantee them, as they are bound to do by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." (www.iglhrc.org/news/press/pr_000609.html)

Important Statistics

According to the National Organization of Women, homophobia is a major issue for LGB people. The following are some statistics which illustrate some of the effects of homophobia:


According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Coalition's definition, discrimination is when "governments, institutions, or individuals treat people differently based on their personal characteristics

-- such as (but hardly limited to) sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, racial or ethnic identity, age, or health (including HIV status). Discrimination can be direct -- an explicit policy or law which generates unequal treatment; or it can be indirect -- an implicit side-effect of another policy of decision. (www.iglhrc.org/news/factsheets/990604-antidis.html)

Discrimination is often fueled by homophobia which is "characterized by prejudice, discrimination, harassment, or acts of violence resulting from a deep-seated fear or hatred of those who love others of their same sex. (www.jtsears.com/overcomi.htm)


According to James T. Sears, author of Overcoming Heterosexism and Homophobia (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), heterosexism is simply "a belief in the superiority of heterosexuals or heterosexuality evidenced in the exclusion, by omission or design, of non-heterosexual persons in policies, procedures, events, or activities. We include in our definition not only lesbians and gay men, but also bisexuals, transgendered persons, and other sexual minorities." (www.jtsears.com/overcomi.htm)

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