On Christmas Day LGBT news outlet Pink News published a list of “The heroes who made 2017 so much better.” As the list was published by an LGBT organisation, I expected the list to include a variety of men and women of different sexual orientations. The reality, however, was very different. The list of eleven heroes included a male ally, a gay dad, a brother, an intersex woman, a female transgender activist, and no fewer than five trans-identifying males. Apparently there were no lesbian women who made 2017 better.
Unfortunately this is not a one-off mistake, but indicative of the systematic erasure of lesbian and bisexual women in the LGBT community in favour of a focus on men, and in particular trans-identifying men.
It is, of course, right and proper that transgender people see themselves represented in the media, government, and social life. However, the current levels of representation have become disproportionate to the number of transgender people in society. The most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that around 2% of the UK population identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual in 2016. That’s about 1 million adults. The transgender support group GIRES reported in 2015 there could be between 0.3% – 1% gender variant people in the UK; giving us a maximum estimate of 0.5 million UK adults identifying as transgender. There will be some overlap of course as transgender people may also identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual but these figures show that the T could make up to one third of LGBT community.
Graph showing the number of adults in each group within the LGBT in the UK.
When the LGBT is broken down into it constituent parts we can see lesbians and bisexual women making up about 1/4 of the LGBT.
And if we presume half of the transgender adults are trans-identifying females then almost half the LGBT is biologically female.
Chart showing the % of each group within the LGBT in the UK.
So why do we see so few women and not even one lesbian on the Pink News list?
In their 2016 article about LGBT comic book heroes, only 2/9 are female. A truer reflection of the LGBT community would have shown at least 4.
In their 2017 article about bisexual heroes, only 4/11 are females. Why do few? Sixty percentage of bisexual adults are female so we should be expecting 6-7.
It’s also not just in these lists that we see a bias against female representation in Pink News. On the front page of their website today there were 44 stories highlighted. Of those, only 3 focused on lesbians, compared to 17 about gay men (including every sports article). Based on the ONS 2016 figures 3 in every 10 homosexual adults in the UK are lesbian women. So yet again another massive under-representation.
Returning to the heroes list, about half are transgender despite the T representing at most one third of the LGBT community. Most shockingly all of these are trans-identifying males. It seems that being born female results in your invisibility even if you identity as male.
Of course, some will look at Pink News and see no under-representation of women at all. We are told time and time again that “transwomen are women” after all. This fools no one.
Female erasure is happening throughout society, but it is particularly troubling coming from an organisation that purports to represent the entire LGBT community. Pink News has made is position on women and lesbians very clear; they just don’t care. It’s time for the L to leave the LGBT.
For those interested, here are some actual lesbian heroes of 2017
Courtesy of Karen Ingala-Smith:
UPDATE: On the 31st December 2017 we see that Pink News has been embarrassed by its omission and quietly popped two lesbians onto the list. We now see the addition Penny Wong, one of the leading voices in the fight for same-sex marriage in Australia and Strictly Come Dancing Star Susan Calman.
Sorry Pink News – that just not good enough – you shouldn’t have to be shamed into celebrating lesbians.