Thoughts on the Invisible Lesbian

invisible lesbian

It is no secret that gay males dominate Berlin´s queer community.

Statistics show that places like San Francisco have a more or less equal distribution of gays and lesbians, and Berlin should be no different. But the gay scene is far more prominent for gay men than for lesbians. How come?

Even Berlin´s “Schwule Museum” can only be described as a “gay male museum.” Founded in 1985, it was intended to dedicate an equal amount of exhibition space to male and female pertinent history. There were hopes for creating a permanent museum, but at the time, the future of this undertaking was uncertain. As the space gradually grew into a museum, lesbian data vanished and eventually moved to the Spinnboden Archive, which holds the biggest collection of lesbian history in all of Europe.

Curators and heads of the photo art exhibition at the Schwule Museum have acknowledged the lack of lesbian representation, but like to remind visitors that the literal meaning and translation of the German word schwul is “gay male.” This is certainly true, but shouldn´t there then be other venues to accomodate for the female queer population? The focus remains on the gay males.

Schools and other groups visit the Schwule Museum regularly to learn about the history of homosexuality and the evolution of the human rights movement. It is doubtful that these groups will go on to visit the lesbian archives in the Spinnboden. Once again, lesbians are invisible; they remain neglected. Lisa also had a good point: women visiting the Schwule Museum questioning their own sexuality are given no support to further explore the matter; and why would they, if it is presented as a dominantly male matter?

Another gay venue in Berlin that unfortunately marginalises the lesbian way of life is Christopher Street Day. Crazy, right? Known for the parade and celebrations in remembrance of the Stonewall Inn riots, most of its board is composed of males, representing- surprise!- gay male interests. Gay men already have strong representation in the media, the political scene, as well as academia in Germany. Many of the celebrations and activities planned for CSD are even named “schwule” events instead of homosexual.

It is apparent that lesbian discrimination exists, not just in Berlin, but all over the world.

Perhaps the problem is not that lesbians are disregarded, but rather that they are not presenting themselves in public nearly enough. Only when lesbians act as lesbians in public will they get the recognition they deserve.


Donate to Spinnboden Archives here.


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