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Comment: The Significance of Lesbian Visibility Day

Board member Karen Dwyer speaks about role models, authenticity and trust on Lesbian Visibility Day.

I’ve never really warmed to the term ‘lesbian,’ but that doesn’t make Lesbian Visibility Day any less significant for me.

I’m ashamed to admit that I once scoffed at the notion of such a day. Another diversity day? Just add it to the list. I don’t need a day for being a lesbian. 'Newsflash Karen - the day is not about you', I thought.

Well it is, and it isn’t.

In many respects, I feel lucky to have joined the military at a time when my sexuality wasn’t something to preclude me from service and at a time in my life when I felt comfortable about who I was and who I was attracted to.

Don’t get me wrong - there’s still the periodic risk assessment when in unfamiliar territory. You would know what I’m talking about – when you’re looking around for visible signs of inclusion. In the absence of a rainbow or two, it’ll be the language in the workplace that I tune into, which can sometimes lead to some pretty uncomfortable situations.

Pride in Diversity’s 2018 Australian Workplace Equality Index reveals that ‘of all sexualities, lesbians reported the highest rates of unwanted negative commentary, innuendo and jokes…in addition to the highest rates of more serious bullying/harassment…’

It’s pretty alarming, right?

This demonstrates that gay women are less likely to be their open and authentic selves in the workplace, which obviously then provides a lack of open lesbian role models. 

One of the many lessons life in a military uniform has taught me, is that authenticity is key to establishing trust. In order to establish and foster healthy relationships both at home and at work, there must be trust.

The way I see it—if all of us are not actively fostering an environment of inclusion, one where people can be authentic without fear of negative commentary and harassment, then we are robbing each other of that trust.

My path was relatively easy. To that end, Lesbian Visibility Day is not about me, Sure, I still come out on a weekly basis, whenever I meet someone new and want to talk about something a little more meaningful than the weather.

But after 20 years I’m well-practiced, my skin is thicker, my tongue is sharper, so I’m okay.

However, evidence suggests there are plenty of women who aren’t. It’s for this reason that Lesbian Visibility Day is about me, and all the women like me who are comfortably out.

So, when someone mentions Lesbian Visibility Day, embrace inclusion openly. Embrace the diversity that our many types of relationships can bring to Defence. Openly make it known: it’s okay to be who you are.

Your voice might make the world of difference to someone struggling to come out. You might even be someone’s role model without knowing it.

If you have a story about a strong and visible lesbian from our Defence community who has had a positive impact on your journey, we’d love to hear from you. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

26 April 2019

Image courteousy of DEFGLIS

About the Author
Author: Karen Dwyer
Karen Dwyer is a Petty Officer in the Royal Australian Navy and Board Member for DEFGLIS
Also written by this author:

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