Words of Wisdom

  • Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.
  • – Oscar Wilde

The Connexions Annual:
Introduction to Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals chapter

Sexuality is not something that our society handles well. We produce and reproduce sexual images by the untold millions, we talk about sex incessantly but as a society we are profoundly uncomfortable with this primal force.

We have a long history of trying to repress or tame sexuality, of trying to keep it channelled, under control. Consequently, we also have a long history of punishing sexual ‘deviance’ — behaviour that differs from the prescribed norms — although we have an equally long history of ‘deviating’ anyway, and often of quietly tolerating officially forbidden behaviour as long as it wasn’t ‘flaunted’.

Homosexuality was long felt to be particularly threatening by official society, meeting with reactions that were frequently hysterical, vicious, and violent. Homosexuality was simultaneously seen to be completely against human nature, and yet so attractive that a single ‘queer’ teacher could corrupt a whole school. The very existence of homosexuals was seen as an affront, a threat.

For a long time, gay men and lesbian women felt compelled and were compelled to keep their orientation quiet, ‘in the closet’, prisoners of economic and social pressure, repressive laws, and frequently personal agonies of doubt and guilt.

In the last two decades this has changed, as a powerful movement for lesbian and gay liberation emerged to assert that their sexual orientation was every bit as ‘normal’ as heterosexuality.

Though much remains to be done, this movement has been a powerful force is changing society’s attitudes and in sweeping away legal and other barriers denying equality to gays and lesbians.

Many of the groups in this chapter are focused on continuing the long struggle for lesbian and gay rights under the law, and within institutions like the churches. Others are concerned with providing support and services to gays and lesbians, or to particular groups within the community.

Beyond their particular emphasis, gay and lesbian organizations are also by their nature dealing with the issue of empowerment, giving an identity, strength, and a sense of collectivity to a section of society that was long oppressed and silent. For lesbians, this quest for identify and empowerment has often meant forming their own organizations after finding themselves limited in male-dominated gay organizations.

For lesbians, this process has also meant confronting their oppression as women, and claiming their place in the broader women’s movement. For some, it has meant the development of a lesbian ‘separatist’ identity. For others, who enjoy erotic literature or S&M, it has meant a further struggle to claim a space for themselves within the movement.

The movement has helped to test and extend our sexual limits. The space for diversity which it has created has also benefitted bisexuals, who now feel freer to pursue their orientation without guilt or censure.

Together with the women’s movement, the lesbian and gay movement has helped to make the wider society understand that personal issues, sexual issues, are also political issues. Gays and lesbians have shown that while on one level — rights, employment, etc. — sexual orientation doesn’t matter, on another level, sexual politics are profoundly important. They do matter, and no movement for change can ignore them.

Ulli Diemer

Contact information for Ulli Diemer:

Aussi disponible en français: L’Annuel Connexions: Introduction aux chapitre des Lesbiennes, Homosexuels, et Bisexuels.
También disponible en español: El Anuario de Conexiones: Introducción al Capítulo de Lesbianas, Gays, Bisexuales.

Other Overview Articles from the Connexions Annual:
Introduction to the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Arts, Media, Culture section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Community, Urban, Housing section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Development, International section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Economy, Poverty, Work section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Education, Children section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Environment, Land Use, Rural section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Health section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Human Rights, Civil Liberties section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Native Peoples section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Peace section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Women section of the Connexions Annual