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What happened at the women’s voices panel at Digital Pride?

What happened at the women’s voices panel at Digital Pride?

Digital Pride's Women's Voices panel

Are LBT women’s voices being drowned out by gay men?

Director of Educate and Celebrate Elly Barnes, DJ Ritu of LGBTI Asian night Club Kali, Jenny Fallover of Lesbians Who Tech and out actress Alicya Eyo from Emmerdale shared their thoughts. Trans and tech journalist Jane Fae chaired the debate.

First, Barnes took a survey of the room and it was clear that the majority of the audience identified as women. She pointed out this said it all, and how the dominant discourse surrounding this issue is only about gay issues.

‘You can’t separate it from gender equality. You need to approach it from an intersectional standpoint, and all voices need to be heard,’ she said.

Fallover spoke about being a minority within a minority, and of often hearing ‘locker room humor’ and being treated as a ‘secretary’ in the technology sector.

‘I often asked, where are all the women? I was the only person showing up to events,’ she said. ‘I think it’s true we have a tendency to be complacent. We get settled, we watch Bad Girls or Orange Is The New Black. We get intimidated. Gay men need to invite lesbians, bi and trans women to events, and make sure they’re being heard.’

Eyo, when she came out, realised that gay men are far more vocal in the television industry.

‘There were lesbians, but lesbians are very quiet!,’ she said. ‘I think back to when I came out at 17, everything was male orientated. In clubs, it was all gay men. But gay men have faced a lot, and so they have needed to shout a bit louder. You often hear guys say they don’t mind lesbians but can’t stand lesbians. Lesbians are slightly more accepted, but we’re now getting on the same page. For LBT women, our voices need to be a lot louder.’

Ritu opened at when she first entered into the music industry 16 years ago and had started a band with  south Asian women.

‘When I started, my PR said we’d get profiles in Time Out and in the broadsheets. A mother later she phoned me crying because there was a quota to how many south Asians could be featured in three months. No one was interested in covering an Asian women’s band. It’s partly are we allowed to be out there, or are we being silenced by decision-makers? And if women do speak up, it’s so much more likely we’ll be tagged as being a bitch.’

Fae spoke about the recent passing of bathroom bills in the US and pointed out these were the same Republicans who are wanting to criminalize abortion.

‘It is about the policing of women’s spaces,’ she said.

Barnes said it’s not about teaching girls, it’s about teaching everybody. ‘As soon as they come out of the womb, they should be exposed to an inclusive curriculum. We need to be talking about this at a very young age.’

And Fae concluded: ‘The issue isn’t about gay men, it’s about men. It’s about patriarchy. And it always has been.’

Watch the video of the Women’s Voices panel below: