New research shows that people across the UK have delayed coming out as lesbians due to ‘harmful’ stereotypes.
Charity Just Like Us found that 68% of respondents feared they would be perceived as ‘man-hating’, ‘over-sexualised’ or ‘anti-trans’.
About 30% feared being perceived as “creepy or awkward”, while 25% were worried that they would be considered “wrong”.
Some respondents were concerned that they would be perceived as ‘taboo’, ‘masculine or butch’ or ‘unattractive’.
And oversexualization of lesbians proved to be the biggest barrier for young lesbians aged 18 to 24 years (36%).
Overall, one in 20 lesbians delayed coming out because they could be seen as ‘anti-trans’. This reason was mentioned by many in the age category 25-34.
One respondent, Niamh, explained that getting out to both schoolmates and family was ‘embarrassing’ at the time.
She added: ‘At school it was already a rumor and I knew people would gossip about it and they did. I was always afraid it would come back to my sister who went to the same school.
‘At home, I didn’t really want to tell my parents, but I felt I had to, because that’s what is expected.’
Mara, from Dudley, came out as bisexual as a 15-year-old, lesbian as a 17-year-old and non-binary as a 19-year-old.
They added: ‘My high school experience was quite challenging at times, as the word lesbian was often used as an insult, so it was hard to come to terms with being a lesbian when most of what I had heard about them was negative light. ‘
Amy Ashenden, a lesbian and communications director at Just Like Us, added that preconceptions like ‘anti-trans’ and ‘unattractive’ unfairly affected the entire LGBT + community.
She added: “These stereotypes are rooted in misogynistic ideas about what a woman should be, and we can see the harmful effects of these stereotypes, especially on young lesbians, in research.”
Just Like Us also dived into how many lesbians across the UK were delaying getting out, broken down by region.
In Northern Ireland, 100% of lesbians had been exposed to telling friends and family.
The second highest figure was seen in London (76%), while South West (74%) and Yorkshire (72%) followed closely behind.
Regional division of lesbians who delayed coming out
London – 76%
Southeast – 65%
Southwest – 74%
East Anglia – 57%
Midlands – 63%
Northeast – 53%
Northwest – 64%
Yorkshire – 72%
Northern Ireland – 100%
Scotland – 66%
Wales – 55%
The lowest figure was reported in Wales, where 55% of lesbians were delayed from coming out.
Pippa, a Just Like Us volunteer from London, said: ‘I started realizing I was gay when I was 15, but did not feel really comfortable calling myself anything until I was 20.
‘A lot of people made me think I could not be sure I was gay, especially because I had had a boyfriend before.
‘I did not really know how to talk to people about it because the word lesbian is so tied to sex and pornography that it always feels like calling yourself “lesbian” is the same as sharing details about your sex life. ‘
Alexa, 24, and from Buckinghamshire, also delayed getting out.
She said: ‘Luckily I did not understand my sexuality until my last year at school, but I was still bullied because of other people’s suspicions / hints.
“It is also important to make clear that the vocal anti-trans lesbians who receive media coverage do not represent all lesbians under any circumstances.”
The Growth LGBT + report, published today, can be read in its entirety on the Just Like Us website.
It has been released to coincide with Lesbian Visibility Week 2022.
Dominic Arnall, CEO of Just Like Us, said: ‘It is deeply sad to see that the next generation of young lesbians are still suffering from these harmful and harmful stereotypes about lesbians.
‘All young people deserve to know that being LGBT + is something to be celebrated, and through our work with schools, we want to shatter these stereotypes and show that being a lesbian is a wonderful, positive thing.’
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