Lesbian Community

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By Miriam Saphira

The lesbian community is part of the bigger LGBTI community.  In the past the LGBTI community has come together in times of strife, such as advocating for law reform to improve  human rights equality.  Today many of these things have been achieved while a few activists continue to pursue public education of the public to eliminate homophobia. For the Lesbian Community which focuses on women’s issues, this can be a tall order when we still have arranged marriages in New Zealand and other pressures on girls to be straight or to hide their orientation. Some people come to the Charlotte Museum to gain support and are surprised that we have quite a herstory.

In times of personal difficulties some lesbians bewail their lack of community.  They nostalgically recall the 80’s when there seemed to be much more visible support than now.  This is the 21st century and many of us feel quite safe, not needing the support of a “Lesbian Community” as such.

I was rereading “The Day We Were Mostly Butterflies” by Louise King published in 1963.  The relationships are gay but not so clearly stated as they would be today but the lesbian role of a ‘femme’ Miss Moppet and her truck driver girlfriend, Lillian are as real as many of the couples I met at the Beach Road KG Club in the early seventies.  There was however a sense of community with the story. Not a community at the barricades shouting for reform but a quiet network of people who supported each other through homophobic and sometimes tragic times.  This is again what we have today – a network of friends to socialize with and lean on in times of angst.

The cover of the book shows two butterflies on a pansy with a wasp in the corner.  The author’s photo of the back shows a pensive young woman with sad eyes. With lesbianism seen as a mental illness in the sixties until 1973 the book is not so open about the lesbians or the gay man in the story.  In the 1960’s that is how it was.

Today Charlotte Museum Trust, thanks to a grant from Lotteries Environment and Heritage  Research, is  trying to capture women who loved women’s stories to gain a sense of the networks and supports lesbians used to get by in their day-to-day lives.  For this reason the Charlotte Museum records lives gone by providing displays and events related to  women from earlier times so women today can become aware of the rich culture lesbian have left behind and learn about the networks that supported them in earlier times .

 

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Queerest Tea Party 2017 @Otago University

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Kia Ora

My name is Rachel an I am one of the workers at the Charlotte Museum, but I am also an anatomy and genetics student at Otago University in Dunedin.

Every semester, the OUSA (Otago University Students Association) runs the Queerest Tea Party on campus, a celebration of diversity and friendship… and TEA!

The Tea Party ran on the 23rd August in the Main Common Room and included live performances from the Otago Dance Association Performance troop, Sacrilege productions, and a cupcake decorating contest, all coordinated by MC Andrew Wolff.

With unlimited tea, coffee, juice, cookies, slices and other snacks, the Tea Party offers a unique atmosphere to sit and chat and have fun with your friends, amid a day of lectures.

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My cup of tea (milk, no sugar) along with two stickers and my cookie (which was delicious!)

A few friends and myself attended between lectures of enzymes and the cardiovascular system, sitting down amid banners and dancers for a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Ribbons were been given, designed in the flags of the different pride groups, such as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transgender and many more.

Stickers were also given out, encouraging students to embrace diversity and declaring Equality for all. These stickers are now stuck to the wall in my dorm room, adding nicely to the decor.

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One of my stickers along with one of the tea cups with bows – the one on top is a bow made using the Transgender flag!

Aside from the free tea, cookies, badges and stickers, there was just this amazing atmosphere of students coming together as one to celebrate equality.  The tea party only went for a short two hours, but hundreds of students joined for tea and chats, interacting with new people and talking about dreams and wishes for the future, especially in regards to the diversity and community at Otago.

In the short amount of time that I have been at Otago University, I have been consistently amazed at the acceptance and kindness practised by both students and staff to all. Not once have I seen someone being mocked for their appearance, gender or orientation.

While the Tea Party is only something that happens once a year, the feeling of that short time spent drinking tea with my peers will cling for a while to come, because it was truly something special.

For those studying at Otago, or just living in the general area, I highly recommend visiting the Queerest Tea Party in 2018 (It’s open to everyone!). I know that I will.

 

Nga mihi

Rachel 🙂