Where the 'L' Are the Women?

Attend any major LGBTQ political rally or hearing where issues affecting the rights of the entire LGBTQ community are debated and decided, for example, and you will find most of its leaders are male. This therefore begs the question, 'Where are the women?'
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It wasn't until I was just shy of my 50th birthday that I began dating women, spending the previous five decades entrenched in a heterosexual society where being born female cemented my role as a member of the 'other' or 'second sex,' as Simone de Beauvoir famously coined in her same-named book sixty years earlier.

But I was shocked to discover that within the homosexual community women's secondary status similarly exists. Don't be misled by the acronym, LGBTQ, where the letter 'L' is in the lead. In practice, this is often not the case. Just attend any major LGBTQ political rally or hearing where issues affecting the rights of the entire LGBTQ community are debated and decided, for example, and you will find most of its leaders are male. This therefore begs the question, 'Where are the women?'

"Politicians typically go after the guys for support," says Beth Shipp, Executive Director of LPAC, the first lesbian Political Action Committee. As a result, there is limited public and political support for issues largely affecting women like breast cancer, rape, and reproductive choice. LPAC, however, is determined to show the political community that "Lesbian and queer women possess powerful political power," Shipp says. Clearly, for this organization, the letter 'L' is earning its rightful place.

Built upon a mission to increase the political power and engagement of LGBTQ women and their allies, LPAC is building a network of lesbians and queer women who take political action. Since its inception only four years ago, in fact, LPAC has raised over $2 million from supporters in 48 states, and has been involved in over 40 races and independent expenditure campaigns across the country. It therefore comes as no surprise that this super PAC has so far helped a number of candidates win campaigns over the past three election cycles, including Arizona Congresswoman Krysten Sinema, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (the first out lesbian Attorney General in the nation) in 2014; Senator Ed Markey and Houston Mayor Annise Parker in 2013; and President Barack Obama in 2012. "We are also the first national LGBT group to support Hillary Clinton for President for 2016." Shipp adds.

But there's another first that LPAC is about to embark upon. Ensuring that lesbians will be seen as well as heard, the Super PAC will be taking to the stage, literally, by hosting an event on June 16th in New York City that will raise political awareness through humor, wit, and music. Amidst LGBT Pride Month and just prior to the 2016 national political conventions, Levity & Justice for All will include such headliners as Rosie O'Donnell, Lea DeLaria, Billie Jean King, Kate Clinton, Judy Gold and musical group, BETTY. This first-of-its-kind comedy benefit will provide a stage for the political humor and sharp wit of the comics, at the expense of anti-LGBTQ politicians, including the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

"Watching the news and seeing what Donald Trump is saying, you'd think that the entire 2016 election cycle is a bad sitcom," Shipp says. "The sad truth is that the 2016 election is no joke. We face candidates across the country, including those running for President, who have no respect for women or our LGBTQ community. Levity & Justice for All will celebrate the political voices, humor, and activism of LGBTQ women, inspiring and motivating those in attendance to actively participate in the 2016 election."

And this cannot happen soon enough. In many states, LGBT Americans continue to suffer legal, political, and cultural discrimination, despite marriage equality. Further, lesbians face bias due to women's pay inequality, increasing threats to sexual and reproductive freedom, and decreasing access to quality healthcare. "This is why we also need to flip the U.S. Senate so that progressives are back in control," Shipp says. "We have LGBTQ women running for office across the country, and we want to be the group that supports them and raises them up."

There are also some unique benefits inherent in a lesbian-led PAC. "Whereas gay men tend to give politically to gain power, lesbians tend to approach politics differently," Shipp says. "We want to see good done in our communities, and to give philanthropically to rape crisis and breast cancer centers, for example." Still, LPAC is committed to furthering social, racial, and economic justice for all members of the LGBT community, including men, whom they hope will also become members. The organization has even coined a welcoming name for its male supporters -- 'Lesbros' - based upon its combined mission to support one another equally, like no 'other' can.

Lori Sokol, Ph.D., is an educational psychologist, publisher and author.

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