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Sex, gender and sexuality

Lesbians and lesbianism

Lesbianism is the sexual and romantic desire between women. The word comes from “Lesbos”, the Greek island in the Mediterranean. Lesbos was home to Sappho, a Greek poet who explored themes of women's lives. While some women use the term 'lesbian' to describe themselves, others prefer other terms such as 'gay' or 'queer', while others prefer no label at all.

For some, the term "dyke" is offensive slang for lesbian. While its origins are a derogatory/ homophobic slur meaning masculine or butch, it has been reclaimed by some women as a positive to describe themselves as tough, resilient and/ or assertive. Note: a dike (with an 'i') is a natural or artificial barrier used to manage/ regulate water levels.

Historically, there are far fewer mentions of lesbianism than male homosexuality, primarily due to historical writings and records primarily written by men, focusing on men. Imagine that?!*

Lesbian | Wikipedia
I Think I Might Be Lesbian | Advocates for Youth | USA
Lesbian Stories | I'm From Driftwood
List of gay, lesbian or bisexual people | Wikipedia
The Lesbian Project | The Lesbian Project
KENRIC Lesbian Social Group
DIVA Magazine

Hidden from history? The psychiatric treatment of lesbians and bisexual women | University of Lancashire
Pride of Place: queer women of England | Google Arts and Culture
Creative Lesbians and Gay Men | Historic England

Books

All The Things She Said: Everything I Know About Modern Lesbian and Bi Culture | Daisy Jones | Hodder & Stoughton | 2022
Girls Can Kiss Now: Essays | Jill Gutowitz | Simon & Schuster, Inc | 2022
The Times I Knew I Was Gay | Eleanor Crewes | Virago | 2020
Rubyfruit Jungle | Rita Mae Brown | Penguin Classics | 2015
The Well of Loneliness | Radclyffe Hall | Penguin Classics | 2015

Gay's the Word
66 Marchmont Street, London WC1N 1AB
The oldest LGBT+ bookshop in the United Kingdom.

All The Things She Said: Everything I Know About Modern Lesbian and Bi Culture | Daisy Jones | Hodder & Stoughton | 2022
"A modern, personal guide to the culture of queer women and everyone in between. All The Things She Said explores the nature of 21st century queerness. Lesbian and bi culture is ever-changing and here, journalist Daisy Jones unpicks outdated stereotypes and shows how, over the past few years, the style and shared language of queer women has slowly infiltrated the mainstream. (Think less hemp sandals, IKEA trips and nut milks and more freedom, expression, community. And Cate Blanchett.)"

Girls Can Kiss Now: Essays | Jill Gutowitz | Simon & Schuster, Inc | 2022
"A fresh and intoxicating blend of personal stories, sharp observations, and laugh-out-loud humor. This timely collection of essays helps us make sense of our collective pop-culture past even as it points the way toward a joyous, uproarious, near—and very queer—future."

The Times I Knew I Was Gay | Eleanor Crewes | Virago | 2020
Ellie always knew she was different. Contrary and creative, she wore black, obsessed over Willow in Buffy and somehow never really liked boys. As she grew, so did her fears and a deep sense of unbelonging. From her first communion to her first girlfriend via a swathe of self-denial, awkward encounters and everyday courage, Ellie’s journey is told through tender and funny illustrations – a self-portrait sketched out from the heart.

Rubyfruit Jungle | Rita Mae Brown | Penguin Classics | 2015
"Fifty years after its first publication, discover the classic coming-of-age novel that confronts prejudice and injustice with power and humanity. Molly Bolt is a young lady with a big character. Beautiful, funny and bright, Molly figures out at a young age that she will have to be tough to stay true to herself in 1950s America. In her dealings with boyfriends and girlfriends, in the rocky relationship with her mother and in her determination to pursue her career, she will fight for her right to happiness. Charming, proud and inspiring, Molly is the girl who refuses to be put in a box."

The Well of Loneliness | Radclyffe Hall | Penguin Classics | 2015
"The Well of Loneliness tells the story of tomboyish Stephen, who hunts, wears trousers and cuts her hair short - and who gradually comes to realise that she is attracted to women. Charting her romantic and professional adventures during the First World War and beyond, the novel provoked a furore on first publication in 1928 for its lesbian heroine and led to a notorious legal trial for obscenity. Hall herself, however, saw the book as a pioneer work and today it is recognised as a landmark work of gay fiction."

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News and features

I came out late – only to find that lesbians had slipped to the back of the queue | 12 Mar 2023
Older lesbians are the keepers of a rich history of the lives of women who love other women | The Conversation | 14 Jun 2022
More than one in 10 young women in UK identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other | The Guardian | 25 May 2022
The shocking ‘treatment’ to make lesbians straight | Wellcome Collection | 22 Jan 2020
Hidden from history? A brief modern history of the psychiatric “treatment” of lesbian and bisexual women in England | S Carr, H Spandler | The Lancet: Psychiatry. Vol. 6, Issue 4, P289-290, April 2019
Why the UK’s biggest lesbian archive is so important | Dazed | 23 Jul 2018
Gay Men, Lesbians and the Ocean Between Us | HuffPost | 2 Feb 2016
11 Lesbians In History You Don't Know But Should | HuffPost | US | 16 Oct 2015
Viewpoint: Should gay men and lesbians be bracketed together? | BBC News | 2 Jul 2014
Lesbians and gay men: one happy family, or worlds apart? | The Guardian | 23 Sep 2013

Gay Life | ITV | UK | 1981
Young and old lesbians discuss their experiences.
Lesbians: The Invisible Minority | San Francisco Public Library | USA | 1981
KGO-TV Special takes goes back to a time in San Francisco when Lesbians were creating their own separate restaurants, bookstores, bars and unique places they could define for themselves.


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