DNC Gives Lesbians Their Very Own Leadership Council

At a meeting of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus on Saturday, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced the creation of a Lesbian Leadership Council. Wasserman Schultz said the new council would focus on cultivating lesbian participation in the Democratic party, which has had a broader LGBT leadership council since 2000.

“We’re going to make sure we have a vehicle here at the DNC for lesbian leadership,” she said. “So we can have lesbians catch up and get them the tools they need and make sure they can be a strong part of our leadership team.”

Wasserman Schultz said details about the new council would be forthcoming, but it seems likely it will take after the DNC’s LGBT caucus, which has focused on issues like a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the marriage equality train currently rolling through the United States. Active participation from a group of queer women could also help push issues like sexual assault, intimate partner violence and economic justice further into the spotlight.

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaking  photo via Fortune Live Media/Flickr

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
photo via Fortune Live Media/Flickr

My feelings on this are twofold. First, I think it’s great that the DNC is recognizing where its efforts (in the form of the LGBT leadership council) haven’t been enough. Wasserman Schultz specifically called out the existing council for being skewed toward benefiting gay men in a speech last month: “No offense to gay men in the room, but just like in the straight community, where women sometimes have been left behind and men have vaulted ahead on the leadership track, my message was it’s time for lesbians to step up.” If the council has been around more than a decade and women haven’t been able to benefit from it the way men have, perhaps it is necessary to create a new group focused specifically on them.

Then again, the parsing out of “lesbian” from the LGBT acronym that we have come to understand as representing much, much more is a little worrisome. Will bisexual people have to form their own council, five years down the road, to make sure their leadership is being cultivated? Will trans* people need their own separate councils focused on leaders of various gender identities? What about people who fit into more than one category? If a body created to serve a diverse group of gender and sexual minorities is failing one or more of those groups, why not just make the main group get its act together? Wasserman Schultz said, “my message was it’s time for lesbians to step up.” But do we really need to “step up,” or do those who have been keeping us down need to step off?

That said, this new announcement does show that Democratic leaders are thinking about how to broaden their support among LGBT people by bringing them more fully into the fold. Forming a group specifically for lesbians is more than lip service; it’s action. It’s the creation of more seats at the table for politically minded queer people, who will have a responsibility to bring their otherwise-identified peers along.

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Kaitlyn is a recent college grad, nanny and journalist living in New York — although, truth be told, she spends most of her time on Tumblr. Talk to her about intersectionality, Battlestar Galactica, and bacon if you want to be best friends.

Kaitlyn has written 32 articles for us.

8 Comments

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    The worries you highlighted are exactly my worries. If they’re going to push issues like sexual assault, intimate partner violence and economic justice into a spotlight, its necessary not to forget trans women and bi women, since these issues are severely high in affecting these women.

    TW for rape, abuse, violence ahead

    -Nearly half of all bisexual women [46%] will be raped in their lifetime, compared to 13% of lesbians and 17% of straight women.

    -Over 40% of bisexual people have considered suicide compared to 9% of straight people and 27% of gay people

    -28% of bisexual people are in poverty

    Bisexual women in a relationship with a monosexual are much more likely than a straight or lesbian woman to experience domestic violence, whether they are in a relationship with a straight man or a lesbian woman. Compared to lesbians, bisexual women have significantly lower levels of education and higher rates of poverty, are significantly less likely to have health insurance coverage and more likely to experience financial barriers to receiving healthcare.

    sources http://www.sf-hrc.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=989 & here http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_sofindings.pdf

    I’m happy for the L in the LGBT, I’m not here to play oppression Olympics, I just want my voice as a bi women to be heard as well & not have someone else speaking on behalf of bi women. If we’re going to be tackling issues like sexual assault, intimate partner violence and economic justice, it would be great to include all women this effects severely.

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      Thank you so much for bringing hard stats into this. I want to clarify that the issues I highlighted above (sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and economic justice) are ones I’ve often seen addressed in queer, female spaces, not ones that the DNC has specifically mentioned in the announcement of this new council. But like you, I hope that these topics are brought into the spotlight, and that they’re tackled with the knowledge that they affect more than just women who identify as lesbian. There are many issues out there that a lesbian leadership council won’t be any better equipped to handle than a gay male leadership council, so let’s hope the implementation of these councils includes plenty of outside consultation and discussion with other underprivileged groups.

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      Yes! And also how are they decided who is a lesbian or not ya know? I will identify as bi, queer, lesbian, gay, i love hot people, etc. If someone wants to be on that committee, will they be excluded because of a desire to run their fingers through Dirk Nowitsky’s pre-2013 hair? (Just a hypothetical)

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