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During ILGA’s XXV World Conference  a one-day women’s pre-conference was held on 5 December 2010 with the following theme: “Self-definition for visibility: Tommy boys, Lesbian men, Trans, Female Masculinities, femininity and feminist expression”.

The pre-conference addressed a double issue: invisibility and the need to define oneself. The term “lesbian” is more and more challenged since it has a very political, Western oriented meaning from the early ‘80s. In some regions of the world the terms used are taking into consideration various aspects of the persons’ social, cultural and political background. Some even use definitions that seem contradictory from a language point of view, such as lesbian men in Southern African countries or Tomboy and Tomboy’s girls in Southern Asian countries.

Discussions explored the need to “name” oneself, in order to be visible; and at the same time the difficulty to underline one single aspect of the person (woman, lesbian, trans, men, religious, social, ethnic origin, etc…). Invisibility, which is used individually by many lesbians to protect themselves, has a negative effect on the community itself whose basic human rights, such as the right to health, are being totally ignored.  Positive examples described on how some groups have managed to name and recognise themselves as part of a community, by being able to include in the terminology they are using various facets of their own identity.

You can read the Programme of the preconference, including some of the presentations at

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