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Creating Space for Queer Women.

Updated: Apr 25

WCS Community Director Sevi Koppe writes about the importance of creating intersectional and intergenerational spaces where Queer women can come together and learn from each other.

A photo of Cindy Nehme,  Khatoun Abdmasih, Sevi Koppe and Yassine Senghor at the first WCS Queer Women in Business Meet Up in Barcelona.

Throughout my experience of living in over 10 countries, the support I have received from women, especially Queer women, has been an invaluable asset. It took me a long time to come out as despite my somewhat comfortable French upbringing and having access to education, I was repeatedly told that I didn't belong and so worked hard to shield myself from further isolation. At four years old I kept trying to clean the colour of my skin with an eraser, by eight years old I was straightening my hair, and at twelve I was hiding my height. Coming out as queer was not a priority.

As an adult, in my efforts to collaborate with mainstream venues, festivals, producers, and promoters to showcase queer performers, I still often found myself navigating the need to downplay aspects of my intersectionality. Beyond being an immigrant and a woman of colour, openly acknowledging my identity as a queer woman felt challenging.

Engaging in business dealings with predominantly male counterparts further underscored the importance of focusing on broader LGBTQIA+ inclusion, rather than my own experiences. The objective was to create space, not to assert my personal presence.

Finding open-minded, progressive spaces for Queer women while constantly travelling presented a significant challenge to me, underscoring the necessity for initiatives like We Create Space. Establishing and nurturing such a platform presents a rare opportunity to address a critical global need within our community. By crafting environments that centre Queer women we engage in an act of sisterhood, fostering a culture of radical care amidst profound uncertainty.

Intersectionality and impact.

Intersectionality exposes how systemic inequalities intersect to exacerbate how individuals experience oppression. Queer women must navigate the dual discrimination of queerphobia and sexism, but may also face additional oppression along the lines of race, ethnicity, class, disability, geographic location, etc. All of these factors may impact one’s ability to access community with other Queer women. 

Speaking with women at We Create Space’s Queer Women in Business meet-ups, I often hear how factors such as geographic location can exacerbate isolation. Considering my own story, I know that living in rural areas made it harder to find Queer connections and if I did find them, I didn’t always have the money to take transport! By moving to an urban area I found more opportunities.

Economic disparities profoundly impact access to LGBTQIA+ friendly services and community support. Cindy Nehme, a business owner from Lebanon, explained to me how living in Beirut rendered her unable to access healthcare and multiplied the difficulties of accessing social support. Trans women especially are often juggling astronomical healthcare costs when trying to access gender-affirming care.

Creating intersectional spaces for Queer women necessitates that we embrace an expansive definition of womanhood, embracing trans women and trans feminine people who are too often excluded from women’s spaces. Additionally, we must open the door to others who are impacted by being perceived or socialised as women in society but who may not identify entirely as cis women, whether they are non-binary, butch or genderqueer etc.

"As a Black queer entrepreneur, who is further impeded by being perceived as a woman, support from other women, of all backgrounds and generations, has been integral and essential to my work. They have been my mentors, my sounding boards for ideas, my coaches and guides, my role models. Being able to relate to those who navigated similar experiences, shared pressures, frustrations and also celebrated success, has allowed me to feel less isolated and to trust my intuition. With Barcelona being such an international city, it felt empowering and truly necessary to bring together so many brilliant women with a range of expertise and both life and work experience in order to create a community imbued with the spirit of sorority." - Yassine Senghor

Generational Disparities.

Ageism in LGBTQ+ spaces is rarely addressed, because queer spaces are almost always youth-centric. Living at the intersection of queerphobia and misogyny, older queer women often experience a sense of invisibility both in broader society and within the LGBTQ+ community itself, leading to isolation, loneliness, and a lack of community support.

Accessing healthcare that is sensitive to the needs and issues faced by LGBTQ+ elders is a significant challenge. Overcoming historical mistrust towards medical institutions is a challenge on its own, but they are often also dealing with trauma related to facing intense discrimination and criminalization of their identities.

Older queer women may also face financial instability due to lower lifetime earnings, lack of access to spousal benefits and insufficient legal protection, exacerbated by the fact that they commonly lack support from their families.

Creating spaces where these women can share their stories is crucial; they hold so much knowledge and power as potential mentors for younger Queer women. We often forget that our older community members have fought so many battles on our behalf, breaking barriers and paving the way for progress.

“I personally feel a lot of gratitude for maturing because growing old brought me closer to myself. A certain amount of life experience is necessary (in my opinion) to find peace and stability within ourselves and self reconciliation with our identity so that we can be kinder individuals and healthier members of society. Another reason why I feel blessed to age is because I am very active. I build, I create, I have the wisdom to navigate projects, businesses, ventures and that is primordial to staying healthy and sane.” - Cindy Nehme

Importance of Intersectional and Intergenerational Spaces.

Intersectional spaces are necessary for the well-being and advancement of marginalised queer women. It is crucial that we have environments where individuals can express their lived experiences and troubles, knowing they are surrounded by people who experientially understand what they are going through. They are a source of safety and affirmation that may not be present in other areas of these women’s lives.

By bringing Queer women together under one roof, we can offer tailored resources and support that effectively address the unique challenges they face, whether that’s through signposting each other to Queer inclusive healthcare providers, providing advice for coming out at work or sharing strategies for building our businesses when we have less access to traditional funding.

Intersectional spaces can also highlight the diversity of experiences within our identity group, which is crucial for building empathy, allyship, and more comprehensive advocacy strategies that encompass the needs of all community members. By listening to each other and sharing our stories, we can more effectively fight for not just our own needs, but the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities.

“Adopting an Intersectional approach is key because our community is not a monolith and we have to understand that there are as many facets to intersectionality as there are individuals. When I understood what intersectionality was, I started to see a lot of pride in the Indian queer rights movement as well , and what they're doing in terms of cultural representation and putting forward a very Indian way to be queer. Without intersectionality, queerness becomes a Western dominated, white dominated space where only one group is visible.“ - Sanjukta Moorthy 

Challenges and Considerations.

Creating truly intersectional spaces can be challenging. As an organiser, you will never embody all of the identities of your participants, so consulting with your community on their needs is essential. 

Accessibility: Finding a venue that is accessible for everyone, including those who are disabled or have accessibility needs.

Diversity: The sheer diversity of these spaces can lead to potential conflict arising from differing priorities, experiences, and identities. Balancing the needs and interests of various intersecting identities within the community requires careful navigation.

Responsiveness: The needs of your community will evolve over time and so must your space.

Communication: Within the community, it’s important that everyone understands their role and feels able to voice concerns, so we can learn together and do better. Fostering authentic engagement is key.

Power Dynamics: Creating truly inclusive spaces requires actively addressing and challenging power imbalances triggered by race, gender, class, background and age.

A better future.

I have found happiness creating and nurturing inclusive spaces for Queer women, as it allows me to look after my inner child. I look back and realise what a positive impact it would have had on me to have access to spaces like these throughout different places and times of my life. 

Being in community with other Queer women like this, I believe that we all truly mean each other well. We want to get to know other Queer women and treat them with the respect we have not always received ourselves. By bringing what we have learned to the conversation, we hope our experiences might be of use to someone else. 

In a world where Queer women often go unheard, intersectional and intergenerational spaces can amplify their voices, fostering a sense of belonging and strength. Every step of the way we remember that there is a long way to go, but we are also appreciating just how far we’ve come! 

A photo of Sevi Koppe, a Queer woman with pale skin and long dark hair.

Sevi Koppe (she/her)

Sevi Koppe is Community Director at We Create Space, as well as an international creative director and producer. She's worked for films and music festivals around the world, as a creative director, booking agent and a production manager. Her vision is queer and she's been curating international events since 2000 to promote LGBTQ+ visibility to mainstream audiences.

Find more information about Sevi here.


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