Philip Baldwin interviews Linda Riley, the Publisher and CEO of DIVA Magazine and the Founder of Lesbian Visibility Week.


What does ‘coming out’ mean to you? 

Coming out meant that I had to find a whole new world and family. I had been ostracised by my biological family which was hard at the time. I felt like I had no one. But the LGBTQIA community took me in and became the family that I needed. Coming out meant that I was finally surrounded by the people who understood me, loved me, and cared for me unconditionally. 


Did you face barriers to coming out as a lesbian?  

When I came out, there were no lesbian role models. In fact, the word ‘lesbian’ was taboo. There were so many negative stereotypes which came with just identifying as a lesbian. I felt that I had to keep my identity private because there was no one for me to look up to. 


In your view, what are the greatest challenges facing lesbians in the UK now? 

One of the greatest challenges at the moment is fighting the assumption that lesbians are transphobic. There is a small minority of voices in the lesbian community who are spouting transphobic hate everywhere. However, because they are so loud and vocal it makes everyone believe that all lesbians are like that. We’re not! I have spent my whole life advocating for trans rights and amplifying the voices of the trans community. 


Are there any international campaigns which you would like to highlight?  

I would like to draw more people’s attention to the opposition against the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws in Florida at the moment. I’m so proud that people are taking a stand against these homophobic laws. It feels like we’re going back in time in some ways. The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws feels like we’re back in the 80s when Section 28 was still in practice. 


Which women inspire you?  

I am inspired by people like Sue Saunders who helped bring LGBT+ History Month to the UK. I am also constantly in awe of Lady Phyll who co-founded UK Black Pride despite facing so much adversity. The fact that UK Black Pride is now the world’s largest celebration for Black and POC LGBTQIA individuals shows that if you can believe in your message and your power, you can influence real change. 


Do you have any advice for young LGBTQIA+ people?  

I would tell them to learn about LGBTQIA history. It’s taken so much fighting to get where we are now. We can’t just let all of that hard work go to waste and let others take away the rights that so many people have worked for, died for, and campaigned for. I would also tell them to stand up and fight for equality for our trans siblings. As a community, we have to support each other. We are a family. 


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