When Nicole Breedlove was looking to connect online with other lesbian women of color, she asked herself, “Where are they?” Out of frustration with websites like MySpace, Facebook, BlackPlanet and DowneLink, she launched OurSistaCircle http://www.oursistacircle.com in Oct. 2009. It’s the first social networking site which caters to all lesbians of color – African American, Latina, Asian, Native American and Biracial – worldwide.
“A recurring theme was lesbians were complaining about being sexually harassed and verbally abused and/or threatened by men,” said Breedlove, 41. “I also found that lesbians of color that live in different countries do not feel connected with lesbians of color here in the states. I needed to create a safe space for us to meet and discuss issues unique to our community.”
Breedlove resides in Brooklyn, New York, but her website has attracted members from Indonesia, South Africa, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad, Germany, and France, among many of the U.S. states.
“Here, we have different ideas of what it means to be a lesbian. Some women don’t have access to centers or clubs. They have no connection to the LGBT community in general and live vicariously through us. My goal is to bridge the gap,” said Breedlove, adding that she is helping women as young as 17 reach common ground with women as mature as 67. “OurSistaCircle is chock full of many interesting, beautiful, intelligent, respectful and supportive women.”
With 6,500 members, Breedlove said the site is growing steadily as lesbian women of color from a variety of backgrounds join at an average rate of two members per day. Site users can post pictures, video chat, post an event or announcement, join or establish a group or forum, blog, instant message, read news as it relates to gays and lesbians around the world, and post status updates.
“It’s free, easy to navigate and there is a non-nudity policy, which encourages users to build relationships based on common interests and chemistry instead,” said Breedlove, who plays the role of Dr. Bionic and gives out friendly relationship advice, then invites members to respond and perhaps help her answer questions.
Breedlove acts as the site administrator, customer service department, troubleshooting department and help desk, all while maintaining a full-time position with the Foundation Center, a non-profit organization in New York. “I am so passionate about the need for OurSistaCircle that I am paying for it entirely out of pocket and I monitor it constantly, investigating anything that seems off.”
As far as limiting the site to specifically lesbian women of color, Breedlove explains that lesbian women of color have legitimate needs separate from and in addition to those of white lesbians.
“In our community, it’s assumed that just because we are all lesbian that we have everything in common. But there are so many things that make us so different. We discuss issues beyond just good or bad dates we’ve been on. Issues of race, class and gender are not off-limits and are discussed candidly and with support,” she said.
Daineacia Payne of Redford, Michigan understands this point of view. “I think it’s therapeutic for women to go to a site like this. It’s not just about lesbian women of color. It’s about our ethnic backgrounds, too, and coming together in a non-discriminating environment. We do get lost and we need a voice,” said Payne, 34, a member since 2009.
“It’s very unique because I don’t have to worry about half-naked women on the site. There tends to be a lack of substance in our community and when browsing profiles before, I might get a big booty in my face and I don’t want to see that,” said Payne. Nor does she want to be solicited for sex as she has been on other social networking sites. “But on OurSistaCircle, I’m not scared to open up a message. Nic keeps the site in check and maintains its integrity.”
Marcy Huff-Taylor of Shirlington Village in Arlington, Virginia, also joined in 2009 in search of something deeper than a site or forum for women in their teens or 20’s. “It’s a refreshing change. It’s a lot of mature like-minded, well-educated women all looking to network with each other, pen pal and chat or meet their significant other. It’s a really smart site,” said Huff-Taylor, 41, a mother and corporate professional. “The site is positive, progressive and a fabulous outlet. Nic’s vision is phenomenal and she is doing a great thing for our community.”