We are a group of feminists, many of whom identify as lesbian or whose politics were influenced by lesbian culture. We are cisgender, we are non-binary and we are trans. All of us are active in the arts, community organising, the media and education. We have all benefited from the deep analysis, radical lifestyle and astonishing bravery of the lesbian feminists who came before us – actions that we understood to be about dismantling the patriarchy, liberating all women from gendered oppression and re-imagining the future.
Therefore, we were dismayed to see Pride in London being hijacked by a fringe group determined to divide the LGBTQIA+ community along the issue of trans rights, particularly rights for trans women, and arguing that the struggle for such rights erases cisgender lesbians.
This cannot stand.
We re-state our support for trans people everywhere. Transitioning in a transphobic society is a brave – sometimes medical – decision. It is not a fad. We have a long way to go in defeating sexism, homophobia and transphobia. We have a long way to go to defeat the systems of class, border control and racism that re-enforce them. But we know bigotry when we see it; we recognise the difference between critique and hatred.
The flyers that were handed out during the protest claim lesbians are being mocked, vilified and undermined. Yes, the broader LGBTQIA+ umbrella houses people with deeply problematic views, misogyny and lesbophobia among them. However, these views are expressed by many different people, cis, non-binary and trans. There was almost no mention of this. So we can only read this protest as a deliberate attack on trans women.
It isn’t trans women who are detaining lesbians and deporting them to countries where homosexuality is illegal. It isn’t trans women running down the NHS so that lesbians can’t access the health care they need. It isn’t trans women profiting from weapons which threaten people all over the global south, including lesbians. The actions of the protestors on Saturday showed how little they took into account structural inequality; how little thought has been given to the manner in which this moment in which trans rights are being championed is intricately bound up with future radical, liberatory struggles.
Lesbian feminists of all genders have fought long and hard, against people who called us pretended families, ugly, mannish, undesirable, aggressive, mad, man-hating and so on. It is wrong that this small group of cis lesbians has turned their back on this struggle in order to spread the same kind of dangerous lies about Trans women. It is not in the spirit of the feminist movement. It is unsisterly.
Yes, Pride was a protest and is an important part of trans-feminist history. However we are not without a criticism of Pride in London. Not only for the fact that the organisers allowed this stunt, but because Pride itself has become a place for companies and organisations that have not historically played any part in the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights, but now use the parade as a platform to sanitise their activities. Banks with deeply racist, colonial histories. Companies like G4S that run inhumane detention centres where many black and brown lesbian women are processed like cattle and sent back to the places they’ve experienced poverty and violence – the legacies of colonialism. Let’s also not forget the many instances of Islamophobia, with groups holding placards reading “Fuck Islam” under a militant secularism that led to Muslim Leaders making formal complaints.
The irony is that the protestors failed to point out these obvious and active factors in the continued, structural oppression of women, trans and queer people here and abroad. Instead they hijacked a moment in which a vital yet threatened public service, the NHS, on its 70th anniversary, was leading from the front.
Trans women are an essential part of an intersectional and successful feminist struggle. The astonishing campaign in Ireland to legalise abortion patently understood that abortion rights and trans rights go hand in hand. March 8th saw the meeting of sex workers, trans activists, ex-detainees, immigration activists and cinema ushers march through London together to show the beautiful intersecting frontline of radical organising today.
As a diverse group whose connection and commitment to lesbian feminist culture, past, present and future, is deep rooted and strong, we are here to remind the protesters that you can’t pick and choose your history.
There are many campaigns and acts of solidarity we can be engaged in, including:
- Speaking up for trans rights and helping reform the Gender Recognition Act.
- Letter-writing to LGBTQI prisoners through Bent Bars project
- Donating to Ubuntu, the first dedicated shelter in the UK that provides short term accommodation for migrant women with no recourse to public funds
- Donating to Action for Trans* Health which seeks to improve trans* people’s access to healthcare.
Either you work for the liberation of all or you work for the liberation of no-one.
Chardine Taylor Stone
Harley Yeung Kurylowski
Anna Backman Rogers
Daniella Shreir, Editor Another Gaze feminist film journal
Emma Frankland, actor/performer
Joelle Taylor, writer
Jason Barker, actor, filmmaker
Sarah Shin, Silver Press
Zak Suffee, researcher
Simran Hans, writer
Ania Ostrowska, academic and writer
Sarah Jane Moon – artist
Sadie Lee – artist
Dr Leanne Dawson – Lecturer, University of Edinburgh and Chair, Scottish Queer International Film Festival
Sarah Moore – LGBTQ+ community centre
Dana Mohammed – musician
Charlotte Richardson andrews – Journalist and cultural worker
Kayza Rose – AZ Magazine
Caroline Bird, poet
Roz Kaveney, poet
Charlotte Geater, Reunion Poetry Collective
Sara Saab, Reunion Poetry Collective
Sara Marquez, Reunion Poetry Collective
Rebecca Larkin, Reunion Poetry Collective
Mary Jean Chan, poet
Louise Wallwein MBE
Dr Francis Ray White
Dr Ros Murray
Campbell X – Film and TV
Ain Bailey – sound artist
Margo Broom – Music Producer
Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski
Pratibha Parmar, Professor & film maker
Shaheen Haq, Architect & film maker
Stella Duffy, writer
Shelley Silas, writer
Scottee – Artist + Activist
Alexandra Wanjiku Kelbert
Andrea Luka Zimmerman
Monica Karpinski, writer and publisher
Dr Ruth Pearce
Megan Key – Trans activist, D&I specialis
Concepta Cassar – Writer and Secretary at South Telford Branch Labour Party
Juno Roche – writer
Juliette Schaaf, LGSMigrants
Molly Fleming – journalist
Emily Hutchinson, LGSMigrants
Amy Pennington – Artist
Kate Hodkinson – LGSM Migrants
Savva Smirnov – LGSM Migrants
Taisie Tsikas – LGS Migrants
Dr Caoimhe Mader McGuinness
Melissa Rakshana Steiner
Dr Ronx, Emergency medicine doctor
Juliet Jacques, writer & filmmaker
D H Kelly
Dr Ellie Gore
Joan Jones, artist & performer
Melissa Cespedes del Sur
Ellie Stamp, artist
Mijke van der Drift
Yas Necati, Writer
Reeta Loi Shaw
Debbie Sharp, artist
Rosanne Robertson, artist
Louise Hipwell, Bi and Beyond Edinburgh
Pandora / Blake