by Andrew Lumsden
The following notes were prepared for the GLF think-in at LSE on 8th January 2020.
The LGB Alliance describes itself as: “A group of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals who resolved at a meeting in Central London 22 Oct 2019 to set up a new LGB Alliance to counteract the confusion between sex and gender which is now widespread in the public sector and elsewhere.”
They are seeking £50,000 by crowd-funding and already claim to have exceeded £25,000 from (apparently) about 1,000 people. The founders are arranging an official launch at a so-far undeclared location towards the end of this month.
A test-case has begun in the High Court seeking to make illegal to administer puberty blockers or allow gender reassignment to begin on under-16s.
The launch-site for the Alliance, which supports the court move, offers a 7-point plan:
- Lesbianism and homosexuality is same-sex attraction (not same-gender) attraction.
- Lesbians are biological women who are attracted to other biological women.
- Sex is not ‘assigned’ at birth, but observed.
- It is not transphobic for lesbians to have their own spaces and institutions which exclude male-bodies people.
- There is often a link between transgender ideology and the suppression of lesbianism and homosexuality.
- Telling children who do not confirm to gender stereotypes that they are born in the wrong body is damaging and regressive.
- The soaring numbers of teenage girls suddenly presenting as trans is evidence of social contagion and discomfort about lesbianism.
For further information, email@example.com or Facebook LGB Alliance UK.
A Possible Historical Parallel
Our friends – friends in other circumstances – and no doubt we ourselves – do occasionally get carried away. We who were in GLF in 1970 remember “the Betty Friedan insult”.
In 1969, at a meeting of the National Organisation for Women” in America (NOW) as it prepared for a “Second Congress to Unite Women” due to be held in New York City on May 1, 1970, the brave pioneer Betty Friedan of Illinois (1921-2006), a straight woman, described lesbians as a ‘Lavender Menace’.
She said that “outspoken lesbians were a threat to the feminist movement” and argued that “the presence of these women distracted from the goals of gaining economic and social equality for women.”
An “informal” group of American lesbian “radical feminists”, including lesbians from the US Gay Liberation Front, cheerfully adopted the insult and in the early months of 1970 – just before Gay Liberation Front (Europe) was launched here at LSE – they formed a temporary “Lavender Menace or Revolution” to protest against the attempted exclusion of lesbians from the 2nd Congress to Unite Women.
Friedan’s has not become the majority view of feminist women.
Michael Dillon and Roberta Cowell
Roberta Cowell (1918-2011) was the first known British assigned male person (as Robert Cowell) to obtain sex reassignment surgery, performed on 15 May 1951. She was friends with Michael Dillon, (1915-1962), assigned female at birth as Laura Maud Dillon and the first-known British man (other than men castrated in war) to undergo a ‘phalloplasty’. The term “transsexual” dates in this country to only two years before Cowell’s operation and draws on work by Magnus Hirschfeld in 1923.
Biographies of both Dillon and Cowell are on Wikipedia. Dillon wrote of his personal battle to comprehend himself in Self, published in 1946. It’s on Kindle and Amazon.
A Personal Comment
I don’t think that temporary difficulties in legal, Parliamentary, and our own comprehension of a world transitioning from the strictly binary are well addressed by the founders of the proposed LGB Alliance. I believe their claim entirely, that there are women who have experienced violence from physical males who define themselves as women, whether it has been verbal, or by invasion of a women’s space, or most rarely a physical assault.
And I don’t doubt their claim that there have been occasional disastrous interventions in the lives of young people. I know too that trans-exclusionary feminists have been prevented by students from speaking on campus, and for myself I wish that students would merely not turn up, if they wish to show disapproval. I had a friend who when invited to speak on live BBC TV in the early 1960s on behalf of homosexual equality before the law with straights as a representative homosexual was told that he could only be shown in silhouette.
I don’t like censorship. And I believe that there will be more instances of the offences described by the Alliance, though not, I pray, of physical assault. But a Transectomy, as we might call it, seeking to cut the word ‘T’ and all its historical significance from the ‘LGBT’ definition we arrived at in the 1980s, seems to me foolish in the Betty Friedan way. In any language the Alliance uses in the future, or at its launch later the month, it might remember that ‘LGBT’ was an acronym created during the fight against AIDS. Transitioning men were alongside the lesbians who in hospitals around the world set aside very real political grievances to nurse gay men.
What Do the Young Want?
I should have thought the last thing any young person wants in the intimacy of interior change is angry adults and the tone of the Alliance towards trans people seems to me – so far – ill-tempered. No doubt the founders feel they are responding to anger of others. But Michele Obama and our own historic commitments to peace and non-violence and open affection tell us “when others go low, go high”. Hostility to some trans advocacy and to some trans activity ought never, it seems to me, to be carried to the height of publicly recommending to national media that lesbians and gay men and bi’s disassociate themselves from the trans people, the ‘T’s’ who as far back as the French 16th century are known to have campaigned for a freer world in an entangled DNA movement with LGB (and I and Q people).
The LGBA website says that over 1,000 people have signed up to its principles as so far declared.
We are told that includes our friend Bev Jackson, who has a daughter, and therefore every reason to be concerned for the long future. She together with gay male students Bob Mellors and Aubrey Walter co-chaired, as an out lesbian, the first meeting in October 1970 of the Gay Liberation Front (Europe) here at the LSE. We haven’t heard from her colleague Aubrey, and can’t from Bob, a pioneer of anti-binary activism, for he died in 1996.