Alphabet Soup – Why LGBTQI+ is not a thing

May 2021, and someone on Facebook has circulated a notice to elementary teachers in Ontario, Canada, offering training on inclusivity in relation to LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP

No, my finger did not get stuck on the keyboard. This is explained by them as Lesbian, Gay, Genderqueer, Bisexual, Demisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Twospirit, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, Allies, Pansexual and Polyamorous. This is the longest list I’ve seen so far. Stonewall is currently using LGBT (by line – ‘acceptance without exception’ and a much longer glossary of terms) but QI+ are also added by some organisations, with the list being deliberately left open- ended by the plus, leaving room for many more ‘identities’.

Identity politics are currently highly contested across all parts of the political spectrum. Part of the problem in understanding and working through these ‘debates’ is the language used and the failure to agree terms; the frequent merging and confusion around the terms sex and gender, for example, being particularly vexatious. Confusion also arises because many wildly different things are in fact being addressed collectively and, far from articulating a clear agenda, the aggregation of letters representing an ever-increasing range of life choices, preferences, orientations, sexual practices and performative gender roles is confusing and self-defeating.  Indeed, as is shown above, the number of letters appears to increase at an alarming rate, and the uncritical liberal agenda is to accept it all as somehow an expansion of cool lesbian and gay rights (‘it’s all just like Section 28’), without much thought. Underpinning that acceptance is the notion that there is a much wider definition of sex, sexuality and gender than we have previously been led to believe and that anyone who doesn’t get with it is an old-fashioned bigot.

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On being a Lesbian

The author Lynn Alderson pictured protesting Section 28 in 1986 (top) and during the women’s liberation movement in 1978

I guess I was curious as a teenager, the late sixties were famously explosive about sexual matters. And, like many young people today I was very attracted by androgyny and would have said that what was important was ‘who you love’, not the sex they were. One of my best friends at school was a lesbian and she and I went to the same secretarial college for a year, where she proceeded to cause mayhem amongst the ‘young ladies’. This culminated in a young man turning up on the doorstep with his fiancée saying ‘take her, it’s you she wants, not me’ – needless to say, my mate hadn’t the slightest interest in her, but that was the effect she had – dynamic, self-confident, androgynous and smarter than anyone else. Yes, she was my first, but it was only the once and I think we were both trying something out. We went to the Gateways together, she blagging the doorkeeper that we knew Maureen Duffy – which we didn’t, of course. But heck, that was a world I wasn’t ready for, butch and femme, behind closed doors, women worried that someone from work would see them, one or two men around, heaven knows why – I didn’t feel in any way the same and thought that perhaps I couldn’t be a lesbian if that was what it involved. It was just after they had filmed parts of The Killing of Sister George at the club – see for yourself. And it was no accident that lesbian clubs of that time were called things like The White Raven – we weren’t ‘normal’, it was underground and something of a secret society where you might meet married women from the suburbs, or women in the army or prostitutes or men that would proposition you to perform in front of them. It was sleazy. What you didn’t meet was hippy, alternative, political types like me. In fact, a little later, after a couple of feminists had tried to leaflet the Gateways, they were banned.

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Protesting the misreporting of the Lesbian Strength March

Our member, Paula Boulton writes to Diva magazine after inaccurate reporting of the 2019 Lesbian Strength March in leeds

As the MC of the Lesbian Strength March I am appalled at this inaccurate reportage. We held a LESBIAN STRENGTH MARCH and Rally. This tradition has a herstory which many of the 150 Lesbians (I counted them) attending can remember. The signs and banners were about Lesbians. The march was heavily policed in response to threats we had received and after thorough Police liaison it was agreed that the Dyke Pride for Lesbians of all genders would march behind ours at a suitable distance. The police maintained a gap between the two.On the route there were the usual responses from the crowd – including pervy men urging us to keep making their porn, and your headline is absolutely not recognisable.

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I’m staying unless I’m expelled

The last thing on earth I was going to do was become a member of the Labour Party.  They weren’t nearly radical enough for me.

I came out as a lesbian in the early 1970s and was part of one of the first Gay Liberation Front groups in the UK, spending exciting evenings thrashing out political theory.  It was so new – things we now take for granted were revolutionary and challenging ideas then.

My main focus gradually shifted from GLF to women-only groups.  My political roots were absolutely in feminism – what we now have to call second-wave feminism, to distinguish it from the individualistic and apolitical version that passes for 21st century feminism.   But I voted Labour.

I moved to the rural area where I now live in the early 1980s.  Many of the women I sang with, discussed life with, put on two political revues with (one about nuclear weapons, one about feminism) were members of Labour.  Yet I didn’t join.  I still saw it as somewhat behind the curve, not really ‘getting’ feminism, although it understood a lot more than other parties.  Not only that, but it supported lesbians and gay men.  That was more than important – in Thatcher’s UK, it was crucial.  A very good friend of mine, a gay man, died of AIDS early in the spread of that disease, and the Conservative Party’s attitudes were grim.  I continued to vote Labour.

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Fighting Misogyny

I moved to Bradford in 1980 and of course was affected by what was happening at the time.  West Yorkshire was a place of fear for women, with unsolved murders by the man we later discovered to be Peter Sutcliffe.

We were only too aware of the attitudes to women being demonstrated by those – including the police – who described some of his victims as ‘innocent’, as if the women he killed who had been working as prostitutes were somehow ‘guilty’.  We were upset and angered by these attitudes, and about the fact that women were being told we shouldn’t go out at night.  It seemed to us that it was men who should be under curfew, not women.

I became part of the Bradford women’s group, a loose network.  Whether it was helping to set up those early domestic abuse refuges or rape crisis centres, forming lesbian support groups or providing childcare for women who needed it, most of us had been around aspects of the Women’s Liberation Movement over several years.

Now we were in the eye of the storm, and determined to make women’s concerns visible.  We heard that a film entitled ‘Violation of the Bitch’ was to be shown at the Bradford Odeon.  To have such obvious misogyny being promoted in a city where all women were potential targets for the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ wasn’t something we could ignore.

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