Standing up for Lesbians – our own Paula Boulton’s thoughts on her meeting with the United Nations Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
Last Thursday I was fortunate to be invited to meet with Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the United Nations Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity whilst he was on a fact finding mission in the UK to inform his report.
I was in a 45- minute shared meeting with Dennis Kavanagh from Gay men’s Network, and Kate Harris from LGB Alliance. Originally we had been invited to meet alongside 4 other organisations: Sex Matters, Fair Play For Women, Safe Schools Alliance and Labour Women’s Declaration. We successfully argued for a separate meeting for those of us concerned with Sexual Orientation.
My intention was to represent the grassroots Lesbian voice of Lesbian Labour, Lesbian Strength and Lesbian Fightback.
I hoped to establish an open channel of communication with Mr Madrigal-Borloz and to agree to ongoing dialogue.
Like many others, I had noticed that his work so far seems to have focused almost entirely on gender identity and ignored the other half of his brief-sexual orientation.
Below are the notes I made at the meeting.
Meeting notes – International Maritime Museum 4th May.
Present: Paula Boulton (Lesbian Labour, Lesbian Strength, Lesbian Fightback) Kate Harris LGB Alliance, Dennis Kavanagh GMN, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, IE SOGI UN
The meeting was 25 minutes late starting because he had over run in the meeting with FPFW, Sex Matters, SSA and LWD. We insisted that we be given our full 45 mins.
He refused to share who he had met with. However, there is a photo gallery on twitter of many of those groups. Notable absences – us.
He acknowledged that we had complained that he was not doing his job but thought we should use the meeting time constructively to share views rather than focus on his shortcomings.
He chose not to watch the suggested 4-minute detransitioner’s video as he wanted to talk to us instead. Asked for it to be sent.
He tried to suggest a dynamic for the meeting. In the end it was a free flow.
This was the first time Paula had met him and she asked that this be the beginning of further contact as it was not possible to cover all the ground in one go. He agreed and asked for evidence to be collected and sent to him to inform his report.
He said he didn’t know about Hoyle in Tasmania and questioned whether this was within his remit and asked why she had needed a permit for a private party.
He also had not heard of Nancy Kelly’s comment’s about “Sexual racists” but assured us that he considered the notion of anyone being coerced into unwanted sex to be unacceptable.
He genuinely responded to the idea of Lesbians being expected to have sex with men as ridiculous but has not joined the dots. He believes TWAW. Appealing to him as a Gay man imagining women in gay male spaces fell on deaf ears as he considers TMAM.
He had not heard of the Cotton ceiling and seemed unaware of the threats and protests we as Lesbians have to put up with. Many examples given including policing at Lesbian Strength and violence at Pride. The HER dating app fiasco also news to him.
Self-excluding from Lesbian activities which have become inclusive was invisible to him. The underground nature of Lesbian life and the resulting lack of role models for young lesbians was news to him.
He claimed to have met with lots of Lesbians and suggested that our view was minority since he hadn’t heard it. Was unmoved by examples of the no debate exclusion we face and that if we were not present then clearly there would be a one-sided view.
When challenged about why he hadn’t published submissions and his statement that some were hateful – he explained that he had to ensure anything he published passed the RABAT plan of action. He had received over 6000 pages of submissions and there was a long process of checking in place. When told that we expected any which stated our views to be considered hateful he asserted that he had never used those words about LGB Alliance at all. Nor has he suggested any of us are linked to right-wing funders etc.
When we explained that there was no representation of same-sex attracted homosexuals on panels and in organisations due to the exclusive nature of LGBT+ organisations he assured us that he wants to acknowledge the plurality of opinions. He is by nature INCLUSIVE and that means opinions too.
I mentioned Kakuma and the fact that lesbians there face discrimination along with the other block 13 inmates but also are in danger from men claiming to be Lesbians.
We discussed the chilling effect of Hate Crime legislation referencing Tonje Gjevjon and our recent Lesbian not Criminal tour. Paula gave him a message from Rosa in Malta about Lesbians self- excluding for fear of fines if they correctly sex someone. He asked to request that Rosa contact him directly as he has met lots of Lesbians in Malta and all are happy.
He did not accept the premise of homosexual detransitioners – and felt that we were suggesting that trans people do not have agency to make their own choices
He was confused about UK Law and genuinely thought gender identity and gender reassignment were different words for the same thing. When we quoted that gender reassignment was a protected characteristic for those who have undergone or propose to undergo gender reassignment, he explained that this can be extrapolated to mean any trans person since that is their eventual aim.
He said that we were governed by international human rights law and that in the statute of Rome gender identity already exists.
We explained that it does not exist here in legal parlance at all.
He was unaware of Keira Bell, Sonia Appleby, the recommendations in the Cass review, or what David Bell has said. The idea that our “Gender medicine services” were being shut down as unfit was news to him. We said they were all major news stories and that UK was leading the way in protecting children and that we are proud to be called terf island. He says he doesn’t use that term. He also claimed to be unaware of the growing number of countries and US states rejecting Puberty blockers.
He said clearly “any dynamic that affects women’s bodily autonomy is my concern”
The redirection of EU funding to so called “Inclusive” LGBT+ groups was raised and the Lesbians Denied project mentioned. His remit does affect EU policy and Law.
He insisted that he was able to listen to opposing views and rejected our assertion that he couldn’t be considered an independent expert with such a fixed view. He disagreed and felt he was able to do his job and assess cases and would do so if the information came to him through the correct channels of communication.
We requested he stop using the term Lesbian women since this implies there can be Lesbian men – he agreed.
The meeting felt unresolved and ran over time. It was a frank and forthright exchange of opinions and information.
Requests for us to send evidence was reiterated at the close and that dialogue was to be ongoing.
Paula Boulton 04.05.23
“Wrong sort of Lesbian?”
What was clear is that he needs evidence of the situations we face as Lesbians as he was unaware of our plight. Hardly surprising given that we exist almost entirely underground and back in the closet again. He clearly thought that he had spoken to Lesbians -who are, after all part of the many LGBT groups he has met. But the idea of us being the “wrong sort of Lesbian” was news to him.
He assured me that he was an independent expert, despite his obvious belief in gender identity and dismissal of biological sex.
He said he would gladly receive evidence through the proper communication channels.
In the last week I have spoken to many Lesbian groups and organisations and many are sending him evidence as a result.
He, on the other hand, has spent the last week writing his
Country visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (24 April – 5 May 2023) End of mission statement
End of mission Statement
This has confirmed for me how much evidence we need to send him. The report is very thorough and shows clearly who he met with and thus the one-sided picture which emerged for him. He has done an excellent job of speaking to those in need of protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of gender identity – mentioned 35 times. The word trans features 84 times.
The other part of the mandate – sexial orientation is mentioned only 29 times, the word Lesbian only 9 times, and gay men only once.
We ask that he now listen to and meet with Lesbians to arrive at an understanding of the violence and discrimination we face.
Please send evidence to firstname.lastname@example.org
Copy me in at email@example.com