Lesbian Labour respond to the WHO

We have responded to the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s consultation with our thoughts on their guidance and policy.

A petition which raises similar objections to their policy can be found here: https://who-decides.org – you can add your name too.

Our response follows:

To whom it may concern,
We are Lesbian labour. Our group is based in the UK and is formed of Lesbians in the wider Labour and Trade Union movement plus members and supporters of the Labour Party. Together we fight to assert our rights and make our views heard in the face of increasing cross-political sexism and homophobia. We recognise our sexual orientation as same-sex attraction, as opposed to same-gender attraction. As Lesbians we understand that in addition to homophobia we experience misogyny based on our material female sex.

Whilst it is understandable that the WHO have convened a panel of trans and gender diverse people when seeking to develop guidelines which will affect them, this approach has led to complications in other spheres. Rather than wait until problems arise, we would argue that it is your public sector duty to carry out impact assessments on Lesbians and women in general. The most sensible way to do this would be to include these voices amongst the proposed members of the GDG.

We are not alone in our doubts about the proposed panel. Please note the growing number of signatories to this petition: https://who-decides.org/

Lesbian Labour have noticed that in the proposed GDG there is an absence of experts to advocate for the rights of Lesbians as exclusively same-sex attracted women. This is a massive oversight, as each of the five areas to be discussed affects Lesbians in the following ways:

Any proposal that focuses on ‘gender affirmation’ is likely to disproportionately harm Lesbians. Gender is a socially constructed set of norms used to oppress the female sex. ‘Gender-affirmation’ is male-centred and inherently sexist, as it reifies the roles and stereotypes used to oppress us.

As gender-nonconforming women existing in a sexist and homophobic society, Lesbians are at heightened risk of social pressure to transition. We believe that the promotion of medical procedures and hormones as forms of harmless ‘gender-affirming care’ may negatively affect the Lesbian community’s health and lead to our gender non-conformity being pathologized.

Healthcare guidelines that centre around gender identity rather than material sex are likely to disregard Lesbians’ boundaries around bodily autonomy. The overwhelming majority of perpetrators of violence against Lesbians are of the male sex. Healthcare policies that focus on gender-inclusivity necessarily rely on obscuring sex as a meaningful variable for consideration. This is problematic, since we believe that all women should have the right to request healthcare from a provider of the same sex.

The final point, legal recognition of self-determined gender identity, is detrimental to the rights of all women. It is fundamentally harmful to Lesbians. Since we experience the intersection between homophobia and sexism, it’s crucial that we have the right to enforce our sexual boundaries in a society that constantly pushes against them. Self-determination of gender identity has the potential to make Lesbians an undefinable group in law. This would in effect remove the legal protection we have recourse to under the UK 2010 Equality Act. Beyond this, Lesbians around the globe regardless of age, class, race, religion, culture, or difference in ability must all have the freedom to collectively reject all males as sexual partners without fear of social or legal punishment.

We urge the WHO to reconsider their proposed plans for the GDG and include experts who will provide evidence to support the needs of Lesbians. The departments of GRE-DEI have a duty to take into account not only the perceived benefits of their proposals, but also their potential grave harms to an already oppressed group.

Yours sincerely,
Paula Boulton for Lesbian Labour

Lesbian Labour responds to Angela Eagle

We have written to Angela Eagle to respond to some of her comments made during LGBT Labour’s fringe event at the Labour Party Conference, Monday 2nd October, 14:00

 “There is no such thing as gender ideology”

Gender ideology does exist and there are academic sociologists who have specialised in its study [1] dating back to the 1930s. However, like so many terms, its meaning has been expanded in recent years. Not least, it is now used as shorthand for “…gender identity ideology, the idea that what it is to be a woman/female (man/male) is to identify as a woman/female (man/male), and that this subjective identification supersedes facts about sex class membership” (Holly Lawford-Smith, Gender-Critical Feminism, OUP 2022). Or as Jane Clare Jones (2023) writes: “a belief system… the core claim of which is that being a man or a woman is a matter of gender identity rather than biological sex” (in Sex and Gender, Alice Sullivan & Selina Todd, Routledge).

It is our contention that these definitions capture the fundamental belief of those who maintain that everyone has an inner ‘gender identity’ that can override the sex they are registered at birth. To suggest that there is no such thing as a gender ideology calls into question why trans rights are advanced so frequently and often to the exclusion of LGB rights. If there is no such thing, why is it so important to you to reiterate its existence?

It also calls into question what queer theory is all about, if there is no gender ideology.

“Inclusive RSE materials in schools are being presented as unsuitable. This is not true.”

Miriam Cates, a Tory MP has raised the issues around the unregulated nature of RSE material in schools, often ‘taught’ by non professionals who claim incorrectly, to be approved by OFSTED. In your speech you said her comments were untrue. The following quote from @SaferSchoolsAlliance refers to one such organisation, Educate and Celebrate, funded by Durham County Council and operating in Primary and Secondary Schools across County Durham.

The CEO of Educate and Celebrate, Elly Barnes, promotes a particular agenda, unquestioningly accepting trans ideology and calling for teachers to “smash heteronormativity“. Any school signing up to her organisation is, de facto, also promoting this agenda. Dr Barnes’ advice for schools who think that parents may not appreciate this is to tell them to be secretive about what they are teaching children. This is an anti-safeguarding approach and antithetical to the best interests of children.

We could have chosen any one of several organisations operating in schools across the United Kingdom where teachers, already overburdened with teaching the national curriculum, have outsourced RSE lessons to unregulated providers who are, in the main, transgender activists who do not base their material on science or fact. Parents quite rightly have started to question why they are not allowed to see the material used or why their objections to their child possibly being ‘born in the wrong body’ have often been met with silence from teachers. We have no doubt there is a similar organisation operating in schools in your constituency and we are surprised you have not been approached by unhappy parents wanting to discuss their concerns. 

“Books are being removed from libraries which is tantamount to book burning.”

Apparently you are questioning the recent publicity about particular books being removed from Public Libraries.

These posts are from X (screenshot below) and as you are a regular contributor to the platform we are surprised you were not aware that women across the country have discovered books written by Helen Joyce, Kathleen Stock, Hannah Barnes and others have been removed from shelves in Public Libraries. Women were asked to check if the Libraries in their areas had also removed books and many found they had. The idea that books containing factual information, based on thorough research and sound evidence, should not be available because they might upset someone flies in the face of free speech. 

Some Libraries admitted that books written by the authors named were not on open display and would have to be requested. Other Libraries have not responded to requests for information.

“We can only move forward by making connections”

We established Lesbian Labour three years ago and one of the first things we did was write to the Chair of LGBT+Labour asking for a meeting so we could talk about the experience of Lesbians who were suffering discrimination and homophobia. The response we got was rude and made it clear there would be no meeting. We have contacted LGBT+Labour at other times since but have never received a reply. Lesbian Labour has emailed you, firstly three years ago when we asked if you would be our patron and at regular intervals since. We have never received a reply to any of our emails and when one of our members met you at Conference you made it clear you strongly objected to these emails and had no intention of responding. You referred to the member of Lesbian Labour as “anti-trans” and turned your back on her. So who is it you would like to connect with? We understand from other Gay and LGB Groups that you have also refused to meet them too. Is this a permissible response for a parliamentary representative?

“There are those who seek to divide. They are a tiny minority”

We suggest it is you who seek to divide, as per our above response to “We can only move forward by making connections”. We seek to clarify and uphold single sex and same-sex protections, where relevant to our lives, a position deemed worthy of respect in a democratic society by a UK employment tribunal – but not worthy of respect in the Labour Party, it seems.

Voicing concerns about the impact of gender identity upon single-sex services is not seeking to divide. Objecting to rapists being housed in women’s prisons is not seeking to divide. Wishing to speak openly and honestly about male-bodied people in women’s sports or men in Lesbian spaces is not seeking to divide. Empathising with orthodox Jewish and conservative Muslim women who are excluded by faith from mixed-sex spaces is not seeking to divide.

Further, we do not believe we represent a minority view. The growing number of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual groups [2; 3] whose members share our views, would tend to indicate otherwise. We are also contacted frequently by people still too afraid to speak up and/or attend in-person events. Aforementioned authors have variously achieved Sunday Times bestseller status, and shortlisting for the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction 2023 – this is not suggestive of a minority view.

“Section 28 was about forbidding any education or promotion of LGBT lives”

Factually incorrect. Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 sought to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality. The law makes no mention of trans or LGBT, only homosexuality. In other words, no people were discriminated against for being trans by Section 28 – only LGB people. Accuracy with language is important.

Local Government Act 1988. Section 28

“Look at the archives. Know your history” 

This is not much use when it is being rewritten. Our history was Gay and Lesbian only and the struggle for each was unique and specific. Bisexuals were added in the 1990s. To present our history as anything otherwise denies the evidence of the onward march of progress. 

A prominent example of the re-writing of our history is the often repeated lie that a  transwoman “threw the first brick” at the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969. The riots actually began when a butch Lesbian, reported by several people to be Stormé DeLarverie was arrested violently by the police and incited the watching crowd by saying “Why don’t you guys do something!”

Fred Sargeant who was present on the night of the first riot, has given his eyewitness account and spoken extensively about the revisionism underway. 

Fred’s own website states his concern that the historical record of the late 60s and early 70s had undergone a significant change that erased the prominent figures and their contributions as well as the primary role of same-sex activism during that period.

Fred was assaulted at a Vermont Pride in 2022 at the age of 74 years old for protesting in support of same-sex rights

Speaking of Archives; The national Lesbian Archives were deposited for safekeeping in the Glasgow Feminist Library. The Archives used to be referenced on the Library’s website and some of the material was on display but at some point recently our Archives were put away and attempts to access them has been refused. A report from the campaign group Scottish Lesbians describes their visit to the Library and the disappointment they felt that the Lesbian Archives were no longer open to Lesbians. 

Are you aware of the Lesbian Archives? Would you lend your voice to a campaign by Lesbians Groups to move the Archives to a new home where their importance and value will be respected and they will be available for Lesbian researchers?

“Our opponents are funded by the far right and are Christian fundamentalists”

This is a lazy, oft repeated line without any evidence proffered – because there isn’t any. There is in fact an independent opposition voice that has nothing to do with far-right groups. We are members of the Labour Party, past and present. We are same-sex attracted females, some of us hold elected positions in the Labour Party and Local Government. In terms of funding, Lesbian Labour, like other Lesbian campaigning groups, have no funding other than that put in by members of our Team and cash collected in buckets at events. 

Neither are the plethora of new women’s rights groups, the LGB Alliance, or the Gay Men’s Network funded by the far right or Christian fundamentalists. Not one shred of evidence had been put forward to support this slur.

You are a long-standing MP, currently the Chair of the National Executive’s Equalities Committee, a woman with power and influence in the Labour Party. A patron of LGBT+Labour, an Affiliated Organisation that has publicly told us that we have a problem with our sexual boundaries. LGBT+Labour apparently no longer supports same-sex attracted homosexuals and, having listened to your speech, we realise neither do you. Many LGB people have said they will not be voting Labour at the General Election because Labour is no longer the party of equality and it has failed to acknowledge the conflict between sex and sexual orientation and gender ideology, a conflict that brings with it rising homophobia and the discrimination against Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals. 

Lesbian Labour and other LGB campaigning groups deserve to be heard by you and the wider Labour Party, we make up over 3% of the population in the UK. If you refuse to listen then many will refuse to vote Labour.

Sincerely,

Lesbian Labour

 

Additional References:

[1] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781405165518.wbeosg019, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0020715215625726, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B0080430767039620

[2] A non-exhaustive list of LGB groups who hold similar values include Lesbian Fightback, The Lesbian Project, Gay Men’s Network, LGB Alliance, Lesbian Strength, and Jenny’s Bar.

[3] The group Scottish Lesbians presented their new report Lesbians Coming Out at Filia 2023 (12th-15th Oct) in Glasgow. It provides a snapshot of contemporary Lesbian lives by means of information gathered through a questionnaire. Strikingly, even though the questions did not mention gender, 82% of Lesbian respondents raised the topic of gender as having a negative impact on their experiences of coming out.

 

Write to your MP in support of Lesbians, using our template letter!

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On the 12th of June, Parliament will hold a debate in response to a petition signed by over 100,000 people, requesting a clarification to the Equality Act 2010 protected characteristic of Sex. Organised by Sex-Matters.org, the petition seeks clarification that Sex in law refers to biological sex and does not include the legal fiction conferred by a gender recognition certificate. This is important for women but especially so for Lesbians, since our same-sex attraction (and its protection thereof) is contingent on sex in law meaning biological sex.

We are concerned that this message will be forgotten in the debate since few are aware that Stonewall, and other large organisations that supposedly speak for Lesbians, now define sexual orientation as same-gender orientation!

Please copy our template letter text below to write to your MP ahead of the debate to bring this to their attention. Do feel free to add your own personal touches. You can find out who your MP is and how to contact them by clicking here

Template letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write to you as your constituent to draw your attention to an upcoming debate in Westminster Hall on the 12th of June at 4.30 pm, scheduled as a result of a petition, to clarify the definition of the protected characteristic of sex as it appears in the Equality Act 2010. The petition, which was organised by the organisation Sex Matters, attracted more than 100,000 signatories. A counter petition which also reached the debate threshold will be debated at the same time, indicating how many people are concerned about this issue.

The Equality Act defines nine protected characteristics which are all given equal weighting in terms of protection in the law (disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, maternity and pregnancy, religion or belief, race, gender reassignment and marriage or civil partnership).

The importance of sex as a protected characteristic, particularly to women and girls, cannot be overstated. However there is currently a great deal of confusion whether ‘sex’ in law means biological sex solely, or including sex as modified by a Gender Recognition Certificate – which describes the status of transgender people who hold a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). Clarification will allow for the provision of clear and lawful single-sex services, in scenarios in which sex is the more relevant classifier and not gender. Examples of services or provisions in which sex is a more appropriate classifier than gender is in medical settings or sport. Transgender people are of course protected under the category of gender reassignment, as they rightly should be from any form of discrimination.

The protected characteristic of sexual orientation however is also contingent on the definition of sex as meaning biological, and it is for this reason that I write to you. Lesbian, Gay men and bisexual people all experience same-sex attraction, that is, attraction based upon biological sex, not gender. Gender is not relevant to sexual attraction.

Stonewall has in recent years quietly modified their definition of homosexuality to centre around gender, and not sex. Since they also explicitly include “cross-dressers” under their definition of transgender, this means that many males now self-define as Lesbians. Under this climate, it is impossible for Lesbians to meet and gather openly without men wishing to join or simply disrupt our events.

It is therefore not necessarily automatic that the proposed clarification of sex will protect same-sex attracted people. Lesbians , in the words of Anne Lister ,“Love and only love the fairer sex”. It is unacceptable that they should be forced to include men – indeed it is outright homophobia. Lesbians’ sexual orientation is exclusive of males as it is based upon biological sex.

I therefore urge you as my elected representative at Westminster to attend the debate and consider speaking on behalf of same-sex attracted people –  to explicitly clarify the definition of sexual orientation in law to mean attraction to biological sex.

Yours Sincerely,

Your constituent

Lesbian Not Criminal – the tour

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This month (12th – 19th) Lesbian Labour, in conjunction with the LGB Alliance hosted Norwegian Lesbian artist Tonje Gjevjon for several evening events across the UK. Tonje was facing a possible jail term in her home country for a facebook post stating Menn er menn uansett seksuelle fetisjer – Men are men regardless of their sexual fetishes”.

Tonje in a mg-shot style photo, holding a "Lesbian Not Criminal" sign

An excellent write up of the tour was written by Lily Maynard here. Below is our summary of the week.

The tour was a roaring success, both in raising awareness of the issues Lesbians can face when we assert our boundaries as women loving women (hence the name – Lesbian not criminal!), but also in getting women together for discussion, singing, music and dancing!

Several of our own members performed, chaired or spoke at the events, which were well attended by women – Lesbian, bi and straight – who wished to hear about Tonje’s siutation.

We kicked things off in Edinburgh. Chaired by Joanna Cherry KC, we heard from Tonje first then Rhona Hotchkiss, Nicole Jones and Paula Boulton for Lesbian Labour.

Tonje had unexpectedly heard from the Norwegian police that they were dropping the case against her as they had decided nothing punishable had taken place. What a way to start the tour. There was a lively Q and A and much joy at having defeated the GRR Bill in Scotland. We added an additional speech from Kate Harris before clearing the stage for the first performance.

Kicking off with Hungry Hearts we were treated to the spectacle of Kate Harris of LGB Alliance dancing away to the Vagina Anthem setting the tone for the rest of the week. The song may have been cancelled in Norway, but it was sung lustily in Edinburgh.

The one and only Elaine Miller had us in stitches regaling us with the full merkin moment story. She then dressed in her ceremonial vulva robs to present Tonje with a merkin of her own.

Next, an unofficial stop at Leeds’ Virago Women’s Workshop for an early art workshop followed by the tour’s most intimate  round table discussion about how to move things forward.

Cardiff saw women’s choir, Cwfen (Covan) welcoming women in and our own Bronwen Evans chairing a panel of Kate Harris, Dee McCullough, Paula and Tonje. Wales’ LGBTQ action plan and its disastrous consequences for Lesbians was discussed.

More singing and music followed including Calon Lan and the Vagina Anthem twice, which of course got Kate Harris up and dancing again. However, this time she was determined not to dance alone and got many other women up and dancing.

The tour officially ended in London, where around 100 women came to see the panel speak. Kate Barker chaired the panel and this time Tonje was followed by Aja, Jo Phoenix and Paula.

It was a shocking moment for Paula when she announced she was from Labour – there was a collective groan. Asking for a show of hands as to who was in Labour revealed half a dozen lonely women. Asking who had left labour resulted in nearly every hand in the room being raised. There were far too many hands raised when she also asked who had been investigated or expelled or suspended.

Music included the Lesbian Marching song, to which Julia Long led women marching around the room as they chanted and joined in at the appropriate moments.

Tonje, a lover of rap had chosen to finish the night with the acerbic, cutting lyrics of young lesbian rapper Trish who burst on to the stage with red hot anger and tore to shreds the nonsense that is self ID.

After more talking and a great deal of merriment, Tonje was off to Manchester for the final night of the tour where a meeting of around 30 women took place followed by a trip to the gay village.

A few hours later, early Sunday morning Tonje headed back to Norway greatly invigorated by her trip to Terf Island. So many connections made over the week. We need to do it more. And if saying a man can’t be a lesbian is “not punishable” then we all need to say it more!

 

Lesbians left out in the cold at conference

Lesbian Labour were in Liverpool this week handing out leaflets and speaking to delegates at the annual Labour Party Conference. Our concerns include the loss of single sex spaces and provision in public life, which particularly affects us same-sex attracted women.

Unfortunately we were literally and metaphorically left out in the cold given the Labour Party’s refusal to tolerate diversity of opinion over same-sex attraction and single sex services, after refusing stall applications from same-sex champions The LGB Alliance, the feminst charity Filia, as well as the Labour Women’s Declaration. This of course only made us more determined to get our message out there, and with our pop up stall we did!

Hannah and Paula with our pop up stall

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