Lesbian Labour anniversary newsletter

Greetings on the first anniversary of the launch of Lesbian Labour website, marking a full year in the public gaze.

Picking up where we left off in the last newsletter, we had a busy time at autumn conferences. At FiLiA we joined in with the Women Uniting cross-party meeting, sharing woefully similar tales with our GC sisters from the other political parties. We were joined by Joanna Cherry, who has consistently spoken out about Lesbians in parliament. We also took part in a Lesbian Spaces session and have continued to network since with a very diverse group of Lesbians busy trying to set up safe Lesbian events in real life. Our stall and merchandise were there with everyone else and we were very visible due to my dual role as musician welcoming every women to conference wearing my Lesbian Labour hoody.

At the LGB Alliance conference we again placed ourselves with our sisters from the other parties and had a steady flow of sales and conversations at our stall. Sadly, at both events we heard over and over again that Labour has lost women and is certainly losing Lesbians.

We have continued to battle with the closed doors within LGBT Labour. Despite our repeated efforts they have steadfastly refused to engage with us at all. This leaves us effectively without representation in our own party. We are considered a negligible number of Lesbians who insist on maintaining our sexual boundaries and retaining the legally accurate definition of same-sex attracted females.

We established a link with the Women’s committee and discovered that they were having their emails triaged and so are not aware of issues ordinary members may wish to raise with them. Via our links with LWD sisters, we were able to connect directly with them and were thrilled when our own core group member, Morgan Fackrell, got elected as the Welsh rep on the committee. Despite this direct link, we have got no further forward with the issue of our status as a Friends of Labour group.

We raised the issue at a meeting with Anneliese Dodds in December. After months of further investigation, it appears that the real cause is one hand not knowing what the other is doing and somehow things have fallen between the cracks in a crumbling system. We are currently waiting to be put in touch with the new lead in stakeholders who ought to be able to deal with it directly.

I had an illuminating conversation with Cllr Moston from LTE who is also being given the run around.

Despondency has been narrowly avoided by a regular letter writing campaign tackling loads of issues. We await answers with inexhaustible patience and jubilation when we do get responses.

We asked Anneliese to clarify how Labour intend to deal with the contradictory position on self ID and maintaining single-sex exemptions. Sadly, her awareness on the topic is still at a very basic level — but we do have a channel of communication and continue to offer to brief her. The suggestion that LGBT Labour are already acting in our interests is evidence that, in common with many, she is unaware of the denial of same-sex attraction and believes all is well under the rainbow.

One of our focuses throughout December was raising awareness of the Lesbian angle of conversion therapy. In fact, we joined forces with lots of other Lesbian groups to form Lesbian Fightback in early December, immediately attracting 3000+ twitter followers. Between us, we all sent in our responses to the consultation, pointing out that including Gender Identity in the ban would leave gender distressed girls open to automatic affirmation, puberty blockers and an eventual medical route out of what, for many is a confusing puberty, fuelled by sexism, misogyny and Lesbophobia. Without constructive, effective counselling and support, there would certainly be more unhappy detransitioners like Keira Bell. Left to mature, with support, the majority of girls desist, and many are in fact same-sex attracted. The great slogan GAY TEENS AREN’T SICK — from LGB Alliance — got a lot of traction.

We produced some illustrations of Lesbophobia and conversely what Lesbian Wellbeing would look like.

We joined with lots of other groups to welcome the EHRC’s work on pointing out the flaws in the conversion therapy bill, guidance on single-sex exemptions and the complications that will ensue if Scotland goes ahead with GRA reform.

In February we targeted support for our sisters in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya who are still desperate about their situation. We did host a zoom call with them and more recently have continued to fund raise and try to get some response from the UNHCR. Sadly, given the current refugee crisis closer to home due to the war in Ukraine there is less support available.

We took part in and promoted a survey about the experiences of Lesbians and Bisexual women at PRIDE events. We also supported Jennifer Swayne in Newport, Wales after her unlawful arrest whilst stickering. Bronwen and Morgan, our Welsh sisters are living under a Labour Government of course — and sadly in regards to LGBT XYZ and the Stonewall institutional capture — from NHS to Police and Schools, they have the nightmare unfolding around them of what things could look like here in England if self -ID was adopted. Not to be deterred Morgan is standing as a councillor in her ward. We wish her every success. An unapologetically out Lesbian holding the line in the lion’s den will be very tough going.

On representation, another of our other core members, Carol Angharad continues as a councillor having to deal with bullying and a complaints system which is not fit for purpose. We have worked with others being investigated by the party for “thought crimes” — myself included, and found a journalist interested in exposing the mess.

Remember — this is our party too. We have a right to expect reasonable standards of response to communication and complaints. We would not accept such poor customer service in a shop — and we don’t pay subs to a shop!

We have reached out to our Lesbian sisters in Ukraine recently having managed to hold a zoom with a sister in Kyiv who told us what was happening live.

Carol and I both managed to speak at the Labour Women’s Conference which resulted in commentary on my nifty product placement of banners with our logo appearing in the report from the disgruntled and ousted chair of the conference arrangements committee. She was horrified that “the flag from an exclusionary radical sect had been allowed to be flown on the virtual conference floor”. Such is the invisibility of Lesbians within Labour that we had got to almost the end of the second day without the word LESBIAN being heard at all. We soon put that right. Carol managed to repeat it about 15 times in her 2 minutes contribution and I got it in a good few times too.

The issue of Labour politicians failing to adequately answer the simple question “What is a woman?” in the wake of an appalling showing on IWD, has given the Tories an open goal. They are now streets ahead on dealing sensibly with the issue whilst Labour still struggle. We have offered time and again, as have LWD, to help with the script. But actually — it feels too late. Like David Lammy and “cervixgate” during party conference — which led to the gift of dinosaurs — each time a Labour politician shies away or muddles the answer they lose votes. Wes Streeting has been the best so far, and Emily Thornberry is not far behind.

It should be completely possible to say that a woman is an adult human female and that Labour remains committed to advancing women’s rights and maintaining all the current protections under the equality act — including the single-sex exceptions. To then go on and say — the reason this is a contentious subject is because of the question of when a man who transitions can be included in facilities and provisions for women. To also admit that we have a manifesto commitment to introduce self ID and that this will mean finding practical solutions as to how to solve that paradox, that this will take time, and that we are on the case listening to all stakeholders — should not be too difficult.

This is really a live issue at the moment in the run up to the local elections. Lesbian Labour are a partner in the Women Uniting “Respect my Sex if you want my X” campaign. There has been huge media interest and prospective Labour councillors need to get their answers clear if they want votes.

It is at local level where services are delivered and language, safeguarding and single-sex spaces are being bartered away around us. This is of course important to us all as women, but of course as Lesbians the need for single-sex spaces and services is even more acute.

So, our current focus is a joint campaign with LGBA Cymru and the Gay Men’s Network to fight for the right to organise and meet under the protected characteristic of sexual orientation. Without the insistence on single-sex biological definitions this becomes meaningless. We are awaiting a response from the EHRC to clarify our rights.

And finally — in the wake of the fabulous interim report from Dr Hilary Cass — the government were going to drop the ban on conversion therapy. Such was the uproar that they did a U-turn — which begs the question — who is running the country? Anyway — the end result was a ban on conversion therapy for sexual orientation but to wait before banning conversion therapy based on gender identity.

This is an eminently sensible position to have taken, and we felt heard, as the concerns we had raised about affirmation only counselling actually transing the gay away, were central to the reasons this part will be left out.

However — the trans community have rallied a huge amount of support and are actively portraying the government as transphobic and feeling very badly let down. The result is that many people — who will not read beyond the headlines — have taken up that position. It is OK to ban Gay conversion therapy — but you won’t do anything if people try to convert Trans people?

This oversimplification needs a lot of work to unpack. If enough support is garnered, then there may well be amendments to the bill when it goes through parliament. So, we must continue to put the case that Dr Hilary Cass has not yet finished reporting and that until then we must wait to ensure the best outcome for gender distressed children.

The furore around this issue meant that Stonewall and its many partners held the government to ransom and refused to run the upcoming “Safe to be me” conference. Although this is a great money saver, and the conference was not featuring any groups who represent those of us fighting to retain same-sex orientation as the true definition of homosexual, it is still a missed opportunity to do something constructive for our international sisters and brothers who live in less tolerant societies.

Apart from our core campaigning — the social media team continue to whip up a storm. With 7630 followers on twitter, Jen and Carol keep up with the fast-flowing world of twitter conversation. Hannah has built up a massive TikTok following and grapples with very thorny questions in her frank debunking videos. Jen keeps Instagram alive and between us we keep our Facebook followers informed. Bronwen regularly enters the gladiatorial arena of the Labour Party Forum and gets massive conversations going. And Stella sorts our new blog posts and keeps the website ticking over with Morgan.

Behind the scenes we also have our fabulous allies group who get the message out for us and support us along the way.

Noting our first anniversary celebration posts — one of our supporters Dee, said:

“Wow I thought you had been going for years! Well done. You have a big presence.”

Here’s to another year fighting to make the Labour party and the Labour movement a safe and welcoming space for Lesbians — same-sex attracted adult human females.