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”.
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!