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