The Lesbian Canaries – Whatever You Are!

Canaries were iconically used in coal mines to detect the presence of deadly carbon monoxide. The bird’s rapid breathing rate, small size, and high metabolism, compared to the miners, led birds in dangerous mines to succumb before the miners, thereby giving the miners time to take action.

Lesbians are the canaries in the coal mine.

Lesbians were removed from Pride Cymru in Cardiff this August bank holiday.

Shock, horror, outrage! Over 3 million people watched the video on twitter as Get The L Out activist Angela Wild clarified the police response.

But to many of us this was no surprise. This is our “normal”.

It is important to mention the history of the GTLO protest, as it didn’t happen in a vacuum and is part of ongoing Lesbian Resistance.

If we go back 4 years to the holding up of the London Pride march in 2018 two of the same banners and even some of the same Lesbians were there that day.

“Lesbian not Queer” and “Transactivism Erases Lesbians”.

Lesbians protest at the head of the London Pride march 2018. Copyright Pam Isherwood

Lesbian activists had already been protesting for years trying to get coverage around the issue of Lesbian erasure and the specific threats posed by gender ideology and self ID.

They had raised the alarm well before the issue had become one of the topics of the day.

And since that protest 4 years ago there has been an unbroken chain of resistance from GTLO and numerous other individuals and groups who have continued to protest and to assert our sexual boundaries.

Response? Almost no media coverage and increasingly hostile resistance from opponents of same-sex attraction between women.


Wondering how to protest effectively at Pride 2019 many women opted for Lesbian positive actions.

A new group formed, based in Leeds, aiming to hold a march just for Lesbians. There used to be regular Lesbian Strength Marches in the 80s. Since we were no longer welcome at Pride, clearly it was time to revive that tradition.

Lesbian Strength marches of the 80s

The first recent Lesbian Strength march was held and counter-protested in Leeds 2019. The following year there was a virtual one. 2021 was called off at the last minute but this year there will be a march on Sept 17 th.

It will be interesting to see what reaction the march receives and how the police respond to any hostility.

It is worth looking at some of the protests in the last 4 years. In 2019, Lesbians with our feminist allies protested lots of other Pride events. Lancaster was ominous with Lesbians attending being surrounded and hemmed in by teenagers being egged on by adult male trans rights activists. Bradford, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, York fared no better. Lesbians in Edinburgh and Swansea were most unwelcome.

Complete coverage of these acts of lesbian visibility can be found on the Get the L out website.

Was this only happening in the UK?

No – GTLO notably attended Euro Pride in Vienna, others protested the Dyke March in New York too.

Lesbians turn up and are made to feel unwelcome or are actually asked to leave.

No-one is willing to talk about the issues we raise. We have been painted as the enemy of gender ideology, the party poopers, and the derision and misogyny with which we are treated gets worse. As does the violence.

This year Lesbian sisters in Cologne and Marseilles received a particularly violent and aggressive reaction from opponents.

This largely invisible and under-reported ongoing resistance needs acknowledged.

“First they came for the Lesbians, but I was not a Lesbian, so I didn’t speak out”

Well, I suggest you start speaking out and defending Lesbians and our right to maintain our sexual boundaries. Everyone stands to lose if gender identity replaces sex.

This hostility is met not just on marches but at public meetings too, “Lesbians on chairs” found themselves ejected from a variety of events simply for being there as Lesbians.

Current activism

Beyond the protest scene Lesbians have also been busy!

Lesbian Rights Alliance, one of the earliest groups to speak out about these issues, first demanded that Stonewall remove the L from the ever-growing alphabet in 2018. They recently set up a website for young Lesbians called Positively Lesbian.

GTLO’s Angela Wild pioneered an academic study about the Cotton Ceiling.

Lesbians United in USA recently contributed a thoroughly researched paper on Puberty Suppression.

My focus was how to get the message across within the political arena and together with others I formed Lesbian Labour.

On the legal front we are currently awaiting guidance from EHRC about our autonomous rights to organise, meet and protest under the protected characteristic of sexual orientation.

Others highlighted sexual violence against Lesbians by setting up Lesbian Me Too.

Welsh Lesbians set up LGBA Cymru and are working flat out to resist the Welsh Government’s flawed LGBTQ+ plan.

Scottish Lesbians are fully involved in opposing the plans to introduce self ID north of the border.

A network emerged at the end of last year to bring all the groups and individuals together. “Lesbian Fightback” immediately attracted 3000 Twitter followers in one week.

An online support network, “Lesbians Under Lockdown” emerged for Lesbians during Covid.

Another group has been working on creating Lesbian Spaces.

And, determined to claim our social space many Lesbians danced the night away at a rare Lesbian only
disco this summer.


Of course, most Lesbians are just getting on with their lives. The notion that we are being redefined out of existence just a preposterous notion. Not worth paying attention too.

Certainly not an issue for the many fabulous Lionesses or other openly Proud Lesbian sportswomen.

But for those of us with our eye on the political football – we know that replacing sex with gender leads to the situation emerging in Australia.

The rewriting of the equality Act and the erasure of the very concept of sexual orientation.

Can we fight this battle on our own?

Other Lesbians – Kate Harris and Bev Jackson – aligned with other same-sex attracted people and formed a charity in 2019, to fight for homoSEXUALS – men and women.

The LGB ALLIANCE – set up to do what Stonewall no longer does i.e. support homosexuals. Their response to the removal of the GTLO Lesbian activists from Cardiff Pride has been to offer to co-ordinate those who would like an LGB march in 2023.

They are about to defend themselves in court against a challenge to the charity’s commission about their status. Hopefully the press will follow the outcome with interest, but it has to be said that the mainstream press has failed Lesbians. No-one has been brave enough to report on this issue in the 4 years between Pride London and Pride Cardiff. Rainbow-washed into compliance by ideologically- driven inclusion and diversity trainers promoting an unseemingly unassailable dominant narrative. So, this minor flurry of press interest is of course welcome.

But here’s the challenge. Will you share the oxygen of publicity with us Lesbian Canaries whilst we are still breathing?

Paula Boulton

Title image credit: Get the L out