On April 20th Lesbian Labour launched our website. We received overwhelmingly positive support.
However, within our own party the reception was varied. Comments on one Facebook group were shockingly hostile. The post attracted almost 1,000 comments. Though many members spoke up and argued our case very well, the ratio of negative to positive comments was 2:1.
The responses of a group of individuals on Facebook is not necessarily indicative of attitudes across the party towards Lesbian autonomy. However, such hostility requires a very firm response. This is no way to create a welcoming space for Lesbians.
As Lesbians we have every right to self-organise and do not seek or need permission from hostile men, or women with a different point of view.
The comments levelled at us were offensive and inaccurate and made spurious unfounded allegations.
We have gone through the comments and distilled the various criticisms. Here are our answers.
“Another group co-opting the name and Labour logo”
We are all Labour members and spent time designing a logo incorporating both the Labour rose, the symbol of our party, and the Lesbian double venus, the symbol of our sexuality. Naturally, we chose Labour red. We are, after all, Lesbian Labour.
“Not even Labour”
Wrong. Membership of Labour or a Trade Union is a pre-requisite to being in Lesbian Labour – unlike LGBT Labour.
“Look at their Links page – guilty by association” [note: I removed the full stops after items in the list and added one at the end. And should Labour Party come first?]
Our site has links to organisations and groups of interest to Lesbians in Labour:
LGBT Labour – the Labour Party’s current affiliated go-to organisation on all matters LGBT
LGB Alliance – new charity lobbying for LGB rights
LRA – Lesbian Rights Alliance, lobbying for Lesbians
Get The L Out – activist group promoting Lesbian autonomy
Lesbian Strength – activist group organising Lesbian strength marches
Lesbian Me Too – group campaigning around male violence against Lesbians
LWD – Labour Women’s Declaration, campaigning for women within the Labour Party.
We acknowledge and recognise that there is a plurality of opinion in our community. These are some groups we know about and will add more as we find them. Their inclusion on this page does not necessarily represent our stance. Our stance is clear from our founding statement. They simply provide resources for Lesbians to explore.
“They don’t identify who they are…”
We state clearly that we are a collective, so do not have named roles. The core group members’ photos appear on the site. All contributors who are safe to do so have signed their articles. Where initials have been used, these women are not out, and we reserve the right to protect them.
“Funded by right-wing extremists”
Give us a break! This myth is repeated ad nauseam. It is no more true of us than of any of the other women’s groups accused of the same thing. We are a grassroots campaign group with no funding, putting in time and effort voluntarily.
“Bigoted old second wave feminists with an axe to grind”
Actually, we are Lesbians of all ages with a double-headed axe to wield to cut through this crap!
Yes, many older Lesbians are involved because we are the women who fought for and won abortion rights, built refuges, founded women’s centres, ran rape crisis and Lesbian lines, stood on picket lines, organised strikes and soup kitchens, supported people with HIV/AIDS and fought Clause 28. Good-hearted, strong, dedicated socialist activists who know how to hold the line!
“They are a hate group”
Yet another oft-repeated line from the prayer book of mantras. This one gets trotted out whenever a group attempts to organise around Lesbian rights, gay rights or women’s rights. It is a textbook example of propaganda: state a lie boldly and repeat it.
The problem with this accusation is that in the current climate of cancel culture, being accused of “hate” leads swiftly to being shut down without any attempt to establish the truth of the claim. Hate crime used to mean something. It was serious, involving proscribed groups, terrorists, extremists.
Now “hate” is used to describe “someone doing something I disagree with” or “I am being left out”.
“Female-only – what about trans?”
Lesbians are same-sex attracted females. All sexualities and sexual orientations have specific boundaries, preferences and limitations. In common with heterosexuality, Lesbianism is by its very definition trans-exclusionary.
However, there are two specifically Trans groups in Labour. The first group to break away from LGBT Labour was Trans. Our trans comrades felt that they weren’t being heard or correctly represented and that their interests would be better served in their own organisation. Hence Labour Trans Equality. This set us an excellent example, as we too were frustrated at not being heard as Lesbians.
Already existing was Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, which describes itself as “an autonomous campaign of trans and non-binary Labour members fighting for trans rights and liberation” – and of course LGBT Labour still represents Trans for comrades who do wish to stay under the umbrella group.
“Staying as part of LGBT is better”
This is an opinion and a choice, and represents one of many views in the broad church that is the Labour Party. Pluralism is the bedrock of our party and the ability to listen respectfully, argue fiercely and weld new ideas in the heat of debate was once what socialism felt like. The ever-growing tendency to pressure people to align with the dominant narrative is dangerous to freedom of thought, belief and expression.
To those who feel catered for under the rainbow flag and in mixed groups – we wish you well. The fact is: we don’t! Hence, we are a Lesbian-only group.
Many of us are in mixed groups as well, since there is work to do to ensure that Lesbians are properly considered and resourced. Funding goes to mixed groups. We need to make sure there is a portion of that spent on Lesbians.
“No need to organise separately from other Labour comrades.”
Spending time with our peers with similar life experiences, speaking the same language, clarifies the issues and nurtures us, enabling us to step forward with confidence. The same set of reasons lie behind women-only branches. Many issues are only relevant to women. Also, male domination and good old-fashioned sexism are still alive and kicking in the party. Women work differently – and often better – without men around. This is the same for us as Lesbians.
“There is already way too much focus on the LGBT – why make a fuss?”
Because “LGBT” is assumed to represent us, and it doesn’t.
Many people feel at home under the ever-growing rainbow umbrella of different identities. But just as many don’t! We don’t. Simple. There is no law which requires the acceptance of this designation for Lesbians. However, any group which asserts its independence falls foul of the unelected watchdogs and is accused of being hateful.
The problem is the imposition of Queer theory, which is simply one way of looking at human sexuality. That is all. Its proponents have become a very audible lobby group. There was never any consultation or process for being added to the list or removed. No-one was elected to police those who do not wish to be part of it.
“’Woman – adult human female’ is mentioned in their statement”
“Adult human female” is the dictionary definition of the word “woman” and is used to clarify terms in our founding statement. The discussion around terminology is very important, and necessary for clarity. We define our terms clearly on our site. If people define Lesbians as anything other than same-sex attracted females, then this group is not for them.
Actually, most of our members are cat-lovers.
This term is used to whip up hysteria and diverts the conversation onto a set path of pre-prepared statements from the book of mantras.
Our concern is Lesbians. We write about our lives and our reality, retaining our boundaries and definitions.
Our site speaks for itself.