I’m a lesbian and was for years active in a women’s centre which acted as a hub for local lesbian activities and groups and support. I and other volunteers held monthly brunch meetings for lesbian women, we had a monthly lesbian feminist group, a monthly cafe event, a newsletter that publicised everything from walks and bike rides and dining clubs and festivals and weekends away to personal ads. We probably reached the best part of 1000 women. We had innumerable women tell us we’d been a life-saver for them. People actually moved to this area because they knew there was this wonderful, open, established lesbian network they could plug into.
Then a trans-rights activist in a wig and lipstick and long nails came to a couple of our events.
He stood out because he didn’t look like the rest of us. We asked him to leave. He refused. He came to a brunch, made a speech about how he’d come to educate lesbians about transgender issues and, as women tried to leave the room, forcibly hugged them. They made complaints to us. We banned him from lesbian events for touching women without their consent and took the issue to the police who did nothing. The trans-identified man said he’d take the women’s centre down. And he did.
He applied to become a committee member. The committee at that time was dominated by straight white Momentum Labour women who welcomed him. The BAME women, many of whom are not allowed by their faith to attend events where there is a man present, took their funding and left. Many of the lesbians boycotted the women’s centre events in protest. The women’s centre closed down. The lesbian women’s movement fractured as some women took a GC stance and others took the ‘poor transgender people’ stance. Friends fell out. Younger lesbians told off older lesbians for their failure to be kind and reasonable. This fracture in the lesbian community is still festering and I can’t see a time when we will ever be able to rebuild what we had.
I have educated my MP about this, but while she’s sympathetic and makes GC noises to my face she still maintains a supportive pro-trans public persona.
I’ve written 50+ letters and emails to the BBC, the Guardian and other media organisations, occasionally with success (ie, articles have been changed, headlines have been changed) Lots of emails to Radio 4!
I send postcards of support to many women, particularly whose who are fighting alone within their professions/ institutions.
I’m out and proud as GC on my very secure FB page and found that as soon as I started talking about it, quite a few others started saying that they’d felt the same way but had felt uncomfortable about discussing such things.
I’ve taken a firm, rational, non-emotional GC line in lesbian social groups etc and while some people are offended, I usually find that the majority even if they’re silent at the time, sidle up later to say they agree.
I belong to a Resisters group and have stickered and gone out on the streets leafleting. Again, the majority of people agree with a GC line.
Once you start talking to people you realise that 80% are GC, 10% are confused or don’t care and fewer than 10% really take the TWAW line — and even then can’t justify that belief.
I’ve lost several people with whom I thought I’d be friends for life. I had a lesbian GP friend who is now so deeply enmeshed in transgender ideology that she has gone off to specialise in transgender medicine and refers to me openly as a TERF. She spouts all the Mermaids stuff about hundreds of trans teens killing themselves and won’t hear a rational response. It’s brought out a sort of Messiah complex in her: she’s going to rescue and protect all the poor transpeople. It’s profoundly disturbing to realise that even someone like her — clever, educated, years of experience in public service in the NHS — is so emotionally and intellectually susceptible to irrational ideology.
I’ve also been very badly patronised by younger women friends who think their brand of feminism (intersectional feminism) is better than my 1970s/1980s feminism. It’s come as a real shock to realise that these apparently impeccably feminist young women don’t centre women in their politics. Some of them treat me as if I have learning difficulties. You know: ‘You can’t blame Issilly for her opinions, she comes from the medieval school of feminism where women hate all men…’
The biggest negative consequence has been realising how irrational and misogynistic and homophobic the world still is, under the guise of being ‘nice’. Lesbians are under attack from all sides, including other lesbians. I feel really glad to have had a wonderful 30 years of positive lesbian feminist culture and so sorry for younger lesbians who have nothing that I had to cling onto.
Issilly, who was just a lesbian until she discovered she was actually a radical lesbian feminist