Photography via kthtrnr / Flickr
Last week saw the launch of a new, concerning organisation called the LGB Alliance – a group claiming to advocate for gay people, lesbians and bisexuals in the fight against “gender extremism”. This is the latest in a series of relentless and increasing attacks facing the trans community in a climate of transphobia which is affecting us both online and IRL. In a way, the start of this new trans-exclusionary group is not surprising – anti-trans sentiment is on the rise in the British media – but when the hatred comes from people who are meant to be part of your community, the pain hits on a different level.
Announced by lawyer Allison Bailey, the group consists of a number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people who believe trans liberation reduces their rights. Allison Bailey is now facing an investigation from her employer Garden Court Chambers due to her stance going directly against the chambers’ views on equality. The alliance keeps responding to criticism reiterating that the group is not transphobic, and they don’t aim to exclude trans people. A look at their Twitter followers, however, proves otherwise. They also have support of known transphobes Janice Turner, Sarah Ditum and Katie Hopkins. Many papers and Alliance members reported that the group was needed because Stonewall faced a split on trans issues – but Paul Twocock, Stonewall’s current CEO responded saying: “There is no truth to reports of Stonewall ‘splitting’, so please ignore the alarmist headlines”.
The group has quickly rallied up a large amount of followers, as well as thousands of pounds on a JustGiving campaign, however it’s unclear what their concrete objectives are and how they will actually proceed, which makes it even more eerie. We don’t know whether they plan to work with political parties, run media campaigns or take to the streets. Judging from their JustGiving page, their mission seems to be especially fixated on perpetuating transmisogyny, and how there’s a need for spaces for women without “male-bodied” people. They’re also actively pointing out a need to separate gender identity from sexuality, despite cis queer people and trans people having fought together throughout history, and many trans people also being queer. It’s hard to know what services we’ll now be able to access, without fear of our position and identity being questioned, and our safety being compromised. Just a few weeks ago a noted transphobe attempted to hijack a panel at feminist conference Feminist Hope, Feminist Dilemmas. I’m deeply worried about the impact groups like LGB alliance will have on trans women’s access to women’s spaces.
The UK seems to have a unique and intense brand of transphobia, with online forum Mumsnet becoming a primal spot for anti-trans sentiment. Many feminist intellectuals unashamedly and vocally express their issues with trans people on these forums. Meanwhile women who were once seen as renowned feminist theorists such as Germaine Greer have started incessently attacking trans people and separating us from their feminism. The same effect can be seen among some thinkers within the queer community, like Julie Bindel, who has partially paved the way for groups like LGB alliance to be able to take place. For years now, a number of “feminist” thinkers have been handed national media platforms to spout their transphobia. What’s terrifying about queer people promoting this violent agenda is that so many of the arguments are reminiscent of anti-homosexuality propoganda spread in the 1980s; the idea that we shouldn’t teach children about gender identity at school or suggest the possibility of transitioning is incredibly similar to ideas that teaching children about homosexuality will inevitably teach them to be gay.
“The UK seems to have a unique and intense brand of transphobia”
Trans people have historically played a vital role in the liberation of the entire LGBTQ+ community, from Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera in the US, to Christine Goodwin in the UK, and have also been constant targets of violence – from the alarming rates of black trans women murdered each year, to the perpetual online abuse directed at us. A recent report also highlighted how transphobic abuse and racism are intertwined, with black trans-feminine people being targeted the most. When it comes to whipping up transphobia online, some abuse comes from online trolls with smaller followings, but much of it is also published by established media outlets like the Times.
The violence we face online translates to violence we face in real life. As a non-binary femme person, I’ve received more street abuse in the last year than ever before, and I’ve heard the same from all the trans-feminine people in my life. TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) claim trans women want to invade their spaces and steal their rights – but the oppression we experience is embedded in the same misogyny that cis women face. Men follow me home, catcall me and sexually harass me. To be visibly femme presents certain dangers, regardless of what gender you’re assigned at birth.
TERFs have historically used “biology” for their promotion of sex as a binary, even though we know this isn’t true – this is actually a violent concept, which has played a part in intersex people having to undertake non-consensual surgery. It’s also essential to acknowledge the inherent racist history of science, and how this is inextricably intertwined with ideas of “biological” sex and gender. Examples of pre-colonial existence of people outside notions of manhood and womanhood can be found worldwide. Historically, people of colour’s gendered existences seem to be automatically in opposition to white Western ones; whether that’s in the hypersexualisation of black women or in the emasculation of Asian men, our genders are immediately othered and suppressed.
“Science has a racist history, which is inextricably intertwined with ideas of ‘biological’ sex and gender”
Fuck the LGB Alliance. The climate of transphobia in the UK has been becoming increasingly worrying for years and this group shows that this is not only coming from cis straight people. A stricter understanding of sex and gender is not only damaging to trans folks but will impact cisgender people too. Policing who is “woman” or “man enough”, or who is “queer enough” (LGB alliance’s obsession with same-sex attraction is also very biphobic) to access services will quickly create discriminatory power hierarchies. Trans people have always existed, have always been a vital part of queer liberation, and will continue to be.
But we also need to be protected. Cis allies must be vocal, proactive, empathic and brave in their inclusion and support of trans people. Seeing the community come together with hashtags such as #LwiththeT shows that we are not nearly as divided as LGB alliance would have us believe, and constant action needs to be taken to counter their rhetoric. Whether that’s in publicly protesting transphobes (a demo is taking place in London on the 2nd of November), standing up for trans people when witnessing abuse, encouraging gendered spaces to ensure they’re trans inclusive, or in donating to GoFundMes for people raising money for their transition. No one will achieve liberation if the most marginalised members of our community are left behind.