Why I Co-Founded a Movement for Lesbians to Stand with Trans People
#LwiththeT members marching at Brighton Pride
This month, we have a historic opportunity to improve trans rights. The government is currently consulting the public on whether it should make it easier for trans people to have their gender legally recognised through the Gender Recognition Act.
On the 3rd of July, the government launched a public consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Only four days later, Pride in London got disrupted by anti-trans campaigners demanding to "get the L out of Pride", with one telling PinkNews: "A man cannot be a lesbian, a person with a penis cannot be a lesbian." They marched uninterrupted at the front of the parade until Trafalgar Square.
Myself and many friends in Brighton watched the #GetTheLOut protest via a PinkNews livestream of the day. Angry and appalled, a group of us from the LGBTQIA+ community here launched the #LwiththeT campaign as a counter protest.
"My heart sank to unmeasurable depths with the sight of an anti-trans group leading the Pride in London parade," says Liz Ridgway, an #LwiththeT community facilitator. "It was a moment of great despair for so many people of brilliance who I know and love. However, as it is for those who choose to navigate towards the sun, this despair quickly turned into imagination – the community mobilised and began a counter response, and #LwiththeT was born."
We called on lesbians to share messages of support for trans people in our online video campaign; to stand in solidarity with our trans siblings, and not with this small but loud collective who thought they could speak on behalf of all lesbians.
"You don't get to speak for me," my friend Laura Maddocks recalls thinking when she first saw a banner reading "trans activism erases lesbians" at the front of the Pride march in London. "No one else gets to speak for anyone else, let alone a marginalised community speaking on behalf of another marginalised community."
This was the driving force behind #LwiththeT. The wider lesbian community didn’t want their identity to become synonymous with transphobia, but attempts to fracture and divide the queer community didn't end with the protest in London.
On the 14th of July, a group called Lesbian Rights Alliance (LRA) published an open letter to Stonewall asking for the L to be removed from LGBT. As distressing as this was, I was pleased to see DIVA, a leading magazine for lesbians and bi women, publish an open letter replying to LRA and in support of #LwiththeT.
"How can 135 lesbians think it's OK to make this request on behalf of the L community?" read DIVA publisher Linda Riley’s question on Twitter, echoing the same concerns we had when we launched #LwiththeT.
After numerous attacks on the trans community, from dogmatic groups and mainstream media, the need for a unified message became all the more apparent. As the date of Brighton Pride approached, organisers of the parade and #LwiththeT members came together to talk about the universal need for trans inclusivity.
We were subsequently invited to lead the march to signify that, as diverse as the LGBTQIA+ community is, we won’t be divided and the majority remain united. Supporting every facet of the community and reminding the world what the Pride flag really stands for – inclusivity – is crucial to improving our fight for equal rights.
On the day of the Brighton Pride parade, we were met with love. Spectators took a moment to read our banner and people shouted "thank you" once they saw the link between the London parade and our action.
The marching group was made up of lesbians, trans women, trans men, non-binary people, gay men, bisexuals and pansexual people. We rallied together behind the #LwiththeT banner and walked through cheering crowds. We cheered with them, chanting messages like, "Please know your history, trans women fought for me," and, "Keep the L with the T, you can’t break the community."
I walked holding the end of the #LwiththeT banner in one hand and high-fiving people in the crowds with the other. As we passed the odd trans flag in the crowd, we would cheer them on in acknowledgment. Throughout the march, some of us left our posts to comfort people overwhelmed by our sentiment and were overcome with tears.
I was touched by the crowd’s response, too. As we walked on, I began crying through a huge smile. After Brighton Pride, people in other cities independently began their own #LwiththeT groups – we saw people marching under the hashtag at the front of the Manchester and Cardiff Pride parades. We even lent out our own banner to groups in Leeds and Leicester.
As the initial campaign has gained national support and gone viral, it's become bigger than lesbians and trans people. The message has transcended "keeping the L with the T" and now stands for a need for unity.
I’ve experienced homophobia on the street when with female partners, I’ve had people tell me my sexuality isn’t valid and I’ve been fetishised by strangers and even friends. But in my local queer community, I cannot ignore the intensity of suffering experienced by my trans siblings. It doesn’t mean the prejudice I experience is unimportant; it’s about recognising the bigger picture and the fact that it’s all part of the same fight.
The #LwiththeT message works both ways. Although I wish this campaign didn’t have to exist, I’ve never felt more supported by my queer family. Now Pride month is over and summer has come to a close, keep in mind that the fight for equal rights is still not done. Everyone has the right to be legally recognised as the gender they are – it's just that some people have to apply for that right.
Reforms to the GRA would make this process a lot more straightforward and a whole less bureaucratic. So if you're in favour for making life a little bit easier for trans people, make sure to respond to the consultation while we still have time.