When an Alliance is Not An Ally
The current issue of the New Statesman has a feature by Gaby Hinsliff on Stonewall and the transgender culture wars. Inevitably, and not unreasonably in the context of the article, she spoke to founders of the LGB Alliance, the pressure group (now also a charity) that sees trans rights as a separate struggle from gay and lesbian rights, and potentially in conflict with them. Their view was that they set up the Alliance with regret, that they were not transphobes, but that, in effect, trans activism had gone too far in its claims. One might note that similar things were being said about gay and lesbian activism not so long ago, but I don’t think self-awareness is something that the LGB Alliance is good at. They could also do with going a lot further in their LGB activism, given that their founders have opposed both equal marriage and that the Alliance is currently opposing a proposed ban on conversion therapy. In the case of the latter they have made the entirely false claim (one rejected by the British Psychological Society) that such a ban would prevent exploratory therapy.
A look at the Alliance’s website and social media feeds shows that, transgender issues aside, they don’t offer much at all to LGB people. Take the example of the growing problem of homophobic violence. There have, in recent weeks, been two nasty assaults on gay men in an around Birmingham’s Gay Village which have attracted nationwide media attention. The LGB Alliance has had nothing to say on the issue.
In fact they have nothing to say on anything that doesn’t involve trans people. They argue that they are defending that sexual attraction is based on biological sex and not gender presentation ad so defending the rights of gays and lesbians nit to have sex with trans people, particularly where gender and genitalia don’t coincide. I know quite a few lesbians and gays and I am pretty sure that they are capable of deciding for themselves who they want to sleep with and don’t need the LGB Alliance to help them. That said I want to look at this issue in the light of my own experience.
Two points arise. The first one is that contrary to what is often claimed, sexual orientation can change with a gender transition. Before transitioning I identified as straight. Now I identify as pansexual. The shift is due to me being sexually attracted to male bodied people, both cis men and pre-op/meds transwomen. The second is that I know that sexual attraction cannot be divorced from gender presentation. Let me tell you about a friend. I will call her D. D is a cisgendered woman with whom (pre transition) I had a long relationship (affair really – we were both married to other people). She has been massively supportive of me and is my closest friend. At the outset of my transition I asked her for sex and she said no.
“Eve, I’m straight. And, for me, you’re now a woman so it couldn’t possibly work for me.”
For D, in other words, gender presentation trumped biological sex. It happens the other way too. I have slept with cismen who would not have been attracted to the old me. To be clear, gender will not trump see for everyone, but sexual attraction depends on a range of factors that can include both sex and gender, and the way they interact varies from person to person. Each instance of sexual attraction is unique and there are no rules. Indeed the LGB Alliance’s position, it seems to me, tips over into telling lesbians and gay men who they can sleep with to count as properly gay. I really think that they and, like all of us, make their own decisions and don’t need the approval of these self-appointed LGB Police.
The reality is that an overwhelming majority of LGB people do not support the Alliance. As I write this I hear that the Aussie footballer Josh Cavallo who has come out as gay, has replied to a tweet from the Alliance congratulating him with the hashtag #LGBwiththeT. And why would they? They understand that we stand together or fall together. The local authorities in Poland declaring their towns LGBT Free Zones do not make any distinction between the T and the LGB. And another point:
Gender critical feminists might wish to consider that Poland is also clamping down on womens’ reproductive rights and that the near total ban on abortion following the decision of the Constitutional Court in October 2020 has claimed its first victim, a 30 year old woman denied treatment until the damaged foetus inside her had died. By then it was too late. She had sepsis.
These things are not coincidences. We stand together or we fall together. If we allow ourselves to be divided by artificial distinctions we will all lose.