The LGB Alliance has been under fire for its controversial ideology regarding the trans-community. I have spoken to the Alliance’s co-founder and several people within the LGBTQ+ to learn more…
First J.K. Rowling, then Boy George. The new decade has already delivered top-drawer controversy within our queer spaces. High-profile celebrities are facing an online backlash from the LGBTQ+ community, and many feminists are being called “TERFs” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). Substantially, it seems that nowadays, everybody has a lot to say about the transgender and non-conforming/non-binary community.
Recently, one group, in particular, has seen its name gaining more popularity on social media for its outspokenness regarding the issue: the LGB Alliance. There are multiple Twitter accounts out there claiming to be THE LGB Alliance, however, the original account counts over 13 thousand followers. In reality, the group is growing at a fast pace and is even launching in other countries.
The group fights for lesbians and gay men’s rights, but also advocates against the use of puberty blockers and “queer education” in schools. Several of the group’s tweets express concern that physical attraction to the same gender too often leads people down the “trans path”. What cannot be denied is that the LGB Alliance has caused a considerable stir and, it has to be said, much division within our community, so I got in touch with Bev Jackson, a founding member of the group.
The LGB Alliance is a UK-based group of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. Their group is based on sexual orientation and members are sceptical about the concept of gender identity. The group sees the idea of gender identity as a regressive principle based on gender stereotypes. Moreover, they reject the concept of being attracted to someone’s gender rather than their sex. The Alliance sees sexual orientation as a being solely based on sex and not gender.
These are the following aims the Alliance work to achieve:
- To stand up for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals on the basis of sex, not gender.
- To stand up particularly for lesbians: women who are sexually attracted to other women. (Bev explains: “Lesbians are under attack inside LGBT circles, which we consider an outrage.”)
- As the Alliance views the principle of gender identity as a belief system, such as a religion, which some people follow and some don’t, the Alliance does not want it taught at schools as if it were factual.
- To get people to start talking to each other. And listening to each other. The Alliance feels that there is a real need for a respectful, well-informed public debate about sex and gender.
“We are not removing a minority, it is odd to refer to the original LGBT community”
Bev has always taken it upon herself to advocate for her opinions and rights. After revealing that she was Jewish living in an anti-Semitic neighbourhood in the UK, and later participating at her first Gay Liberation Front demonstration in 1970, Bev learnt first-hand about the traumatic experience of being the subject of discrimination. She is also pro Palestinian, which has alienated her from some of the Jewish community as a result. “Those early experiences with coming out as Jewish and as a lesbian made me who I am today. I am driven to say who I am and what I believe to be the truth, even when it’s difficult. I will always stand up for people who are being bullied or harassed: a woman wearing a headscarf, for instance, or a trans person,” Bev says.
The co-founder of the Alliance believes in trans rights and deems Trump’s ban on trans people in the military as “disgusting”. What is more interesting is Bev’s own experience with her identity. “I saw myself as a boy for much of my childhood, and called myself William at one point,” She continues, “If I’d had the chance to transition then if such a thing had been possible, I would have leapt at the chance.”
Bev now believes that transitioning would’ve been a big mistake. “I am so grateful that I grew up then and not in today’s world. So many of the teenage girls who identify as trans remind me of myself. I am doing this work partly for them,” Bev says.
This leaves me wondering: what could have then motivated the refugee activist, proud lesbian and the semi-defender of the trans-community to be part of a group which has removed the letter “T” from LGBT? Bev explains: “All minorities and other groups are entitled to defend their rights; it is absolutely right that trans people should defend their rights.” She adds: “We are not ‘removing a minority’, it is very odd that you refer to the ‘original LGBT community’ when the emphasis on gender is actually a very recent thing.”
Co-founded with Kate Harris, a former fundraiser for the Stonewall organisation, the LGB Alliance has been chiefly concerned that lesbians, gays and bisexuals would “disappear” in a full spectrum of gender identity. The fear stemmed from the concern that facts were being replaced by a belief system which proposed that all areas of public life should be redefined in terms of language, education and availability of services to accommodate the requirements of those trans people who believe that a biological male can be a woman, or a biological female can be a man, simply by stating that it is so.
The Alliance was particularly troubled over the lack of public discussion on the impact this would have on trans people who did not agree with this theory, or on lesbians, gays and bisexuals. As a result, the Alliance decided to protest against this change, which they view as fundamental and undemocratic.
Protecting all-women spaces from the threat of “self-ID”
The LGB Alliance has been accused multiple times of transphobia and, yes, a fear of trans rights impinging on women’s rights is often expressed by the Alliance. This worry is a result of the Alliance viewing the act of “self-IDing” as a direct threat towards women in general. They fear males who identify as women can access all women’s spaces and services, including prisons, hospital wards, women’s sports, shelters for rape victims and lesbian spaces. The Alliance considers “self-IDing” as a behaviour which could be easily abused by men who are not legitimately trans women.
The Alliance states: “A certain class of people experiences targeted abortion and infanticide; menstrual taboos; FGM; child marriage; high rates of domestic abuse, rape, sometimes as a weapon of war; restrictions on contraception and abortion; and a range of disadvantages in society, all related to their biological reality, not identity. There is a word for those people: females = girls and women. The word “woman” is needed, in order to discuss all those problems. If you change the meaning of the word “woman” to include males who identify as females, you blur these issues. This poses a severe threat to women’s rights.”
The lesbian-gay-bisexual union expresses a strong position regarding women’s rights and defends feminist values. Yet by defending one group of people, they run the risk of damaging another vulnerable minority. This is why the group is often seen as perpetuating the “TERF” ideology.
The Alliance discusses the accusations of transphobia: “We are not anti-trans. We have many trans supporters, but we are against self-ID. We do not believe in gender identity and we do not believe that anyone is “born in the wrong body”. No convincing scientific evidence has been advanced for the existence of gender identity. Of course, we understand that some people have gender dysphoria, which causes terrible distress. We totally respect people who are trying to deal with that distress. We are not “erasing” anyone by pointing out that although it may be possible to change legal documents, it is not possible to actually change one’s biological sex.”
“Transgender people’s struggles are different”
A noteworthy position I believe to be worth pointing out from the Alliance’s ideology is the belief that trans-people face completely different struggles from lesbian women, gay men and bisexual people. As stated by the Alliance:
“Having listened to our trans friends and to clinicians who have worked with trans people, we know that the struggles are completely different. Those of us who are same-sex attracted want to live our lives, in terms of our sexual orientation, without experiencing discrimination. Transgender people have concerns relating to identity and validation. These issues are different. Transgender people have groups representing them and standing up for them. Young lesbians have no spaces of their own and are condemned within mainstream LGBT groups. Young “feminine” boys may become persuaded that they are trans when they would actually grow up to be gay. Hundreds of female detransitioners, most of them lesbians, are now coming forward. They report that they transitioned, mostly as teenagers, in part because of the problems they had with their sexuality. Former clinicians at youth gender clinics also say that many of their patients were gay or lesbian. In other words, some kids ID-ing as trans are actually struggling with their sexuality. This applies especially to girls. So there are clear differences here.”
While the LGB Alliance’s views are debatable, it is important to remember some historical facts regarding queer activism history. Although the first documented gay rights organisation was founded in 1924 by American activist Henry Gerber in Chicago, it wasn’t until the 70s that the term “LGBT” really came to light. We should all be familiar with the 1969 Stonewall riots, which gave rise to the LGBT rights movement. However, how familiar are we all with the role transgender-people have played throughout the history of the LGBT rights movement?
Sylvia Rivera, for instance, was a major pioneer. She co-founded the Gay Liberation Front, participated in the Stonewall Riots and established the political organisation STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with none other than fellow transgender activist, Marsha P. Johnson. Marsha was an African American transgender woman and revolutionary LGBTQ rights activist, also credited for being an instigator in the Stonewall riots. It is safe to say, that the LGBTQ+ movement we know today would probably be very different if it wasn’t for all the transgender activists who fought for their rights, too often with their own lives.
The LGBTQ+ community’s opinion
I asked LGB Alliance members and LGBTQ+ people for their opinions. Unfortunately, the Alliance’s members did not comment. I did, however, receive some replies from people who identify as LGBTQ+. Here is what they had to say about the LGB Alliance:
“It’s really unfortunate an organisation is advocating for only certain members of the LGBTQ+ community while excluding transgender people. Trans people are some of the most marginalised in the LGBTQ+ community, with higher rates of homelessness, lack of healthcare, etc. The fact that the LGB Alliance is excluding the trans community, comes from a place of ignorance. They only want to support higher-profile members of the community (gays, lesbians, and bisexual people). I can’t support TERF organisations that use right-wing talking points to purposely exclude members of the community.” – Konrad Juengling
“Together we are stronger. T people come in all forms but often have fluid sexuality and are not heteronormative, so we should have them stick with us! Many are B or G or Q.” – Out News Global reader
“My organisation is an ally to the Trans community, and historically the Trans community has always been allied to the LGBT+ struggle globally. The LGBT+ community is an inclusive community and any discrimination should be challenged. Therefore, I find the LGB Alliance aims objectionable.” – Ejel Khan, coordinator of the Muslim LGBT Network in the UK
“Us trans people have faced struggles since we were little kids. This affects us physically and mentally. We often have to keep silent about what we’re going through. We also have to come out to parents and friends, just like the LGT people. But a different struggle trans-people face is the fact that coming out to a parent is like a double slap to the face. First, they are losing their biological son or daughter, secondly, their son or daughter might be attracted to the same sex person. Additionally, a trans person might be visually obvious and people judge them STRAIGHT AWAY because not all trans people are `passable”. Trans people are different from LGB people because the T is based on GENDER IDENTITY, not SEXUAL ORIENTATION. However, wouldn’t it be great if we join in to fight for our rights together? We need to look back on the mission of the LGBTQ+ community, which is to fight stigma and discrimination.” – Kelly Moh
“I think the T absolutely belongs with the LGB. We should be uplifting one another, coming together, and supporting each other in the special community that we have. Any opinion other than this is regressive and hateful. There are people in the world who hate our existence. How can we expect people to take us seriously if there is in-fighting and dangerous groups like this, spreading false information and hate? As LGBT people, we can all relate to a time where we have once been discriminated against or had negative comments. We should be standing together and be proud of our differences.” – Cambell Kenneford
“Do trans people have different experiences and need to lesbian, gay and bisexual people? Absolutely. Do lesbians have different experiences and needs from gay men? Absolutely. Do bisexual people experience different discrimination to lesbians and gays? Absolutely. Every identity within the LGBTQ+ umbrella has different experiences. But to say that trans people do not, and have not, faced the same struggles as LGB people is ridiculous. For starters, the vast majority of trans people I know also identify under those labels. Then, to speak of those who fought for the rights of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals without recognising the significant and constant part played by trans people in that fight, is to re-write our collective queer history. We’re just coming to understand that gender is not limited to your body-parts, and that sexual attraction is much more complex and varied than what is dictated by your genitalia. Yes, some people may only be attracted to those with vaginas, but that doesn’t mean they’re only attracted to women, and some may be only attracted to women, but that doesn’t mean they’re only attracted to those with vaginas. I have a vagina, but I’m not a woman. I’ve dated lesbians, bisexuals and heterosexuals, and my body has meant different things to each of them, but they were secure enough in their own identities that mine did not threaten them – they loved me for who I am. Lesbian, gay and bisexual identities have been more easily accepted by the mainstream, but their trans sibling is still the black sheep of the family. It’s a classic case of reaching the top and pulling the ladder up behind you, and frankly, it feels like a huge slap in the face. We led and stood with you at Stonewall and every queer struggle since. We’ve helped you, loved you, validated you. It’s my belief that the majority of gay, lesbian and bisexual people know and value that, but this minority is giving dangerous validation to the opinions of those who would see us all silenced.” – Mark Anthony
“It’s all too easy to say that T doesn’t belong with LGB – after all L, G and B are about sexuality, whilst T is about gender. But, like life, nothing is clear cut. As scientists are discovering, gender exists on a spectrum – it’s non-binary. Sex is also non-binary. The world we live in is no longer black and white. Like the Pride flag, it’s becoming more colourful, as more and more people come out against the norm, forcing us to re-evaluate the way we once viewed the world around us. People having the strength to come out as a result of those that previously fought hard for equality and acceptance. They essentially paved the way for people to now stand up and declare that they are more than society’s black and white labelling. Let’s be clear about one thing though: just because you fought for something in the past, it doesn’t mean you own it. You simply played a part in moving society forward. The original mission was a success in that L and G gained acceptance and equality. However, the results of the original mission exposed further issues – other groups of people also needed help and support. Should Stonewall abandoned them, leaving these other groups to fight their own battle? No. Is it abandoning the original mission? No. Basically, the mission simply grew into an even bigger campaign. It evolved. If you don’t want to be involved in the new fight, that’s fine. We respect that. Stick to what you know and the parameters of your original mission, by all means…but don’t stop or get in the way of those who embrace change and are willing to welcome others that have struggled too. The LGB Alliance doesn’t believe in gender identity simply because it’s not fact-based. Well, homosexuality wasn’t originally fact-based. Even today, scientists are still uncovering evidence for its origin, with nothing definitive as yet. Despite not being about sexuality, the T does belong with L, G and B. And so do all the other letters which have subsequently been added. It’s no longer about individual letters or groups fending for themselves but about a real alliance that allows us all to move forward..” – Eva Echo