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Carrie Lyell responds to open letter calling on Stonewall to remove the L from LGBT.

A Times article, published yesterday, announces “lesbian fury at Stonewall over ‘trans agenda’”, as if the 135 signatories of an open letter speak for every lesbian in the world.

Sorry, but you’re wrong. 

Given DIVA’s unequivocal stance on trans issues, I’m sure it goes without saying, but for anyone not quite sure: those 135 signatories do not speak for us, or for the majority of cisgender lesbians. 

The letter, from an organisation calling themselves the Lesbian Rights Alliance, accuses Stonewall of erasing lesbians and says: “Stonewall has rarely represented our interests. Now in your single-minded policy to promote the trans political and ideological agenda you not only fail to represent us but you actually promote lesbian invisibility – and lesbian erasure.”

I do agree that lesbians are underrepresented in the LGBT community. But it’s worse for bisexual people, and even more so for trans people who are also lesbian or bisexual. That’s why it’s so important that a magazine like DIVA exists, and that an organisation like Stonewall is women-led and promotes bi and trans inclusion. It’s the likes of DIVA and Stonewall who are making us more visible. 

In fact, I’d go further. It is not Stonewall – or any other LGBT organisation – erasing lesbian identities, but these so-called feminists who, by peddling hateful and transphobic rhetoric, make people like me not want to use the word lesbian to describe myself because I don’t want to be associated with their views. What a sad state of affairs.

The letter continues: “We urge you to stop claiming to represent us and leave the L out.”

Take your own advice, LRA, and stop claiming to represent lesbians. You do not speak for me, for DIVA, or for the majority of our community. 

As I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, trans women do not erase lesbians. I believe we are enriched by trans friends and lovers, parents, children, colleagues and siblings. 

Groups like the LRA would have you believe that it’s “them versus us”. It’s not. They are us. We’re one and the same, and we can’t let divisive, hateful and misguided people drive a wedge between us. 

DIVA publisher Linda Riley agrees with me. She says: “It seems ironic to me to complain about a lack of lesbian visibility while, at the same time, asking the L to be removed from LGBT. 

“We are stronger as a community and 135 lesbians should not be able to decide what a whole community should believe.”

A Stonewall spokesperson said: “We stand in solidarity with those who are calling out the hate that is trying to divide our community.

“As has been highlighted, there are groups in the LGBT community who have been pushed to the sidelines, particularly trans and non-binary people. We’ve been working hard to bring forward the voices that for too long have been silenced or shouted down. What we cannot abide is these underrepresented groups being blamed for erasing another, simply because they have finally been given a platform. History has shown that extending equality to one group does not negatively impact others; it, in fact, strengthens everyone’s equality.

“DIVA and Stonewall are not alone in seeing this deceitful rhetoric for what it is. We’ve recently seen a welcome outpouring of support for trans equality, particularly from cis lesbian, gay and bi people. A movement of lesbians is currently using the hashtag #LwiththeT to reject the views of a small but vocal minority who are determined to create division.

“What this movement shows is the power of solidarity and why it’s so important to stand up against hate. We’re encouraging everyone from across the community and beyond to be fierce allies. We’re also strongly encouraging everyone to fill in the government’s public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act so that we can achieve acceptance without exception.

“We have a responsibility to raise each other up and to stand united. Together we are stronger.”

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Carrie Lyell

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