It’s fair to say, I’m no fan of London. I’m not in to big noisy cities at all. I hate places that are crowded and where manners are considered a rumour of an ancient past. Conflict, even the threat of it, see’s me frozen in fear. It would take something really special, nay extraordinary, to see me making that trip down south anytime soon. To be brave enough to feel the fear and do it anyway. And, so it was.
On the 21st October 2021 such a miracle occurred. I did indeed wake up in London, having stayed overnight in Wood Green. I had woken, readied myself and then taken the tube to arrive in the political heart of our country at Westminster. There was an inevitable threat of conflict, as another section of our society didn’t want the likes of me congregating with others similar to me, and wished to make their objections perfectly clear. The utter madness and insanity of the preceding 4 years I’d witnessed meant that I no longer cared about my dislikes of big cities or my fears of conflict; I had to be right there in central London, on this day, regardless.
With a quick stop at the statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett for a selfie en route, where I was reminded that “Courage calls to Courage Everywhere”, I arrived at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre to represent the B of the LGB Alliances inaugural conference. The big scary counter demonstration at 8am consisted of one trans-identified-male lurking behind a tree, and two men dressed head to toe in black with a black mourning veil covering their faces, who believed themselves to represent the mourning of us gathering solely as the LGB, with no attached T. It was both disappointing and terribly dramatic all at once.
Once inside the conference centre my shoulders relaxed along with my anxiety. I was with my LGB brothers and sisters, and our allies, safe in the knowledge that we all knew the importance of why we had converged. All grateful for the opportunity to stand together once more without the fear of announcing ourselves. It was liberating, comforting and celebratory. It felt a lot like home.
After enjoying a coffee and some cookies, I missed the Tunnochs Teacakes completely, it was time to enter the main hall and for the conference to begin. What I’m not going to do is to try to run through a synopsis of everyone who spoke, what they said and how that made me feel. What I am going to try to do is tell you what it felt like to sit in that audience, how impactful many of the statements made were, and how involuntary my reactions were to those things.
If you have ever met me, then you know that I conform to no stereotypes, in fact, I laugh in the face of societal compliance and will bow to no one. With that said, it will not surprise you one bit to read, that from the first session of the conference, it was detransitioner Sinead Watson’s words that hit home for me. Whenever I hear her speak my head says to itself “there but for the grace of the goddesses go I”.
Sinead decided to try to transition from female to male, and was immediately affirmed in her aspirations, with the difficult conversations from the medical people that should have been had with her, sadly lacking. At the other side of her medical transition, Sinead found that none of the emotional issues that she felt in being female were resolved in her being perceived as male, nor did the transition make her happy.
Yes, the unwanted sexualised attention of males fell away. Yes, she felt safer walking in this world presenting male than she had ever felt safe walking those same steps as a female. But, deep down, where any of this really matters, nothing had changed. Sinead recognised for herself that it was all just pretence at being male. A total understanding came about that, no matter what the doctors tell potential transitioner’s, no matter the drugs you take or the surgeries you sign up for, there is only one inescapable truth, human beings cannot change their sex.
Despite the deep voice, facial hair and the loss of her breasts, Sinead was still a female, just now a female with a number of additional new health problems, and she was justifiably fucking angry. We should all be fucking angry. I am fucking angry. The whole room was fucking angry. Sinead Watson quite rightly received a standing ovation for her honesty, the heart-breaking tragedy that her honesty spoke of, and the righteous rage of the room was both palpable and powerful.
This was why we were here. This was exactly why the LGB’s forced pairing with the T had to be fought against, spoken about and recognised for the damaging union that it was. When I’d first seen the list of people invited to speak at the conference I was confused by the number of heterosexual people taking to the floor at an LGB event to talk to us specifically about the Gender Ideology debate. Endlessly accused of Transphobia, were we indeed transphobic? However, in that moment, as I stood applauding the honesty and bravery of Sinead Watson, I understood why their voices mattered at our conference.
Sinead is, like me, a bisexual female. Sinead had, like I would have, opted to transition to escape the experienced abuse of unwanted male sexual attention. As I stood and applauded her, I wept. The impact of gender ideology that encapsulates the T is the biggest threat to LGB rights and our LGB youth since Section 28. It is not any miniscule amount of transphobia that brings us together as Heterosexuals, Lesbians, Gay men and Bisexuals, all looking to disassociate the LGB from the T. It is our shared concern for our young people, particularly our LGB young people, who are being groomed to believe in this glittered unicorn bull shit. It is that that brings us all together in this room. That is the truth. Not transphobia. Just love.
All of this before the first break. How was I going to survive the full day?
I’m going to skip over the second session in the run up to lunchtime. For me the stand out speaker was Lucy Masoud, a lesbian fire-fighter who had retrained to become a barrister. Unfortunately for Lucy, and the other speakers sharing the platform and voicing their concerns about the erasure of language, it will be an interaction between Dr Jane Clare Jones, regarding a question of reflectivity of language being asked for by Dr Julia Long, that will be most talked about and remembered from that session. Although it can be argued that both had their points and were perfectly entitled to make them, for me it is just sad to see one academic try to put down another, especially given that Julia Long’s concern was exactly what the title of the session spoke to. Ultimately, it is the conceding of the language that we use to describe ourselves that has got us in this god awful mess with the T. We cannot afford to continue to compromise on this.
I no longer smoke, but what I know from nearly 40 years of the habit, is that you really do meet people out where the smokers congregate. At lunchtime I went outside again briefly, to find that the TRA’s numbers had gone up from one at 8am, to two at first break, to four by lunchtime. There was much laughter amongst the smokers that they probably wouldn’t turn up in any real numbers until after 3pm, given that they were predominantly made up of student aged young men, so would never get up before lunchtime.
After lunch we enjoyed a slide show of the main protagonists of the gender critical movement, playing along to the Aretha Franklin hit, Respect, as Maya Forstater took to the stage to introduce Allison Bailey as the keynote speaker. Maya lost out on a contract being renewed for allegedly using the incorrect preferred pronouns of a man who, by his own defining, considers himself gender fluid, i.e., female occasionally, but also and importantly, most of the time a man. Initially, Maya was told by the judge as she tried to right the wrong of her treatment, that her view that sex was immutable, was not worthy of respect in a democratic society. On appeal, Maya had the initial decision overturned, and that now stands as a major landmark ruling in the gender critical movement, giving protection to the belief that sex cannot be changed, allowing more people the courage to speak out.
Once given the stage, Allison Bailey spoke of her fight against Stonewall UK and their trying to get her sacked. How can it be that Stonewall were trying to get a black lesbian fired in favour of a trans-identified-male, yet this is where we find ourselves. Stonewall no longer protects the rights of lesbians, gay men or bisexuals, they are all about the T.
For me, the stand out element of Allison’s speech referred to Sinead Watson. Yet again my heart was broken. Allison, with Sinead’s permission given from the audience, told us that before Sinead’s breasts were removed in a double mastectomy, which was a surgery as part of her transition, she had never had her breasts touched by the gentle caress of a lover. This speaks volumes to the harms done to our young people in the name of this ideology, where the surgeries deny them their possible lived experiences, very often leave them infertile, and rarely fix their problems of dysphoria.
The third session of the day was concerning cancel culture and free speech. With three female MPs, Joanna Cherry, Rosie Duffield and Jackie Doyle-Price, joined by Graham Linehan and David Bridle, the stand out moment for me was hearing Rosie Duffield describe our conference as feeling like a very safe place. David Bridle discussed the TRA’s destruction of his magazine, Boyz, for his daring to suggest people listened to what LGB Alliance had to say in the debate. From the ashes of that particular fire heralds the arrival of the Lesbian and Gay News, which is great as it is definitely more relevant to LGB’s than Pink News has become.
After the final break (TRA numbers outside had increased to nearer 20!) came the final session. Julie Bindel had not been able to attend, so she was replaced by James Dreyfuss. Also on the schedule for this session were Jonny Best, Simon Edge and Jo Bartosch. Had it not been for the appearance of Jo Bartosch to the stage for this session, I may well have sat this one out. But, Jo Bartosch! I was quite right in my assessment of the final session. Jo Bartosch was the stand out of that session. Her speech was outstanding and the endless interruptions for applause and resulting standing ovation were very much deserved. It is my opinion that she is the standout journalist documenting this fight to regain control of the LGB. Jo’s published articles, just like her speech, are so insightful, intelligent and bang on point. It makes me tremendously grateful and very relieved that she is on our side.
At the end of each session there was time set aside for questions from the audience; this was how Dr Julia Long had managed to ask her question of the panel just before lunch. As the final session was being closed down a loud voice from the audience questioned why the young lesbian in front of her had not been given the opportunity to speak, insisting that all the speakers had been older, she wanted to hear from a young lesbian as our youth are our future.
The young lesbian was quite rightly handed the microphone and as she spoke the room fell silent. She was a teacher who had travelled over from Germany to attend the conference to ask for help from the LGB Alliance, from all of us in that room. With Germany, like most of the rest of Europe, pushing strongly toward implementing Self-ID, there are the same issues in Germany as we are facing here in the UK, with young lesbians being groomed to believe that they are transphobic if they won’t have sex with a man who declares himself a lesbian with a penis.
As a result of this coercion of young lesbians to have sex with men, the number of pregnancies within the lesbian school girls demographic in Germany is more than double the number of pregnancies in the heterosexual school girl demographic. That’s right, more than double? This was very definitely another moment that broke my heart and made me cry very real tears.
This is the homophobia of the 21st Century in a nutshell. This is the result of allowing for the erosion of any of the language we use to describe our lived experience and that we use to protect us where we are vulnerable. This is the representation of the harms done when we let down our guard down, and I felt personally responsible to what is happening to these young lesbians, because I to, for the briefest of moments, decided to be kind. No longer, not anymore and not for a good while now, but already the harm is done, and this young lesbian teacher made that abundantly clear to each and every last one of us in the hall. I pass that message to you, here.
Following the end of all the speeches and questions, I once again went outside to identify as a smoker, and this time the gathering TRA’s were probably in numbers up to 40 or 50. Their signs had the usual sexualised and violent threats written on them. Their chants were the usual round of Trans rights are human rights, and No LGB without the T. Nothing chants or signage wise that we hadn’t seen or heard before. For me, that was right up until they started a chant of “Scum. (Scum) Scum. (Scum) Scum. (Scum) Scum, scum, scum. (Scum, scum, scum)”. That felt like a real throwback to the 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s and the openly hostile homophobia we endured back then. By the time we all left the disco they had all dispersed, thankfully.
What a day. What a fantastic event. What a range of opinions and points of view. How glad am I that I got in the car and went down to London. I feel like I was there when history was made. Attending the event meant that I met and hugged people like Sinead Watson, Maya Forstater, Helen Joyce, Lucy Masoud, Kate Coleman, Rosie Duffield, Joanna Cherry, Jackie Doyle-Price, James Dreyfuss, Dr Julia Long, Aja, DJ Lippy, I bumped in to Graham Linehan again, and shared a dance floor with a good many of them too, plus a dinosaur hoarding their moves.
My biggest regrets from the day?
That I didn’t get to meet and hug Allison Bailey, as one minute she was stood behind me, the next minute gone. That I didn’t get to have a proper chat with Sinead Watson, but there were a good many attendees with her on their list to meet on the day. And finally, I’m gutted to close with, that the only time I was in the same room as my shero Jo Bartosch and could say hello, was when I was in the toilets about to wash my hands whilst she was busy drying hers. Gutted.
Would I do it all again? Hell yes. See you all again next year.