Lesbians International Rights
The UN Declaration on women’s sex based rights recognises lesbians’ same sex attraction rights and rights to associate and assemble in lesbian only groups and spaces. Sex is defined as the physical and biological characteristics that distinguish females from males (CEDAW, 1979). More controversially, CEDAW uses the term ‘gender’ to define the socially constructed stereotypes that are used to control women and girls and are learnt through socialisation processes. i CEDAW continues to recognise that women including lesbians are discriminated against because of their sex, although this understanding is beginning to be undermined unofficially in some UN documents (UK Women’s Declaration International)
Queer, lesbian disappearance and erasure
The ideological reframing of lesbianism as a ‘gender performance’ and then a ‘gender identity’ was heavily influenced by the queer movement that during the l990s set out to erase radical lesbian feminists, whose mantra was and still is ‘any woman can be a lesbian,’ as in the Alix Dobkin song. Queer aimed to destroy lesbian feminist culture and community and disappear the word lesbian, replacing it with the term ‘gender queer.’ Now the L has just become a meaningless letter in the alphabet soup of the LGBTQ+ community (Morris, B 2017) Another aspect of gender queer is that lesbians are required to have sex with heterosexual men who cross dress as women and claim their penises are ‘lady sticks.’ Not surprisingly, queer young lesbians have been very reluctant to engage in this unwanted sex, resulting in these men developing coercive strategies to enforce their sexual demands. One of the outcomes of this has been the rape and sexual harassment of these lesbians (Wild, A 2019).
It is ironic that the only people who are now allowed to called themselves lesbians in the gender movement are men pretending to be women. Seventy- four per cent of these cross-dressing men are autogynephiliacs (Hsu, K et al. 2017). This means that they are sexually aroused by wearing women’s clothes and being in the presence of women and girls in single sex spaces such as female only toilets. These men use women’s toilets to flash their penises, engage in voyeurism and to sexually assault female users. This sexual violence increases in toilets in lesbian only spaces. (LRA response to government consultation on public toilets 2021). It is this type of behaviour by AGP men that has contributed to the understanding that the Gender Identity Movement is a men’s sexual rights movement.
Lesbian Erasure through the Yogyakarta Principles (2007)
Developed through out the 1990s in the US, these international legal principles, written by so called legal experts, in one fell swoop undermined lesbians’ legal rights. Sexual orientation rights were deliberately hitched to gender identity rights named as SOGIES – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities. But they went even further by redefining sexual orientation as gender identity attraction and omitting the category of sex altogether (Jeffreys, S 2014). From then on lesbians became a primary target for male gender activists since it allowed them to claim that men could be lesbians and that actual lesbians were really men born in the wrong bodies.
This has led to considerable impacts on lesbian girls internationally. Firstly, through the physically abusive medical and surgical practices to ‘convert’ young lesbians into heterosexual men. In England and Wales,ii this takes place in the Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) where girls who don’t like playing with dolls or wearing pink ribbons are immediately classified as ‘gender dysphoric’ and therefore in need of medicalised conversion therapy (The Times, 23.11.2021) Girls are now two thirds more likely to be referred for medical conversion than boys, according to GIDS own statistics in 2019/2020. A European wide study (2014), cited on the US Lesbians United Website found that 84% of girls who sought to change sex were same sex attracted and therefore lesbians.
The majority are given puberty blockers that prevent them from developing their sexuality and render them sterile, as their reproductive organs shrivel. Such practices are contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of Child UNCRC, (1989) that states that any child under 18 needs special protection in its preamble to children’s rights. (Unicef 2010/05). But this convention seems to be totally ignored in carrying out these practices.
Secondly, it happens through the indoctrination of gender identity ideology in school education and the mainstream media, such as the BBC in the UK (CBBC 11/11/2014) In 2020 the conservative government made sex and relationship education compulsory and included the teaching of LGBT issues. (Government statutory guidance updated 2021)
The War on Women – radical lesbian feminist resistance in the UK .
This began early with a radical feminist conference in 2012. Since then, lesbian feminists were taking direct action against gender activists and having further conferences and meetings. In 2015 Stonewall launched as an organisation that championed gender rights, with its slogan ‘acceptance without exception (Stonewall, 2016) From this point on, Stonewall and other gender groups treated women who spoke out against gender ideology as committing ‘hate speech.’ they used intimidation and violent threats against lesbians who were speaking out about women’s and lesbian rights and stating the truth about the impossibility of changing sex as seen on the website Terf is a slur.
In 2017 it was recommended that the law in the Gender Recognition Act should be changed to allow self-identification, as a result of an inquiry into ‘transgender equality.’ In the same year lesbian feminists created the Lesbian Rights Alliance (LRA) to defend lesbian rights and oppose the change of the law to self-identification. A conservative MP David Davies, who was against this proposal and a defender of free speech, gave the LRA a platform at a first parliamentary meeting on this issue. Venice Allan, also set up ‘We need to talk’ meetings to publicise what gender activists were doing, through live streaming the meetings (Feminist Current 24/9/18). By this time a number of public institutions such as the police had been indoctrinated into gender ideology and were recording those speaking out against it, particularly on twitter, as carrying out ‘hate incidents.’ But they had failed to take account of the law on free speech and only this year the national police college has stated that police forces around the country must stop this practice. (The Times 22/7/2022)
In 2018 the LRA wrote an open letter to Stonewall about saying men could be lesbians and its erasure of lesbian youth. (The Times 17/7/2018) This was around the same time that some lesbians took over the Pride march to promote lesbian visibility.
The LRA is an abolitionist group and has been specifically concerned about the ‘medicalised conversion therapy’ used on lesbian girls. Not so long ago these girls would have been accepted as ‘tomboys,’ but this is no longer allowed. In 2021 the LRA launched a website written by and for young lesbians to combat this ideology and has been welcomed internationally (Positively Lesbian.org)
This year a bill opposing the conversion of lesbians and gays is expected to be passed in Parliament by conservative MPs. The GIDS clinic is also to be closed down and children’s wishes to change sex are no longer going to be automatically affirmed. This is a victory that has taken years to achieve. (BBC, 11/5/2022)
The LRA has also worked closely with other groups such as The Safe Schools Alliance (SSA) whose members include many mothers with lesbian daughters. But since the compulsory requirement to teach sex and relationship education and to include LGBT issues, many schools have been outsourcing this teaching to organisations like Stonewall and other promoters of gender ideology. All these organisations ignore legal safeguarding requirements and girls’ rights to single sex facilities. There is now a whole industry based on these teaching programmes which not only indoctrinate children into gender ideology but advise them to watch pornography and suggest that they engage in harmful sexual practices like ‘kink’. Some promote paedophila and recommend prostitution as a ‘good’ career for girls under age (The Times 7/7/2022)
Stonewall remains a very powerful organisation which makes millions out of its School Championship Schemes and its Workplace Championship Schemes indicating that the War on Women is far from over.
Radical Lesbian Feminist Resistance USA
The Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) was founded in 2013 as a non-partisan radical feminist advocacy organisation. Its primary focus is to abolish gender ideology (WoLF 2022). Nationally, since Obama passed federal law to allow men to be included in anti-discrimination legislation against women as a sex, women who oppose it have been silenced. This began to change when it was acknowledged that radical feminists had to ‘reach across the aisle’ to conservatives to be able to speak out. One of these first meetings with panel speakers happened in January 2019 with the Heritage Foundation (28/1/2019). Julia Beck a lesbian in her 20s, talked about how she had been treated as a lesbian by the LGBTQ Commission in Baltimore. She had been on this commission to give lesbians a voice, but was thrown off it by men pretending to be women who believed that lesbians should be ‘hung’ by the neck. Her ‘crime’ was to talk about the reality of biological sex. Because of this talk she was later given a platform to speak on Fox News and was invited by republicans in Congress to speak on the Violence Against Women Act that allows men into women’s shelters. (Beck, J 2019). WoLF also focusses on school education and provides role of models of lesbians for Pride History month. This year a new organisation has been set up called Lesbians United to focus on what is happening to lesbian tomboys in children’s ‘conversion’ clinics. There are at least 300 of these in the US (Lesbians United 2022) The group is already beginning to campaign with parents on the streets to demonstrate that what is happening to lesbian children is ‘genocide.’
Radical Lesbian Resistance in Germany
There has been a strong radical lesbian movement in Germany that has created lesbian only spaces. Some of these spaces still exist, including for lesbians aged 40 plus. There is also a lesbian only action group called Laz Reloaded which organises direct action. But there still seems a need for more angry radical dykes to oppose the new ‘self-determination bill’. If passed, it will allow girls aged 14 upwards to register to change their sex, as outlined in a Fourth Wave Now iiiarticle on the bill (12/7/2002) The bill is a consequence of a change in the government which is in coalition with the Green Party and the Free Democratic Party – both of which support the gender movement.
Medical Erasure This is determined by sex reassignment clinics. But this medicalisation seems to be worsening rather than improving. Official guidelines say young women should not have mutilating surgery until 18. This age limit was thought to apply to cross sex hormones, but it is now evident these are being prescribed at 16. It is also recommended that puberty blockers should be given when girls begin to develop breast ‘buds.’ This means that very girls could be given this medicine and there seems to be no recognition of the harm they cause. (Emma Magazine 27/4/2022)
School Education The teaching of gender identity ideology in schools varies according to local policies. German schools are only required to teach the biological differences between the sexes. But there is a national requirement to teach civic education and this is changing with the change in government. In Munich schools are being sent government posters saying they should be teaching about ‘diversity,’ – in effect gender ideology. In one school, girls had to address their ‘cis’ privilege but this was not the case for boys. (Anonymous communication)
A teacher in Brandenburg stated that parents had to give their consent for their daughters to change their gender identity in school. This includes changing their names on the register. But ‘sadly it is mostly often parents themselves who push their kids to transition.’ This teacher had 5 girls in her classes who self-identified as boys, although only two actually went on to take sex hormones at aged 18 (Anonymous communication)
Radical Lesbian Feminism in South Korea
South Korea has bucked the trend of many other countries. In 2015 women recreated a radical feminist movement to combat male sexual violence. By 2018 huge women only gatherings were being organised to protest against ‘Molka’ where men secretly take spycam and upskirt videos of women and then post them on porn sites. These gatherings became combined with the ‘escape the corset’ movement’ which meant rejecting compulsory femininity through beauty practices such as using makeup and having long hair.iv Women would have their hair cut short in front of the huge audience of women and appear without any makeup. They then described how much more comfortable they felt by being able to see their real faces. Following this, a website was created called ‘Megalia’ which parodied male misogyny, but this site was not women only and was criticised by queer gay men. A woman only site was initiated where women were able to express their hatred of men called Womad (Feminist Current 7/11/2018) A 4B movement followed outlining the ways that women could feel safe from men by not marrying, dating, having sex, or children with them. Many radical feminists chose to be lesbians on this basis as they had abandoned heterosexuality as a principle and felt affection towards other women.
According Hyejung Park, since 2020 the ‘radical feminist and lesbian movements became weakened’ because of the pandemic and lockdown as it was ‘greatly dependent’ on women meeting face to face in gatherings and parties and not online. Although ‘it was very strong in women’s own universities in Seoul and lesbian groups there still exist.’ But the queer movement is also strong. One positive aspect is that ‘the parliament last year decided to delay a review of anti-discrimination law until 2024,’ (Personal communication)
i This led to feminist activists using the term ‘gender violence’ instead of male violence. Now the word gender is often confused with sex, for example the ‘gender pay gap.’
ii Scotland has its own devolved policies in this area and its own clinic for children who wish to change sex.
iii An open petition with the title ‘Prevention of the Misogynistic Self-Id Law’ was blocked in Germany, because the language used was considered discriminatory against men pretending to be the opposite sex
iv Sheila Jeffreys’ articles’ and book on Beauty and Misogyny 2005, had an influence on the’ remove the corset’ movement.
BBC News Explainers (11/5/2022)
Beck J. Talk at the Heritage Foundation (2019)
CBBC, I Am Leo (11/11/2014) BBC I Player
Emma, Trans, the Big Bluff 27/4/2022
Feminist Current Interview: The Irrepressible Venice Allan on her Fight against Changes to the UK Gender Recognition Act (24/9/2018)
Feminist Current: Radical Feminism Paves the Way on the Resurgent Radical Feminist Movement in South Korea (7/11/2018)
Fourth Wave Now. German Self-ID to Allow Changing Legal Sex Once a Year (12/7/22) 4w.pub/ German-self-identification
Heritage Foundation. The Inequality in the Equality Act 28/1/2019
https://www.heritage.org/event/the-inequality-the-equality-act-concerns-the-lefteritage Foundation (28/1/2019)
Hsu, K et al (2017) Sexual Arousal Patterns of AGP Male Cross Dressers. Archives of Sexual Behaviour. https: link.springer.com
LRA 2021 Submission to the government consultation on toilets
Morris B (2017) The Disappearing L. New York, University of New York Press
Jeffreys S (2014) Gender Hurts. London and New York, Routledge
Statutory Guidance to Schools (2021)
Stonewall, Acceptance without Exception (2016) https://www.stonewall.org.uk/resources/acceptance-without-exception-worldwide-2016
Terf is a slur https://terfisaslur.com/
The Times, Lesbian Fury at Stonewall (17/7/2018)
The Times. Sex Work is Rewarding Pupils Told 9/7/22
The Times. Causing Offence Isn’t a Crime Police Told 22/7/22 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/causing-offence-isnt-a-crime-police-told-pjtc7mlsw
Wild A. Lesbians at Ground Zero (2019) http://www.gettheloutuk.com/attachments/lesbiansatgroundzero.pdf
WoLF Focus Statement 2022
UK Women’s Declaration International: Declaration on Women’s Sex based rights (undated)
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF 2010/05)
NB.This article was mainly written in 2021 so some of what it says could be out of date. But it does set out to show that international lesbian groups were taking action to challenge lesbian erasure