This weekend, the London Pride Parade was rocked by a protest from a group of anti-trans lesbians who call themselves “Get the L Out.” After trying to block the front of the parade, the group ended up being able to essentially lead the parade by walking ahead of it, but their offensive message prompted a sharp rebuke, particularly from cisgender lesbians who objected to their exclusive message.
According to Pride in London, “Get the L Out!” was “not a registered parade group,” but they could not be forcibly removed because their protest “was not a criminal offense.” They demanded to march behind the rainbow flag at the start of the parade, but were instead moved far in front so as not “to legitimize them or their message,” which Pride in London called “a shocking and disgusting” level of “bigotry, ignorance, and hate that is unacceptable.”
That message, according to the group’s fliers, was the bogus claim that “lesbian rights are under attack by the trans movement” and that lesbians should leave the LGBT movement to form their own separate movement. This belief is founded in all-too-familiar myths that trans people are somehow a threat to women’s privacy and safety and that trans people’s identities are not legitimate — that they should be defined according to their genitalia, not their gender identity. Likewise, the group argues that lesbians who romantically partner with trans women aren’t really lesbians.
One of the protesters reportedly yelled, “A man who says he’s a lesbian is a rapist,” a statement that both misgenders trans women and paints them as a violent threat to cisgender women. Jan Williams of the group Object, a member of the “Get the L Out” coalition, told GayStarNews, “Only women can be lesbians. A man who has surgery can never be a lesbian.”
“Get the L Out!” also espouses the emerging narrative that teenage girls are somehow being convinced by social pressure to transition to being transgender men rather than being affirmed as gender nonconforming women. This refers to the fake diagnosis “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria,” invented by anti-trans parent groups to justify their rejection of their transgender kids.
Following the protest, many cisgender lesbian women took to social media to decry the group’s message and tactics and affirm their support for transgender people, adapting the hashtags #LwiththeT (or #BwiththeT), #SistersNotCisters, and #NotADebate. Many of them labeled the group’s members as “TERFs,” which stands for “trans exclusive radical feminists” and refers to women who believe that feminism requires rejecting the validity of trans people’s identities.
I really need my cis-lesbian sisters to be vocal and take a stand on this! I am proud Black Lesbian socialist and those women and their anti-trans message do not speak for me! #IStandWithTransPeople #Pride
— Chardine TaylorStone (@misschazmatazz) July 7, 2018
Here’s what I want to know. I’m a butch lesbian. How come NO TRANS PEOPLE EVER have:
-tried to convince me I’m trans
-tried to stop me using “lesbian”
-interrogated me about whether I will have sex with trans women
-erased me in literally any possible way
— Grace Petrie 100% Official Tweets (@gracepetrie) July 8, 2018
— Pennie Varvarides (@SuperPennie) July 8, 2018
this cis lesbian is with her trans sisters and siblings all day every day. TERFS can fuck the fuck off. #LWithTheT
— hannah moskowitz👭 (@hannahmosk) July 8, 2018
Really disgusted by all the stuff that went down at Pride yesterday, the organisers should be ashamed.
Transactivism does not erase lesbians. Trans lesbian women exist and are valid. I know TERFs seem the loudest rn, but there are plenty of other queers who support you ❤️
— big witch energy 💗💜💙 (@Catstello) July 8, 2018
i feel sickened by #GetTheLOut you do not speak for all lesbians. I stand by my trans sisters, and remember that it was Marsha P Johnson, a black trans sex worker who brought about the pride protests. #LwiththeT trans rights are #NotADebate
— Alice Ella (@aliceiswriting) July 7, 2018
— Jenna Burns (@Jenna_221b) July 7, 2018
Proud to #BwiththeT – Disgusted by the transphobia rife at London Pride and that it's headed to the seaside next week to disrupt Trans Pride. Shameful behaviour from our so-called community #BisexualsAgainstBigotry #LwiththeT pic.twitter.com/hJPiFKxAtT
— Caitlin #BwiththeT (@waywardtapper) July 9, 2018
A number of trans women who identify as lesbians also responded to the protests, refusing to be erased by the group’s either/or dichotomy.
In honour of the TERFs interrupting London Pride, I just want to state that I am a trans woman and a lesbian, and they don’t get to decide that I’m not.
— Avery Edison (@aedison) July 8, 2018
I’m also a trans woman and a lesbian. They don’t get to erase that.
Furthermore, they don’t get to decide or gatekeep the queerness of the cis women I’ve had romantic and/or sexual relationships with. https://t.co/3Lh52cCP0L
— Riley Silverman 🏳️🌈 (@rileyjsilverman) July 8, 2018
never gonna justify my womanhood to folks who hate me.
but as a lesbian stone femme trans woman – i will always work to re/claim dyke genders/legacies as a middle finger to queer misogynists & TERFs to honor the Leftist butch/femme sex working dykes who came before me. #Pride
— Jess St Louis (@stlouis_j) July 8, 2018
Keep the #LwiththeT! As a bi trans woman, happily married to my cis lesbian partner, I reject the notion that we need to #GetTheLOut. It's exclusionary and totally backwards, get that shit out outta here.
— Caitlin McCann (@thegreatestcait) July 9, 2018
The United Kingdom has seen increasing division on trans rights, thanks in large part to the demonstrations from these anti-trans “feminist” groups. In May, for example, it was reported that some 300 women had allegedly left the Labour Party because of objections to the party including trans women on its all-women shortlists, which help encourage women to run for office. Like the “Get the L Out!” protesters, those women claimed that trans women should not be counted as women. The party disputed the number, suggesting it was a far smaller group.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said recently that she is committed to doing more to support all LGBTQ people.
The anti-trans sentiment among some lesbian women is by no means limited to the United Kingdom. For example, a small group of lesbian women carried anti-trans signs in Baltimore’s Pride Parade last month. The demonstration, purportedly organized by Women’s Liberation Radio News, including messages like “Dykes Don’t Like Dick!” and “Women are oppressed because of biology, not identity.”
U.S. conservative Christian groups have also shown a willingness to partner with these extremist TERF groups to oppose transgender rights together. A group called the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), for example, has received funding from the Alliance Defending Freedom and partnered with Focus on the Family in an amicus brief arguing that the Supreme Court should reject trans rights for students. The Heritage Foundation has likewise celebrated the voices of lesbians who oppose transgender equality.