Wales’ LGBTQ+ plan is no go for lesbians

Now here’s the thing … as a lesbian I should be really excited about living in a country which purports to support me and has come up with an Action Plan to ensure my needs are catered for. But alas, I am anything but thrilled.

Having read through the LGBTQ+ Action Plan all I see is an exercise in promoting queer and transgender ideology. In fact the word lesbian is only mentioned twice and sex as a protected characteristic is tellingly left out of the Equalities list in the Ministerial Foreword. It seems pretty clear, as a lesbian, that the Welsh Government are committing themselves to supporting gender ideology over and above the concept of sex.

The fact that this is being backed by my government, and that my government has refused to allow me or the people who represent me to put our point of view to them, is terrifying. I am same-sex attracted. Without same-sex attraction, lesbians and gay men don’t exist. The drive to prioritise gender and include transwomen in women’s and lesbian groups and activities and organisations, despite lesbian and women’s legal right to have single sex spaces, is not supportive of lesbian or women’s rights. Inclusivity, when it forcibly requires the inclusion of males, damages lesbian and women’s organisations and communities.

Everywhere I look the word lesbian is being replaced with ‘queer’ or ‘non-binary.’ The Welsh Government’s Action Plan is doing the same thing. A few years ago a blue plaque commemorating the unofficial ‘marriage’ of lesbian Anne Lister declared Lister to be gender-nonconforming and was only changed to acknowledge her as a lesbian after public outcry.

Storme de Laverie, a butch lesbian who participated in the original Stonewall riot is being reinvented as transgender and queer all over the internet. Only a few weeks ago there was a Radio 4 feature on an exhibition celebrating the lesbian artist Joan Eardley in which the expert discussing her life and work described her as ‘queer’ throughout, eradicating Eardley’s experience as a lesbian in the 1940s and 50s. In publicity promoting the exhibition, Glasgow Museums described Eardley as non-binary and only grudgingly agreed to change their wording on the grounds that the phrase non-binary didn’t exist when Eardley was alive.

As a lesbian I’m getting the message loud and clear — it’s no longer okay to be a lesbian. I can be non-binary or queer or non-gender conforming but not lesbian, please. So old-fashioned, so transphobic, to be attracted only to members of our own sex. And our Welsh Government is supporting this with an LGBTQ+ Action Plan that barely mentions lesbians and is 90% focussed on transgender, non-binary and queer people.

For lesbians like me, who have always enjoyed events and groups that have been lesbian-only, the options are bleak. I have in front of me an online advert for an event that says it’s for lesbians, but is being promoted by a transwoman and is apparently ‘designed by women and those who are non-binary but open to all’. So it’s a lesbian event that’s open to anyone, including men. How is this going to be a safe space for lesbians and in particular young women, or women just coming to terms with their same sex attraction?

Traditionally lesbians have chosen to gather for lesbian-only groups and events so that they could be themselves, free from the male gaze and from the judgment of those who are homophobic or adhere to gender stereotypes. The lesbian discos and events I was once able to organise and attend without fear of being picketed and reported for hate crime attracted not just lesbians but a small proportion of women who were straight but who enjoyed the opportunity to dance and socialise away from men. The events I organised were places where women who were questioning their sexuality or women who’d been abused could feel safe. I felt a strong duty of care to them. Where is this now?

Today most of our formerly female-only lesbian spaces have been bullied, guilt tripped or threatened into accepting males who identify as women into our groups. At a time when BLM is felling statues and decrying colonisation and its evils, lesbian culture is being colonised by straight white men (all the transwomen I’ve encountered have been white) and the Welsh Government that says it’s committed to making life better for LGBQT+ people is encouraging this. There are virtually no guaranteed lesbian/ female-only spaces or events left. Those that exist tend to be organised under the radar, arranged by private groups where each participant has to be vouched for by someone already known. Unless we take these precautions transwomen almost inevitably find a way in. It takes extraordinary nerve to ask them to leave, which is why that so seldom happens. It’s easier for lesbian groups to melt away and regroup secretly than to confront the people trying to invade them.

Only a fortnight ago I attended a camping weekend which was advertised by and for lesbians, but where at least two transwomen turned up. One of them sat on the bank of the river silently watching us swimming and staring at us in a way all women will be familiar with. I am aware of lesbian holidays and weekend breaks which are advertised for lesbians and involve shared accommodation, however transwomen who identify as lesbians are coming along to these events unchallenged – meaning that lesbians can unknowingly find themselves sharing a room with a male bodied person. How difficult will it be to object to this without being called a transphobe?

In Cardiff Alex Drummond, a man with a full beard and a penis, has gone into schools and informed young people that he is a lesbian and is ‘expanding the bandwidth’ of what it is to be a woman. Alex is a member of Stonewall’s transgender advisory group. Can you imagine how any young woman who’s been questioning her sexuality might feel after encountering him? Many older butch lesbians know that if they were growing up today, with the Welsh Government’s zeal for gender ideology and its adoption of Stonewall’s affirmation-only policy (which is questioned by many responsible therapists) they would have been identified as transgender in their teens and have been encouraged to take puberty blockers and progress through body mutilation to sterility and a life on hormones just because they don’t conform to restrictive stereotypes and because they are lesbian.

In 2000 I was one of the organisers of the Wales Lesbian Millennium Festival, an event held at Swansea university and attended by hundreds of lesbians from all over Wales. It was a wonderful weekend of workshops, sports tournaments, a lesbian film festival in the Taliesin cinema and more. In the evening the lesbian Mayor of Bangor opened festivities and we had several fabulous lesbian bands and performers and then a disco. A video was made of the event and many women spoke about how affirming and important it was to them to be able to socialise with people who understood them and without fear or stigma. We couldn’t hold that event now. No student union will host a women-only or lesbian-only event. It has to be inclusive.

It makes me want to weep when I think of how hard we fought for equal rights for LGB people and how we mistakenly believed that homophobia was gradually being eradicated. The LGBTQ+ Action Plan and the Stonewall agenda are all part of the problem we face. They are actively, in their insistence that transwomen are women and that a person is whatever they self-identify as, working against LGB rights.

It’s homophobia still — just a new, Welsh government-backed form of homophobia.

Merched Cymru and LGB Alliance Cymru are working together to respond to Welsh Government’s LGBT+ Action Plan. See our page here.