INTERVIEW: Angela C. Wild of #GetTheLOut on Pride in London and Lesbian erasure

Meghan Murphy interviews Angela C. Wild about the recent Lesbian protest at Pride in London and the state of the LGBT movement today.

“Get The L Out” is a group of *Lesbian and feminist individuals and organizations who oppose the increasingly anti-Lesbian and misogynistic LGBT movement and the erasure of Lesbians.

Angela C. Wild is one of the organizers behind the #GetTheLOut protest, which took place during Pride in London this year. She is a Lesbian feminist activist, a writer, and a political artist based in the UK. Her work focuses particularly on challenging institutions such as compulsory heterosexuality and motherhood; on protecting and creating women-only spaces; and promoting Lesbian* rights and visibility.

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MEGHAN MURPHY: Tell me a bit about yourself — when did you first come out as a lesbian and what brought you to lesbian activism?

ANGELA C. WILD: I became a Lesbian feminist in 2013. I use Adrienne Rich’s definition of the term, “Lesbian feminist”: a woman whose feminist politics, consciousness, and sexuality are interlinked and developed together; a woman who sees heterosexuality as an oppressive institution for women. As a woman who was trapped in heterosexuality for a huge part of my life, when I heard about the “cotton ceiling” in 2012, I was outraged and saw it immediately as an assault against Lesbians’ right to sexual boundaries, as well as an assault against every woman’s right to sexual boundaries, as it pushes compulsory heterosexuality on women. My lesbianism and my critique of the trans ideology developed simultaneously and are inherently linked.

MM: You and your group are behind a website called “Get The L Out” — what does that mean? Get the L out of what? What is the message?

AW: “Get the L out of LGBT” is an expression that has been used by Lesbians for some time now. The LGBT community does not represent nor does it advocate for Lesbians. As is always the case, when women organize in mixed groups, men’s issues take priority over women’s issues, men’s voices and concerns are centred, and women’s concerns are dismissed as irrelevant or secondary. Women have witnessed this on the left, in the anarchist movement, in the environmental movement, etc. Unsurprisingly, what is happening today in the LGBT community is no different. When the sexual rights of men who call themselves “transwomen” or Lesbians take priority over the rights of women to define their sexuality then as Lesbians, we have a problem.

MM: Your group argues that “lesbian rights are under attack by the trans movement” and you “encourage lesbians everywhere to leave the LGBT and form their own independent movement, as well as to be vocal and take action against the proposed changes to the GRA.” How do you see lesbian rights as being under attack by the trans movement and why do you oppose proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in the UK?

AW: We witness Lesbian erasure in our lives and in the lives of Lesbians around us every day. It is very telling that a lot of gay men — including the PinkNews reporter who filmed the protest — are not familiar with the term “Lesbian erasure.” It reveals how unconcerned they are about the issues we face as Lesbians.

Lesbian erasure takes many forms: it can mean lack of representation or negative representation in the media, and it can also mean the denial of historical Lesbian figures in history (the first wave and suffragette movement is full of Lesbians, yet few know this). Today, it means that Lesbians are routinely pressured — via Lesbian dating sites and forums, women’s festivals, Lesbian gatherings —  to include men who call themselves “lesbians” in our communities and as sexual partners. It means actual Lesbians are being shamed for not wanting to have relationships with men who call themselves “Lesbians” (this is what trans activists have labelled the “cotton ceiling,” referring to the fact that lesbians reject trans-identified males as intimate/sexual partners).

Today, in the LGBT community, Lesbians cannot openly say that they are not attracted to penises or would not date a “pre-op transwoman,” because this is now considered “transphobic.” Look at what happened to Arielle Scarcella, the Lesbian YouTuber who has been targeted for saying she would not date a “pre-op transwoman.” In the name of “inclusivity” and “progress,” we have reached a stage wherein same sex attraction is called “hate speech” — this is what Pride and London Mayor Sadiq Kahn’s comments condemning our action communicate very loudly to Lesbians. Reframing females who are attracted to other females as somehow “bigoted” or “hateful” functions as a vicious form of misogyny, because it denies women’s right to have sexual boundaries. It is clear anti-lesbian propaganda enforcing compulsory heterosexuality, under the guise of political correctness.

We also know that “gender non-conforming” girls (what we used to call “tomboys”) are transitioned at an alarming rate in the UK (Transgender Trend and Lesbian Rights Alliance have done crucial work on this issue). As Lesbians who do not perform femininity, and as feminists who campaign against sex stereotypes, we cannot support the social or medical transitioning of women and girls who reject sexist stereotypes. Refusing to look like or behave in a “feminine way” does not make one a boy.

In the UK, the government has begun a consultation process regarding proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Trans activists are campaigning to make it easier for people to “choose their gender,” meaning that a man could simply “self-identify” as a woman in order to legally be considered female, without any process or procedure. It would make legal what is actually already happening in practice today, which is that men calling themselves women are being given access to women-only spaces, all-women shortlists, female prisons (as offenders), women’s toilets, rape crisis centres, transition houses, change rooms, pools, etc…

Fighting these changes is essential, but we also need stronger sex-based protections. We need to maintain the unequivocal rights of women to have our segregated spaces on the basis of our sex, not “gender identity.”

These discussions need to be part of the consultation process, which is why women need to be vocal now. We also need to highlight the fact that Lesbians need to be heard on this issue. Under the UK Equality Act 2010, there is an evident clash of rights between Lesbians (females who are sexually attracted to other females) and so-called “transwomen” (including men who identify as “lesbians”). In this case, the category “sexual orientation” is in direct conflict with the category “gender identity.” Same-sex attraction is a protected category under the law, but if any male person can identify as a woman and as a lesbian, this nullifies the rights of Lesbians to exclude males from our sexual life. Lesbians are attracted to other women on the basis of their sex, not their “gender identity,” yet men claiming to be Lesbians insist we accept them as sexual partners on the basis of their “gender identity.” It is this new definition of “Lesbian” that we reject. Why should the rights of men who identify as “women” supersede the rights of Lesbians?

MM: Your inaugural protest took place at London Pride on July 7th. Can you tell me about that? What did you do and why?

AW: First, I want to say that the group of women who have worked together to make this happen have been active for many years around this issue. I got involved in 2012, but some of us were aware and active way before that. In the past, we conducted a series of actions, including protesting the 2014 London Dyke March, because the main speakers for a number of years were men (who call themselves “transwomen”). The media took little notice of our protest then, because, in my opinion, no one in the mainstream cares about dykes.

Taking the protest to Pride (which includes both men and women, so naturally is a male-centred event and receives huge media attention) seemed like the obvious thing to do. A number of Lesbians worldwide (New Zealand, Baltimore, San Francisco, and more…) have demonstrated against the increasingly misogynistic GBT movement this year alone. We felt it was important to show that British-based Lesbians were fighting back as well, because this is a global problem. Other women who demonstrated as part of their local marches, carrying signs challenging trans activism and advocating for Lesbians, have been harassed and sometimes beaten.

We decided to not march in the Pride March, because we do not feel part of Pride as its message exclude us. Instead, we decided to confront the parade by standing in front with banners explaining our message and with flyers to distribute to the crowd. The idea was to disrupt and delay the march for long enough for us to be seen. We had a GoPro camera to film our own protest. We have very little access to the media to explain our message, so guerrilla tactics such as this are the only way we found to reach a wider audience. We hadn’t made definite plans in terms of the action, so improvised as we went along.

It is incredible to realize what a huge corporate machine Pride has become, with sponsors and officials all queuing up to show how progressive they are — it is a massive business opportunity for them, so of course Pride has become an incredibly apolitical event. It is also very guarded and regimented, so there is no way we could have obtained a pass to march in the parade given that our pro-women politics are perceived as hate speech. So, a few minutes before the beginning of the march, we just jumped in.

MM: What was the reaction to your protest from others at the march and from the media?

AW: It was very interesting to witness people’s reactions. Many understood the situation and what we were advocating for, and were supportive of what we were doing. This is also true for a number of gay men, who I think begin to realize how inherently homophobic the trans movement really is.

The general media reaction was (unsurprisingly) to condemn the action as anti-trans, because, naturally, stating that Lesbians do not either want or have penises is seen as an attack on men. All these men are completely obsessed with their penises don’t you think?

The main feedback we received after the demonstration came in the form of a huge amount of supportive emails, sent privately by women who say they agree with us but cannot say so publicly. This is very telling and shows that a majority of Lesbians and women, in general, are threatened into compliance by the trans movement or kept silenced by fear. This is the state women and Lesbians are in today. I don’t see any reason to see Pride as a celebration of the progress we supposedly have made.

MM: PinkNews reports that Pride in London issued a statement “rescinding their earlier positions and issuing an apology to trans attendees, [and] condemning GetTheLOut’s actions.” The statement reads:

“We are sorry.

Yesterday a group of individuals labelled as “Get The L Out!”, who were not a registered parade group, forced their way to the front of the parade to stand on the rainbow flag. Their behaviour was shocking and disgusting, and we condemn it completely.

The lesbian board members at Pride in London made their anger towards the unsanctioned group clear and our organisation as a whole condemns their actions. The protest group showed a level of bigotry, ignorance and hate that is unacceptable.

We reject what this group stands for. They do not share our values, which are about inclusion and respect and support for the most marginalised parts of our community.

We are proud of our trans volunteers, proud of the trans groups that are in our parade, proud of our trans speakers at events and proud of the trans people who take part in our campaigns and proud of those who cheered even louder for them yesterday…

… A comment from Patricia Curtis, Board Member: TransPALS

‘It’s disappointing that anti-trans activists decided to hijack the front of a parade, an insult to all the hardworking staff in the NHS whose place they stole.

But their vile stunt failed. London is a place that doesn’t tolerate hate. The reaction of the crowds to our groups was inspiring. We felt their support and goodwill all the way from Portland Place to Trafalgar Square.’

What do you think about this statement? Can you respond?

AW: It all comes down to this: does society at large and the GBT community accept that women and Lesbians have a fundamental right to sexual boundaries?

It would seem that they don’t.

Today, in 2018, Lesbians who refuse so-called “transwomen” as sexual partners receive death threats and rape threats. The Pride committee called women who state that the penis is a male organ which has nothing to do with Lesbians “bigoted,” “ignorant,” and hateful.” Pride, as part of the GBT community, needs to be held accountable for their complicity with this modern form of rape culture which targets lesbians, specifically.

We protested in order to protect our rights and on behalf of all the Lesbians being intimidated, threatened, and silenced. This is what the LGBT “community” is supposed to do. Today, Lesbians are not only not supported by the movement, but actually targeted by it. This is unacceptable and we will not accept it.

MM: It is often claimed that “the Pride movement was begun by trans people.” For example, it is repeated online ad nauseam that “a transwoman threw the first brick” at Stonewall. Is this true?

AW: Here is another obvious example of Lesbian erasure and, in that particular case, black Lesbian erasure. It was a black Lesbian named Stormé DeLarverie who started up the riots. Claire Heuchan recently published a brilliant write up about it: when the police attacked, DeLarverie hit back, then was arrested. Heuchan explains that when Stormé complained about being cuffed too tightly, an officer hit her with a billy club, so she turned to the crowd and yelled, “Why don’t you guys do something?” This launched the Stonewall riots. Historically speaking, transgenderism was not an ideology at the time. Marsha and Sylvia, who are usually credited with starting the riot, were not “transwomen” — they were gay men and drag queens. This really needs to be seen as a patriarchal rewriting of history and erasure of black Lesbians’ significant role in the gay rights movement. The trans movement has not only been claiming gay men and drag queens as “transgender,” but also transing Lesbians in the past, claiming they were really “transmen” (because they were gender non-conforming). The case of Claude Cahun or Radcliff Hall are some of the most obvious example of that trend.

MM: Lesbian feminists have taken up the slogan, “Lesbian not queer.” Why? What does this mean?

AW: “Lesbian” and “queer” have significantly different political connotations. First of all, obviously “Lesbian” refers exclusively to females. Only a woman can be a Lesbian — this is why we do not call ourselves “gay women.” “Gay” and “queer” are used by everyone. Even straight couples call themselves “queer” these days! “Queer” does not mean anything at all, and it certainly does not mean “female who is sexually attracted to other females.”

Queer politics, born from postmodern theory, is in essence anti-feminist. Queer theory claims there is no such thing as the category “woman,” which opened up a path for the trans movement as we know it today. If the category “woman” is seen as politically irrelevant, where does that leave the feminist movement? What are feminists fighting for?

I really like Bit Blair and Ashley Obinwanne’s article about it at After Ellen. They explain that “queer” is a friendly, inclusive, neutral term, whereas “Lesbian” unequivocally means, “I only date women” — “exclusively female only.” That is a political statement in itself. It has a hostile connotation because men hate being excluded from anything (see Marilyn Frye’s notes on separatism and power). A woman calling herself a Lesbian is a political act in and of itself because that means that, by definition, she excludes men, which is forbidden in patriarchy. A Lesbian is a woman who has already said “no” to men’s sexual advances — trans activists who claim to be lesbians are pushing women sexual boundaries. This is rape culture.

MM: What is your advice to lesbians elsewhere — in the US and Canada, for example, where trans activism has similarly taken over and where women who support women-only spaces and who question or criticize violence advocated by trans activists and notions of innate “gender” are branded “bigots” and “TERFs” — in terms of pushing back and defending the rights of women and lesbians?

AW: Apart from raising awareness, this action was taken for women everywhere, to show support for them, to speak on behalf of women who are silenced, and to tell them it can be done. More women have spoken up about the issue of gender identity and trans activism this year than in the last five years. We can win this. I want to see more direct action — this makes us visible and strong, and if we can do it in London, other women can do similar things too where they live and shake things up.

So my advice is this: find like-minded women. That’s the first step. I know it’s tough, but we are everywhere. If you are in a queer environment, leave — this shit is poisonous and it is brainwashing Lesbians. Go online find the radfem community. You will need friends because this is what will keep you sane in this mental environment which forces us to deny the reality we know.

Obviously, disobey. If you support women-only spaces, create those women only-spaces which we are not allowed to have today — even small ones. Have consciousness-raising groups and meet real women in real life — this is the basis of everything. There are a number of spaces that still exist — womyn-only gatherings have happened in France in the last two years, replicated in different parts of Europe this year. Women’s land, I am sure, exists everywhere. Find ones that are near you, go to them, and support them if you can. If you and your group are in a position to create one, do it. This is where the resistance is born in terms of building sisterhood, theory, and activism. It gives us strength and makes us feel as though we are part of a movement– this is why they are forbidden to us.

Trans ideology and trans activism is no different than any male rights movement — it employs the same tactics men use against women to keep us in place: gaslighting, threats of violence, actual violence, shaming, ostracization, economic abuse, name calling, etc. They use these tactics to keep us scared. This is how they maintain power over us. At some point we will collectively need to realize that we need to get past our fear of men, disobey, and take action.

*Lesbian is capitalized for the purposes of this article as per Mary Daly’s usage, in reference to the writer’s “women-identification” and her rejection of “false loyalty towards men and male myths.” (Daly, 1987.)
Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • oneclickboedicea

    Angela – you are one fierce Amazon! Humbled by your courage!!!! xxx

  • Kathleen Lowrey

    This really was a herstoric protest. Brava, brava, brava.

  • Jen Miller

    The fact that media coverage refused to even name the protesters as lesbians ironically proved their exact point about erasure! But something that really guts me is seeing other lesbians attacking these women and falling over themselves to support TRAs (who let’s be honest would never left a finger to help them in return). Some of this is brainwashing, and some is unfamiliarity with what’s actually happening in queer spaces now. Add a good old helping of female socialization (be nice to males, put them first) and internal self hatred (lesbians are worthless, attach yourself to other groups to become more acceptable), and you’ve got a deadly combination. Feels like trying to turn around the Titanic. But I did “peak trans” myself and I’ve seen other lesbians wake up too, so have to remain optimistic that things can change one woman at a time.

  • fragglerock

    “At some point we will collectively need to realize that we need to get past our fear of men, disobey, and take action.”

    Truer words were never said. For centuries, patriarchy has brainwashed women to confuse fear, love, loyalty, and respect. Unquestioning acceptance of everything men say and do does not make us “loving” and “accepting” or “inclusive”. I find “inclusivity” to be problematic when it means ignoring women’s voices.

    Additionally, I find it poignant that the moment in history when women all over the world are starting to stand up against men crossing their boundaries (through the MeToo movement) is the very same moment when they’re being told to ignore those boundaries in the name of inclusivity. Many women convince themselves that their unquestioning acceptance of this ideology is progressive and inclusive but what it is really is fear–fear of being called a bigot, or transphobic, fear of being ostracized, and fear of losing the illusion of safety provided by patriarchal society.

    It takes many women a long time to realize that her boundaries and needs are just as important as everybody else’s. But I also know what it’s like to fear asserting myself and to be afraid that my “no” will be met with ignoring, a guilt trip, anger, or violence.

    Allowing sex and gender identity to be interchangeable means erasing centuries of sex-based oppression and the hard won protections against that oppression. What a lot of people seem to forget is that while some are going on about gender identities being denied, women’s identities as human beings have been denied for centuries. And our fear is keeping us from standing together to fight that oppression.

    • Sashimi73

      Exactly! We women should be fighting for a better future for us, eg workplace anti-discrimination laws, defeating prostitution and fighting male oppression, not having our energy drained off by others telling us to ignore our sexual boundaries.

  • Wren

    This is a great interview, and I wish I could share it with every one I know, but too many people (even lesbians) are too scared to break from the brainwashing.

    One question: the interviewee states that lesbians aren’t attracted to “pre-op” trans identified men. But would they be attracted to them after the surgery? My guess is no since it’s a wound, not a vagina, among other reasons. Myself, I would never be attracted to a trans identified woman, surgery or not.

    • Tobysgirl

      Totally. There is a reason trans often end up with each other. I have had enough struggles in my life with a partner and friends who suffer from various degrees of mental illness, and would never get into another relationship with someone obviously delusional. And if I were to get involved with another woman, I would want her to be a woman-born woman. (I like womxxn-born womxxn).

  • FierceMild

    And people call gay men Fabulous?! These women are fabulous.

  • May Loo

    I am a heterosexual woman, and after some thought, realized I could never be with a transman, pre- or post-op. It comes down to one thing: my attraction is sex-based, and as I said elsewhere, I don’t care about another person’s gender identity. Translogic sounds exactly like queer logic. Both deny the existence of biological sex which is important to most of us.

    • Tobysgirl

      I’m in a heterosexual relationship, but have never been sure just how heterosexual I am! I can easily imagine being in an intimate relationship with a woman, but whether I was involved with a woman or a man I would want them to be their biological selves not deluded they were something other than what they are.

  • Tobysgirl

    I am totally with you, Bev Jo, and I don’t mind being called anti-trans. There is nothing discriminatory or wrong with being against an ideology that is fundamentally misogynistic and homophobic.

  • Minerva Conatus

    I wish to thank you, Angela, and all of the other women from “Get the L Out” for what you’ve done.

  • May Loo

    Good for you all. It is time for Ls to get out of the movement. I don’t feel this is a matter of your group wanting to leave. More like the LGBTQ community is abandoning you. Sad isn’t it.

  • Sashimi73

    Angela, you are a hero. I’m inspired by you daring to stand up against these men. I recently saw a possibly lesbian classmate hanging around a trans identified male. Several weeks later she’s starting hanging out with us instead. More lesbians are hitting peak trans. We can win this!

  • Meghan Murphy

    If transgender people were “really just struggling to be accepted and treated fairly by society” it wouldn’t be an issue for most feminists. Unfortunately we’ve been forced to fight for our sex-based rights and women-only spaces.