It used to be the case that when lecherous men in pubs would lean in with beery breath and slur, “I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body,” they could be brushed off with a derisory sneer. Now it seems one might risk invalidating their gender identity. Indeed, according to Stonewall, the UK’s biggest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization, anyone who identifies as a woman is a woman, regardless of their biology, and, as such, some lesbians have penises.
Increasingly, lesbians are beginning to tire of this fiction. On Friday, April 26, protestors gathered outside the QEII Centre in Westminster to mark the Lesbian Day of Visibility and call out Stonewall’s failure to support lesbian rights. The protestors, who carried banners reading, “Stonewall is Anti-Lesbian” and “Lesbian Visibility,” chose to target the Stonewall Workplace Conference, at which MP Secretary of State and Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt addressed delegates who paid between £269 and £429 per ticket. While the paying delegates and politicians clearly have something to offer Stonewall, what the organization now offers to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people is increasingly unclear.
In many ways, Stonewall has succeeded in promoting their slogan, “acceptance without exception” — even the corporate world, from banks to supermarkets, has embraced the message, covering itself in rainbows in celebration of LGBT communities. But 30 years since Stonewall was founded, LGBT communities have never been more fractured, as the inclusion of transgender “male-bodied” lesbians and transgender “female-bodied” gay men has changed the rules for same-sex attracted people.
The pairing of gender identity ideology with gay and lesbian rights is a relatively recent development — it was just a few years ago, in 2015, that Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt announced the organization would include trans people in its advocacy work. In the years since, Stonewall has lobbied hard for the interests of trans-identified people, establishing a Trans Advisory Group and campaigning in favour of proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. The timing of the addition of the “T” to “LGB” is worth noting — it is likely that, today, organizations like Stonewall are forced to do this in order to sustain funding and to stay relevant since same-sex marriage was granted in 2014.
Research published this year by lesbian activist group, “Get The L Out,” outlines what life is like for many lesbians in the UK, most of whom no longer have the option of meeting women or using dating apps without being pressured to consider transwomen as potential partners. Those who participated in the survey reported various forms of sexual violence perpetrated by transwomen who identify as lesbian, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. Get the L Out has called on mainstream LGBT organizations to take a stand against the harassment and assault of lesbians by transwomen, describing the current situation as akin to “corrective rape.”
Get the L Out member Angela C. Wild explains:
“Lesbians have been coerced into accepting transwomen as potential sexual partners, and our organizing and events have effectively been infiltrated by males. There are no longer any mainstream organizations that represent lesbians and the consequences have been dire. My research has shown that lesbians are routinely silenced by the stigma of being branded transphobic, and the result of including males who call themselves lesbian [in the lesbian community] has been sexual harassment, assault, and even rape. This must end.”
But rather than heed these concerns, Stonewall doubled down, insisting that “transwomen are women” and that, consequently, some lesbians have penises. Indeed, Alex Drummond, a member of Stonewall’s Trans Advisory Board, is a transwoman who sports a luxuriant beard and identifies as a lesbian who is “expanding the bandwidth of woman.” Lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and even trans people who have voiced concerns about the pairing of gender identity activism with advocacy for gay and lesbian people have been ignored and dismissed as transphobic by the charity.
While Stonewall’s support for transgender politics poses a problem for adults, the impact on youth has been devastating. The Times covered the resignation of five clinicians from the Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service who expressed concern that “potentially gay children are being sent down the pathway to change gender.” Young women who would otherwise grow up to be healthy, happy lesbians are increasingly identifying as “transmen;” binding their breasts, taking off-label hormones, and aspiring to double mastectomies. Rather than supporting these young women to be happy in their bodies, Stonewall is part of an emerging “educational” industry that teaches children they might be “born in the wrong body.”
Many of today’s lesbian and gay adults fear that, had they been born a generation or two later, they would have been susceptible to this lie, undergoing life-long unnecessary treatment in order to present as “heterosexual.” Make no mistake, this is modern conversion therapy — a medical scandal that will unfold in the future with dire consequences for all involved (aside from the lawyers).
The women who protested on Friday — and all of those who refuse to accept that there is such a thing as a “lesbian with a penis” — represent an inconvenient truth for Stonewall: that stonewalling these people will not work. Rather than represent the LGBT community, Stonewall has become a bloated irrelevance, cashing in on the corporate world’s desire to appear progressive and to use LGBT rights as a marketing tool. It is time the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community came out and said loud and proud that there is no such thing as a lesbian with a penis.
Jo Bartosch is a British freelance journalist who campaigns for the rights of women and girls.