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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Transactivism and the lesbian community

187 replies

iwantmycommunityback · 21/01/2018 18:05

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few days in particular about transactivism and lesbians and thought I might try to put some of it into writing, partly to try to make sense of it and partly because I keep still seeing people refer to the ‘LGBT’ or ‘LGBTQ’ community and equating transactivism with lesbian and gay rights.

I think the most obvious impact of transactivism is on young lesbians being encouraged to identify as heterosexual transmen and to subject themselves to damaging medical treatment, the effects of which they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives. I think Janice Turner’s article in the Times already covers that issue very well:

One of the problems for young lesbians (in addition to the rise in lesbophobia particularly among the young) is that, when they reach out to ‘their’ community, eg join an LGBT group for support, what they get isn’t their community at all but something very hostile.

Gender critical feminists will be familiar with the idea of trans-identified males co-opting women’s identities, women’s rights, women’s spaces etc for their own ends but there are other forms of appropriation going on, particularly in the (former) LGBT ‘community’ (including transsexuals themselves having been co-opted by people who don’t have body dysphoria and who marginalise them as ‘truscum’) . For lesbians, in addition to the appropriation of womanhood, I think the two main additional identity appropriations that cause problems are:


These are heterosexual biological males who identify as women and, therefore, as lesbians and have hijacked our community (support groups, social groups, bars, forums, you name it) and believe that lesbians should be open to having sex with someone with a penis if they ‘identify’ as a woman (see ‘the cotton ceiling’). This group has widened further e.g. including ‘transfeminine men’ and men who identify as a woman part-time (so get to walk through life as a heterosexual man but just ‘identify’ as a lesbian for a few hours to access a lesbian group or lesbian club night where they are of course the most oppressed person ever and must be centred at all times).

As well as being included in our groups, they are held up as examples to us eg for International Women’s Day one group had a talk from an ‘inspirational woman’ who was a biological male, who hadn’t had any surgery, was dressed as a bloke (not that that should make any difference..), had a bit of stubble going on and identified as non-binary (pronouns something like ‘zie’) not as a woman. Like, not only could they not find an actual woman who was inspirational enough to fill that spot, they couldn’t even find a man who was prepared to say they were a woman. Stuff like this is being funded by charity grants intended for women and for lesbian and gay people.

‘Queer’ straight trans allies

This is pretty much a consequence of the above. For those who don’t know, queer is now used as an all-encompassing term for anyone who doesn’t identify as a heterosexual “cis” person. However, it is also preferred by certain people over terms like lesbian, gay and bisexual because it does away with what are considered the rigid boundaries of ‘gender’ and sexuality e.g. lesbian and gay meaning being attracted to the same sex, bisexual as being attracted to ‘both’ sexes, when certain people reject these categories and the idea that there are two sexes.

Take, for example, Lily Madigan who is a biological male who has now come out as a lesbian and is dating a woman. Let’s presume for a moment that this woman (let’s call her Chloe) is a) a biological female b) and a passionate trans uber-ally. Chloe is a bio female who is dating a bio male with a penis who wears a pink hoodie and identifies as a woman. Say, before that, Chloe was dating a bio male with a penis who wears a blue hoodie and is, therefore, a man. Maybe in her next relationship, she will date a bio male with a penis who has purple hair and identifies as ‘genderqueer’. Therefore, Chloe can say that she dates men, women and genderqueer people, including both cisgender and trans people. Therefore, she is a queer or pansexual woman.

Along with the transbians, these ‘queer’ woman become involved in what was formerly the lesbian and bisexual women’s community. However, these trans uber-allies have a lot of views that are contrary to the interests particularly of lesbians. They believe that lesbians have ‘cis’ privilege and also that lesbians (along with gay men) are the most privileged people in the LGBT community. They believe that lesbians are narrow-minded and transphobic for only wanting to date other biological women and oppress transwomen who can’t break through the ‘cotton ceiling’ of their underwear.

I’m not even sure when this stuff started because, like most of us, due to the blurring of the meaning of words, I just didn’t see it happening. A lot of the main online websites, blogs and forums for lesbians started to change, with different women running them and, over time, a shift in the tone – lots about trans inclusion and more references to being ‘queer’ and open to relationships with anyone, about how some people (the lesbians) had privilege in our community and should prioritise these other people, less representation of butch women (despite the talk of blurring of gender boundaries/genderfluidity) etc.

It was only years later, someone who knew the women who had been running one of these websites was talking about who they were and who they were in relationships (bio females in relationships with bio males, basically) that the penny finally dropped with me that these were straight women appropriating our identity and lecturing at us and marginalising us in our own community.

This blurring of the language enables them to do it – but even in cases where you can see it for yourself (e.g. if you are looking at what is clearly a straight couple, who you know will be read by everyone they meet as a straight couple, even if the guy is wearing a bit of eyeliner), you couldn’t say anything as you couldn’t suggest that he wasn’t a woman (or genderqueer or whatever).

Why aren’t the LGB community (in particular lesbians) speaking out more?

  1. Firstly, I think it takes a while to see what it going on (for a number of reasons including the blurring of language, the shutting down of any discussion or even thought on the issue e.g. through the repetition of mantras such as transwomen are women, positive experience of/friendships with traditional transsexuals and not understanding how much the trans movement has changed, misrepresentation of this issue in what we consider to be ‘our’ trusted (LGB) news outlets, organisations, websites etc, the conflating of trans issues with gay issues that aren’t really comparable if you actually give them any thought but on the surface seem similar to negative things that have happened to you and feel personal to you resulting in a tendency to just automatically react against and feel angry about any opposition, especially if you are being told that it is ‘anti-LGBT’ and coming from ‘anti-LGBT’ organisations).

  2. Some lesbians aren’t really that involved any more so aren’t aware of what is going on. Many lesbians will have accessed the LGB community, lesbian support groups, lesbian/gay bars when they first came out, when they were looking for a relationship, in times of difficulties etc but are now happily settled in a relationship and don’t feel the need to access those resources. They will still have their lesbian ‘community’ but that will mean texting their friends Sarah & Jo and Claire & Debs and arranging to meet up at their (straight) local pub for the evening. Any involvement with the wider LGBT community will be more minimal like maybe watching the Pride Parade once a year or occasionally reading something on an LGBT website about some awful transphobes who are attacking the LGBT community. They will think back to the transwomen they knew 10 – 15 years ago who were nice people who just wanted to get on with their lives.

  3. Young lesbians identifying as transmen rather than as lesbians and, for the few who do, a lack of access to a real lesbian community which could introduce them to an alternative to the current discourse and give them the opportunity to discuss shared issues, learn from others’ experiences and have other lesbian women on their side. Young lesbians who aren’t accepted or feel isolated in their school, family, community etc will seek out an LGBT youth group and this community they reach out to will heavily endorse the transactivist agenda as part and parcel (and absolutely central) to their identity. Where else do they go and how do they know that there is anything else?

  4. The low status of lesbian women within the LGBT community (I don’t think people outside are really aware of how much misogyny and in particular hatred of lesbians there is from some gay men).

  5. The reason you are probably all aware of – the risks of speaking out, which are increased if you are a lesbian as it is coming from your ‘own’ community and being a lesbian puts you under suspicion of being trans-exclusionary (ie penis-exclusionary) anyway. If you run a lesbian business or events, you can’t risk being anything other than pro the trans agenda or they will destroy your livelihood. And I’m sure most of us have seen the threats and actual violence meted out to those who dare to disagree. There’s also a fear about just broaching the subject with another actual female lesbian because you don’t know how many of you are onside so it’s a risk. From tentatively raising the issue with a select few, I do know lesbian friends who have got concerns about this but we are very cautious and tentative about saying anything to other women because of the risk. The bigger stories like the closure of MichFest ( ) and the men wielding baseball bats to keep the lesbians in check on Women’s Marches and Pride Parades ( ) are just symbols of the way we are being policed and the consequences for what is left of lesbian events, lesbian-run businesses etc, if we don’t keep in line.

  6. Finally, simply, as I’ve explained above, another reason some of ‘us’ don't oppose or seem to actively support transactivism is that not all of ‘us’ are actually ‘us’. As lesbians step away from the LGBT 'community' and more ‘lesbian and queer women’ emerge from the two groups referred to above, an increasing proportion of ‘us’ are actually a subset of heterosexual men and women who loathe lesbians and support the transactivist agenda - but, because of the way language is being twisted, you’d never know that.
OP posts:
Terrylene · 21/01/2018 18:21

That is interesting - I have been wondering where the young lesbians go for help and other young women. Not lesbian groups then.

I think one of the problems with having men in women only spaces is that women melt away and vanish.

irretating · 21/01/2018 18:29

Most of that is familiar to me but it's good to see it all put together so concisely. Thank you.

Amethyst975 · 21/01/2018 19:13

OP, thank you so much for this. So, so sorry to hear this is being done to your community. Sad

WorkingItOutAsIGo · 21/01/2018 19:20

A wonderful explanation of a terrible situation. Thank you.

TallulahWaitingInTheRain · 21/01/2018 19:21

That is appalling. I'm so sorry this is happening to you, and sorry that straight women are complicit in it.

Flowers and straight female solidarity

CertainHalfDesertedStreets · 21/01/2018 19:23

Thanks for this. I hadn't considered how women who date men who claim to be women might misappropriate your spaces. So sorry.

How can we help? Other than keep on keeping on.

EamonnWright · 21/01/2018 19:24

These groups will usually tow the line of whoever is funding them. With same sex marriage done and very little else needing campaigned for the Trans stuff gives a right few years of employment for people.

Publications like Pink News are also plugging this as the human rights issue of our times. Clicks make cash.

Ketkins · 21/01/2018 19:34

This is the best account I've read of this situation. It needs to be published. It's just too important a part of this situation. It's utterly heartbreaking. I want to show it to all the mps, like Chris williamson for example who think they're supporting LGBT rights by endorsing trans activism.

MrSlant · 21/01/2018 19:36

Of all the things I have read recently on MN around the subject this is the first post that has truly made me want to weep. Thank you so much for taking the time to type that out so I can understand what's happening to your community. I'm so sorry your space and identity is being hijacked too.

It's a tragedy for the young people who are trans and lesbian who do just want to live their lives and could use some decent support.

nauticant · 21/01/2018 19:41


Can we just stop for a moment and marvel at this wonderful coinage. It does many things, all at the same time.

The rest of the OP was excellent, but this term is simply outstanding.

SweetGrapes · 21/01/2018 19:47

So sad to read this. The links are terrible.

HairyBallTheorem · 21/01/2018 19:54

Solidarity, @iwantmycommunityback

IamtheOrpheliac · 21/01/2018 19:59

Speaking as a young lesbian, I think you have hit on a lot of the issues. When I first got involved with LGBTQ circles at uni, it was a welcoming atmosphere and trans activists were at the stage of gender doesn't equal sex. It made perfect sense. If a lesbian dated a trans woman, because she (as a lesbian) was attracted to femininity and saw her girlfriend having a penis as minor issue, people did sometimes criticise that and say she should define herself as bisexual. Personally, if you're mostly attracted to females/people who present as women, you can call yourself a lesbian if you choose to.

Over the last couple of years, things have changed a lot and it does sometimes feel like as a lesbian I'm not allowed to define my sexuality. I'm being a 'weird vagina fetishist' if I say I don't like penis, because some women have penises. I totally accept those women. I accept their right to call themselves women, although I do understand why a lot of people on this board don't. The thing is, that when I was a little 15 year old questioning my sexuality, part of what made me realise I was a lesbian, was realising that the idea of PIV sex disgusts me.

Now I can find trans women physically attractive. I could, and have been, in romantic relationships with trans women. But if they have a penis, then no, I'm not interested in sex. I do have issues with trans rights activists calling lesbians out as transphobic if they're not attracted to penises, even if those are girl penises. For the most part, these call out articles/blogs/vlogs are hedged in 'we're not saying that you have to sleep with any person trans or otherwise if you don't want to.' and 'nobody is trying to force themselves on you'. No, but you are saying that if I say I don't like something I'm a bigot. That could be construed as pressurising. When I did date a trans woman, she did pressure me, she did use the language of oppression to guilt me into agreeing to things I was uncomfortable with. I left her, she went back to living as a man, honestly, yes, it did make me feel like I'd been played. At the same time I don't want to judge all trans people by that one experience, but it would be nice if trans rights activists had some awareness of how many lesbians are accosted and assaulted by men, of how many times a lesbian has heard 'it's alright darling, I've got a girl dick' or 'how do you know you don't like it if you've never tried it.' You would think that people who are so hypersensitive to language themselves would be aware of how similar some of their rhetoric sounds to that of misogynistic men.

Sorry that ended up longer than I intended!

PositivelyPERF · 21/01/2018 20:02

That actually made me tear up. I’m so sorry lesbians are being bullied in this way. I have a 15yr old niece who identifies as a boy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she comes from a deeply homophobic family. I just want to shake her and hug her and tell her that it’s ok to be a lesbian, but I’m a coward and know that it will all be for nothing. She also has autism.

guardianfree · 21/01/2018 20:07

Thank you for sharing this.What stands out to me is how hard you have tried to accept trans identified men into your life as a lesbian and how little respect there has been for your choices. I am horrified that younger woman are being treated like this. Our right to decide who we have sex with is sacrosanct and anyone who tries to coerce you is abusive.

UpstartCrow · 21/01/2018 20:07

I'm sickened to hear this.
Orientation is a protected characteristic, and I will continue to stand up against gay conversion therapy in all its guises.

irretating · 21/01/2018 20:23

I suppose they get away with it because nobody will challenge the most-oppressed-people-in-the-world-ever.

It is sickening.

newtlover · 21/01/2018 20:27

that sounds awful IamtheOrpheliac, I wish you could be whisked back in time to before this was going on and you could be confident that someone who said they were lesbian was a woman. It's not just thet you're hearing stuff that sounds like it's from a misogynistic man, it IS from a misogynistic man. 'how do you know until you've tried it' is exactly what straight men have always said to lesbians. (NASMALT)

IamtheOrpheliac · 21/01/2018 20:35

PositivelyPERF There is a correlation between autism diagnosis and identifying as trans. I am autistic and I was definitely swayed towards ID-ing as nonbinary at one point. It must be even harder to be in a homophobic family. Hopefully when she's older she will realise that it's okay to be a lesbian and you can be butch without being a man!

Thank you for all your supportive comments! It's another thing that I can't talk about in the LGBTQ community because of course trans women are the most oppressed group and lesbians are so privileged by comparison that to say anything would make me a TERF. I want to live and let live, but it feels more and more like people with vaginas are having to bow to the demands of people with penises.

Deadlylampshade · 21/01/2018 20:50

I’ve noticed this too, men’s feelings and orgasms are the most important thing ever amen.

What I’ve also noticed is completely straight girls referring to themselves as femme presenting trans. What the actual fuck is that? Just a normal woman then.
I was reading about a femme presenting trans man who was also demisexual. So a straight woman who wore women’s clothes and only had sex with people she was in relationships. Literally the straightest it’s possivke to be, and she wasn’t going on about how finding out her identity made her so much happier because she’d always thought there was something wrong with her.

They remind me of the girls who used to kiss other girls at parties to turn the men on.

FayJay · 21/01/2018 21:01

It’s an awful situation. I’m bisexual and was very involved in the LGB (as it was then!) society at uni. It was a lovely, welcoming circle and I have hugely fond memories of the friends I made there. I came out of a heterosexual relationship a few years ago and began to explore the gay scene again after many years away. It’s unrecognisable now. For example, I went to a support group for bi/lesbian women and found that it was 80% trans women and non binary men. Which is OK as far as it goes I suppose. But I was expecting a safe space where I could connect with other women and this wasn’t it. I didn’t go back.

I don’t think the scene I remember so fondly from the late 90s/early 2000s exists anymore.

cafeaulaitpourvous · 21/01/2018 21:15

My adult daughter is a lesbian

She went through a stage at the age of four when she was a boy - she dressed and played what could be described as 'boylike'. ( even though I don't believe in boy stuff etc)
We supported her - bought her the toys she wanted, dressed her as she wanted. Called her the name she wanted but she had no issues with being called she or her.
She was four
Four years old
It was a phase
If she was four now I am sadly aware she would be probably one of these poor girls who are lined up for transitioning.
In hindsight she was experimenting with her feelings and possibly the beginnings of en emerging sexuality.

I have tried to talk to her about all the TRA stuff and she is brainwashed. Apparently having a Sex is now defunct and it's all about Gender. And Trans women are.... you get the drift.

I am afraid for her and her friends. I am afraid for all women and girls.


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Datun · 21/01/2018 23:35


Your post is indeed heartbreaking.

I was first alerted to the problem by Gendertrender.

I happened upon the site because of the trans issue, but hung around, listening to all the women.

Partly because they are so incredibly well informed, but also because their attitude to men trying to take over was very refreshing! Particularly as the misogyny of the trans movement was weighing so heavily on me.

They are mostly lesbians. And they are devastated at the decimation of their community.

I take energy from the way they talk, their knowledge, strength, solidarity and their, sometimes highly entertaining, complete lack of interest in what men think of them.

It was quite eye opening for me, a heterosexual woman, to see exactly what it looks like not giving shiny shit what men think.

I hadn't realised quite how much my heterosexuality coloured my viewpoint.

Gallus Meg does a truly awesome job of highlighting the misogyny in the trans movement and collating/recording information.

She comes across as something of a tekky genius as she, Sherlock Holmes like, unearths all sorts of things.

I'm sure you know of her and her site already, but I thought I would tell you that yes, I get it, and I have those women to thank for opening my eyes.

And not just about the impact of the trans movement, but about the lack of media exposure/support of lesbians in general, particularly those who present as butch.

It had never really occurred to me before that lesbianism in TV and films are, what I think is known as lipstick lesbians?

Which now looks, in hindsight, as 'lesbianism for men to get hot'.

So yes, I'm rather ashamed to say that it's only recently I have understood the plight of lesbians both in the past and in the current climate.

If it's any consolation, it's got me absolutely infuriated and I talk about it a lot!

MrsTerryPratchett · 22/01/2018 00:24

I am very worried about young lesbians. I suppose they've always had to deal with men trying to fetishize and heterosexualize them. But now they are bigots for refusing this Sad

I've had two worrisome conversations with young lesbians recently. One where a young lesbian couple were talking about one of them transitioning 'to make things easier'. I normally keep my head well below the parapet but I did caution them against hasty action. The other was a young lesbian whose friend at school presents as 'butch' and is being told she's transphobic for not 'admitting' she's trans! It's madness.

Movablefeast · 22/01/2018 07:59

I feel we have entered the Twilight Zone.

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