Last Thursday (26 November), the monthly gay magazine Boyz, widely distributed through London’s queer clubs, shops and saunas, retweeted a webinar hosted by the LGB Alliance, entitled: “Are gay men getting lost in the gender identity debate?”
Unfortunately, this was no isolated incident, but one of several retweets from the magazine’s account amplifying the LGB Alliance to its 24,700 followers through November. It was the webinar retweet, however, that triggered a flurry of denouncements on Twitter, while a number of stockists, advertisers and LGBTQ+ leaders announced their intention to sever ties with the magazine. Boyz doubled down with a statement calling for followers to “please make no assumptions” and to “hear them out”.
This implicit denial of the existence of trans identities advocates for the separation of the struggle for trans rights from that of the wider queer population. But in reality, our political interests are entwined and our solidarity has long been embraced.
At this crucial moment for trans rights in Britain, when an epidemic of apathy surges through our broadsheets and political establishment, our trans siblings have been left to precariously dangle over a canyon of prejudice. The LGB Alliance would see us cut the rope. Not only is this stance one of profound cowardice, it is patently ignorant to the history of oppression faced by queer people.
The aggressive bigotry of the state and public, which has so often manifested as violence and murder, has rarely, if ever, discerned between gender and sexuality when perpetrating that violence. We, queer people in the West, live in a stunningly novel epoch. Owing to decades of revolutionary direct action and political organisation, queer identities and behaviours have been, by-and-large, normalised, or at the very least, brought to the fore of public consciousness.
I agree with the LGB Alliance’s larger assessment that the rights of queer people are under threat, as has always been the historical condition of queer rights. What is so egregious, though, is to callously detach the struggle faced by the trans population from our own.
There are 70 countries in the world where it remains illegal to be gay; in at least eight of them, the punishment is death. Queer people in Poland live under the threat of violence on a day-to-day basis at the hands of the far-right populist regime of Andrzej Duda and the Law and Justice Party.
In 2017, reports emerged that an anti-LGBTQ+ genocide was underway in Chechnya, with the country’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, being sanctioned by the U.S. earlier this year. Here in Britain, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people are on the rise, and there is at least one member of our own parliament who views the Equality Act as “embedding ‘identity politics’” – ah yes, that perennial dog whistle – emboldening such wannabe demagogues as Laurence Fox to call for its repeal.
It is also vital to recognise, however, that in no point in human history have openly non-heterosexual people, particularly cisgender gay men, boasted such significant economic, cultural and political capital. There are openly-gay executives, directors, producers, playwrights, screenwriters, actors, comedians, members of parliament, US congressmen and women. Pete Buttigieg, for example, long-held genuine candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, and is now a frontrunner to be America’s first out-gay cabinet member in the White House. (By comparison, it was only last month that the US elected its first trans state senator, Sarah McBride).
Remember when the LGB Alliance had a launch event and the special guest speaker was heterosexual Graham Linehan who ended up banned from social media, investigated by police and divorced by his wife because he made himself so unwell obsessing about trans people?
— shon faye. (@shonfaye) November 23, 2020
None of this is to suggest, as one headline put it, that the “struggle for gay rights is over”. The unfortunate reality is that our societal position will be precarious for the foreseeable, and we can never afford to become complacent. But how does the divisive rhetoric peddled by the LGB Alliance, which seeks to invent a binary opposition between us and our trans siblings, serve to bolster any of our interests?
The LGB Alliance would almost certainly denounce the rights of non-heterosexual people being debated by a panel of heterosexuals as undemocratic, and rightly so. Yet the panel on the retweeted webinar – marketed as a debate on “gender identity” – brazenly omitted trans representation.
Surely “informed dialogue” on what they define as “gender identity” demands the voice of a trans representative? This obviously undermines the basic tenets of free speech they claim to uphold. Perhaps the LGB Alliance struggle to see it this way, given the apparent denial that trans people exist to represent themselves in the first place.
Gay people have seen all of this before: the rhetoric around children, the barrage of vitriol in our opinion columns, the denial of our very existence. It is reprehensible that when equipped to stand against oppression, one does nothing. It is worse still to weaponise one’s own oppression to punch down at an even more marginalised group.
The LGB Alliance pushes a dangerous dogma. No more so than in the current moment, when surveys suggest that more than one-in-five young trans people have tried to commit suicide, and around four-in-five have considered it. Their raison d’être is less to advance the rights of non-heterosexuals so much as to quash the rights of the most marginalised group in the country – we should be furious that it continues to be legitimised.
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