Together. Always together.
So regularly tweets Michael Cashman CBE, one of the co-founders of Stonewall UK, who were formed back in May 1989.
Even as a 69-year-old, I only remember seeing "LGBT", though, in reality, Stonewall only started campaigning heavily for trans rights some seven or eight years ago,
In the early years, Stonewall concentrated on progressing LGB acceptance and rights - and they succeeded. LGB people are accepted in society - we now have one of the gayest parliaments in the world today.
Job virtually done.
But what of the trans people?
Well, trans folk were left behind, not in malice by Stonewall but because they had their work cut out to get LGB accepted within society and could only do one job at a time. Things started to change around six years ago when it became evident to Stonewall and our LGB brothers and sisters that trans folk were significantly the most marginalised and possibly the most discriminated group in UK society.
Initially, all was good, but then came 2017, and problems started to arise, not only in the UK but also in the US.
Every year, American Christian right-wing extremists attend a "Values Voter Summit" gathering. Organised by the controversial Family Research Council (FRC), this networking event invariably takes place over a weekend in September or October - and is attended pretty much by all the right-wing anti-LGBT+ hate groups together with the anti-abortion groups.
Sponsors include Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and The Heritage Foundation, which are closely linked to the UK's Conservative Party. Indeed Heritage was visited by the current Women & Equalities Liz Truss back in September 2018 and again a year later.
The 2017 Values Voter Summit (VVS) was special, though - a sitting President, Donald Trump, addressed the faithful gathering for the first time ever.
Trump was without question the most homophobic, transphobic and anti-Muslim President in modern history, and of course, at the VVS, he thanked his election troops for his Presidential victory. But perhaps, though, even if he was the most famous on the conference stage that weekend, he was not the speaker that changed the lives of so many people.
Enter one Meg Kilgannon, a long-time advocate against trans rights who, along with some others - was mooting that the Transgender community could be targeted, having accepted that the battle against LGB folk had been lost. SPLC Hatewatch reported this with Kilgannon saying:
"For all its recent success, the LGBT alliance is actually fragile, and the trans activists need the gay rights movement to help legitimise them. In other words, separate trans activists from the gay rights movement, and their agenda becomes much easier to oppose. Trans and gender identity are a tough sell, so focus on gender identity to divide and conquer. For many, gender identity on its own is just a bridge too far. If we separate the T from the alphabet soup, we’ll have more success.”
Kilgannon identified a wide coalition of potential allies outside the Christian Right who could confront trans friendly measures. The SPLC article continued explaining her advice on how to draw them together:
"Explain that gender identity rights only come at the expense of others: women, sexual assault survivors, female athletes forced to compete against men and boys, ethnic minorities who culturally value modesty, economically challenged children who face many barriers to educational success and don’t need another level of chaos in their lives, children with anxiety disorders and the list goes on and on and on. The feminists make eloquent arguments that gender identity really is the ultimate misogyny and the erasure of women. And lesbians in the group are concerned that trans and masculine girls is a form of lesbian eugenics".
SPLC's Hatewatch report was backed up by another group called "Right Wing Watch", saying this about Kilgannon's proposals:
"Lesbians in the group are concerned that “transing masculine girls is a form of lesbian eugenics.”
Kilgannon’s five-point tactical plan is for community organising: Engage, Educate, Explain, Empower, and Elect. To this day, Kilgannon's rhetoric is disturbing, recently writing this:
As with any cult, transgenderism has its own set of vocabulary"
For Kilgannon finding actors to execute the plan of splitting the T from the LGB was not difficult. A short time earlier, staunch Catholic Kaeley Triller Haver and anti-trans lesbian Miriam Ben Sharlom had co-founded the group "Hands Across The Aisle" with their website saying:
For the first time, women from across the political spectrum have come together to challenge the notion that gender is the same as sex. We are radical feminists, lesbians, Christians and conservatives that are tabling our ideological differences to stand in solidarity against gender identity legislation, which we have come to recognise as the erasure of our own hard-won civil rights. As the Hands Across the Aisle Coalition, we are committed to working together, rising above our differences, and leveraging our collective resources to oppose gender identity ideology.
The 'Hands Across The Aisle' website (at the time of publication of this article) was still "live", but it would appear the group may have moved to a different website (perhaps underground?) around eighteen months ago. On one page, we find some damning information, though.
At the very bottom of the page - the names of both Fair Play for Women and Transgender Trend sit under the title "From The Left" with links to their related websites. Also within the text of their website is the name of one Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, aka Posie Parker.
Hatewatch also reports that on the same platform as Kilgannon at that VVS conference were Cathy Ruse and Peter Sprigg, both senior fellows at Family Research Council, with Ruse saying this:
"Now, what about girls? Did you know that feminists are at odds with the transgender movement? Last year a prominent feminist published a compendium of articles under the title of Female Erasure. The subtitle is: what do you need to know about gender politics’ war on women, the female sex, and human rights? What is the impact on girls who are bombarded with gender transition messages? In their young minds, do they hear that being female isn’t good enough"?
The Hatewatch article continues by saying: "Peter Sprigg, who peddles myths linking homosexuality to paedophilia and has hinted that homosexuality should be criminalised."
It is statements like that which entwine the LGBT+ family together. Always together.
Setting the scene to promote trans detransition, Sprigg reportedly said this:
"Some of us, a lot of us in this room, might just object to the transgender movement in principle, that it’s a violation of the natural law in some sense, but we would have a harder case to make in the public square if it could be shown that in fact people with gender dysphoria actually are healthier if they undergo gender transitions … But this is not the case".
But what about in the UK?
Well, the activities of 'Hands Across The Aisle' was reported by Jules Joanne Gleeson in New Socialist in October 2018, but somehow the report got lost, possibly because of the furore involving GRA reform. Jules wrote this whilst replying to an anti-trans Editorial in The Guardian:
Many British trans people have declared their shock and outrage at an 18th October editorial by the Guardian. Here I will work through this rather sly text, exposing the transphobic framing pushed by its attempt at political centrism, and then confront the question of what is to be done with the rag itself.
The Guardian editorial ends on what it clearly intends as a moderating note: ‘Social media have unhelpfully amplified the voices at both extremes of this argument. The current divisions are troubling.’ Despite this, the editorial as a whole draws primarily on the framing and talking points presented by the anti-transgender extreme, with several activists for A Woman’s Place celebrating the piece’s publication and describing it as a summary of their own position.
This group had to distance itself from one member who had proposed mandatory sterilisation of trans men and made anti-Muslim remarks. These specific details of the ‘toxic’ condition of the debate around trans issues are not mentioned by the editorial, obscuring the hate campaign that British trans people have faced over the past year. Another single issue anti-trans group, Fair Play For Women, used their official Twitter to publicly fantasise about trans people dying from ‘a thousand cancers’. After this attracted controversy, the hate group promptly wiped its tweets.
If these comments seem shocking for British feminist groups, an explanation may be provided in the influence of the religious right. A group founded by Christian evangelicals to unite right and left-wing transphobia called ‘Hands Across The Aisle’ has been involved in supporting some of these new transphobic organisations, to an unclear degree.
This follows the stated agenda of the Christian far-right in splitting ‘LGB’ from ‘T’ groups in order to make both more easily defeated. Rather than investigating this murky and newsworthy business, the Guardian has opted to uncritically reproduce the key claim of this secular/religious anti-trans alliance: that the debate around transgender recognition is a case ‘where rights collide’ (as the title has it), with trans women and cis women pitted directly against each other.
One group that clearly wants to split the T from LGBT+ is LGB Alliance which promotes the #sexnotgender mantra - perhaps conveniently forgetting that sexuality, like gender, is a social construct?
LGB Alliance was set up in September 2019, less than two years after that VVS summit, and their Wikipedia entry states this.
The LGB Alliance is a British charity and advocacy group founded in 2019 by Bev Jackson and Kate Harris in opposition to LGBT rights charity Stonewall's policies on transgender issues. The LGB Alliance describes their mission as "asserting the right of lesbians, bisexuals and gay men to define themselves as same-sex attracted", and state this right is threatened by "attempts to introduce confusion between biological sex and the notion of gender". They also oppose gender identity education in schools, pharmaceutical treatment of children for gender dysphoria and gender recognition reform.
Um - well, where have we heard words like that before?
Let's look at Kilgannon's words again.
"Explain that gender identity rights only come at the expense of others".
In an article dated June 3rd 2020, Vic Parsons of Pink News tied in LGB Alliance with both The Heritage Foundation and the ADF saying this:
The ADF is behind several anti-trans legal cases in the US, which seek to bar trans people, especially trans women, from playing sports and using public bathrooms.
The ADF, as this website exposed some months back, is very active in the UK.
How entwined are the ADF and Heritage with LGB Alliance and others?
Well, at this point in time, that remains an open question, but LGB Alliance says they are not connected. But we do know that on July 24th 2019, Bev Jackson, a co-founder of LGB Alliance, tweeted this:
"Yes, my bad, I ran out of characters! But as a socialist feminist, I do find these alliances problematic. Take the Heritage Foundation. Many deeply anti-women policies. Yet, it was their publicity that made it possible to launch the gender-critical movement in the US.
This tweet clearly proves Bev Jackson is fully aware of the 'war on women' policies of both Heritage and their principal partner, the ADF. Now many women in Republican-controlled states are finding their abortion rights being seriously eroded to the point they are non-existent. To some extent, this should not be surprising. The Republican National Committee Chairs is heaped in patriarchy - over 80% of their main Committee are men as well, of course, plenty of those "Christians".
Take Texas, for example, where the war on women has been never-ending for the last 16 years.
In this state of 29 million people, there are just 22 abortion clinics left, and some 900,000 women live 150 miles from the closest one. Abortion doesn't come cheap either - bills are often around £1000 and is invariably not covered by health insurance.
If this sounds bad, a much worse situation is around the corner. On September 1st 2021, a new law (known as SB.8) is likely to come into effect, meaning anyone can sue any person assisting any woman having an abortion in Texas once a heartbeat can be detected - even the taxi driver dropping a woman off at an abortion clinic. Women suffering incest or rape are not exempt from the new law, and clearly, many women will not even know they are pregnant before a heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks. Incredibly even if the plaintiff loses any legal case, the defendant gets stuck with some of the legal costs!
The war on women and abortion rights has exploded in the US, with nearly 600 new anti-abortion laws being passed so far this year in 47 different states. [edit on the 24th June 2022, one year after this article was originally published, American women lost abortion protection as a federal right].
The ADF use hard-hitting language in describing its policy to remove women's right to choose an abortion. This is from one of their press releases:
“Texas has the right to respect the life of unborn children, and it did so when it chose to strictly limit the gruesome procedure of dismemberment abortions". "What the Texas law, SB 8, forbids is causing an unborn child’s death by ‘corporal dismemberment,’ in which the child dies ‘by bleeding to death as his or her body is torn apart.’ SB 8 prohibits the use of this grisly method before the death of the unborn child".
War on Women?
Certainly, in Texas (and many other US states too) - all thanks to the Christian right-wing extremists who appear to falsely manifest themselves to a variety of political colours in the UK to suit their audience. It is hard to comprehend that women in Texas just a few years ago had similar abortion rights to those in England, Scotland, and Wales have today.
Those rights have disappeared because of the Christian pro-life anti-LGBT+ extremists and the right-wing.
Only time will tell if the haters of trans people succeed in splitting the T from LGBT+ and if, like in Poland, abortion and LGBT+ rights start to get rolled back.
The right-wing Christian extremists are certainly winning in American Republican states just now with a huge rollback in abortion, body autonomy rights and trans rights.
The sad fact is that in the UK, many sex-based feminist organisations appear to be willing, either directly or indirectly, to work with Hands Across The Aisle, Heritage and the ADF - how do we know which ones are?
Just take a look at any of the rhetoric we see being used every day and see how perfectly it echoes all the rhetoric Kilgannon lectured to her followers back in 2017 – all the ways she listed to target and demonise trans people by scaring those most vulnerable have been successfully transmitted and adopted by many believing they are fighting ‘the good cause’ rather than spreading carefully targeted lies.
And the concerted attacks on Stonewall are further evidence of the attempts to split the LGB from the T precisely as Kilgannon had called for. And whilst peddling these far-right extremist views by helping to spread hatred directed against the trans community, they are also being complicit in aiding the real war on women - abortion rights.
Not British women, of course - so that's all right then?
No. It is not right at all.
The women who are suffering from the withdrawal of abortion rights are often women of colour and the poorest in society. Women without a voice!
Time for a rethink, I would suggest - can we really permit the "TERF War" to continue unresolved?
Who are the current winners while UK feminists tear each other apart?
Who is the REAL enemy?
Words by Steph @PlaceSteph
First published June 2021
Very slightly edited June 2022 - find out more about the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) by clicking HERE.
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