A response from a Gay Liberation Front activist to the LGB Alliance

Content note: The following address was written by a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, in response to the recent emergence of the anti-trans group, LGB Alliance. Their statement of intent will be cited at length in this article, and therefore a warning is raised for transphobic content.

As Madonna declared after consulting Karl Marx, “We’re living in a material world.”

I would like to comment on your recent Facebook announcement which include these aims:

  • [To] assert the right of lesbians, bisexuals and gay men to define themselves as same-sex attracted.
  • Gender is a social construct.
  • Counteract the confusion between sex and gender which is now widespread in the public sector and elsewhere.
  • [That] former employees and supporters of the lobby group Stonewall, plus doctors, psychiatrists, academics and lawyers with expertise in child safeguarding agreed a foundation statement centring biological sex rather than the gender theories which they regard as pseudo-scientific and dangerous.
  • [A] refusal by Stonewall, which was originally set up to fight legal discrimination against gay men and lesbians, to respond to a petition asking it to acknowledge the range of valid viewpoints around sex, gender and transgender politics.

Your legal adviser knows, I hope, that Stonewall is a charity; charities do not campaign. Politically they don’t take sides. Also, the tone of your announcement is somewhat threatening, it makes me wonder whether you were setting a trap that would, if Stonewall responded to you, have lost them their charitable status. But I don’t think you wanted a response, that way you could heap blame on them for non-cooperation, point the finger, and make them a target. Why? Revenge for the lesbian who previously headed Stonewall, who took a political stance against trans and was consequently sacked for playing politics. I think LGB know very well that their range of “valid viewpoints around sex, gender and transgender politics,” are as you describe them, political issues; a matter of sexual politics where we are on the safe grounds of material facts, rather than opinions which create confusion and division, the very things you wish to counteract.

Fortunately, there is an epistemology, an LGBT history of materialist ideas and beliefs from the late 17c. onwards. For instance, there is an equivalence between class and sex, or class and gender, that enables the political and social sciences to classify the position of men, women and LGTBQIA+ people within society. The rule forms the basis of sexual politics, which has been used since the 1920s by LGBT+ creatives and activists with never failing success.

Sexual politics, of course, has its limits, as materialism cannot determine any value in sex roles or gender roles. Love also does not exist in the material world. Love, love-making, sex and gender only exist in what the Japanese call the floating world, a world beyond material classification, a place where sex collapses into gender and gender collapses into sex. The only way to make sense of the floating world is to interrogate the literature.

***

Among the lesbians who joined London GLF in 1970 was the sociologist Mary McIntosh who specialised in criminology and founded the Deviancy Symposium. In GLF McIntosh became part of the GLF Counter-Psychiatry group and also the Manifesto Group who published the GLF Manifesto in 1971.

Earlier, in 1968 McIntosh had published her ground-breaking article titled The Homosexual Role in which she condemned the psychiatric and medical professions’ obsession with searching for the causes of homosexuality in their attempts to find a cure. McIntosh pointed out that to make such a study they would first need to find out what causes heterosexuality, before they could find out what causes homosexuality.

One strand of her research led McIntosh to read the letters of prisoners in English jails from 1533, the year of Henry VIII Buggery Act to the death of Victoria, and in so doing discovered the 17th c. London Mollies whom she posited were the first group of men to appear in English history as recognisably homosexual.

Other strands to her research were the modern scientific studies on anthropology, ethnology and homosexuality in the societies of ancient Greece, Rome and the near East, pre-Meij Japan, top echelons in Nazi Germany, the berdaches of N. America, Chuckchee shamans, the Cubeo of the N.W. Amazon, the Aranda of Central Australia and the Siwans of N. Africa among many others. Mary McIntosh summarised her findings thus:

The current conceptualization of homosexuality as a condition is a false one, resulting from ethnocentric bias. Homosexuality should be seen rather as a social role. Anthropological evidence shows that the role does not exist in all societies, and where it does it is not always the same as in modern western societies. Historical evidence shows that the role did not emerge in England until towards the end of the seventeenth century. Evidence from the ‘Kinsey Reports’ shows that, in spite of the existence of the role in our society, much homosexual behaviour occurs outside the recognized role and the polarization between the heterosexual man and the homosexual man is far from complete.

Mary McIntosh, ‘The Homosexual Role,’ Social Problems, 16.2. (1968).

The article kick-started a change in the way in which homosexuality were perceived. It initiated the change from a medical to a social model of same-sex relationships, which GLF spearheaded with its attacks on psychiatry. This put an end to the mental sickness category and its supporting mythology of martyrdom and suicide. It meant that same-sex relations shifted in meaning and practice according to historical and cultural circumstances. That sex is a social construct. That there is no universally fixed homosexual, just historically shifting categories and linked experiences. It became the foundational argument for the contemporary sociology of homosexuality, a bench mark for historical research, and from it flowed lesbian and gay studies and contemporary queer theory. McIntosh gave a historical and fully social meaning to the idea of same-sex relations.

It should also be recognised that Mary McIntosh was eight years ahead of Michel Foucault in this regard; her social role being his species.

The English Revolution was the Renaissance sodomites last stand. No sooner had the early modern era begun than along came the working-class Molly, followed by the middle, and upper-class Macaroni. A hundred years later at the commencement of the modern era – the modern homosexual that we all know, love and understand appeared.

***

Reading the LGB Alliance Statement of Intent, I really wonder why they think we LGBT people who have been asserting, demanding and defending our rights for over 70 years, and with such a rich, living history behind us, needs an organisation to do it for us?

Why should LGB think that we need to be defined as “same-sex attracted” which is not a word but a label, and one made up by a committee, when what we are about is so much more than just sex?

The phrase, I image, must have been made up by a heterosexual male in LGB because they are the only ones so fixated on our sexual acts, that they cannot see us beyond it.

Do they also want us to return to calling ourselves by the medical term homosexual, destroy the social model of our relationships and return us to the sick bay and mental asylum?

In the 1920s in America and a decade later over here, we called ourselves gay. And gay we were, and gay we are, and in Gay Liberation we identified as gay – back then we were gay women and gay men.

We cannot be reduced to a cypher by the LGB Alliance. Their attempts to neologise suggests an appalling lack of imagination, and that’s a serious mistake to make when they are attempting to reorder a LGBTQIA society as smart and advanced as ours, one based on loving relationships, mature attitudes towards sex, compassion, empathy, understanding, creative endeavour, Camp playfulness and drag queens who hold their mirrors up to nature, sex and gender

We’ve had an electrical revolution, a sexual revolution and a digital revolution. Power has moved to the margins. Morality was found out over a century ago, when Oscar said “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt to people we personally dislike.” Telling other people what to do stinks of androcentric elitism and worse.

“Gender is a social construct.” Yes! Here I can agree with LGB Alliance. The passing away of gender norms, the recognition by the many of homosexuality has reshuffled identity and caused a proliferation of genders that undermine the “normal, natural,” narratives of compulsory heterosexuality and taken away its power of prohibition. The consequent reaction by religiously inspired heterosexuals to their loss of power, has been to turn gender into identity politics and lifestyle choices, using social platforms to dehumanise and belittle trans people, in the hope of regaining what they think, with their assumed power, is their right to control gender recognition.

If sex is a social construct then gender is a social construct too, because sex and gender are one and the same. Sex and gender are indivisible, one is the expression of the other, both are subject to time and place, both are mutable, both can be shaped by deep feelings and strong desires. Sex is the expression of gender, and gender expression is sex.

The idea that sex and gender are different can only be pursued by people who wish to create, for their own nefarious purposes, a binary where none exists. If it were possible to separate the two, it would produce a clash of power on the one hand and violence on the other, which is not the way sex and gender work, but the way capitalist society works in its mode of production. The LGB Alliance’s thinking has confused the way sex and gender work, with the way society works, but they’ve had to, in order to acquire the funding, or power, that allows them to afflict their violence on trans people and on other sexualities they don’t like.

Another point to note is the absence of intersex and asexual people in LGB’s theories on sex and gender. Why have they ignored nature and the human genome, forever creating new combinations of genes to protect our species future should new conditions threaten survival?

Centring biological sex has nothing to do with LGBT people and everything to do with religion, heterosexuals and heterosexuality. LGBTQI are into love making and recreational sex and I believe it would be very dangerous to give any kind of credence to the centrality of biological sex. That would allow religious sex law prohibitions to once more dominate our lives and our culture. It seems that LGB Alliance are trying to turn the clock back with these outdated ideas and clunky aggressive jingo.

LGB Alliance must keep up with political and social science in these matters, otherwise they are going to go terribly wrong and end up as cranky dogmatists – believing that their opinions are facts. How, for instance, do they view epigenetics in the development of trans?

As a matter of urgency our community must closely examine the credentials and beliefs of these experts in child safeguarding that LGB Alliance have on their board. (From my experience of today’s activism, safe places are always occupied by the bullies they were designed to keep out). Are trans parents and their offspring to be judged by these safeguarding experts? What institution teach and licence these people? This is particularly dangerous if any of these experts are heterosexual, because heterosexuals believe that homosexuals are all paedophiles, when we know, and the police prove, time after time, that paedophiles are always found within the family unit, or close to the family unit of the children they target.

We should also find out if these child safeguarding experts are motivated by Christian beliefs, because if they are, their methods of mentoring will employ bullying, deprivation, corporeal punishment, and attempts to separate children from their parents. All in the name of heaven, and to hell with here on earth, as the Irish well know. LGB Alliance’s statement also claims the following:

A new charity has been formed recently to support young people (of both sexes but mainly girls) who have changed their mind.  As teenagers they started on the path of transition only to find that as young adults they come to realise that a terrible mistake has been made. Some have had puberty blocking drugs; others have had healthy breast removed. This is a very sad phenomenon which is growing in number.  We want to offer support to this group through mentoring schemes, meetings, practical advice and social events.

It could be true that when some children reach puberty, they change their mind, it may be expected, but there are many more who don’t, and again LGB offer no proof for these claims. I also believe that the only people fit to mentor children to whom trauma of this kind occurs should be those who have had the same experience. Anyone else would frighten them, and it’s easy for adults to frighten children, isn’t it?

LGB Alliance also claim that: “Stonewall brands same-sex attraction as transphobic.” Are LGB sure they have this wording, right? There was a problem between Stonewall and the trans community a while ago, (as mentioned above) but that was just one individual and it has been sorted, indeed she is now part of LGB, so why does that make LGB unhappy? Why are they raking up old history when the matter was settled by Stonewalls’ board? Is it to create trouble?

lesbianism and homosexuality is same-sex (not same-gender) attraction;

No, it is both. The question is (ignoring the grammar) who would this rule protect? Is making eyes at straights to be forbidden by law? Is belief in our own queer experiences, so painfully acquired, to be dropped in the face of hair-splitting? Gender and sex cannot be divided. Think of a quantum particle that can be in two different places at the same time.

lesbians are biological women who are attracted to other biological women;

Women have never had control over their bodies – why are LGB trying to impose quibbling elaborations on them? What is meant here, so obviously, is that trans women are not real women, whatever LGB lesbians think real means. Indeed, you could just as well say, if that were true, that gay men and lesbians are not real men or women either. Straight men have been saying that of us for centuries. It is playing with words to put trans people down.

Sex is not assigned at birth but observed;

But gender is assigned at birth, so is that to be forever and unchanging? Is that the hidden connotation in this word play? It is after all clear that LGB do not want to see trans gender recognised, but why, why do they never say what it is about trans people that they object to? Is it that they don’t know any? Or is it the power of trans that they do nothing, yet thousands of authoritarian bigots can’t wait to crawl out of the woodwork to give them what’s what?

it is not transphobic for lesbians to have their own spaces and institutions which exclude male-bodied people;

Of course, it’s transphobic when what you call male-bodied people refers to trans people. It is deliberately insulting. It is political correctness – the language of the privileged gone mad.

there is often a link between transgender ideology and the suppression of lesbianism and homosexuality;

Where is the proof of that, when trans people, lesbians and gays have been supporting each other for centuries? Trans suppressing lesbians and gays is wholesale paranoia!

telling children who do not conform to gender stereotypes that they are born in the wrong body is damaging and regressive;

Are you sure you mean gender stereotypes, isn’t it gender norms, or do you choose to be deliberately misunderstood? Either way, children work these things out for themselves, they don’t need to be told by anybody; they are not stupid. Neither are parents going to push their children into definitive positions. Parents give their children a range of options. If you do that, this might happen … You are dealing with parents and children here, not cardboard cut-outs. Heterosexuals and those who allow religion to guide them when mentoring trans children – that would be damaging and transgressive – not parents who mentor with love.

the soaring numbers of teenage girls suddenly presenting as trans is evidence of social contagion and discomfort about lesbianism

Again, where is the evidence for that conclusion. What is more likely is a teenage girl’s discomfort with heterosexual men. After all it is heterosexual men who are in charge of this world and the ones who have brought us to the edge of extinction. That is the real contagion of our times. LGB’s conclusion of blaming it on lesbians is precisely the misogynist answer elite heterosexual men and heterosexually identified gay men would reach.

If everything LGB says about trans people was directed at lesbians and gays, who in social terms occupy the same position, they would be seen for the alt-right that I suspect they are.

LGB’s need for financial backing can, I think, mean only one thing; the broadcasting on social media of heterosexual transphobia, through the willing agency of right-wing lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Are LGB woke and trending with Amerikan politics and Christian fundamentalism, people who are themselves asleep, dreaming the dream of white supremacy and straight biological sex that they dug up in the ruins of 1945? Do LGB in this sad and bitter alliance know they’ve actually chosen to work with people who hate them?

***

The trans position is the hardest call to make. Far harder than any anyone else has to face in our diverse community. If a person, male or female, whether sexually attracted to the same sex or the opposite sex, feels deeply and over time that they are not of their rightful gender, who would deny them the opportunity to be the person they feel they are, and know they are, and want to be?

LGB is the mischief of self-appointed, self-entitled, over privileged, heterosexually identifying extremists who claim the right to control what other people wish to do with their own body. It is clear to me that the LBT Alliance has targeted the trans community not in a spirit of respect or scientific enquiry, but with lazy assumptions, forgone conclusions, prejudice, lies, and false unscientific claims, with the clear intention of creating controversy, and to sow doubt, in order to destroy the Gender Recognition Bill.

We call on all lesbians and gays involved in LGB to walk out. There is enough trouble in the world as it is without creating divisions within our own community. Alternatively, get rid of the heterosexuals within your organisation, so that we can be sure you are speaking from a solely lesbian and gay point of view, and of course, as long as you stick to material facts.

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