September 21, 2022   5 mins

I’ve been involved in the campaign against homophobia for forty years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. For the first time, a tribunal is taking place in which one charity is attempting to strip another of its legal status. Mermaids, which advocates for “gender variant and transgender youth”, has brought a case against LGB Alliance, the only UK-based organisation that focuses exclusively on same-sex attracted people.

Mermaids claims that LGB Alliance was not, in fact, established to support lesbians, gay men and bisexuals — but rather to discredit and disband Mermaids itself. The LGB Alliance, allegedly, “does not have charitable purposes”. If Mermaids wins this case, the consequences will be devastating for lesbians and gays. Any future charity set up to advocate specifically on our behalf will be wide open to legal challenge.

LGB Alliance was founded in 2019, in response to Stonewall’s refusal to engage with concern, voiced by lesbians and gay men, about trans orthodoxy. We are concerned that “same-sex attraction” has been recast as nothing more than a dog whistle for transphobia — an argument made by Mermaids in court. We are concerned, too, that lesbians are being labelled bigots for not wanting to have sex with people who have penises. And we are concerned, most of all, by the wholesale acceptance of this orthodoxy by organisations, such as Stonewall, which are supposed to protect same-sex attracted people. Mermaids’s case is being supported by Gendered Intelligence  and the LGBT Consortium, groups that promote the notion that “gender identity” should carry as much, if not more, weight in law as biological sex. Together, they are arguing that LGB alliance is “denigrating trans people” and does not “serve the public interest”.

But what does “denigrating trans people” actually mean? Before gender ideology captured the liberal masses, and allowed misogynistic men to scream “TERF” at any passing feminist, it was a phrase that might usefully be used to describe the discriminatory and cruel treatment of people living as the opposite sex. But in 2022, “denigration” can apparently mean campaigning for women-only services such as rape crisis centres and changing rooms.

And how is advocating for lesbians and gays not a positive public service? As someone who came out in the Seventies, facing hellish bigotry and a lack of any legal protections, I desperately needed the support of a community that respected same-sex attraction. The Gay Liberation Front was, for me, a lifeline. It was set up in 1970 by Bev Jackson, who found herself compelled to come out of retirement to start the LGB Alliance. Her cofounder is another veteran of the movement, Kate Harris, who was a Stonewall Ambassador until breaking ties with the charity after it shifted away from lesbian and gay issues to trans orthodoxy.

“When Kate and I met in 2019, we discovered that we’d both been trying, independently, to engage with Stonewall about our concerns,” Jackson tells me. “We met a brick wall. The mantra was ‘no debate’. We were also told the change from ‘sex’ to ‘gender’ did not cause any conflict.” Jackson tells me that, in her view, “something has gone very wrong with this movement”.

Between them, Jackson and Harris have spent a century campaigning for the rights of same-sex attracted people. They have set an example by living as out and proud lesbians. And yet, every day, they are attacked on social media. Journalist Owen Jones, for instance, has branded them “monstrous, unhinged, horrible fanatics”, adding that LGB Alliance is a “ludicrously titled organisation”, simply because it chose not to add the T to the LGB.

Why is it considered “ludicrous” to focus on the needs of a specific minority? The LGB Alliance mission statement seems perfectly reasonable: it will stand up for the rights of same-sex attracted people; it will uphold the definition of homosexuality as same-sex attraction; it will accept the biological reality of sex. How have we got to a stage where this is seen, by trans activists and their allies, as hate-filled bigotry?

The scenes I’ve witnessed in court since 9th September have suggested that what is ludicrous about this case is not the position taken by LGB Alliance, but rather Mermaids’s arguments that gender identity trumps biological sex. Paul Roberts is Chief Executive of the LGBT Consortium, representing more than 500 LGBTQ+ groups. A disciple of gender orthodoxy, he said during cross-examination that he believes “anyone who identifies as a man is a man”, adding that he believed if a biological woman identifies as a trans man, that person should be able to access male-only services. When Roberts was asked if, given his view that people are attracted to gender identity rather than sex, a lesbian couple in which one is butch and one femme are actually a heterosexual couple, he responded: “I don’t believe there are many lesbian couples like that.” Many of the lesbian spectators in court, myself included, couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that.

John Nicolson MP, Deputy Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights, also submitted evidence in support of Mermaids’s position. He pompously declared that he knows what a lesbian is, because he is a gay man. “You are a lesbian because you declare yourself one,” he proclaimed. Male-bodied trans women are, in other words, entitled to use this label.

When Michael Gibbon KC, counsel for Mermaids, was cross-examining Harris, he asked her to reflect on whether some people would understand “lesbian” to refer to something other than a natal female who is attracted to other natal females. Or, as he put it, would Harris consider whether some people would have a different understanding of “lesbian” from the understanding her organisation is based on?

Harris broke down into tears, asking: “That a lesbian can be a man with a penis?” After composing herself, she responded: “I’m going to speak for millions of lesbians around the world, who are lesbians because we love other women … We will not be erased and we will not have any man with a penis tell us he’s a lesbian because he feels he is.”

The phenomenon of men claiming to be lesbians is nothing new. In 1973, at the West Coast Lesbian Conference in Los Angeles, there was a row over a scheduled performance by Beth Elliott, a folk singer who was referred to as transsexual (the terminology which was applied before gender ideology prevailed). Robin Morgan, the keynote speaker at that event, said: “I will not call a male ‘she’. Thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society and of surviving, have earned me the title ‘woman’.” Today, almost 50 years after Morgan spoke truth to power, the situation is far worse than any of us in the lesbian rights movement could have imagined.

The fact that one of Mermaids’s key criticisms of LGB Alliance is that they even use the phrase “same-sex attraction”, which Mermaids claim is “weaponised” against trans people, tells us all we need to know. We are no longer allowed to use the language we have developed to describe ourselves because eliminating perceived slights towards trans people must always come first.

“Sometimes one person’s demands clash with another’s rights,” Bev Jackson tells me. “That is what happens when someone with a penis claims to be a lesbian, and lesbians object. We have the right to define ourselves and not to be redefined by others. Basically, the whole concept of ‘gender identity’ erases homosexuality and is homophobic at its core.”

If it is ruled that LGB Alliance was founded with the purpose to undermine Mermaids, it will mean that same-sex attracted people have no right to campaign for their specific needs: a terrifying prospect. But win or lose, the case brought by Mermaids has revealed the organisation’s ideology for what it is: deeply homophobic and relentlessly misogynistic. This offensive contortion of “LGBT rights” will, it seems, backfire, by inspiring people to support LGB Alliance and rescue our once-proud movement from the jaws of gender fanatics.

“We are one small organisation facing a global movement to eliminate the sex-based rights of LGB people,” says Jackson. “We have experienced an ongoing torrent of abuse, but also an outpouring of love and gratitude. We will not be silenced or discouraged: we will prevail.”

Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.