The legendary Sheila Jeffreys. 2018. (photo: Venice Allan)

 

Men’s cross-dressing and feminism now and then

 by Sheila Jeffreys

My new book on the history of lesbian feminism, The Lesbian Revolution: lesbian feminism in the UK 1970-1990, is published on 22 August. It documents the breadth and scope of the lesbian feminist culture, theory, practice and community that we created and shows how this has all been disappeared from history. It demonstrates many differences between the historical context at that time and that of today in which a new generation of lesbians are striving to recreate a lesbian feminist movement. One difference is the existence today of an influential men’s cross-dressing rights movement which enforces men’s access to lesbians wherever we seek to meet or network. Back in the 1970s there were men who cross-dressed and tried to enter lesbian spaces, but these were very few in number. They were isolated individuals such as the man who attended the 1973 West Coast Lesbian Conference in Los Angeles and created hugely damaging divisions. Robin Morgan gave a speech against what she called ‘the obscenity of male transvestism’ at the conference in honour of his presence. In London too, there were just one or two of these men who sought to enter women’s spaces and they were overwhelmingly opposed. The term ‘transgender’ had not been adopted at the time. These men were called transvestites or cross-dressers if they did not have penectomies and transsexuals if they did.

They were unable to divert or prevent lesbian organising at that time not just because there were only one or two, but because they did not have a political movement or ideology to support them. It was not until the 1990s that some male cross-dressers were able to use the Internet to organise internationally and create a unified set of political demands for the right to act out their proclivities in public, under the rubric of ‘gender identity’ or ‘gender expression’. Today gay rights organisations, governments, the UN, political parties, education and medical systems support these men’s rights. The queer ideology which supports them has been taught to generations of young people in universities so that they now assemble to chant and jostle at any feminist meetings they have not been able to get cancelled. This is a very different context in which to recreate lesbian feminism.

In the 1970s cross-dressing was an entirely male and adult hobby. None of us (lesbian feminists) knew of any lesbians who were taking hormones or embarking on surgery to impersonate men. Children were not being transgendered at all. Rather than this behaviour being supported by a global ideology, as it is now, which argues that gender is essential and everybody has to have one and get medical treatment if theirs goes astray, the problem was limited to the weird antics of a few men. Knowing this history is important because it undermines the notion that transgenderism is something essential rather than a very recent political and historical construction. At that time, feminist organising was overwhelmingly and uncontroversially women only. In London, lesbians and feminists opposed the entry of cross-dressing men to women’s discos, meetings, marches and conferences on the straightforward grounds that they were clearly men.

My new book is based upon archive research into newsletters and documents from the 1970s and 1980s and from interviews with 12 lesbian feminists who were active in the movement. It covers the origins of lesbian feminism, lesbian culture, lesbian feminist theory, the critique of heterosexuality, and the forces which contributed to the demise such as sadomasochism, the revival of butch/femme roleplaying, identity politics and the Thatcher government of the 1980s which forbade the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ and transformed the political climate. The clarity with which men’s cross-dressing was understood at the time to be specifically a men’s rights issue, is startling, considering the extent to which transgender ideology has affected popular understandings today. The following extract from my chapter on separatism in The Lesbian Revolution illustrates the determination and strength of feeling that existed in the lesbian feminist movement on the incursion of cross-dressing men into women’s and lesbian spaces:

 

Cross-dressers mostly still kept their proclivities secret and they were not claiming to be women or lesbians. Also, the feminist politics of the time was strong. The very basis of the WLM was a belief in the importance and strength of womanhood, which was based on women’s biology and honed through growing up to face oppression as a girl and as a woman. There was an overwhelming sense, at least as revealed in the London Women’s Liberation newsletter in the late 1970s, that the handful of male interlopers who sought to gain entry to women’s discos could never be women and should be determinedly excluded.

The lesbian feminist, Maria Katyachild, for instance, wrote in the LWLN in 1979 that a male cross-dresser claiming to be a woman had attended a women’s disco,

On Saturday night a formerly accepted ‘womin’ confessed… to being a transsexual (male-to-constructed female) – i.e. a man who has had his prick cut off!… I personally am not a humanitarian, I am a feminist, there’s a difference! … It is a totally political issue…. which must …be worked out once and for all (LWLN 104, 1979, 24 January).

In the next newsletter, Pauline Long, later known as Asphodel, wrote in support of Maria, ‘And all of us say NO. Putting on skirts and make-up, even having “the” operation doesn’t turn a man into a woman. What makes us women is the put-down since birth’ (LWLN 105, 1979, 31 January). She expressed herself with much feeling, saying, ‘I am born a woman, and I reflect the pain that millions of women as well as myself have borne. I will not be put down by this new kind of person…. He does not and cannot feel it. He invades the Women’s mysteries. He degrades us’. Like other feminists at the time who sought to protect their women-only spaces, she exhorts these men to form their own groups to further their own interests. They should not ‘muscle in on us’. She says, ‘Do not divide us…  Transsexual infiltration of our groups is just one more male ploy to get us down’ (Ibid). My interviewee, Sandra McNeill, wrote a piece in the newsletter at this time entitled ‘Transsexuals and the Women’s Liberation Movement’ in which she rejects the idea that such men should be admitted to women’s spaces in no uncertain terms. She writes,

The issue is men.…. Whether there is a place for men in the Women’s Liberation Movement.…. it is an insult, an insult greater than a white choosing to wear blackface, an insult greater than a member of the middle-class choosing to drop out and not use their money or education to call themselves working class, an insult to the suffering and oppression of all women for these ex oppressors to claim to be women. To accept male-to-constructed female transsexuals as women is to allow men to reassert their control over women (LWLN 106, 1979, 8 February).

Lesbian feminist theory on transsexualism was honed by the first feminist book on the subject, which was published later in the same year, The Transsexual Empire, by the American lesbian feminist philosopher Janice G. Raymond (Raymond, 1994 1st published 1979). The issue of the right of men who cross-dress to enter women’s spaces continued to be the subject of passionate commentary in the Newsletter. On July 25, 1979 there was a one-day workshop on “Transsexuals – Men or Women” at the London women’s centre, A Woman’s Place (AWP). The policy of AWP was not to allow transsexuals to have access. The report back said that there were 25 women present and transsexuals were excluded (LWLN 131, 1979, 8 August). The majority of those at the meeting was firmly against the idea that men could become women. Furious discussion continued in the Newsletter.

In August, Mary Stott, feminist journalist, first and longest serving editor of the Guardian Women’s Page, set up in 1956, and later a Chair of the Fawcett Society and one of its original trustees, wrote a piece arguing that transsexuals should be in the WLM (LWLN, 134, 1979, 29 August). Stott’s views were those of an older generation of feminists whose politics were very different from the radical and lesbian feminists of the WLM. The historian June Purvis describes her as a ‘liberal feminist’ (Purvis, 2002). I joined in the discussion in October, stating that whether these men thought they were ‘women, ducks or Boeing 707s’ they were actually simply men and had no place in the WLM (LWLN 141, 1979, 17 October). The vast majority of the opinions in the Newsletter rejected the idea that these men should be admitted. The issue continued to be important, such that adverts for events in succeeding years specifically stated that they excluded transsexuals. The National Lesbian Conference, for instance, in January 1981, stated that they would not admit them (LWLN 199, 1981,18 January). This degree of unanimity is hard to imagine today, when a powerful movement of transgender activists has, in the absence of a strong feminist movement, made strides towards the inclusion of male cross-dressers not just in women’s meetings, but in women’s toilets, prisons, refuges and sport (Jeffreys, 2014).

https://www.routledge.com/The-Lesbian-Revolution-Lesbian-Feminism-in-the-UK-1970-1990/Jeffreys/p/book/9781138096578

[Bolding, images, added by me- GM]

 

“The gate was guarded by four womyn, dressed in typical dyke-garb…baggy shorts or pants, tee shirts, practical shoes. Behind them, large femme-hued cloth banners beckoned passers by with the word “WELCOME”. On the sturdy pipe gate itself, floral decorated words said simply, “Michigan Womyns Music Festival”. The ready smiles of the gatekeepers who swung the barrier open to eager festie-goers who had made the final leg of their journeys down the washboard dirt road only added to the idyllic, some say even sacred, setting. Inside, the most celebrated annual gathering of womyn in the United States was in full bloom on three stages, in dozens of crafts booths, and camps that attracted every manner of female soul with the money and resources necessary to get there. Almost.

Across from the gate, as it had nearly every year since 1993, a rag tag encampment was taking shape under the rich green canopy of leaves common to this heavily wooded region. Mostly queer, mostly womyn, and all business, Camp Trans was emerging from a yearlong slumber to once again shake an angry fist at Lisa Vogel, owner and womyn-goddess of the Michigan festival. The reason? Lisa’s long standing denial of womyn-privilege to anyone so inclined to label themselves as a transsexual womyn or anyone who would not fit her narrow attendance criteria as “womyn-born-womyn who had lived their entire life experience as womyn.”

On one side of the road then, was the festival, that claimed inspiration and guiding light from the deepest place within the womb of the feminine when in fact it ruled unilaterally about who was and who was not a womyn. On the other, Camp Trans, a righteous and indignant crew of underclass feminist radical peace loving self described sister spirits who were tired of the open discrimination they say Vogel’s policy perpetuated. The space between these two camps was a distant measured in emotions and history. This year, the MWMF’s 25th, would once again shine a light on that world in between.

The year 2000 version of Camp Trans was put together by a new generation of trans-queer-womyn activists headed by Chicago and Boston area Lesbian Avengers. The Chicago contingent named their group the Camp Trans Organizing Committee, and had been meeting for most of a year to plan and try to figure out how to get Lisa to loosen her attitude toward determining the gender of festival goers.

The festival had been going on since Monday. I arrived on Thursday evening. I was in Michigan because I wanted to go. There is so much debate in the LBTQ community about who should be a part of the festival. I realized that most of those who had an opinion never attended, or had stopped going years ago. I wanted to see and feel for myself how all of this would play out. And besides, I am a womyn. A womyn-born-womyn. I also happen to be a trans-womyn, one who lost her job as a California high school teacher when I came out. I’ve felt first hand the sting of the patriarchy that the MWMF purports to hold at bay for a blessed week. I belong among other womyn as surely as I need to sit down to pee. Any rule that would exclude me from the community of my sisters is intolerable to me.

On Friday morning, a group of us assembled under a loosely hung blue tarp that acted as Camp Trans Community Central. We talked about who wanted to go into the festival. It was great being among these twenty-something’s who were far more queer and gender bent than I ever would be. According to Lisa’s criteria, they should all be allowed entrance. Yet, many wanted no part of the womyn-born-womyn label. They had names like Simon, Ari, and Gunner who were they said ‘dyke-boys” and “trans-boyz” and “andro” and “queer”. They had been born with vaginas, and had even lived the bulk of their young lives as womyn, but it was obvious to me and to them that I was more female than they were. Why, they asked rhetorically, should they be allowed into the MWMF while I was being denied entrance if I stated that I was a transsexual. They were there to push for the right to self-determination, just as I was. We suspected that most every dyke-straight-femme-butch-bitch already camped inside the festival gate wanted the same right.

At 11:00 am, we heard a commotion. Looking up, we saw a band of about thirty festies marching toward the gate from inside the festival, beating a drum and chanting, “We support our tranny friends!” Their bodies were painted with slogans of support and self-identification. They all had wristbands signifying that they had paid to attend, and all could have stayed inside and not bothered with us. But they chose instead to show their support and come to the gate to cheer us on while we attempted to come in.

Bolstered by this classic expression of feminist activism, we approached the gate, and asked to be admitted so we could purchase wristbands of our own. We were met by womyn who claimed to be officials of the festival. They said that anyone honoring the festival’s womyn-born-womyn guidelines would be admitted. They were not interested in how we identified. Clearly, they wanted no part of the controversy that had marked previous years. In 1991 Nancy Burkholder was expelled after being outed as a transsexual, and last year bands of self described lesbian separatists harangued gender-queer festies, boldly asking to see their genitals while stalking behind them chanting “man on the land”. This year, a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy seemed to be Lisa’s strategy.

Avengers said they wanted clarification of the policy. They wanted to know who would be admitted and who would not. I stood there, ready to declare that I met the womyn-born-womyn criteria. (In my heart I know this to be true. My mother and daughter and lesbian lover know that this is who I am. The Goddess in my prayers knows this. Surely, telling Lisa Vogel is no stretch for me.) The officials refused to dialogue. They kept saying that they wanted us to respect their policy. When asked again for information, they repeated their mantra. Now, as we stood there almost a decade after Burkholder’s expulsion, one womyn who declared herself transsexual was told she could not enter. I could see her face, etched with the painful reality that she was not welcome in womyn’s space. While I truly have compassion for Lisa’s desire to protect her festival from male energy, I knew then that her line was marked in an inappropriate place. She was keeping out womyn who needed and wanted to be inside.

Along with twenty or so Avengers and allies, I went in, past the gate, and bought my wristband. My experience inside was wonderful, and I was treated with respect everywhere I went. At one point, during the Saturday evening meal, I stood proudly supporting my sisters, now known as The Michigan Eight, who were told to leave the land when they declared their status as dyke-boyz and trans-womyn to festival officials. This was done in full few of hundreds and hundreds of supportive festies, who watched this peaceful act of defiance. I even helped pass out stickers reading ‘room for all kinds of womyn’ to show my solidarity. Overwhelmingly, the crowd that gathered wanted every womyn present to stay and be accepted. A few detractors tried to drum up anti-trans sentiment but the hatred and ignorance of their words fell without harm into the dust on Lois Lane where we stood.

The Michigan Womyns Music Festival has grown over twenty-five years to include young boys who are the children of festies (they were originally excluded), and to embrace workshops and supporters of the BDSM lifestyle. Today, there are special places on the land for womyn of color and chemical free zones for clean and sober womyn and even a scent free space that were not present originally. Likewise, I believe the festival will change to include trans-womyn and this new generation of dyke-boyz. In many ways, it already has. Every day, in full view of the Night Stage, a trans support group met openly. Transexual Menace tee shirts could be seen all over the land in many meetings and circles. I’m guessing that as they always have, Lisa and her friends will soon gather to plan next year’s festival. Along with the Lesbian Avengers and many festival workers and most importantly festies themselves, I encourage them to do the right thing, and let the MWMF continue to grow to be a space where all kinds of womyn can walk and talk and dance and sing.”


*This was published in August 2000 on LesbianNation.com, now SheWired.com. Dana Rivers, formerly David Warfield, is a transgender mass murderer currently facing trial for killing lesbian couple Patricia Wright and Charlotte Reed, and their son Toto “Benny” Diambu-Wright. Dana/David first stabbed and then shot his victims, he then attempted to set them on fire. The lesbian women were Michfest attendees.

Michfest was a women-only, predominantly Lesbian music festival that existed for 40 years until the HRC (Human Rights Campaign), NCLR (National Center For Lesbian Rights), NGLTF (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) among others, called for a boycott of the festival and all women who attended or performed at the festival. This was the first and only boycott sponsored by the National Center For Lesbian Rights, directed against a lesbian festival on the grounds that female homosexuality is discriminatory against the sexual rights of heterosexual men. 

Loose Lips Sink Ships

July 12, 2018

 

More coverage here:

https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/lesbians-protest-erasure-at-london-pride-march-by-halting-then-leading-the-parade/

 

Lesbian Pride at London Pride, July 7, 2018

Lesbians mounted a parade-stopping protest at London Pride today, July 7, 2018. They objected to the erasure of lesbians caused by so-called allies among gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations and individuals who forcibly rename lesbians as generic “queer people” and who demand that heterosexual men who sexually fetishize lesbianism must be accepted by same-sex attracted women as if they were actual lesbians.

The lesbians first gathered in front of the march, displaying their message. They carried signs and banners that read “Lesbian=Female Homosexual”, and “Lesbian Not Queer”, “Transactivism Erases Lesbians” and “Get the ‘L’ Out!”, among others. Then they lay down in the street, halting the parade and drawing attention. After a few minutes, they stood, and led the Pride March, remaining at the helm for the duration.

Lesbian Protesters halted the 2018 London Pride parade. Then they led it.

Their statement:

Why “Get The L Out” ?

Who We Are

Get the L Out is a group of lesbian and feminist individuals and organisations, opposing the increasingly anti-lesbian and misogynistic LGBT movement and the erasure of lesbians

Why We Protest

We believe that lesbian rights are under attack by the trans movement and we encourage lesbians everywhere to leave the LGBT and form their own independent movement, as well as to be vocal and take action against the proposed changes to the GRA.

Get the L Out believes trans politics (with uncritical support from the LGBT movement) does the following:

Promotes the social transition of lesbians, encouraging them to present as straight men thus favouring the pretence of heterosexuality over lesbianism – this is nothing more than a form of conversion therapy.
Promotes the medical transition of lesbians and pushes harmful drugs (untested hormone blockers, Lupron etc.) as well as unnecessary medical practices on perfectly healthy bodies – these are a form of misogynist medical abuse against lesbians.

Promotes the rights of heterosexual males who “identify” as women and lesbians (despite most of them still retaining their male genitals) over the rights of lesbians to choose their sexual partners. This new ‘queer’ LGBT politics thus coerces lesbians to accept the penis as a female organ and promotes heterosexual intercourse between male and female as a form of lesbian sex. This is simply a new facet to rape culture and compulsory heterosexuality.

What we Believe

“The trans movement with the complicity of ‘queer’ LGBT politics is coercing lesbians to have sex with men. We firmly condemn this vicious form of lesbophobia disguised as progress”.

“We stand for the rights of lesbians to choose their sexual partners on the basis of their sex not their “gender identity” and condemn any pressure on lesbians to accept so called “trans women” as potential sex partners and the penis as a female organ as coercive and a manifestation of rape culture”

“We oppose the transition of young lesbians on the basis that their appearances or behaviour does not conform to socially accepted images of women. Having short hair and disliking pink is not a sign of having a male brain and does not mean one requires transition. The trans movement is a conservative movement which reinforces sexist sex stereotypes.”

“We oppose proposed changes to the GRA and view self-identification as a threat to women’s and girls rights.

“We demand stronger sex-based protections for women and girls and that women maintain the right to sex-segregated spaces at the exclusion of male regardless of their “identity”.”

This action is supported by a number of individual Lesbians and Lesbian supporters, as well as Critical Sisters, Mayday4Women, Object ! and The Lesbian Rights Alliance

More info contact :

GetTheLOutUK@gmail.com

 

Video of the protest here [* THIS IS THE BEST VIDEO EVER! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! The whole thing is testerically narrated by various sick-ass dude-bros- LOLOLOLOLOLOL] :

The lesbian protest was greeted with cheers from the crowd. Up to a million onlookers flanked the streets to view the parade. Some of the men who demand the right to be recognized as “male lesbians” responded poorly- one of the crossdressers claimed he was warned by police to stop abusing the women.

Man fights for his right to be a lesbian.

Another heterosexual man who demands to be recognized as a female homosexual by lesbians reportedly hurled a water bottle at the women, which apparently hit a police officer.

Men representing the UK ‘Pink News’ click-bait website, (which lesbians colloquially refer to as “Penis News” or “Prick News” due to their anti-lesbian and anti-woman editorial slant), ranted on the site’s Pride March video feed about how the parade “Isn’t going the way it’s supposed to be going!”, complaining that the event has “been significantly disrupted!”. On the website’s livefeed of the event, the men from Pink News call for the lesbian Pride marchers to be dragged off by police and arrested. “They’re free to distribute their leaflets? I don’t think anyone from Pride has reviewed them!” one of the men from Penis News exclaimed with distress about the lesbian marchers.

The lesbians were supported by the crowd, and went on to lead the parade at the helm for the entire route. They were widely applauded by onlookers. They handed out informative literature to onlookers as they marched, some of which is reproduced here:

#GetTheLOut

You can SUPPORT THESE WOMEN HERE:

https://www.patreon.com/mayday4women/memberships

 

 

More coverage of the lesbian 2018 London Pride protest (and the reaction to it) will be posted in the thread below.

In The Economist today

 

The gender-identity movement undermines lesbians

Its attempt to rebrand lesbians as queer erases their identity, writes Pippa Fleming, a performance artist

There’s an African proverb that states: “If you don’t know where you come from, how do you know where you are going?” Some of the most powerful black people known for their political analysis, social commentary, activism and legacy during the civil-rights, gay-rights and feminist movements were black lesbians. Oops! Did I just say “lesbian”, that dirty seven-letter word that has the GBTQI community scrambling to apologise for or afraid to associate itself with? Lesbianism is as ancient as the cosmos, yet it is a threat to patriarchy because it does not centre males, nor does it seek male wisdom, power or validation. Instead of finding solace within our community against the threat of misogyny and homophobia, lesbian identity is being written out.

When black lesbians attempt to navigate pop culture’s “gender-identity matrix”, searching for their kindred’s place in history, they often come up empty-handed. What matrix, you ask? It’s that maze that has people running around in circles, as they attempt to reconcile new language and theories forced upon them by the elites in education and the corporatocracy, like “cisgender”, which means you were cool with the sex you were born in, or that biology is irrelevant and as has no connection to one’s concept of self.

Pippa Fleming

Whether it be in feminist studies, gender studies or the history of gay pride, black lesbians often go without their names or sexual orientation being mentioned. The trend towards claiming that “all sexuality is fluid” and to brand everyone and everything queer and transgender, means black lesbians are rendered invisible. A queer identity embraces sexual and intimate relationships with males, females, and intersex people who identify as transgender, gender-queer, trans masculine or gay, just to name a few. My, we are a diverse crowd.

In this current wave of “free to me” gender politics, any man with a penis can claim to be a female and expect entrance into female-segregated spaces, such as locker rooms, sports teams or colleges, without question. But don’t twist it; the generosity does not flow in both directions. Just ask the women who crashed the party at the male lido in Hampstead Heath in London in May: they were promptly escorted out by the police. Lesbian identity is now being dubbed as exclusionary or transphobic. You’re damn right it’s exclusive: lesbians have a right to say no to the phallus, no matter how it’s concealed or revealed. Imagine if white folks ran around claiming they were black or demanded access to our affinity spaces. They would be called deluded racist fools!

Shush, I hear the snickering. Who’s this tired-ass dyke that nobody wants to hear from? And why hasn’t she dropped any names? I like luring in my audience with provocative statements and short-circuiting any thought process that may prevent critical thinking.

Do the names Stormé DeLarverie, Audre Lorde or Angela Davis, ring that black gay history bell? The more important question, especially for those claiming to be the “down”, Black Panther activist type is this. Why don’t you know the roles they played? Without their dauntless activism and allyship, none of us would have the vocabulary of resistance or a notion of what’s required to create tangible alliances and an empowered LGBTQI community.

Let me drop a few herstorical truths.


Read the rest of this post here:

https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/07/03/the-gender-identity-movement-undermines-lesbians