Leeds City Council has removed an advert for an upcoming Lesbian Strength march after its organisers reportedly told the council that transgender women would not be allowed to participate.
The group Lesbian Strength have said that the march, which will take place in Leeds on Saturday 7th September, will ‘celebrate all lesbians’ and protest against ‘lesbian erasure’.
Speaking to The Gryphon, Jess Whiting-Boult, Chair of Leeds University Union’s LGBT+ Society, said:
“As a group marching in the parade this year, the LUU LGBT+ Soc were vocally against the presence of the lesbians attempting to erase trans women at Leeds Pride this year.
“As chair of the LUU LGBT+ Soc, an organisation that does not tolerate transphobia in any form, I am pleased to hear of this decision from Leeds City Council. This is not because of anything I have against women or anything I have against lesbians, as I know most lesbians do not preach this sort of hate.
“However, marches that are celebrations of marginalised groups should be inclusive of all people within that group. It would not be possible for this march to ‘celebrate all lesbians’ as it claims it aims to, without the inclusion of lesbian identifying gender diverse people.”
Organisers of the event had originally taken out the free advert in Leeds Inspired, a publication run by Leeds City Council which promotes events in the city. However, following the admission by the group that transgender women would not be welcome to take part, Leeds City Council reportedly sent an email to the Lesbian Strength organisers, which said:
“It has been decided that due to the exclusive nature of the event and the council’s public sector equality duty to foster good relations between those who share a relevant characteristic and those who don’t it is not appropriate for the event to be promoted by Leeds City Council on the Leeds Inspired website.”
A recent analysis by The Guardian revealed that the rates of transphobic hate crime in England and Wales have tripled in the last five years. Between 2017-2018, almost half of reported transphobic hate crimes were violent offences, ranging from common assault to grievous bodily harm.
TERFs, Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, are a subgroup of radical feminists characterised by their transphobic and transmisogynistic beliefs. Often describing themselves as ‘gender critical’ feminists, members of this subgroup generally view transgender people’s self-affirmed gender identity as less valid than cisgender people’s identity.
This transphobic subgroup’s beliefs mirror the exclusive, restrictive nature of the planned Lesbian Strength march in Leeds. Leeds City Council’s decision to remove the advert is no doubt one which will be celebrated by Leeds’ trans community and its allies alike.