“I joined the Green Party because I believe that climate change is the most important issue of our time. But the Green Party also needs to help create a fairer society for all, and that ‘all’ should include women.”
Transcript of webinar speech
Speech for the Green Women’s Declaration: Green Women Speak Out.
I want to tell you why I signed the GWD I signed it because biological sex matters. It matters to me as a lesbian because I am same sex attracted, not same gender attracted. Being lesbian or gay is sex based, and it always has been sex based.
Sex matters when it comes to our right to our own spaces. Men have enforced male only spaces since the beginning of time. Women have fought hard for the right to have exclusive spaces where we can organize ourselves. This is particularly important for lesbians- especially those who have been isolated. Women-only, lesbian-only spaces were essential for me in affirming who I am, and in finding kindred spirits. It’s very difficult if not nearly impossible to find those spaces now.
And Sex matters when it comes to how we feel about being female, especially those of us who are gender non-conforming. A century ago the answer to gender non-conformity was to change the behaviour, now the progressive answer is to change one’s gender or even one’s body. Surely we had it right in the 1960s, 70s, 80s. We need to change neither. I am a woman so how I think, how I feel, how I behave is inevitably female; the thoughts, feelings, behaviour of a woman, regardless of whether they match the stereotype or not.
I am a lesbian and I’m also autistic. As a child my real friends were always boys, my preferred toys would now be deemed as ‘boys’ toys, my favourite colour was blue. That feels like an irrelevance but I have seen that cited as evidence of childhood transness. I was fortunate in my parents who accepted me for who I was and fortunate in the time I grew up. I knew I was a girl. I was happy being a girl for no-one ever suggested to me that my choice of friends or toys was inappropriate. I had good role models in the books I read, George in the Famous Five books, Nancy in Swallows and Amazons. I had no problems with being a girl. Would that be the same now? Now I would come into the category of ‘born in wrong body’, with this concept being reinforced by many schools, many teachers, many adults, and those teachers who are brave enough to challenge this, risk their careers.
But adolescence brought change. Whilst I still knew that physically I was a girl, inside I was a ‘wannabe’ boy. At secondary school I had a male nickname. I can remember clearly how much I liked that. At fancy dress parties I automatically went as a male character. And I knew I was attracted to girls. I wanted a male body. Add to that I was an undiagnosed autist. Autistic girls may be good at masking, but we know we don’t fit. If I had been told, as a teenager, that I had been born in the ‘wrong’ body, that that was the reason I didn’t fit, that I could make everything right by changing sex, be a boy with the right male equipment I would have jumped at it. And in the current climate I would have found my tribe on social media, in some schools, in the Green Party, somewhere where I could belong, and be applauded.
As a young adult my fantasies revolved around being able to miraculously change sex. And then, at about 25, I discovered two authors, Pamela Frankau and Mary Renault, whose novels were peopled with positive depictions of gay men and lesbians. Overnight, my fantasies of being a man disappeared, to be replace by a world full of lesbians. What was it about those books that wrought such a transformation? Of course I already knew about homosexuality, but it was all negative. These novels had characters I could identify with, was happy to identify with. Until very recently in the UK, the affirmative model would have led to me being transed… puberty blockers, surgery, medication for life with all the potential attendant risks and side effects. Instead I had the time to accept who I truly was, a lesbian, a woman attracted emotionally, romantically, sexually to other women and to feel good about this.
I came out as a lesbian in the mid 1970s. The relationship I was in had ended and I suddenly found myself very isolated. I rang Gay Switchboard who knew nothing about the lesbian scene, and sent me to the local women’s centre. Here I found radical feminism and a lesbian community. There were women only parties run by the rad fems, there were pubs where lesbians hung out, women’s nights at a gay club. The scene was small but essential to someone just coming out. These years were important to me, I had found my community and it was welcoming, affirming, confidence building. They were the years of marching, of protest, of activism, of political involvement. By the early 80s, there were Lesbian Lines in many cities, women only discos and, in my city, a strong lesbian presence in the LGB centre. It felt like a thriving community to me.
Where is it now? It has gone. If lesbian spaces are not open to men who identify as women and who are attracted to women, there will be protests outside the venue. No venue is happy with that, and so the spaces that are prepared to host those events have dwindled and disappeared.
I don’t think my story is particularly unique. Read or listen to the stories of young detransioners today, less lucky than me. Think about all those young people who don’t fit the sexual stereotypes and believe the answer is not to challenge them but simply to opt out into being non-binary. But we are not oppressed, disadvantaged because of our gender but because of our sex. I can declare that my pronouns are now he or they because I feel, sometimes, closer to the male stereotype than the female. But This will not provide me with access to male privilege nor remove the oppression of women.
So I signed the GWD because I believe: We need to oppose patriarchy’s attempts to limit and define what it means to be a woman. To challenge the sex-based discrimination that sees women as less. Because we need our own spaces, not only for our protection but also to allow us to talk, debate, connect without the intrusion of men and the entitlement they bring with them.
Finally I signed the GWD because as a lesbian I refute the attempt to redefine my sexuality to include men, even men who believe they feel like women.
A slightly wry question to finish: if I were to accept the concept that gender overrides sex, then if my female partner defines her gender as male do I suddenly become straight?