Having attended last week’s LGB Alliance Conference – the largest conference in Britain of bigoted, homophobic, Christian extremists all funded by the far right (jokes!) – I wanted to write something about what honestly felt like a monumental occasion.
It’s taken me a few days (not least because of the hangover the next day!) to establish just what to say. Whilst tempting to summarise events for those who sadly could not be there, I simply could not do justice to some of the amazing panellists and speakers. Instead, have some of my reflections of this day, and why I believe this was such an important event.
The LGB Alliance knows exactly what it is fighting for – and who its opponent is
A criticism frequently seen of the LGB Alliance online is that, as a gay rights charity, it spends more time discussing gender ideology than it does gay rights. The same could be said of the conference with panels such as ‘Lies, Gender Identity and Stereotypes’ and ‘Facts Matter: Erasing LGB in Language, Law and Data’. But what the LGB Alliance Conference made clear is that this is precisely what the current fight for gay rights needs to be doing, and they are unashamed to be the ones fighting.
The battle against gender ideology, an ideology that would redefine gay men and lesbians as ‘same gender attracted’ rather than ‘same sex attracted, is the gay rights campaign 2.0. Kate Grimes, an ex-NHS CEO and proud lesbian, spoke about the new wave of shame LGB people in the NHS are feeling as gender identity ideology is pushed upon them, and they are once more made to feel like being homosexual, and having sexual boundaries that are based on sex rather than gender, is something wrong.
But no speaker made the link between the fight for gay rights and the fight against gender ideology clearer than Sinead Watson. Watson is a detransitioner, whose brave account of how internalised homophobia played a role in her transition, made it clear that gender identity is a threat to all gender non-conforming LGB youth, and it is for this reason that the LGB Alliance needs to fight back.
If we are going to win, we all need to be a little braver
Throughout the conference, panellists spoke of the efforts that had been made to have them silenced or ‘cancelled’ because they have spoken out for LGB people and supported the LGB Alliance. A whole panel, ‘Cancel Culture and Free Speech’ was spent discussing the various ways people had struggled due to so-called trans activists targeting their businesses, their jobs, and even threatening their lives and safety.
Listening to accounts of gay men and lesbians, including politician Joanna Cherry and LGN’s very own David Bridle, speak about the homophobia they’ve received for simply standing up for LGB people was upsetting and infuriating. Many panellists also mentioned the recent abuse directed towards Kathleen Stock, again with outrage. But if all of this talk made one thing very clear, it’s that we all need to be doing our bit to be a little braver and show our support for LGB people and the LGB Alliance. Whether that is by speaking to friends and family, showing support on social media, writing to our MPs, or raising concerns in our workplaces, we can’t just keep leaving the heavy lifting to individuals. We can all be doing something more. As Helen Joyce says, ‘They can’t fire us all.’
Sometimes we disagree, and that’s OK
There were moments during the LGB Alliance Conference where people disagreed. Whether that was the panellists with members of the audience, or attendees with each other. And this is totally fine. Unlike the ideological purity demanded from the ‘woke’ crowd, in which disagreement with an idea can lead to banishment, we can acknowledge that the LGB is not a homogenous group all sharing one set of opinions.
The LGB Alliance Conference was attended by 400 individuals – each with different views, different experiences and different outlooks. Labour supporters and Tory supporters, pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit, radical feminists and social conservatives. But we were united with one common interest – supporting the LGB Alliance. Between this and the unquestioning single-mindedness of the ‘queer’ crowd, I know which one I find most beneficial.
Who needs Pride, when you have the LGB Alliance Conference?
It wouldn’t be an LGB event without the after-party, right? And the LGB Alliance knows how to throw one. From the 80s disco hits, to the inflatable dinosaurs on the dancefloor, this was the party we’d all been hoping for. But this was a chance too to catch up and socialise, and it was here that it became clear that what the LGB Alliance Conference provided for many was the return of the LGB community.
Far away from the ‘queer’ activists, lesbians, bisexuals and gay men were able to unite once more. Despite coming from all walks of life, we were able to make friends and share experiences with those we never may have encountered otherwise. Many LGB people mourn the loss of the wider LGB community in the outside world – where our bars and spaces have become dominated by often straight individuals adopting labels such as ‘pansexual’ or ‘demisexual’, in a bid to make themselves look ‘quirky’ or ‘interesting’.
Whilst seemingly harmless, the loss of our spaces in reality means more LGB people feel isolated, and cannot find others with whom they can discuss their experiences or find support. We need more spaces like the LGB Alliance Conference, where we can interact with one another and rebuild a community that centres ourselves and our needs once more.
You know you’re on the right side when you have Allison Bailey standing with you
I wanted to save my final reflection for my personal highlight – the keynote speech delivered by Allison Bailey. If you don’t know who she is, you should. A lesbian and prominent barrister who has campaigned for LGB rights and for racial equality, Allison Bailey has been pursued in recent years by Stonewall after she helped establish the LGB Alliance. And, listening to her keynote speech, you know that Stonewall picked on the wrong woman.
Dignified and eloquent, Bailey spoke about her anger at the way LGB people and women are being treated under gender ideology, stating clearly “our rights are not conditional on us supporting gender identity theory” and that “we are neither hoarding rights, nor dinosaurs”.
She talked passionately of the need to defend gender non-conforming children from an ideology that, to the room’s horror, has surgeons promoting ‘2 for 1’ mastectomies during Pride months. But even in the face of such an ideology, it’s women such as Allison Bailey – confident, articulate, and fundamentally brilliant – who gave me the most hope as I left the LGB Alliance Conference. After all, if someone like Allison Bailey is standing with you, the other side absolutely has a fight on their hands.
Kat Howard is a lesbian radical feminist, working as a writer and secondary school teacher.
Kat Howard tweets at @RadFem_KatH