Open letter in support of BBC News website publishing the article ‘We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women’

We understand that the journalist, Caroline Lowbridge, responsible for this excellent article deactivated her twitter account prior to publication, in anticipation of an extreme and hostile response. We are outraged that this is felt to be necessary for what is a thorough, well-researched and balanced piece of journalism which the BBC should be praised for publishing. Lesbians have been raising the issue of ‘the cotton ceiling’ for years and we want to thank Caroline and the BBC for listening and allowing these voices to be heard.
Labour Women’s Declaration, supporting women’s sex-based rights, has more than 7,000 signatories. Our signatories are men and women concerned with the impact of allowing men to self-declare a ‘female’ identity and its impact on sex-based rights and many are lesbians. Measures to implement this belief, in advance of any legislation, are already affecting the most vulnerable women in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances. The effect on lesbian communities, especially young lesbians, has received little attention, and attempts to discuss this are shut down often with the statement that ‘this never happens’. There are now sites which record that many of these ‘unspeakable’ things do happen.
Many young lesbians find themselves under pressure not to identify themselves as such and to accept men who identify as lesbians into their social circles and dating pools. This is simply unacceptable, a blatant disregard for the rights already won and just the latest form of homophobia which asserts that lesbians have no right to assert their boundaries and to exclude men.
The frequently violent and intimidating responses to women attempting to discuss these issues will no doubt be reflected in the reaction which the BBC will now be receiving. That will tell you a great deal about why publishing such an article is much needed, to begin a discussion of issues regarding the safeguarding of women and especially women such as lesbians, whose voices are not often heard, on the impact on their lives of self-identification. There have already been articles which have commented on the disappearance of lesbian spaces, lesbian language and identities and indeed, lesbians themselves.
It is simply untrue that any man who identifies as a woman is one, in terms of legal status. Even where a GRC has been granted, specific exemptions can ensure women-only services. The Equality Act protected characteristic is gender reassignment, not gender identity. The assertion that ‘any man who says he is a woman is one’ is dogma, and those claiming to be lesbians constitute a real danger, including on dating sites which are now inclusive of many males seeking relationships with lesbians. Men who seek relationships with women are generally understood to be heterosexual. Many lesbians and gay men have objected to the Stonewall redefinition of their sexualities as ‘same-gender’ rather than ‘same-sex’ attracted. New lesbian and gay organisations demonstrate the resistance to this authoritarian and non-materialist ideology, imposed on people who have fought for decades for recognition of their rights as same-sex attracted people. The false analogy of the struggle for trans rights with those of lesbian and gay people entirely ignores the very real differences and conflicts between very different communities, and as is often the case, the lesbian view goes unheard and is completely lost in the amalgamation currently made fashionable by the LGBTQI+ lobby groups.
The issue of evidence will no doubt be raised in the criticisms you get about this piece. Women talking about rape and sexual assault, naming men as those who principally commit these crimes (as lesbians do in this article), was the beginning of the movement to highlight and work towards ending sexual violence to women in the 1970’s. We begin with the truth of what women are experiencing. We thank you for allowing the truth of women’s experiences to be heard.
There is a lack of formal study and evidence around many of the controversies in these areas. There is no hard evidence, for example, of the claimed high rates of suicide amongst trans-identified people, used to justify claims that untested drugs should be available to young people, amongst other things. The long-term effects of these drugs and their effectiveness in ameliorating the presenting problems have no proper research evidence. There is also no evidence that trans-identified people are more often subjected to violence and harassment than others. Nor is there evidence that male prisoners who self-identify as women are not a threat to women prisoners; in fact, what evidence there is makes clear that trans-identified men (‘transwomen’) demonstrate the same male pattern violence and crime as other males. Yet these claims are frequently made and go unchallenged.
When proposals are made which undermine existing safeguarding measures, sober assessment and evidence are needed before radically altering the basic premises on which our society operates. Hard-fought-for safe spaces for lesbians, and the right for women to define our own sexuality and to maintain the boundaries we choose, are threatened by proposed and prematurely implemented changes. The dogmatic insistence that ‘trans women are women’ is not shared by many people. Civil rights for those identifying as trans are commonly supported, and largely already exist, but the blanket assertion that ‘any man who claims he is a woman is one’ and must, therefore, be given access to women in all circumstances is completely unacceptable to very many women, and to those concerned with our safety.
The voices of lesbians have been absent from much of the discussion so far. We hope this important article will begin real exchanges of experience and ideas and challenge the dogma of those who deny the reality of biological sex, few of whom have the experience of being a lesbian, or indeed of being trans-identified.
Let lesbians speak and let us, as a society, address the real conflicts and dangers present in this controversy.

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