Homosexuality was legalised in England and Wales 55 years ago. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 permitted homosexual acts between two consenting adults over the age of 21. Arguably that – and subsequent liberalisations – really only benefited men; sex acts between women were never criminalised.
But what does it mean to be a lesbian in 2022? This week* Kate Harris – a lesbian and co-founder of the charity LGB Alliance – broke down in court under cross-examination from a male barrister. Michael Gibbon KC, counsel for the charity Mermaids, put it to her that ‘lesbians can include someone who is a woman as a result of gender reassignment.’
That statement encapsulated everything that is wrong with gender identity ideology, and it happened in a court of law.
Let’s be clear, gender reassignment is a legal term that does not necessarily involve ‘sex-change’ surgery. All it requires – according to the Equality Act 2010 – is ‘a process’. In the minds of those who think that men and women are defined by how they feel inside, a man can put on a dress and call himself a lesbian.
As a result, lesbians see themselves under threat, and rightly so. When she composed herself, Harris is reported to have replied:
‘My good friend Allison Bailey said the word lesbian is taken. The word is taken by us. I’m going to speak for millions of lesbians around the world. We love other women. We will not have that stolen from us.’Kate Harris
Well said, and I say that as one of the people who Gibbon may have had in mind. I might have transitioned – and I have certainly changed some of my sexual characteristics – but sex is immutable. Transwomen cannot be lesbians because transwomen are biologically male, and lesbians are defined by their sexual orientation: they are females who are attracted to females.
As disturbing as that exchange was though, the context was even more chilling. Harris was in court because the LGB Alliance’s charitable status is currently being challenged by Mermaids, another charity that works with people in the LGBT sector. It is a battle between two worldviews. Are men and women distinguished by their biological sex or their gender identity? And is a charity that says the former even allowed to exist?
There is profound disagreement between individuals and between organisations on this point. The LGB Alliance and Mermaids are at loggerheads over the impact on children. Mermaids believes that, ‘transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse children deserve the freedom and confidence to explore their gender identity.’ On the other hand, the LGB Alliance claims that, ‘evidence suggests most of those concerned will otherwise grow up LGB.’
Surely in a democratic society Mermaids should resort to persuasion rather than litigation? Different opinions are put forward, and the public can then make up their own minds. But that’s not the way Mermaids sees it, and that is why the LGB Alliance is in court. Charitable status confers credibility on an organisation and Mermaids would like the LGB Alliance to lose theirs.
We hear a lot about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion these days but this action from Mermaids is more like Authority, Conformity and Exclusion: conform to our way of thinking, or we will call on the authorities to exclude you. And if a lesbian is brought to tears in court as a result, then so be it.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 16 September 2022: The moment that showed the madness of gender ideology.