On Monday, ‘LGB Alliance’ was trending on Twitter in the UK. If you clicked on the term, you could see that most of the tweets were negative of the group, from critical jabs to vehement disavowals.
This was, in large part, due to a recent piece published by the BBC about the provision of gender clinic services. In highlighting the case of a 14-year-old transgender boy who is starting legal proceedings against NHS England “over delays to gender reassignment treatment,” they quoted Bev Jackson from the LGB Alliance, which they described as “a self-funded lobby group.”
The case concerns severe delays in accessing the gender-identity development service (GIDS) run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust; the Good Law Project, which is acting for the teenager, explained that the NHS has “a legal obligation to provide specialist care to all patients within 18 weeks, or provide an alternative.”
In response, Forbes quoted the CEO of Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBT+ charity: “Many young people and their families are being left without proper support, advice and care. This urgently needs to change—a change we hope this action will help bring about.”
Many on Twitter pointed out that the BBC had failed to quote any trans people or trans groups, instead only quoting the LGB Alliance, who are generally perceived as an overtly transphobic pressure group, for reasons of “impartiality.” Ben Hunte, the BBC’s trailblazing LGBT correspondent is usually sensitive and inclusive in his reporting, which made this disappointing for many, myself included.
Founded just over a year ago, they describe themselves as a group fighting for the rights of lesbians, gays and bisexuals, which they view as distinct and separate to those of trans people. While they claim that they’re not anti-trans, many of their supporters are explicitly transphobic. Pink News reported that “Neo-Nazis and homophobes are among the supporters of the ‘anti-trans’ group LGB Alliance.”
They exist, effectively, at the overlap between LGBT+ groups and so-called ‘gender critical’ circles, who believe in ‘sex-based rights’ and use a misunderstanding of biological and sociological discourse to support trans-exclusionary and regressive dogma. It has often been suggested that these are people who want to ‘feel oppressed’—people who are living comfortably now and no longer have to fight hard for rights and protections.
Much of this debate takes place on Twitter—and if you don’t currently keep up with it, I wouldn’t recommend doing so. Conversation tends to get polarised and become toxic very quickly, with little room for nuance and the ‘civilised debate’ that those involved purportedly insist upon.
A large proportion of the LGB Alliance’s supporters, it should be noted, have entirely anonymous Twitter profiles and many of their prominent members are cisgender and heterosexual. Despite asserting themselves as “fact-based, civil and positive,” their social media is often full of half-truths and dangerous historical revisionism, and many claims that could easily be found on explicitly homophobic platforms.
It is heartening to see, however, so many LGBT+ people and allies calling this group out whenever they gain a degree of prominence on social media. Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, posted a thread on Twitter giving some background to the LGB Alliance. For example, “One of its founders says LGBT+ clubs—a safe space for many LGBT+ schoolchildren to accept their sexuality—shouldn’t exist because of ‘predatory gay teachers’,” an outdated and bigoted perspective.
In recent weeks, Twitter accounts have been set up for similar groups around the world, from Ireland and Serbia to Mexico and Canada. The legitimacy of these pages have already been questioned, though, as have their alleged intentions to stand up for LGB individuals, which is still much needed in countries such as Serbia.
In Ireland, the group is entirely aimed at fighting the 2015 gender recognition act and has nothing at all to say about furthering lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. It has been claimed that the Twitter page is, in fact, based in London and an analysis of their following shows multiple far-right accounts and “a significant number of its followers either list no location or describe themselves as living in the UK, the US, or other international locations.”
Scottish actor David Paisley posted an overview analysis of the eleven new accounts—Ireland, Wales, Australia, America, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Iceland, Norway and Serbia—against their existing UK page. The followers of the new groups “are almost entirely a subset of LGB Alliance followers” and they all have “more followers in the UK than anywhere else.”
It’s even possible that many of the accounts were set up from a single source, so are far from the local, grassroots campaigns that they claim to be. “This has been tried before,” explains Paisley, “earlier this year fake accounts purporting to represent UK political parties were set up in the same way, all were suspended from Twitter.”
What does this tell us? It’s likely that this is an attempt to spread the group’s non-representative and regressive agenda internationally, presenting the close-minded attitude of a few as much more pervasive and extensive than it is. Transphobia has a very particular framing in Britain; in many countries, trans rights fall along left-right party lines and align with LGB rights more generally. Joe Biden recently tweeted his support for “transgender and gender-nonconforming people across America”—and although both Biden and the Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, have uneven and, at times, problematic records regarding trans rights, this signals a positive new direction, an attempt to right previous wrongs.
“Not in my name” is a common response to the LGB Alliance, which weaponises accusations of homophobia and misogyny to evade criticism for its conservative, bigoted attitudes. This is a peculiarly British problem; Paisley summarises that these new developments represent “a UK based hate group exporting their hate globally.” It’s worth noting, as Paisley does, that as recently as 2017, a British transgender woman was granted asylum in New Zealand because it was deemed ‘safer’. Trans rights are the next big hurdle in equal civil rights—and the LGB Alliance are staunchly on the wrong side of history.
The first day of my new office job comes around. Swapping the extremities of dingey bars in Peckham for the windowless haunt in Whitechapel is a drastic change. Waking with the rest of London to head to my office gig, travelcard purchased in a new non-offensive t-shirt. I squeeze into the overground, ready and excited. A stable wage and hours is something I’ve daydreamed about while pouring lukewarm pints of Amstel in dark corners of SE15.
Stepping into the east London office, the prospect of what’s to come is almost overwhelming. This air of excitement and hope falters as the reality of my co-workers comes to light. The white Kanye West fan drops the n-word casually on a day to day basis and the greying Aussie specialises in homophobic slurs before lunch. Men old enough to know better talk to me about my ‘bush’ and sniffing other women’s knickers. This all seems to come to a humorous head when I’m asked if “LGBTQ is a type of sandwich?”
Generation Z, as we’re described, is the fully digital generation. Born from 1995 onwards, we’ve grown up alongside the housing crisis’, a recession, polarising politics—all of which were documented on our iPhones. Not only are we tech-savvy, we’re also queer as fuck. With only 48 per cent of generation Zers identifying as straight, this is the smallest percentage of heterosexuality ever recorded. This alone should be cause for celebration and triumph by our stonewall predecessors. However, we aren’t at the identity politics utopia, yet.
In 2019, research published on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia about sexual harassment in the workplace showed that 70 per cent of LGBTQ people endured harassment at work. My prediction is that as more young people from the community enter the workforce, these numbers will continue to increase. Arguably, this is the biggest cultural disparity between generations in the UK right now. Not everyone suffering from workplace harassment is queer and under 30, and not everyone harassing colleagues is straight and over 40. However, statistics indicate that these are the two groups most likely to be the victim and perpetrator of harassment. Identifying how workplace harassment has changed is instrumental in this discussion.
Workplace harassment has evolved from macro to microaggressions. Whereas my mother has stories about men biting her arse by the photocopier, my incidents may share the same backdrop but are more subtle. With culture and expression accelerating rapidly, the disconnect between generations is understandable. It is the common consensus that one should not sink their teeth into a female coworker’s arse, but, at the same time, we are still learning collectively of the dangers of microaggressions. Although these microaggressions are not considered to be as outrightly offensive, they still perform in the same way as macroaggressions and isolate and hurt the group or individual they are targeted at.
To stop this kind of behaviour, we have to change collective education. The fear of the unknown is often at the heart of prejudice. Offering educational programmes could improve understanding and therefore reduce these workplace incidents.
Different organisations are helping to change wider society’s understanding of marginalised groups. One of these organisations is Gendered Intelligence (GI), a charity whose mission is to understand gender diversity. Established in 2008 as a community interest group, GI offers services including support services for young trans people under 21, while also delivering educational programmes to universities, schools and workplaces. Screen Shot spoke to the charity’s spokesperson about its workplace programmes.
“When it comes to the training we deliver for professional settings, it’s often someone from HR who reaches out to us,” they said. “Sometimes this is in response to someone in the organisation coming out as trans, or on the flip side, it could be in response to transphobia or lack of knowledge around trans matters. Often, ‘trans awareness training’ is seen simply as a necessary part of the fuller equality, diversity and inclusion package that workplaces are keener than ever to showcase.”
But has GI’s work impacted the mainstream working sector? It seems so, “We recently delivered our 1000th training session on trans awareness, which is a mega achievement for a grassroots organisation (now charity) that started as an art project 10 years ago.” As GI became bigger, so did the demand for factual, straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth knowledge about trans people in the wider working sector. The feedback the organisation receives from clients shows that the impact it is having is deep and meaningful, and that people are leaving the sessions knowing a bit more about an often invisible or maligned part of society. “We know that this increased knowledge and visibility has made it easier for trans and non-binary people to come out at work, to be visible and respected for who they are, across the board. At the end of the day, if GI has made even one workplace more trans-friendly and enabled someone to come out and be accepted at work, the thousand sessions have been worth it,” explains the charity’s spokesperson.
With the training programmes GI offers, does it believe there should be steps towards making this mandatory in our society? “It’d be easy to rest on our laurels and think that transphobia will simply dissipate with time, but we’re seeing time and time again that hate crimes against trans and other LGBTQ+ people are on the rise in the UK. We need to be taking active steps towards ensuring that workplaces are following through on their legal duties to protect people from discrimination. We need to be particularly aware that trans people are often excluded from or ejected from the workplace simply for being trans, so we won’t stop our work until everyone is equal in this respect.” said GI’s spokesperson.
Positive change is happening through the help organisations like GI offer. Tackling transphobia in the workplace is just one issue among many, but GI’s work will continue to be a catalyst for change as it helps to bridge gaps between generations and make all aspects of work accessible. For now, patience is essential, but hopefully soon—not as thick a skin.