Transgender people and lesbians are two groups that face hatred and discrimination, and differences of opinion exist within these groups. Some trans people and lesbians believe that being a woman has nothing to do with biological sex; others believe they are related, because female reproductive biology is the basis on which women have always faced structural oppression. Both perspectives have a right to be heard. Yet lesbians who believe the latter – many of whom have faced lesbophobia their entire lives – are facing persecution for their beliefs.
Take Julie Bindel, an important feminist voice whose decades of campaigning against male violence have made a material difference to women’s lives. Last week, an Australian bookshop issued an apology for “any hurt caused” by hosting an event with Bindel three years ago. They did not even have the guts to say what is offensive about Bindel, but it’s fair to assume they were referring to her views on gender.
Or Allison Bailey, the barrister suing her chambers and the charity Stonewall for employment discrimination. Bailey is a black, working-class lesbian and a survivor of child sex abuse who believes, as many women do, that there should be some exceptions to males being admitted to female-only spaces. After she tweeted about a group she helped found for people who are same-sex attracted, Stonewall filed a complaint to her chambers and warned that its relationship with them would be damaged unless her chambers took disciplinary action against her.
On Friday, a judge ruled that Bailey’s case has “more than reasonable prospects of success” and should advance to trial. That a gay rights charity stands accused of discriminating against a black lesbian illustrates how wrong it is to assume the rights and interests of all LGBTQ+ people perfectly align. Of course, that has not stopped white men telling Bailey that her concept of womanhood is not only wrong, it makes her a bigot.