London Pride 2018: Lessons We Still Need to Learn

30 Oct 2019
Alfred London Pride banner

MA Liberal Arts student Kat Peverell argues that the controversy around London Pride 2018 teaches us about social justice and the way we approach different challenges that we face in the world today. Her blog is the second in our short series featuring student research from the Alfred Journal 2019.

London Pride 2018 is an event that will no doubt become infamous in activist circles for the controversial protesters who hijacked the front of the parade in order to convey their transphobic message.

The group was called Get the L Out, a group of feminist lesbians who claim that trans women are not real, but instead are men attempting to seduce lesbians, and that trans men are just lesbians who have been forced to transition so that society can erase lesbianism.

These ideas call into question the ways in which we approach activism to protect as many identities as possible and whether or not we can essentialise identities without upholding the very systems of subordination that subjugate those identities. Ultimately, it seems that an inclusive approach is the way forward that benefits the greatest number of people.

Unfortunately, it is no surprise that given the widespread debates around trans identities that some of the voices who are expressing harmful opinions are from LGBTQ+ communities themselves. Often, we mistakenly believe that everyone who sits under the LGBTQ+ umbrella is supportive of everyone else under that umbrella. This is regrettably not the case.

Thankfully, Get the L Out’s presence at Pride prompted a backlash against trans exclusion in lesbian communities, and a great many Pride parades that followed that year proudly held banners with the hashtag #LWithTheT to show groups such as Get the L Out that not all lesbians exclude trans women in their communities, and that they would in fact fight back against blatant transphobia.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a professor of law at UCLA, who is most commonly known for coining the term intersectionality, encourages us all to approach activism using the ‘bottom-up’ approach.

In other words, by advocating for the empowerment of people who are most subordinated by the various systems of power operating within society, the greater the number of systems of power are being challenged. This means that a greater number of subordinated people will benefit from this challenge and empowerment.

This is in direct conflict with groups such as Get the L Out, and their predecessors who have inspired them, who believe that we must focus on single identities in order to achieve the best results. That is to say that allowing other facets of identities to be included will distract from the main message, this approach is usually referred to as essentialist.

While it is certainly possible to see the logic behind essentialism, in practice it does little more than exclude many of the people that the cause was trying to protect. By attempting to invalidate trans identities, Get the L Out were participating in the system of cisgenderism, a system that is inextricably linked to the patriarchy and heterosexism.

Without the binary systems of gender and sex, the systems Get the L Out are attempting to protect, the patriarchy and heterosexism could not exist as they do now. Binary gender and sex allows for us, as a society to claim that anyone born with a penis is a man, and that person is automatically placed in the privileged position in the hierarchy of men and women. Equally, categorising sexualities, and therefore allowing for all sexualities aside from heterosexualities to be subordinated, is impossible without first enforcing a binary system of gender.

As an illustrative example, Get the L Out are campaigning for a lesbian’s right to exist in whichever way they choose. To be butch, or femme, to be unashamedly gay and proud of their romantic and sexual attraction to women. However, in policing in the validity of trans identities, often trans women and men are expected to perform hyperfemininity and hypermasculinity respectively just to ‘prove’ their gender identity. Ultimately, this upholds the very binary ideals that Get the L Out are attempting to challenge. Equally, to suggest that the genitalia we are born with dictates our gender identity leaves little room to fight against other facets of ourselves which people mistakenly believe is biologically determined, such as a woman’s wish to have children.  

Although I have focused on London Pride, I hope this exploration says something more about social justice as a whole and the way we approach different issues and problems that we are facing in the world today. While it might feel impossible as an individual to fight against all the problems in the world at once, by focusing on those people most severely affected by the way our societies are designed, we can all play a part in making the world a safer place for everyone to live in, not just ourselves.

Writing for Alfred

Last academic year, I had the privilege of being chosen to appear in the University’s student journal, Alfred. Although the space in Alfred is limited, and a great many submissions are not chosen, I would encourage anyone to submit the piece of work they are most proud of. Getting to see and celebrate the work of everyone else in the journal was great, especially given the wide range of submissions which included humour, cartoons, and serious essays.

To see my full submission, and other Alfred submissions click here.

About the Author

I am an MA Liberal Arts student currently completing my dissertation. My focus is LGBTQ+ communities and gender studies.

Alfred 2020 submissions

Interested in submitting your work to be considered for Alfred 2020? We would love to hear from you!

Alfred welcomes submissions in various forms: essays, original works, creative pieces, critical commentaries or any other written form. If you would like to make a submission, please email Alfred@winchester.ac.uk, so we may send you the formatting guidelines and a range of FAQs. The deadline to submit your work for consideration is 24 January 2020.

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Read the first blog in our Alfred series: The People's War in cinema: how was the Home Front portrayed in film? by BA (Hons) History student Sam Jenkins.

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