please read the statement at the link: it marks an historic moment, a turning point where feminists [people who believe gender-based oppression of people is wrong] are coming together to be clear that women affected by transgender have a place in feminism and women-only space, as equals, and is probably the first statement where people who identify as feminists are queuing to sign in solidarity of trans-inclusion within feminism.

diversity5-001image (Keith Turner) : detail of ‘diversity is our strength’ in situ at Nottingham Pride, 2013 Singing Bird Artist

*****TRIGGER WARNINGS: lesbian/lesbian violence, transphobic comments repeated, collusion with abusers*****

Why is this so significant?

Well, transphobia is one of the reasons so many good women lost their energy for feminism – fighting transphobic lesbian-feminists [let me be CRYSTAL CLEAR!ย  that’s SOME, not all lesbian-feminists] in the late 90s. I was fairly new on General Committee at Nottingham Women’s Centre when a letter came requesting clarification on the right to access the facilities, written by a post-transition woman. I read it out, and said, “well that’s a clear yes, isn’t it?” and looked up to see a variety of expressions, but all including exhaustion, on the faces of the other volunteers. To cut a very long story short, no, this was round 3 or 4 on trying to get agreement for access. I volunteered to be the ally/advocate for transgendered access (all the other lesbians on committee heaved a sigh of relief, and the Lesbian Centre sent a delegate to oversee our process and advocate remaining closed – while knowing this would mean losing all Council funding for workers and basic costs.)

diversity3-005image (Keith Turner) : detail of ‘diversity is our strength’, Nottingham Pride, 2013

The next several monthsย  of “process” were agonising…for me, it involved becoming emergency homeless after helping a lesbian neighbour leave her violent lesbian partner and being told that the perpetrator was welcome in the Lesbian Centre and I was not. That’s the level of shunning I received… I lost all but 2 friends in Nottingham (luckily I still had 3 in Newcastle, a mere 4 hours away by train…remember I’m agoraphobic…) Meanwhile I continued to volunteer several hours a week to keep this huge unwieldy building with 40+ rooms and 60+ projects open and available, warm, dry, safe, secure (I notice I realllllllly need to let go of the ยฃ6,000 gas bill ($8,000) for one winter quarter where we would come in on a Monday to find the Lesbian centre had left the radiators on full and the windows wide open…ALL weekend) That was just one of the disillusionments….

This was the time when I came to realise that extremes meet..that the worst kind of rabid tabloid and the supposedly politically aware and analysed and completely anti-oppression transphobic lesbians both believed and would state with conscious cruelty remarks like “they’re just men in skirts” or “what about when they rape women and children”. I apologise to any people affected by transgender for repeating such hurtful crap, but it is like when discussing child abuse, some people really don’t get that some people say things like that unless you share the truth you know. I was there, it scarred me. I would go and talk in therapy about how I felt struggling to keep the centre going, for these heartless, horrible oxygen thieves….as a survivor, with a family who insisted on silencing me, I find collusion excoriating.

After public debates in more than one venue, with consultations with all the projects, eventually access was granted. I never felt the same again about the Women’s Centre, and I don’t think I ever entered the Lesbian Centre again. I started the Art Access course and found great joy in exploring such a healing space for myself. In the second year, the new head tutor asked me where I “fitted” in Lesbian Art, and I just said, “Oh, I don’t…” and he said, “Well, you must, you’re a lesbian?!?” and after a pause, I said,”No, I think I just came back out as Bi !” We both started laughing, it was a very odd experience!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

diversity3image Keith Turner: detail ofย  ‘diversity is our strength’ in situ, Nottingham Pride, 2013 Singing Bird Artist

But I had just been researching lesbian artists, and I was very aware that I had so little in common with the more famous ones, and certainly wasn’t welcome among the local ones, but most importantly, art is where my utmost truth is crystal clear to me, and I just KNEW I didn’t fit there…2 years later I met my husband and fell head-over-heels in love, so I was right about that! ๐Ÿ˜‰

But one of the sad things is that the same lesbians who are trans-phobic are also bi-phobic…and on the rare occasions I would meet a lesbian from those days, I would feel tainted, like, it would look like the only reason I supported trans-access rights was because I wasn’t lesbian enough…16 years on and I finally, finally feel I could join a feminist group again because trans-acceptance would be accepted…andย  bisexuality would be accepted too. Hopefully this would be a feminism where so many more experiences would be validated too – womanism/acceptance of the dual struggle against racial prejudice, being a woman of belief (without oppressing others eg being Jewish and being welcome, but accepting Zionism would have to be left at the door; being Muslim and leaving violent jihad there too, being Celtic Pagan, Christian, Hindu , Atheist…even Daoist ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) class and privilege reversed to support and education, issues of health, disability…. and then things I would call for now that weren’t really on my radar then:

access to shared organic landscapes, wildness and the right to share cultivation (bring back the REAL commons!!)

commitment to a future that values all living species and organic entities over industrialisation and dis-embodied corporations of capitalism

commitment to the future, of the planet and all the species we can protect

a redesign of society as if people and planet mattered (I just need to be clear that animals etc are people too, just not human)

– this all exists, it’s part of ‘expanded’ permaculture, which is sooooo much more than gardening design, brilliant as that system is. Read Starhawk’s ‘Fifth Sacred Thing’ to get a sense of how a state could run with that level of respect, or the second in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. Yes, I know they’re novels, I recommend them because they are so brilliantly written that you can imagine yourself inside that decision-making process, and feel how hard they would be….but worth it, because the alternative of yet more ‘unlimited growth’ capitalism is beyond terrifying. So I want a feminism that includes permaculture as its anti-capitalist strategy and a permaculture that welcomes all to the orchard ๐Ÿ˜‰

STA45213-001visitors and my rollator at Pride 2013

And the single best thing for me is that right now feminism is the phoenix in the fire, it has the chance to spread its wings and become a campaign FOR things that would make the world better…so much of people’s opposition to feminism is based on misunderstanding, and feminism has this moment to seize the chance to re-frame, re-name and re-empower itself, ourselves, all the people, the planet, save our present and future…

How exciting is that? ๐Ÿ˜‰