This Transgender Awareness Week, cisgender allyship is more important than ever, and as a cis lesbian, I won’t stand for my community being used to attack trans people, writes Emily Chudy.
The past few years have seen a colossal and terrifying wave of transphobia that has swept a vulnerable community into the path of hate like never before, influencing hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ laws across the United States.
Many of us have watched in horror as politicians like Rishi Sunak have made anti-trans comments, or seen transphobic hate crimes rise, but as a cis lesbian, I have been sickened to notice that much of this transphobia has been peddled under the guise of protecting people like me – despite studies showing that transphobia often leads to a rise in homophobia.
I first noticed lesbians and trans people being pitted against each other in JK Rowling’s 2020 essay in which she claimed some gay people are transitioning in order to escape homophobic bullying. I then saw baseless claims that trans women are pressuring lesbians into having sex with them, followed by anti-trans groups like The Lesbian Project claiming trans women are “erasing” lesbians, and even anti-trans activists attacking the queer dating app HER for welcoming trans and non-binary users.
Many of these anti-trans talking points follow the same narrative, that trans women pose a threat to lesbians, or “erase” lesbians’ identity just by being themselves. But this couldn’t be further from the truth of the LGBTQ+ community.
According to an August YouGov poll, cisgender lesbians have an overwhelmingly positive view of trans people, with 84 per cent of cis lesbians holding a positive view of trans people, compared to just 39 per cent of all British people. According to LGBTQ+ youth charity Just Like Us, lesbians are also the most likely of the whole LGBTQ+ community to say they know a trans person (92 per cent).
A group of lesbian campaigners show solidarity with the trans community at 2019’s Pride in London march. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty)
The reality is that as well as cisgender lesbians overwhelmingly accepting trans people, I would argue that anti-trans narratives are what’s actually leading to crucial issues affecting lesbians being “erased”.
By falsely claiming trans people are the biggest threat to cisgender lesbians, anti-trans campaigners are sweeping over actual issues affecting lesbians today – such as the fight for equal IVF access, lesbian mums being taken off their children’s birth certificates, and the decline of LGBTQ+ venues in the UK – all of which affect trans lesbians too, who are also campaigning on these issues.
The issue with newspapers, online essays and angry Twitter posts, is that while it’s easy to make an opinion seem loud, it’s not necessarily reflective of reality, with trans women and lesbians working in community for decades, and trans people like Marsha P Johnson at Stonewall involved in the historic fight for LGBTQ+ rights. It’s clear that outside of the swirling mass of hateful comments and anonymous Twitter trolls, queer support for the trans community is going nowhere.
In real life, when I go to LGBTQ+ club nights, the atmosphere is made all the more interesting and welcoming by the diverse group of people from all walks of life, and knowing that everyone is welcome has made those inclusive spaces feel like home. If any kind of person was excluded from those events, they wouldn’t be the kind of haven that they are to people like me.
‘Trans people deserve their place within the community as much as I do’
I know that trans women have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with lesbians when marching for LGBTQ+ rights, spending joyful nights on sweaty dance-floors, and creating vital and beautiful art that allows young LGBTQ+ people to feel seen. In my mind, the LGBTQ+ community is enriched by everyone in it who has been brave enough to live as their authentic self, whether they’re non-binary, intersex, bisexual, or gay. Trans people are no different, and deserve their place within the community just as much as I do.
At a time when homophobia and transphobia isshockingly high, the last thing the LGBTQ+ community needs is to be pitted against each other, and as a lesbian, I truly believe we’re better off together than apart.
Hateful voices can be loud – really, exhaustingly loud – but their voices will never drown out the proud roar of love and acceptance, and this Transgender Awareness Week, we need to make sure our allyship is shouting louder than ever.