A lesbian delegation to the House of Lords

How many times have you written to your MP, wondered if it is just a numbers game, got no reply or a stock one?

Never give up! l wrote one about ‘a lesbian perspective on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill (Scotland)’ and took it to our WDI UK meeting suggesting it should go from us. We quickly agreed and added an introduction to WDI. The next morning it was in the inbox of Baroness Nicholson at the House of Lords.

We were invited to meet her and share our lesbian concerns. The GRR Bill was due for Royal Assent within days. It seemed increasingly unlikely this would be granted but the Baroness told us that will not be the end of it. The gender identity issue is a long term one.

Email exchanges between us became rapid. She booked a committee room in the House of Lords for a week later. It would hold 40 people and she encouraged us to fill it. We invited only lesbians to speak or attend as guests and she invited parliamentarians. As a result, the room was packed full.

In the room

It proved impossible to find any young lesbians to speak at such short notice and also because they just don’t want to out themselves in that way and put themselves at risk.

Bernadette, WDI UK country contact, and l were invited to tea with her before the meeting. This was very useful, she put us at ease by asking us questions like ‘and l hear that lesbians are born that way, do you agree?’ I said that was contested and explained how lesbians can be trapped in marriage to a man for lack of economic choice, housing options, family or religious pressure.

One of our speakers talked about how, having left her marriage, she lost her children to her ex-husband. Now a lesbian grandmother, she fears for her grandchildren.

MPs from the House of Commons and the Lords came, some briefly, others sent their aides to take notes. We were all delighted when MSP Joanna Cherry appeared. She spoke about how moved she was to be sitting in that room filled with other lesbians after her years of isolation and ostracization in the Scottish Parliament.

After the speakers the Baroness chaired the Q and A. Her guests asked questions and our guests answered. She ended by announcing that she would like us to return and was soon tweeting “WDI, geniuses all of them”!

One of my intentions was that WDI would become an organisation for regular consultations on all things relating to how women and girls lives are affected by the impact of the sex, gender and self ID debate, in law and in practice. Articles 1 and 5 of the declaration were referenced in my letter.

At her request, our next delegation on February 20th will address conversion therapy, and it is open to all women not only lesbians.

WDI UK have a core team working on this. Our weekly zooms and encounters in webinars and break out rooms have meant we know each other well. That has made it possible to work together under pressure.

Baroness Nicholson is 80 years old and a long-time supporter of women’s rights. She has been to Kelly Jay Keen’s Standing for Women at the Reformers tree at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, London and is a keen tweeter. She told us that she had seen over many years how much work lesbians have done for women and children in refuges, campaigns and in their communities.

We are incredibly grateful to Baroness Nicholson for giving us this opportunity for our voices to be heard in person by the people who have ultimate power over us. We are also thankful we have a longer time to prepare for the next one.

Jill Raymond -WDI UK

in the lobby