‘In February 1988, a group of lesbians abseiled into the House of Lords to protest against section 28; a few months later, Booan Temple disrupted the Six O’Clock News for the same cause. Margaret Thatcher had claimed the promotion of homosexuality was undermining the family, and as Sue Lawley read the news, you could hear Temple’s muffled shouts as Nicholas Witchell held her down. Gay men, gay women and their allies were all on the same side back then, in solidarity against Tory repression.
How we identified sexually was not paramount. We all read a lot of queer theory, but, more importantly, we knew that bodies existed in history, in a context, for we were seeing a generation wiped out by Aids. If you lived through that, solidarity took precedence over sexuality.
Now, I feel a huge sadness when I look at the fragmentation of the landscape, where endless fighting, cancellations and no-platformings have obscured our understanding of who the real enemies are.
Last Saturday, Selina Todd, a professor of modern history at the University of Oxford, was due to give a polite two-minute speech of thanks at an event at Exeter College commemorating 50 years since Ruskin College’s inaugural National Women’s Liberation Conference. The day before Todd was due to speak, she says she was disinvited on the grounds that she had addressed a meeting of the group Woman’s Place UK, which was formed in 2017 after proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. The group campaigns for women to have separate spaces and distinct services on the basis of our biological sex. Todd, an esteemed professor of working-class history, has, as a result, been accused on social media of being transphobic. Woman’s Place UK was recently defined as a “trans-exclusionist hate group” in a pledge put together by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, which the Labour leadership candidates Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey signed up to.’