Anti-transgender activists in London blocked the Pride parade over the weekend and ended up leading it.
London’s annual pride parade this past Saturday was supposed to be led by Mayor Sadiq Khan. But a group of eight women blocked the parade and then marched in front of it.
UK LGBTQ news site Gay Star News reports that five of the women lay down in front of the parade and covered themselves with a banner that read “Transactivism erases lesbians.”
They blocked the parade for about ten minutes. During that time, they shouted anti-transgender messages, including “A man who says he’s a lesbian is a rapist,” while others handed out transphobic leaflets with the headline “Get The L Out!”
— Richard (@Fuzzy_Logic_) July 7, 2018
The activists were not arrested, but instead they led the parade through much of its route through London. Many spectators were confused about an anti-transgender group leading the parade.
PinkNews, a UK LGBTQ website, talked to several of the protestors. One said, “Men are saying they are trans, they are lesbians and they pressure lesbians to have sex with them.”
They also talked to someone who confronted the activists: “They hate trans people, they hate sex workers…. They are just as bad as bigots saying gay people go to hell. It’s disgusting, this is a problem with what Pride has become.”
After the parade was over, many participants wondered why the activists weren’t arrested or at least removed from the parade. PinkNews reports that police were physically pushing members of the media back.
A spokesperson for Pride in London said after the parade that the priority was to keep the parade moving forward. “Every year, Pride is attended by hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrate that Pride still matters. Given the hot weather and in the interest of the safety for everyone attending today’s event, the parade group was allowed to move ahead.”
“We do not condone their approach and message and hope the actions of a very small number people does not overshadow the messages of the 30,000 people marching today,” the spokesperson said.
On Sunday, though, Pride in London Organizers released a second, more forceful statement that said they were “sorry.”
“Yesterday a group of individuals labelled as ‘Get The L Out!’, who were not a registered parade group, forced their way to the front of the parade to stand on the rainbow flag,” the statement said. “Their behaviour was shocking and disgusting, and we condemn it completely.”
The longer statement said that “lesbian board members at Pride in London” were angry about the “level of bigotry, ignorance and hate” demonstrated by Get The L Out!
The statement also said that the activists could not be physically removed. “Sadly, we could not forcibly remove the group as their protest was not a criminal offence. They demanded to march behind the rainbow flag, which marks the official start of our parade. We did not allow that as we did not want to legitimise them or their message.”
On Twitter, cisgender lesbians started using the hashtag #IStandWithTransPeople to say that the transphobic activists don’t speak for them.
I was privileged to take this photo yesterday in London. It was awesome to hear the cheers for our flag and the people carrying it. Due to the group that was allowed to disrupt the start of the march the day lost a lot We need allies to shout #IStandWithTransPeople #LwiththeT pic.twitter.com/xXRgzmZkAc
— Becky Kaufmann (@beckykent1962) July 8, 2018
I am disgusted by the actions of a small group of TERFs @PrideInLondon today. As a cis lesbian they do not speak for me. #IStandWithTransPeople. I've made a donation to @Mermaids_Gender who provide incredible support to the trans community. #pride
— Grace Kavanagh (@kav_grace) July 7, 2018
Pride is about celebrating difference and London’s amazing LGBT+ community.
It’s about showing those round the world that in our great city you can be free to be whoever you want to be and love whoever you want to love.
The vast majority of those present at today’s march respected and embraced that and the Mayor condemns the tiny minority who did not.
Transphobia is never acceptable.
Some activists are calling for members of the board of Pride in London to resign.
“I am appalled that transphobic protesters were allowed to lead the march and the crowd asked to cheer them on,” said Jennie Rigg, chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems. “This is a betrayal of the thousands marching. The Pride organisers should resign and offer a full apology.”
Pride in London has been the subject of criticism for weeks, as the number of marchers was limited to 30,000 people, which activist Peter Tatchell called “anti-LGBT+ discrimination” since other parades in London are sometimes bigger.
He and others have also criticized Pride in London for having too many corporate floats, many of which don’t mention LGBTQ people.