An Open Letter to DIVA Magazine from Leeds Lesbian Strength

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Leeds Lesbian Strength March MC

Paula Boulton marching at the Leeds Lesbian Strength March. Photo credit Mike Bettney.

AfterEllen was contacted by Paula Boulton, a representative of the recent Leeds Lesbian Strength march, the first of its kind for 20 years. According to march organizers, DIVA Magazine, one of Europe’s leading magazines for lesbian and bisexual women, misrepresented the march in their coverage of the event. Their headline read that “the streets of Leeds were lined with support for trans lesbians.” Bolton originally sent this letter to DIVA but has not received acknowledgment or response. Here is the text of the letter:

As the MC of the Lesbian Strength March, I am appalled at this inaccurate reportage. We held a LESBIAN STRENGTH MARCH and Rally. This tradition has a herstory which many of the 150 Lesbians (I counted them) attending can remember. The signs and banners were about Lesbians. The march was heavily policed in response to threats we had received, and after thorough Police liaison it was agreed that the “Dyke Pride for Lesbians of All Genders” would march behind the Lesbian Strength March at a suitable distance. The police maintained a gap between the two. Our stewards counted 30 people in the “lesbians of all genders” march with an assortment of personal cardboard signs.

On the route there were the usual responses from the crowd — including pervy men urging us to keep making their porn, and your headline is absolutely not recognizable. I saw four individuals on the corner of one intersection with signs about including everyone. I am told there were more, as well as men calling us ‘ugly dykes.’ We were cheered as we marched past the anti-Brexit demo as the speaker invited her crowd to give a cheer to support the march. We responded with a similar cheer. On arrival at the Civic Hall, chairs had been provided for the older women and those with disabilities and limited mobility who had nonetheless made it to the march. We had a British Sign Language signer as several women were hearing impaired.

The group sang Lesbian Singalong to open the rally — a song which lists all the jobs Lesbians do and things of note Lesbians have achieved and states, “everyone benefits from a Lesbian in their world.”

The speeches were chosen to represent the age spread from 20 to 80 and covered 1. a tribute to Magdalen Berns, a young Lesbian activist currently in palliative care [eds: Magdalen Berns has died since the time this letter was written] to whom we dedicated the march 2. A young lesbian about her experience of coming out 3. A young woman who has detransitioned in the past few months. 4. An academic sharing issues Lesbians face in a University setting 5. An older Lesbian sharing how life was for Lesbians in the 70s and 80s, 6. Linda Bellos, OBE, who spoke of many things including her experience as a Black Lesbian in the UK.

We musicians performed the popular Gentleman Jack theme and a song about climate change. A young Scottish Lesbian performed three of her comic songs referencing mental health and capitalism. An older black Lesbian read her poetry.

We mentioned Lesbian Asylum seekers — one of whom — an Iranian Lesbian — was present, having recently been successful in her claim.

The whole event focused on Lesbians and our lives — which is what DIVA is meant to do. So why have you chosen to misrepresent the event? There is actual footage of this good-natured march, which you should be celebrating. Every woman attending, especially survivors of the trans agenda including detransitioners and victims of cotton ceiling grooming, knew the risks but marched anyway. Surely you should be celebrating this collective act of courage and revival of Lesbian Strength which, as I mentioned in my welcome speech, aimed to reclaim our roots, rebuild our community and resist erasure.

If I was the nation’s only Lesbian magazine I would have managed to acknowledge both groups in a Lesbian-positive way. As a protected characteristic we are allowed by law to have Lesbian-only events. How different would it have been to see honest journalism, something like this instead: “Leeds was awash with Lesbians on Saturday as a group of Lesbians resurrected Lesbian Strength and another group protested at their definition of Lesbian.”

Paula Boulton