As rainbow flags are being unfurled across the world for Pride month, spare a thought for Rebekah Wershbale. A proud “gobby lesbian” Wershbale has been frozen out of her local Pride march in Macclesfield, known as Macc Pride.
Wershbale is partnered with Keira Bell, the detransitioned young woman at the centre of the legal battle around the treatment of gender dysphoric youth. In January 2020, Wershbale attempted to raise the matter of the lack of support for detransitioners with Macc Pride. Firstly, she was ignored, then her social media comments were deleted and ultimately cast-out of community organising.
Given the multi-million incomes of organisations like Stonewall and LGBT Foundation, it might seem disproportionate to focus on the activity of a local, volunteer-led charity. But like its bigger siblings, Macc Pride are one of many local groups which take funding to represent LGB people whilst excluding those whose opinions are off-brand.
The granting of charitable status to the LGB Alliance left established groups reeling. Trailing along behind the outrage of Stonewall and Pride in London, Macc Pride too decided they too needed to release a statement. On 22nd April they complained of being “shocked and disappointed” at the decision of the Charity Commission to register the LGB Alliance. In a Facebook post they opined:
“We do not believe that any organisation which actively targets and campaigns against Trans communities should be granted charitable status…This decision has caused a lot of pain for Trans and Non-Binary people, a community who already face more stigma and hatred than any other part of our society. We all need to work collectively to end discrimination and abuse towards all LGBTQ+ people.”
In response, Wershbale did what any self-respecting gobby lesbian would, she politely challenged their mischaracterization of the LGB Alliance as a ‘hate-group’ and directed them to the Charity Commission’s 4,000+ word report detailing their decision. Her comment was swiftly deleted and Wershable was blocked.
“By this time I was feeling quite irked so took to their website to contact them” she says. A few days later in an email Wershbale told Macc Pride organisers:
“I note that you are a registered charity, and I feel that the Charity Commission might be interested in your refusal to engage with a member of the community you’re supposed to represent.”
“I don’t want to have to chase this any further than necessary, I just ask for open dialogue about these things. It’s a fact that sexual orientation and gender identity are different things and as such require different modes of support. I don’t understand why talking about this basic point is verboten.”
“This is a topic that is affecting lots of young women… We [Wershbale and her partner Keira Bell] aren’t approaching with hostility, all we ask is for discussion of a possible outcome for lesbians who may feel unsupported in their choices if they choose to detransition…” Rather than accepting the invitation, a board meeting was called to discuss how to exclude Wershbale and Bell.
Her email went unanswered, so she wrote again this time politely offering to meet over a coffee to discuss “some of the issues potentially facing transmen in the community who wish to detransition and live as lesbians.”
In her email she explained:
“This is a topic that is affecting lots of young women… We [Wershbale and her partner Keira Bell] aren’t approaching with hostility, all we ask is for discussion of a possible outcome for lesbians who may feel unsupported in their choices if they choose to detransition… Can we go get a coffee and have a chat please? “
Rather than accepting the invitation, a board meeting was called to discuss how to exclude Wershbale and Bell. Chair Denise Hartley-Dickens responded by stating that as an organisation “committed to inclusivity across the whole LGBT+ community”, Macc Pride reserved the right “not give a forum to those who do not embrace the full diversity of this.”
Wershbale tells me “It’s not the most candid ‘fuck off’ I’ve ever received but it’s pretty high up there.” She is still keen to meet with Macc Pride organisers, and has written again outlining her concerns about the high numbers of lesbian and bisexual youth who undergo ‘transition’ before growing to adulthood and recognising themselves to be same-sex attracted.
It takes courage to march against the might of Pride in London, but equally acts of resistance in small towns, cities and villages across the UK deserve recognition.
Wershbale sees the refusal of Macc Pride to engage as proof “beyond any reasonable doubt that there is no place for a particular kind of lesbian thought in Pride.”
“I had my suspicions when I protested the Manchester Pride parade with Get The L Out in August 2019, and this has further confirmed the dire need for an organisation that has the interests of lesbian, gay and bisexual people who do not have a nebulous gender identity as its primary focus.”
Given the continuous complaints and launch of a legal challenge against the decision to award LGB Alliance charitable status, Wershbale believes there may be scope for a campaign.
“I wonder, would the Charity Commission be interested in the machinations of the various Pride charities around the country that have seemingly abandoned the same-sex oriented people they purport to represent?”
Wershbale is one lesbian in an all-too-overlooked corner of the UK, but she is far from alone in being silenced and bullied out of her local Pride parade.
“I’m aware of many other lesbians and bisexual women nationwide writing to their local Pride groups with similar issues. Pride has pushed us right out of discourse in the name of inclusivity and has then had the nerve to label us a hate group when we focus on our own needs.”
As the giants of the LGBT world begin to fall, space may be found once again for local groups to exist outside of their shadow. Coming-out in a small community takes courage, staking a stand against the gender identity groupthink takes ovaries of steel.
Wershbale is one lesbian in an all-too-overlooked corner of the UK, but she is far from alone in being silenced and bullied out of her local Pride parade. Of Macc Pride she concludes:
“As far as I’m concerned they can keep the rainbow. Macclesfield’s gloriously soggy weather conditions has a way better version anyway.”
Photo: Visit Macclesfield https://www.visitmacclesfield.co.uk/