Sexuality, orientation & what self ID means for lesbian women
If a man can identify as a lesbian, what does this mean for the rights and body autonomy of lesbian women?
In UK law, lesbians and bisexual women are protected two-fold under the Equality Act 2010. They belong to two protected characteristics; ‘sex’ and ‘sexual orientation’. This legislation enables lawful discrimination on the basis of these characteristics.
Why does this matter?
Firstly it protects lesbian-only groups, for example. This could include lesbian social groups, dating apps, support groups, sexual health clinics, domestic violence survivor workshops, pattern-breaking groups, etc.
If sex self ID became law, then these sex protections are rendered meaningless. As an example, it would no longer be possible to exclude a heterosexual male from a lesbian-only support group. The law would allow him to self identify (pre and post surgery) as a lesbian women. Moreover, if his birth certificate sex marker says female there is no legal mechanism to lawfully exclude someone who is clearly male.
Secondly the word 'orientation' legally embeds the idea that same-sex attraction is an orientation and not a choice, a kink, or a perversion. In other words the notion that protects against conversion therapy. The current trend to refer to 'same gender attracted', undermines this legal protection.
In short, 'same gender' attracted is based on two people of the same gender identity. This term could, and is frequently used to describe a male and a female, or two males who have a female gender identity. This is #LesbianErasure.
Many lesbians have reported that they have faced coercion to accept males as dating partners and have had their sexual orientation framed as transphobic for not accepting males as sexual or romantic partners. In response in 2019 lesbian activist group Get The L Out published their 'Cotton Ceiling Report'.