Last week the LGB Alliance held their first conference and it is safe to say the trans community showed up in force to respond.
I arrived at the venue at 8am and at that time I was the only person outside the venue who wasn’t passing by to go to work or otherwise involved with the conference in some way. This was not my original plan, I was intending on arriving in the afternoon to cover the protests as I had very little interest in the actual conference itself. Other people would be covering that better than I ever could and to be honest, I couldn’t give a shit about what anyone related to the LGB Alliance had to say about anything. If you want that kind of thing, you are probably going to have to go elsewhere.
But that changed when I saw that the LGB Alliance had announced that they expected “500+” people to attend the event. The LGB Alliance have something of a history when it comes to artificially inflating their numbers. I wanted to check out if this number was at all accurate.
Even if it was it should be remembered that according to data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in 2019 1.4 million people in the UK identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. 500+ would already be a pitiful number for a venue that has a 2000 capacity.
So I stood under a tree to the right of the Queen Elizabeth II centre with a good view of the entrance and between 8am and 10:30 am I counted 332 people enter the building.
On the day there was at least one other event being held at the venue. It is likely that at least some of that number were not there for the LGB Alliance. The first LGBA event of the day was scheduled for 9:45am so it was likely that this number represents the majority of the attendees. I am convinced that the actual turn out was far, far lower than the LGBA were claiming, maybe even by as much as half.
But that is all I have to say about the conference itself. The big thing to take away from this is that the LGB Alliance did not go unchallenged.
The number of protesters fluctuated throughout the day. At first there was only between 2-4 people protesting but this changed once Transgender Action Block’s protest kicked off at roughly 3pm. From then on the protest ballooned to between 50 and 150 at its peak. More static numbers were reported in the UK mainstream press as what tended to happen was a journalist would approach, do a head count at that moment and then leave to go write up their copy (including a Times journalist who, I may have told him to tell his editor to go fuck himself…there is a reason I try to speak to trans people and not speak for them…). But as the only journalist (that I know of) who stayed there for the duration, I can absolutely confirm that there was at least 150 protesters at its height (assuming I didn’t count some people twice).
Transgender Action Block are a relatively new group on the scene, and before hand I had no idea who they were. They were also, at first, reluctant to tell me much about them which is fairly understandable considering the inherent dangers of being an activist. But when I met them in person they seemed very passionate and dedicated.
Here is the chat I had with Snowy and Cassidy from the Transgender Action Block:
For a new group of young trans activists…they did a very good job. This protest had the massive potential to be a total disaster and I must admit I was INCREDIBLY nervous the night before. The trans community has been under so much pressure for so long and I knew LGB Alliance conference attendees would attempt to goad the protesters for some kind of response. I saw several attendees of the conference approach the protest to take photos and saw one man shout: “I am not cis, I am just a man” and some of other stuff that was barely comprehensible. But I was VERY glad to say that the protesters did not take the bait.
There were no arrests and the police presence was minimal. That was not the case at all at the start of the day. There were 3-4 vans full of uniformed police officers between 8am and 10am and this made me feel very nervous. I talked to Police liaison officers throughout the day and was told repeatedly that the police presence was not unusual as the venue was only two minutes walk away from Parliament and an MP had just been murdered. A couple of officers told me they had no idea why they were there as they usually work in a burglary unit logging incident numbers but even they told me that they have been called out of the office for a number of different events and this didn’t strike me as some obvious lie. After 10am the police vans mostly vanished and the number of uniformed Police officers on the ground was minimal. There were moments when protesters became very nervous as the number of police appeared to balloon at one point in the early evening but I was told this was due to a shift change. I have seen similar sudden inflations of the numbers of Police officers at various Pride events so this explanation made sense to me and the number always went back down to roughly 3-4 uniformed officers and a couple of Police liaison officers. Thankfully, they kept their distance and the protesters rarely approached them.
The general vibe I got from Police officers on the ground was that they would much rather the protest go off without a hitch. I was inclined to believe them because if there is one thing you can count on from our ‘public servants’ its the need for an easier life. The Police did not appear to be pitching for a fight. Quite the opposite, a few officers told me they just wanted to go home as soon as humanely possible.
I attempted to take pictures throughout the day but there were several issues working against me. For a start, I am no photographer, and also my camera on my phone is garbage (I have an iPhone with a headphone socket…that should tell you all you need to know). Also taking pictures was a challenge because of several trees and the protest being right against a barrier. But here is what the protest looked like from some terrible angles on a terrible phone.
The sign game was very good, as per usual. If there is one thing trans people are good at, it’s making signs.
The protest itself winded down very abruptly at around 8pm. The LGB Alliance’s ‘disco’ had been in full swing for several hours but from the outside it gave me the same feeling I had when attending discos at my school in the late ninetys. One protester told me it looked like they bought some cheap lights from Argos and it just looked so bland and rubbish from the outside. One of the venue’s security joked with several protesters saying that the protest outside appeared to be a lot more fun than whatever the hell was going on inside.
I left central London feeling pretty good. As a lone trans journalist operating out of a bedroom 80% of the time it just felt good to see a united response to transphobia. I saw many question the value of protesting the conference and a wide gulf of opinion between ‘professional’ activist types and more every day trans people. The pro activists tended to argue for other means of effecting change almost certainly because they had access to the Zoom calls of power. They are in a position to actually do so.
But when it comes to the vast majority of people reading this? Protest is the only viable response they have. They can’t just get an MP or some Ministers staffer on a zoom call. The feeling of powerlessness amongst trans people is palpable, I see it everyday and experience it myself most of the time. The organisers of the main protest raised a very good point: we must respond to those who hate us and want us gone. Because if not us…then who?