We're Here and We Smear
by Thistle Pettersen
Hey. Thanks for reading. I'm a Green Party member in Wisconsin. This is to report on my experiences at the We're Here and We're Queer workshop facilitated by AJ Reed, Green Party Convention Delegate-Illinois, on Friday, July 10th, as part of the National Green Party Convention online.
There were about 15-20 people in attendance at the workshop and I believe Ann Link was the moderator. AJ Reed presented us with the ground rules for the workshop and established that AJ wanted dialogue but not debate and that AJ's workshop was going to be a "safe space." The moderator also announced it when she pressed the record button but as of this writing, she has not gotten back to me about where that recording might be available.
After AJ presented on the myriad of identities represented in the current LGBTQIA+ movement, I began to ask a question about the tension between lesbians and trans activists, or men who "identify as lesbians" and was interrupted by a man in drag who recited the dictum "trans women are women" and then the moderator removed me from the workshop entirely after muting me.
While I was muted but still in the workshop, I began to see people in the chat calling me a "bigot" and quickly wrote in the chat that it was not okay and that I did not feel safe. The comments that I am a "bigot" continued to come through the chat as I quickly typed the following that did not make it in because as I was typing, the host removed me from the workshop: "I hope AJ will answer my question about the tension between the "L" and the "T" in the LGBTQIA+ movement."
Via texts from the three other members of the DnE Caucus present at the workshop, I learned that AJ did not answer my question and instead ignored both the question and the incident of me being removed by the host.
I will let David Keil take it from here. He was at the rest of the workshop as I texted him and two other DnE caucus members who were also present. All four of us were trying to have a real dialogue about the issues facing lesbians, the "L" in the so-called LGBTQIA+ alphabet soup.
Beginning of a national discussion of sex and gender in the GPUS?
By David Keil, Convention Delegate Massachusetts
Thistle’s question in the ‘Queer’ workshop initiated so much discussion that it can be recorded as a win for free speech on the left and for “dialogue not expulsion” in the Green Party – such a win that only ejecting her from the Zoom workshop, and later closing the chat (text discussion) could prevent a greater win.
A total of three gender-critical feminist women asserted women’s rights to speak up in the party. A transcript of their words is worth publishing, along with some of the abuse they faced. Here is a small sample.
As Thistle was politely asking her question about the tension between lesbians and trans activists, a person with a deep voice interrupted, without being recognized by the facilitator, to announce that he or she would not allow her to continue.
A participant posted in the chat: “Who is speaking/asking? Who was that bigot?”
Thistle protested the name calling.
Others joined in the name calling: “You are a bigot” (from an upstate New York man who is known for using inflammatory words, posting violent memes, and doxxing and threatening women).
A co-chair of the Lavender Caucus then posted, “Indeed."
A leading Louisiana delegate posted, “Were you calling transwomen men? If you are you’re a bigot.”
But a delegate from California posted in the chat: “Lesbophobia that denies lesbians the right to choose XX female only partners is misogynistic. Why is lesbophobia tolerated?”
A Utah delegate wrote: “There has been a lot of unrest between the trans people and the general lesbian and gay communities.” (True!)
An hour into the workshop, the feminist from San Diego stated, “I’m a lesbian activist. I worked my whole life on this cause. Why is everyone so afraid to have a real discussion?”
A different participant responded, “We have been subjected to vitriolic transantagonism.”
At that time, the host, identified as “Green Party Zoom 2,” stated, “I’m shutting down the chat because it is disrupting the workshop and making people feel unsafe.”
And that was that. From comments in the Zoom session and in the chat, it is clear that the prevailing view of those wanting Thistle (among other women) silenced was not because of her actions, but her named status as a “bigot.” This seems important. How is a “bigot” identified? By someone name-calling her? By her ideas? By her failure to repeat mantras? Thistle’s idea (or observation) that some who call themselves “lesbians” are male bodied earned her the name “bigot,” according to some of those present. Her failure to use the mandated word “trans woman” makes her a “bigot.” Hearsay that she has forbidden ideas shall earn her the name “bigot.” Thistle and every other woman who enters Green spaces is patrolled by bigot-hunters.Women watch this, sometimes quietly. They choose their words carefully after watching Thistle or others be silenced.
Women are instructed that “Queer,” not “lesbian,” is the correct word for them if they love women. As a lesbian participant stated in the chat, “It would have been good to have a lesbian speak, as the experience of women is very different from that of men.”
I protested the shutting down of Thistle, because the suppression of female voices negates the Green key values of feminism and grassroots democracy. I attended the workshop as a delegate from Massachusetts, and as an observer who works to be an ally of radical feminists. I understand that in the “LGBTQIA++”, ‘A’ may stand for “ally.” Does that include allies of lesbians? Despite the exclusionary intentions of some organizers, the workshop contained informative discussion.
A feminist from Wisconsin posted sourced comments during the presentation:
"That “intersex is as common as being a redhead”, as well as the 1.7% stat is not true. Anne Fausto-Sterling's suggestion that the prevalence of intersex might be as high as 1.7% has attracted wide attention in both the scholarly press and the popular media. Many reviewers are not aware that this figure includes conditions which most clinicians do not recognize as intersex, such as Klinefelter syndrome, Turner syndrome, and late-onset adrenal hyperplasia. If the term intersex is to retain any meaning, the term should be restricted to those conditions in which chromosomal sex is inconsistent with phenotypic sex, or in which the phenotype is not classifiable as either male or female. Applying this more precise definition, the true prevalence of intersex is seen to be about 0.018%, almost 100 times lower than Fausto-Sterling s estimate of 1.7%.” Source: (2002) How common is lntersex? A response to Anne Fausto‐Sterling, The Journal of Sex Research, 39:3, 174-178,
The workshop was a first instance of a discussion that is inevitable in the Green Party. How will the party address discrimination against trans people, now recognized by the Supreme Court as a form of sex (not gender identity) discrimination? (A West Virginia Green feminist has pointed out that being trans implies that one has a sex to have transitioned from and that that’s the whole point of the discrimination.) How will the party address public issues of girls’ and women’s sports, and privacy in locker rooms? How will it respond to efforts to protect children and minors from “medical” diagnoses and “treatments” for which informed consent is impossible at their ages? How will it respond to efforts to condemn and silence writers like J. K. Rowling, or to shut down public feminist gatherings like the one successfully held in Seattle in February, despite a campaign to cancel it?
These public issues won’t go away just because a Green workshop ejected a feminist while she was asking a question.
Editor's Note July 18: After the publication of Thistle Pettersen and David Keil's accounts of what happened at the July 10th Green Party National Convention Workshop called We're Here and We're Queer, it came to our attention that the video of the workshop is now available on the Green Party Youtube channel. Above is a 90s clip from that video (published by Womens Liberation Radio News in their youtube channel), where Ms. Pettersen asks her question, is interrupted and muted. She was shortly thereafter removed from the workshop altogether. A transcript of the exchange surrounding her question is available at the link.