Jen Joins the LGB Alliance
Part 2 : Toilet Guards
I had joined the LGB Alliance mailing list months before the early-bird tickets were announced. Initially, I signed up so I could keep an eye on what they were doing during the lockdown. I didn’t have much on.
I remember not especially wanting to use my actual email address, but there are only so many email addresses you can make before you’re doing a Russian botnet’s job for it. Every now and then I’d get a cheery mail-out from them, advertising some online zoom conference discussing the indoctrination of gay-youth into the demonic transgender cabal. I watched a few - it was fun to see inside the LGB Alliance founders homes. Bev Jackson has a lot of ovens in her kitchen, so is clearly doing alright for herself.
The first email LGB Alliance sent out about the conference was suspiciously cryptic. They sounded excited to announce that tickets were going on sale for it, but they also weren’t about to give too much information away. For example, they mentioned that there would be sandwiches - but gave absolutely no indication to what sort of sandwiches they would be. Chicken? Peanut butter? Come on, reel me in. The main omission though, was the actual venue location of the event. Clearly they had been burned before, and weren’t about to let on about anything until it was absolutely necessary. I wondered where it would be held, because they insisted they had somewhere great. The car park in front of Lidl? The Scout Hut by St. Andrews Church?
A week or so passed, and sure enough more information trickled out. Apparently, there would be informative talks, with special guest speakers & book signings. There would be a plethora of original merch, as well as free coffee and even an evening disco. Yes, an actual disco. With dancing. Disco dancing. Gender critical disco dancing.
Well, naturally it didn’t take me long to book my ticket. I was so eager, in fact, that I completely missed the promotional deal from Lesbian and Gay News to get a discounted price. In the end I paid full price - £80. This included access to all the talks, all the food and of course, all the disco dancing I could do. On the one hand, as a trans woman who disagrees vehemently with everything the LGB Alliance represents, I did feel slightly conflicted about contributing £80 to their cause. On the other hand though, the prospect of possibly being able to romantically slow dance with Graham Linehan was so exciting that it completely overshadowed all of my “morals” or “principles”.
It wasn’t until the e-ticket hit my email inbox though, that the reality of what I had just done began to sink in. Was I really going to attend a conference, full of people who do a terrible job of hiding their distain for trans women? In my head - yes, I was. I was going to do it alone, bravely like some sort of gonzo trans-Theroux. I was Werner Herzog, brave and deranged - but with better tits. But after telling a few of my closest friends what I was planning on doing, I wasn’t greeted with the impressed adulation I was expecting. Instead, most people’s reaction was deep concern. “Are you going to be alright?” They’d ask. “You’re not going alone are you? What if something happens to you - you’re going to be outnumbered”. It hadn’t really occurred to me, because I don’t think clearly when I’m invested in a new project. Eventually, one of my good cis-male friends Riggs offered to accompany me to the conference to make sure nothing too untoward happened. This meant he’d have to buy a ticket as well, but luckily I now knew about the discounted rate from Lesbian and Gay News (a transphobic online news site) so we could support them, too.
Even by this point, there was still a lot of unknown information about the conference. They had revealed that it was being held at the Queen Elizabeth the II centre near Covent Garden (or “QE2” for cool cats). The building is government owned, so I was initially surprised they would be holding such a controversial event there.
The first thing I needed to do, though, was to contact the LGB Alliance directly - so I could find out more details about the sandwiched & the disco. The Alliance is a notoriously hard organisation to pin down, as “official membership” seems to go as far as signing up for the online newsletter - and any idiot can do that. Luckily for me though, with them now being an officially registered charity, it meant they had to have an officially registered switchboard number. It only took a few seconds to find online, so I phoned it.
The woman who answered the phone was cheery to start with. I asked her if it was true that there were going to be sandwiches at the event, and she assured me there would be. But when I delved a little bit deeper - to try and find out what might be in those sandwiches, she tightened like a clam. I tried a different tact, and pushed for more details on this disco I’d heard so much about. Again, she confirmed that it was going ahead - but wouldn’t give me any specifics about the tracks the DJ would be playing. These guys were tough. My biggest concern though, which I had to ask her about, was what the toilet conditions would be like at the Queen Elizabeth the II centre. I wanted to know if, heaven forbid, a devious transsexual-identified male were to infiltrate the conference - would proper measures be made to keep it out of the ladies toilets? Again came assurance. The LGB Alliance charity representative swore to me that during the conference event “toilet guards” would be stationed near the lavatory entrances to ensure no such deviances took place. I was relieved - and was thoroughly glad to have gotten our entire conversation recorded for posterity.
The last thing I asked her, was if she could tell me who the special guests at the conference were going to be. She clammed up again. She told me she wasn’t allowed to say. I pushed a little further - was it J.K Rowling? She wouldn’t say. Was is Graham Linehan? Again, no dice. I told her it was a shame she couldn’t tell me, because it was a dream of mine to slow dance with Graham Linehan at a disco - but I understood her predicament. I’d just have to wait until the day.
Although I was understandably relieved to hear about these “toilet guards”, I did wonder how a government owned conference centre could get past the law in such a brazen way. So I phoned the QE2.
The first person I spoke to was a receptionist. Initially, he didn’t seem to understand my question, and arranged to have someone phone me back. When I was eventually called back, the person assigned to help me thought I was concerned that the QE2 didn’t have toilets. He assured me that the venue does indeed have toilets, and I need not worry. Although a relief in itself, I still needed to know about the toilet guards - so asked him how the QE2 plans on subverting the law to keep trans-identified males out of women’s spaces. Surprisingly, he said he had no idea who LGB Alliance actually were, or what they were about, and that if they were having a conference there - they would have their own security. He offered to put me in touch with the man doing press for the LGB Alliance - Rob Jessel - who could give me a call back to put my mind at ease.
I don’t recall ever getting that phone call, so instead I managed to find Rob Jessel’s contact information on an LGB Alliance affiliated website and gave him a call myself. After leaving him a voicemail, he did eventually get back to me - and he seemed surprised that I had been told there would be “toilet guards”. He asked me who had given that information, and I told him it was the woman on the LGB Alliance charity switchboard. He had an understanding, and well trained manner to his voice. I could tell from our first speaking that he was a well trained, experienced press agent - who could keep calm under pressure, and tell people exactly what they needed to hear.
It wouldn’t be long until I would meet Rob Jessel face to face - and put his slick, client-facing patience to the test.