Lesbian Strength: Paula Boulton’s speech, MC script and song lyrics

Welcome to Lesbian Strength Leeds

Hopefully the first of many.

We have come together to celebrate our strength as Sapphic Sisters united by our love of women.

This is Lesbian Revival.

I have 3 Rs for us.

Reclaim our Roots, Rebuild our Community, Resist Erasure.

Reclaim. Rebuild. Resist.

As is our way – we all do what we can. And what a lot that has been. Each contribution counts – however large or small.

Whatever part you have played and will continue to play – remember we are only as strong as our weakest link. So make those connections. Weave the web. Spin the Yarn because we are here to stay!

In case anyone is unsure what a Lesbian is – I invite you to join us singing Lesbian Singalong.

 

Lesbian Singalong

Wherever you travel wherever you go

You’ll find a lesbian keeping you in the flow

We drive buses and

We can mend cars

You’ll find a lot of us singing in choirs (fa la la)

Chorus: Lesbian singalong

Lesbians deserve to have some fun

Highlight our virtues, discover our pearls

Everyone benefits from a lesbian in their world

Wonderful teachers and marvellous mums

Providing the best for our daughters and sons

Excellent at tennis

And football, of course

Horseriding, badminton, all kinds of sports (tra la la)

Chorus:

Comforting, humorous, fun-loving friends

Sharing life’s journeys through twists and round bends

Offering sustenance, nurture and care

Walking together and using wheelchairs

Bridge: We climb up mountains

We sail on seas

Fly through the atmosphere as pilots or by trapeze

We maintain the health service practically on our own

Nurses and doctors or answering the phone, the phone ..

We write gripping novels

We act in stunning parts

We’re found everywhere

In media and the arts

We chanted Free Nelson Mandela

We marched with the Suffragettes

Opposed cruise missiles at Greenham

Your ain’t seen the last of us yet

 

Before we bring on our fabulous speakers I have 10 points to make.

Point 1:

Why are we in Leeds? Up North for a change where we say it like it is!

And it is only 5 hours from Glasgow!

Leeds has a proud Herstory of women’s activism – not least of which was WAVAW (Women against Violence against Women)

They know a thing or two about Lesbians in this part of the world.

There seems to be something in the water. So I say keep hydrated.

Not too far from here in Halifax a certain Anne Lister knew what a Lesbian was before the word was even used. To quote her, “I love and only love the fairer sex, and thus, beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs”

Let’s channel the swagger of Anne Lister!

Point 2:

Why are we a threat to Patriarchy?

Looking out at you I don’t see a fierce or scary bunch.

We are a threat because we reject the phallus.

Point 3:

The L-word. Definitions matter. Words matter. We know what Lesbian means. Women In Iran, South Africa, Ukraine know what Lesbian means.

Point 4:

So refuse to use Newspeak. I read 1984 on holiday – read it or reread it as it is frighteningly contemporary. And remember – to quote Orwell

“Freedom is being able to say 2+2=4”

Point 5:

Reject the nonsense of the alphabet soup, which lets people wrap themselves in rainbows whilst feeling virtuous, and allows companies to grab cash from a newly-created, ever-expanding market.

Point 6:

Stonewall used to know what a Lesbian was but seems to have forgotten

Point 7:

Some of us have been around a long time and have long memories

We remember Clause 28

We are used to being incognito, being invisible. We know how to exist like that.

If needs be we can do it again. Not all of us have been assimilated.

Point 8:

We know how to network. 37 years ago, way before mobile phones, we managed to get 30,000 women to surround the base at Greenham common.

In those days we were up against a shoot to kill policy when stopping Cruise convoys. We were up against the American Military. In fact we were up against the entire military industrial complex.

So we understand threat. And we know a thing or two about the long game.

Point 9:

We know how to build movements.

To quote Marge Piercy, “It goes one at a time. It starts when you say we and know who you mean, and each day you mean one more!”

Point 10:

Looking out at the crowd I see the symbol of the double headed axe. We need to use the Labrys to cut through the crap. So let’s turn out the gaslights and turn on the torchlight of truth.

This march and Rally is dedicated to Magdalen Burns, a young Lesbian who has been shining that torch consistently.

 

Please welcome Nicole Jones who will speak about Magdalen and her work.

 

Lauren Hamstead will speak about her experience as a young lesbian.

 

Charlie will speak about detransitioning.

 

Louise Moody will speak about Acadaemia.

 

Sandra McNeill will speak about life for Lesbians in the 70s and 80s

 

Eilean Mulligan:

Paula and I are part of an eco-feminist lesbian theatre collective called “Keeping Earth Company”. Back in the time Sandra just spoke about we were not concerned for the environment. This song is called Frequency and it is a song for our time.

 

Frequency:

The alarm bells are sounding

‘Cause something is wrong

Deep in the waters

Hear it in the whale’s song

 

In the cries of the curlews

In the howling of the wolves

There’s a dangerous disturbance

As the Planet Earth evolves

But!

We are the carrier wave

Of the frequency

Ending patriarchy

We are the carrier wave

Of the frequency

Ending patriarchy!

 

We are the Women who refuse to conform

We’re part of the web of life and the Earth we live on

It’s in our nature, we’re of Woman born

We’re taking back control and this is our song!

 

We are the carrier wave

Of the frequency

Ending patriarchy ( x 2 )

 

We are the Lesbians who have never conformed

We love Women, we’re proud and we’re strong

It’s in our nature, we’re of Woman born

Lesbians around the world are singing this song:

 

We are the carrier wave

Of the frequency

Ending patriarchy ( x several )

 

Paula: Please contact us if you are interested in being part of the collective as we need culture, song, photos, films, books, paintings, sculpture – oh and TV series!

 

Gentleman Jack:

Behind her back she’s Gentleman Jack
A Yorkshire lady of renown
Ever so fine
Won’t toe the line
Speak her name the gentlemen frown

At Shibden Hall she had them all
The fairer sex fell under her spell
Dapper and bright
She held them tight
Handsome Anne seduced them well

Gentleman Jack
Oh Gentleman Jack
Watch your back you’re under attack
Their husbands are coming
You’d better start running
For nobody likes a Jack-the-lass

Jack-the-lass
Jack-the-lass
No-one likes a Jack-the-lass
The code is cracked
Your bags are packed
The knives are out for Gentleman Jack

Proud and stout
And full of clout
She played the fellas at their game
Sharp of mind
She’s one of a kind
Devilish ways the men couldn’t tame
Hidden away
Revealed today
Loaded words in diaries found

Wants exposed in a baffling code
Lusty letters all leather bound

 

Chorus

Linda Bellos is our final speaker

 

Paula: To finish the rally we are going to sing the Vagina Anthem by the Hungry Hearts. They sent us their blessing. Tonje said she wrote it for women speaking out. The video that is projected behind them as they perform changes all the time and it includes Magdalen Burns.

Vagina Anthem by Hungry Hearts
Chorus 1:

(‘cause)We are women

With vaginas

We gave birth to all you fools

We are women

With vaginas

We are here to change the rules

 

We are your mothers

Your sisters, your daughters

What the fuck is wrong with you?

We are your mothers, sisters, daughters

So what the fuck is wrong with you?

 

 

Chorus 2:

’Cause we are sheroes

With vaginas

And the guts to bring it on

We are sheroes

With vaginas

And the strength to carry on

 

We are your mothers

Your sisters, your daughters

We protect, we love and fight

We are your mothers, sisters, daughters

And we will fight to make it right

 

 

 

 

Spoken: We are smart, we are strong

We have the guts to bring it on

We are smart, we are strong

We have the strength to carry on

All that shaming, blaming

And shitty mansplaining

**To silence women ****

 

I have opinions

I speak my mind

You want a silent girl?

I’m not that kind

I have a choice

I use my voice

You can’t ignore this thing

That you call noise**

Chorus 1+2

’Cause we are women!

 

Paula: And finally to close the rally:

 

Woman am I

Spirit am I

I am the infinite within myself

I can find no beginning

I can find no end

Oh yes I am.

 

It’s not just the web,

It’s the way that we spin it

It’s not just the world,

It’s the women that’s in it

It’s not just the struggle,

It’s the way that we win it

That’s what makes us strong.

 

It’s not just the power,

It’s the sense of direction

It’s not just the love,

It’s the warmth and affection

It’s not that we’re good,

We’re just bloody perfection

That’s what makes us strong.

 

Lesbians like us,

Join hands together

Lesbians all over the world

Rise up and shout dyke – DYKE!

 

 

September 7th 2019

Paula Boulton