Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

Executive Director and Co-Founder of UK Black Pride

Phyll (she/her) will speak on UK Black Pride, Intersectionality, Race, Gender and Class.

Widely known as Lady Phyll – partly due to her decision to reject an MBE in the New Year’s Honours’ list to protest Britain’s role in formulating anti-LGBT penal codes across its empire – she is a senior official at the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) trade union as the Head of Equality & Learning, as well as a community builder and organiser; a Stonewall Trustee; Diva Magazine columnist, and public speaker focusing on race, gender sexuality and class and intersectionality. Phyll has been nominated for and won numerous accolades including the European Diversity Awards Campaigner of the Year in 2017, she is also in the top 10 on World Pride Power list. Phyll is also the co-editor and author of the ‘Sista’ Anthology,  writing by and about same gender loving women of African Caribbean descent with a UK connection. Phyll is a working class, family-orientated Ghanaian woman who understands the Twi and Fanti languages which connect her to a rich African cultural heritage that advocates for unity and equality. She also prides herself on being a passionate activist who commits to working diligently to make people aware of on-going inequalities and injustices facing the Black LGBT+ community. She has worked tirelessly to build up UK Black Pride by bringing together artists, activists, volunteers and supporters from across the LGBT+ community. Phyll supports Paris Black Pride and ensures UK Black Pride is part of the International Federation of Black Prides around the world.

Phyll cites her maxim as a quotation from Maya Angelou: ‘prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible’.

Katherine O’Donnell

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University College Dublin

“Lesbians are not women”: Considering Trans Female & Lesbian Identities, Gender, Safety & Liberation. 

This paper begins with a personal reflection on the intoxicating essay of Monique Wittig from 1981, entitled “One is Not Born a Woman” where Wittig argues that a lesbian is ‘not a woman, either economically, politically or ideologically.’ I recall how Wittig’s essay allowed many young lesbians in the 1980s to think about female gender as something that was constructed and fixed by the demands of patriarchal heterosexuality and her essay led us to particular visions of political liberation. I also explore how Wittig’s vision of the lesbian as a fugitive from the class of ‘women’ might be described as a kind of ‘feminist misogyny’ that has profound limitations in imagining and enacting freedom from patriarchy. The phrase ‘feminist misogyny’ is not widely known but I think the kinds of depiction of women which we might describe as ‘feminist misogyny’ is very evident in classic feminist texts and is certainly useful in describing some of the ways in which I thought about femininity for much of my life. I discuss how reading work by trans lesbians helped me to recognise my own feminist misogyny and offered me ways to revaluate the category of ‘woman’ and how I might relate to this identity.

I propose that revisiting Wittig’s remarkable essay allows us a lens through which we might gently consider polarised depictions of trans women by those who hold trans exclusionary radical feminist positions. The paper concludes with a discussion of how we might understand trans female identities to overlap and diverge with cis lesbian identities, proposing that the similarities of experience in relation to gender norms might be the very reason for moments of incomprehension or misrecognition between the two groups.

K O'DonnellKatherine O’Donnell is Assoc. Prof. History of Ideas, UCD School of Philosophy and is a member of Justice for Magdalenes Research. She studied feminist philosophy with Mary Daly at Boston College and also studied at University of California at Berkeley while completing her Ph.D. thesis on the Gaelic background to Edmund Burke’s political thought. She was appointed as a College Lecturer in Women’s Studies in UCD and went on to become Director of  UCD Women’s Studies Centre, a position she held for ten years until 2015. She has been involved in Queer and Feminist activist politics in Ireland since 1983 (including being a co-founder of the Irish Queer Archive held by the National Library of Ireland) and she has been a key organiser in the Lesbian Lives Conference since 1997. In the academic years 2015/16 and 2016/17 she taught modules in Feminist Philosophy on the University of Oxford’s B.Phil programme. In 2017 she was appointed to her current position as Assoc. Prof. in the History of Ideas at UCD. She has published widely in the history of sexuality and gender and also the intellectual history of Eighteenth Century Ireland.

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