London, UK – On July 5, 2019, a bar refused to serve a group of lesbian women and their friends, and asked them to leave. When the group refused to do so, the National Theatre called police to have them removed.
Some of the lesbians in the group were wearing T-shirts that display the dictionary definition of the word lesbian. “Lesbian: a woman who loves other women”, the T-shirts show, along with a pronunciation key.
According to Natasha Read, who was among those refused service by the bar, a member of staff asked if any of the women had been involved in the ‘Get the L Out’ action at Pride the previous year. ‘Get the L Out’ is a grassroots lesbian feminist activist movement that advocates getting the ‘L’ out of the “GBT community”, and creating an autonomous lesbian community.
After the story broke on social media, Julian Vigo, an independent scholar, filmmaker and contributor to various media publications, tweeted that she had phoned the National Theatre to express her concern. Vigo wrote that she was told that the bar had “heard that these women were anti-trans”, though the representative could not specify how the venue had come to learn this. The only information provided to Vigo was that the bar did not want these women there and that “nobody wanted to serve (them).” The representative hung up when asked additional questions.
In a video recorded by one of the members of the group refused service, a police officer can be heard telling the group that the bar “can turn away anyone they want to”, and that “their reason is…some of the group spoke to the manager (and said) ‘lesbians can’t have dicks’…and some of the staff got offended by that comment”.
On July 7, Lisa Burger, the joint chief executive of the National Theatre, said in a statement that the women “were ultimately asked to leave the premises as a result of a series of disturbances”, which “began with their refusal to put placards out of sight that featured messages which upset other customers”.
No placards can be seen in any of the available footage, such as this eight-minute video documenting the group’s interaction with police
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