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transgender women

London's annual Pride parade got off to a bit of a bumpy and disappointing start.

A number of women representing a group calling itself "Get the L Out" moved to the front of the parade, blocking it from starting the march.

The group, whose website states is a collection of "lesbian and feminist individuals and organizations, opposing the increasingly anti-lesbian and misogynistic LGBT movement and the erasure of lesbians," was there to protest against transgender people and activism.

Most parade-goers embraced the spirit of unity. Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for The AA.

Trans rights have been a bit of a hot topic in the U.K., with recent controversy over plans to reform the country's Gender Recognition Act, which would make it easier for trans people to update their legal documents to accurately reflect their gender. The group of protesters oppose this change.

They handed out pamphlets spreading anti-trans talking points about cisgender (another word for "non-trans") children being forced to transition (this isn't happening), of the movement "coercing lesbians to have sex with men" (no, there's not a movement to coerce people into sleeping with people they're not attracted to), and that trans people reinforce sexist stereotypes (this is another common misperception).

The validity of those arguments is neither here nor there, though, to be honest. The group's aim, to create the appearance of a rift between trans people and the entire lesbian community, was simple and probably pretty successful.

Watching the scene unfold from my apartment an ocean away, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

To the shock, dismay, and sadness of many trans people (full disclosure: I am a transgender woman), Pride in London organizers allowed this group — which had not registered for a spot in the parade — to lead the march.

Watching a number of people in the crowd cheer on this group's efforts to delegitimize people like me as sexual deviants to be driven out from the LGBTQ movement just left me stewing in an sense of overwhelming sadness. Is this really how the larger community sees us? I asked myself. Am I nothing more to them than a man in a dress (my aversion to dresses notwithstanding)?

Pride in London officials offered up a series of justifications for allowing the group in front of the parade before eventually offering up an apology to trans people. It felt like too little too late — but then the internet did something amazing.

People wave gay pride and trans pride flags at the Pride in London parade. Photo by Mark Milan/Getty Images for Barefoot Wine.

The hashtag #LWithTheT began popping up on Twitter alongside videos and statements of support from cisgender lesbians to the trans community.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Brighton and Hove launched the campaign. The posts were simple yet heartfelt. They also meant the absolute world to me.

"We aim to counter hatred with visible solidarity across all women, and cis female lesbians showing love for trans people," read Pride in London's press release. "Trans women are women, and trans lives are not up for debate. The transphobic group does not speak for the lesbian community."

"I was so angry and frustrated that I cried. I'm a lesbian, and these women did not represent me, nor my partner who was on the same bus [in the parade]," says fashion blogger Lottie L'Amour. "I was so disappointed with the handling of the whole thing — I just knew that I had to do something. I immediately went home and donated money to Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids, and then a friend of mine from the community in Brighton told me about the hashtag, and both my fiancee and I got involved straight away."

Trans people belong in the LGBTQ community. We're not some sort of new addition to the mix, either.

The entire concept of Pride stems from the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. The events at Stonewall, in which trans women such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera played a leading role, helped spark the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Trans people have been there from the start.

Sure, some of the language may have changed over time, but this movement belongs as much to trans people as it does to anybody else — which is why efforts to boot trans folks are so hurtful.

Some trans people are straight, some are gay, and others are bisexual (another disclosure: I'm bisexual, but happily married to an awesome queer woman) or something else entirely. None of our experiences are the same. A trans woman like me will never know exactly what it's like to be a cis woman, and I'd never claim to know. That's OK. Not all cis women have identical life experiences, either, and that's OK.

We can all exist in the world without trying to invalidate anyone's womanhood or manhood or any other gender, or sexuality.

It's easy to see the actions of a handful of people as representative of an entire group. The #LWithTheT hashtag was a much-needed reminder to me that the women who protested the event, while valid in their identity and their sexuality, do not speak for all in the wider lesbian community.

Being LGBTQ means I exist in a community of beautifully varied individuals. Let's celebrate that, during Pride and all year round.