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Women gather at The College Arms pub in London for one of Jenny Watson’s lesbian speed-dating events. (All photos by Ambra Vernuccio for The Free Press)

TERF Wars at Lesbian Speed Dating

Jenny Watson wanted to create a space for lesbians to find love. That’s not what happened.

On a recent evening in London, I met a slight and unassuming young woman named Jenny Watson at a pub called The College Arms. She looks like one of the many studious graduate students who walk the nearby streets. But to hear some people tell it, she’s a monster.

That’s because Watson, who for seven years has hosted lesbian speed-dating events in the British capital, declared this past summer that transwomen would be barred from her events.

“We’re tired of lesbian events where men invade and make us uncomfortable,” she stated in an email to her mailing list of “nearly 17,000 people.” From now on, “only lesbians (adult human females)” are welcome. “Enough is enough. A man with a penis is not a lesbian. Being a woman is not a feeling.” 

Her declaration drove activists to smear her on social media, attempt to cancel her speed-dating business, and get her into hot water with her full-time employer. Before she knew it, Jenny Watson had become a national story in Britain.

In recent years, to vocally question whether a transwoman is, in fact, a woman, has become so controversial that it is now increasingly asked behind closed doors or privately, silently, in the mind. It is a question that has left politicians tongue-tied and celebrities canceled. Watson, who is 31 and single, says she long resisted banning trans participants because she knew it would “create a shitstorm.” But she started having misgivings about transwomen at her events a year ago when a person turned up “in a lilac rubber outfit with a distinct erection.” 

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