#TransStonewall – the first meeting
August 30, 2014 § 9 Comments
What happened, who was there, and where we go from here.
That done? Onwards…
A summation of the meeting
So, today, August 30th 2014, Stonewall – the UK’s largest and most influential LGB group – met with a group of trans activists to consult on plans to open up their remit to include LGB and T.
I’ve literally just made it home now – so haven’t had time to really process what happened, let alone write something sophisticated/witty/stylish about it all. But I think that it’s important that everyone is kept up to speed with what’s happening – so:
Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, was joined by Caroline (I’m afraid I didn’t catch her last name) as facilitator, and a member of the charitable board – they were the only three cis people in the room – a deliberate move, to show Stonewall’s willingness to take a back seat on the discussion.
After a general run through of rules for the day’s consultation (not talking over anyone, not quoting anyone without permission), Ruth started by tackling the elephant in the room – Stonewall’s past failings towards trans people and trans issues. Personally, I was impressed. She didn’t make excuses, or pretend that Stonewall hadn’t cocked up – she went through, point by point, areas in which Stonewall has let trans people down, explained their side of the story, apologised, and explained what they’re planning on doing to make things better. The word ‘tranny’ has been removed from the Fit educational video. Nominees for Stonewall awards are now scrutinised for any transphobic behaviour. They admitted that they haven’t done enough for bisexual people. Again, the point was stressed that they were not interested in trying to dictate to trans people what should happen – but to ask trans people if we wanted Stonewall on side.
That done, we moved on to the meat of the day’s work – to debate the pros and cons of three proposed approaches to Stonewall’s engagement with trans activism, taking as foundational that, in the future, they will be supportive allies to trans causes. The three proposed plans:
1. That Stonewall become a full LGBT organisation.
2. That Stonewall helps set up a sibling organisation to tackle trans issues – raising initial funds, sharing expensive resources and helping with training. This organisation would then become an autonomous, though linked, entity.
3. That Stonewall remain an LGB organisation, but provide grants to existing trans organisations.
After much debate, the majority feeling in the room was that option 3 would prove unworkable due to bureaucratic niceties around charitable donations/how grants work in the UK, promote infighting, and overall seemed rather paternalistic and patronising.
Many people favoured an approach that took the best parts of option 1 and option 2 and combined them – allowing trans activists to utilize the tools necessary for national campaigns and parliamentary lobbying, whilst also retaining the ability to function autonomously/semi-autonomously. It was felt by many that this would mean a more joined-up approach to trans rights, and provide trans activists with a shield of support to fall back on.
It was stressed that Stonewall would not be able to proceed without taking trans activists on board – a point that Ruth agreed with without argument. Much was made of the fact that there is not one trans community, but many diverse trans communities – and that Stonewall should not, and could not, try to proceed along homogenizing lines.
The group I was part of came up with three final points, which I’d like to summarize here. I believe that there is a big enough groundswell of support that Stonewall is going to become an LGBT organisation, though not all trans people are going to be on board with that – but, regardless of the exact process, these are the points we felt they needed to take away with them:
1. That they have current campaigns that could be made trans inclusive quickly and easily, with fantastic gains – the ‘No Bystanders’ campaign is already trans inclusive, and the ‘Some people are gay’ campaign would be an ideal continuation point.
2. That there are trans specific issues that need addressing in this country, and any campaigns to address these need to be lead by trans people, to be fully and properly inclusive.
3. That any action taken needs to be sustainable – both financially, and also in terms of the human cost.
I was surprised, in the best possible way, by how supportive and inclusive the day was of trans people of all genders – not just those that fell under a traditional binary. There was a firm promise to continue to include all trans people, and an acknowledgement that, even when using simple language and a ‘softly, softly’ approach, genderqueer, androgynous, bigender, genderfluid etc. people wouldn’t be excluded.
Every other aspect of diversity. Of the fifty people there, only four were people of colour. While there were many people with non-visible disabilities, there was not a broad (or even moderately wide) spectrum of disabled trans activists. Attendees were overwhelmingly middle class (including myself) and middle aged.
This was brought up several times within the meeting, and Stonewall stressed that this was the first of many, many meetings during its consultation process. It is currently organising meetings focused on TPoC activists, trans disability activists, intersex activists etc. and they have asked that anyone wanting to give their opinion – negative or positive – contact them at email@example.com . For people who would find a group meeting difficult or impossible, they’re happy to set up a one-to-one meeting. I think they should have worked a lot harder to make this first meeting more diverse, but I’m hoping that they are genuine in wanting to reach as many different trans people as possible, though whether they actually will be is not for me to say.
Obviously, there are many trans activists who won’t want to be involved with Stonewall – for reasons of history, for their work with the government, for their frequent focus on a narrow segment of white Gl(b) people, for their work with corporations. For myself, I remain ambivalent about them because of those reasons. I think there will be argument and backlash, and I’m not particularly looking forward to it.
However, again, personally – I believe that Stonewall is clearly going to be moving in the direction of becoming LGBT – and I can’t help but be excited about anything that helps address transphobic bullying in schools, that spreads awareness of trans lives, and which might lead to changes in the law and in the health service that make all trans lives easier. Not because I agree with all of what they do, or because of being blinkered – but because I think it could genuinely help to combat some of the injustice and oppression suffered by too many trans people. Not all of it. Not perfectly. But some.
To re-iterate – Ruth Hunt has asked that any trans person with an opinion on this contact her – whether disagreeing, or agreeing, or a combination – and I think it’s vital that we do. Whatever your opinion of Stonewall, let them know it – don’t let them go forward in ignorance: firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t know what will happen – but my fingers are crossed.
My brain is buzzing and I forgot to include the timescale. Stonewall will be seeking consultation on this until January, when they’ll put forward a proposal. This proposal will then go through a consultation process – the impression I got was that this would be both internal and external – and a decision on going forward (and the going forward itself) will begin around April 2015.