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Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt Invite Transgender People to Engage.

A wall a bit easier to climb?!

It was a very productive meeting organised by Sophia Christina Botha to raise her concerns regarding transgender people with disabilities and for me to ask some probing questions and find out just what exactly is going on here – noone is actually speaking about this beyond, “how great it is!” I have championed Sophia from the outset and feel trans*disability rights is a space she can thrive in. So many trans*people as they age become unwell, or have problems accessing services due to not only being disabled, but also being trans. Sadly, trans*people with disabilities face abuse from not only the public at large, but from within the GLBTIQ community itself.

Stonewall recognises this, and their Chief Executive, Ruth Hunt, addressed many of Sophia’s (and my) concerns regarding the recoupling of GLB & T.

Sophia’s friend and fellow activist, Natasha Kennedy, also took part, and as Sophia explained to me, it is quite a daunting prospect for a person with Asperger’s to engage at this level, which can be stressful, and Natasha Kennedy (pictured right) was a great support. I was brought in on Skype to take minutes and raise additional concerns that many trans*people have spoken about with me privately, some of the questions needed to be asked but Ruth did go off message (which in places did feel well rehearsed) to answer some of these and we got to the nitty-gritty of the issues. Some of which I will go into later along with Ruth’s responses.

 

Stonewall Oct 2014

Image taken from my perspective after the video conference call. (L) Ruth Hunt (CEO Stonewall), (Middle Top) Samantha Johnson (Transgender Zone), (Middle Bottom) Sophia Christina Botha (Disability Rights Activist), (R) Natasha Kennedy (Transgender Activist).

However, I was impressed with the answers given she shot from the hip, and I did prefer that to the somewhat CEO ‘Apprentice-business speek’, and it also was important to raise a number of concerns about how Non-GLB trans*people (or perhaps a trans couple, whereby a trans-identified man marries a transgender woman, they may now identify as ‘straight’) will sit within this new framework, the whole issue of ‘Gay Licence‘ (see: http://library.transgenderzone.com/?page_id=2976) came into play that she quickly adopted as a term and that is useful (this is important as although I invented the term, unless it is understood beyond this page, it will have little impact). I hope she uses it in a speech sometime – more on that later.

OK here are the minutes (abridged). At TransgenderZone.com we are transparent! We tell you what happened. There are no ivory towers that we detest so much. We did not ‘plot’ behind you backs below is exactly what happened – note to other activists – maybe you need to do the same so we all know what is going on!

Thanks

First and foremost I would like to thank Sophia Christina Botha for arranging for me to take part in this special session. It was nice to speak to Ruth and have time (well over an hour) to work through some quite complicated issues that a Q&A in a larger group/workshop simply would not deliver.

Attending: Ruth Hunt, Sophia Christina Botha, Natasha Kennedy and Samantha Johnson (by Skype).

Sophia opened with…her concerns regarding the planned date of a trans*disabled meeting conflicting with GLBT Labour AGM.

Ruth – If there is anybody who wants to talk to me I will give them access as soon as possible. So every meeting I’m having is encouraging me to meet new people.

Sophia – Natasha is going to speak mostly for me…

Sophia’s comments pre-written and spoken by Natasha – I support Stonewall integrating transgender people and understand that Stonewall have a lot of clout, and she appreciates Stonewall having a wider discussion with trans people who may have been swept under the carpet. She wants to ensure that specific concerns regarding disabled people are taken into account. She would like to insure that new groups are taken into account with autistic spectrum disorders and people with general disabilities.
Natasha explained she has done some additional research in this area. Sophia is concerned about disablism within the transgender community, particularly when you are on the autistic spectrum and you are also a part of an oppressed group like transgender people. Many of the issues raised maybe probably easier for a you (Ruth) and me (Natasha) to understand than Sophia.

Sophia – I can’t understand why someone would complain about being discriminated against as a trans*person yet discriminate against their own community, it is in the same way as racism and anti-Semitism within your own community it does not make any sense. There was a disabled trans woman who de-transitioned because she said she couldn’t ‘compete’ with other transwomen . Sophia then unexplained that there are varying degrees out of body dysmorphia amongst the community, and this body dysmorphic attitude can be projected onto disabled people in particular. Sophia explained that she understood from an early age that she would not look like Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman for example). But Sophia came to the realisation that she would not be the woman of her dreams and accepted that you would be the woman you are.

I (Samantha) mentioned some issues regarding the problems benchmarking trans*people as the stereotypical body beautiful/youth worship (found in porn especially). I also raised the very relevant issues regarding transgender people who transition later in life. For example Kellie Maloney (Celebrity Big Brother), obviously in Big Brother we witnessed quite a hostile person blossom before our eyes. And at the moment more and more stories about older transgender people are being driven by activists similar to myself who feel trans elders have been silenced from the conversation for too long, and whilst it is tempting to have transgender ‘Poster-Children’, we must have a more balanced view of our community. The concern I had was that Stonewall may be tempted down this well-trodden path but are apparently now going to some lengths to ensure a balanced view across all ages, and ethnicities is taken on-board (and now disabilities).

The issue raised that very glamorous transgender people are in fact a minority, the newspaper headlines and media tend to mock those that are not young and ‘classically beautiful’ and most work usually needs to be done with those that struggle to pass, get employment or suffer victimisation as a result. Elder transgender people who have lived a life and have great experiences to share, must be part of any dialogue – that was my (Samantha Johnson) only caveat at this point
Sophia – I would agree the average trans*person is rarely represented as a positive in the media. Usually it is the exceptions to the rule throughout society.

We used Sue Perkins (a lesbian woman) as an example to demonstrate that a person does not have to walk around in 6 in stiletto heels and short skirts, or be 22 years of age and be highly sexualised to be worth considering, but rather can be a smart erudite individual who is hired and appreciated beyond the usual misogynistic attitudes and is the presenter (Great British Bake-off) of the BBC’s highest rated TV show.

Natasha then i said, it often comes down to how the media present transgender people and Stonewall have to be careful not to get caught up in this transgender stereotype issue.

I (Samantha) raised the somewhat often invisible issue and one many, many have spoken to me about and ask that I raise regarding of how people with a transgender history, who do not identify as GLB (Straight Trans*people, Asexual) how do they fit into all this(?) and do you need a panel of such people to ensure their voices are heard above the melee. I (Samantha Johnson) gave an example, and this applies to a number of people I know and have known over the years with my work on TransgenderZone.com. I know of many couples whereby a trans women and trans man a man have fallen in love, married (or live together GF/BF etc) and the couple now identify as straight, so when they hear ‘Stonewall’, they think…uh? Some have said to me that educational matterials supplied by Stonewall are quite understandably ‘Gay-Centric’, and this really is a major sticking-point. “I’m a man and she is a woman we’re married what am i doing bolted-on to the gay community it doesn’t make any sense to me?!”

I asked Ruth to take this on-board and give it some thought.

We then lost the Wi-Fi connection for a short time and we connected via another device they joked about Stonewall’s flaky connection.

Sophia then introduced me (Samantha) for a separate issue on her agenda.

Sophia – Sam is a media archivist and was aware of the many examples of transphobia that have and still take place on television (in particular). Sophia explained she was concerned that people may take part in Stonewall committees and judging panels (funding/awards etc) that could affect transgender people, and therefore must be scrutinised. Ruth assured Sophia that all members that will take part on various committees will be vetted on all areas of discrimination, and anything ‘unsavoury’, She said, “we have learned a lot and not everybody agrees with choices we make and we will review this regularly.

The next issue raised was ‘Gay Licence’, which not only affects people elected to panels and judging committees, Gay Licence is a term I (Samantha Johnson) created to explain how Gay men in particular can abuse or mock transgender women (in particular) without consequence. An example of Gay Licence would be a television presenter or gay comedian mocking transgender people and using otherwise ‘hate-crime’ words to entertain a predominantly straight, gay audience where trans are in a minority or absent. This called in another term I created known as “trans-currency”, or the use of the transgender narrative to make money using Drag whereby just by donning a frock the use of transphobia and transphobic slurs becomes ‘acceptable’ to the audience. Prime examples of well known television comedians are Alan Carr and Paul O’Grady that spring to mind, who are otherwise very beloved high profile Gay men who have a terrible track record in this area. I explained that we have evidence and video clips to prove these terms were used. So being Gay and being Trans are poles apart in this regard. And as a consequence a number of unaddressed problems could come from places they least expect during this consultation. Problems that will only be amplified if this is not addressed.

Ruth then summarised so far – She explained the following:

stwll1“I want to explain where we are at as a community and as an organisation, and what we are trying to do, and what my intentions are, I want to talk more about the first consultation meetings we will be holding, and address your point Sophia, regarding meetings that may clash with GLBT meetings elsewhere such as the GLBT Labour AGM (Which Sophia had noticed fell on the same day as one of her planned interactions and as such would result in a low turn-out) and talk a little about how we will promote trans people and non-trans, non-gay trans people and the gay licence issue is it ok if I address all that in that order? So this will sound a bit like a monologue but please stop me. So Stonewall and I want to apologise if i cover old ground, so when Stonewall was set up 25 years ago it was a Gay charity designed to provide an incredibly focused non-democratic strategic response on a national intervention level to reverse negative legislation that affected Gay people. About 6 months after that initial meeting Lesbians got involved and said it should be a Gay and Lesbian charity, but bisexuals did not get looked at at all and trans were not part of the discourse. I was 7 years old when that took place and I’m not responsible for my forefathers. When i started at stonewall 10 years ago my role as a Policy Officer was to start a program of work that will enable us to start to change hearts and minds- changing the law is one thing but it is quite another to change hearts and minds.”

We maintain a way of working that is strategic level interventions, and not particularly democratic, so it is about working and influencing institutions, lawmakers, policy makers, to do things in a different way. Stonewall has never delivered services, and never will. But i think there is some confusion about that, and it’s important to clarify Stonewall doesn’t talk much to Gay people actually. Certainly when i started, the Civil Partnership act was going through at around the same time as the Gender Recognition Act (2004), Press for Change were leading the way with the Gender Recognition Act and we were leading the way with the Civil Partnership Act, and it was agreed at that stage that Press for Change would proceed with the trans agenda and we would pursue an LGB agenda. What also happened at that time [was] I began having meetings with Government Departments, with employers who all saId LGBT is all the same, so when we talk about LGB we’re expected to talk about T. It was very clear at that stage, we had to say no, actually gender identity/ gender dysphoria is a different issue to sexual orientation and you mustn’t confuse the two. And that was very much a reflection of the way institutions were at on the level of understanding [in a similar way] I was trying to explain Lesbians were different from a Gay men, that is the kind of level of explanation we were doing. Over the intervening ten years, and opinion differs on this, i would argue that Press for Change became weaker and Stonewall has become considerably stronger. Our influence and reach has expanded. So 10 years ago we were working with 15 employers, today we are working with several hundred, we were working with no schools, now we are working with 400. No local authorities, now we are working with a hundred.

So just the scale of our work has increased quite dramatically, what also happened during that time. Stonewall made a series mistakes around trans-inclusion that led to war of attrition, the like of which could be compared to any other kind of online media wars that go on. Stonewall became, i think, defensive, frozen, paranoid, anxious, [something that] trans communities understandably became angry, hostile, and objected to what stonewall was doing and how they were working, almost as if to say, get your tanks off my lawn! stwll1stwll2Every campaign Stonewall has run or developed has not been trans-inclusive. And that has prompted a variety of heavy criticism, confusion, hurt, and significant lost opportunities of having trans-inclusion in our awareness training. When i took over my first appointment as Acting Chief Executive in February, my first step was to demonstrate we would be a better ally to the transgender community. I was determined if I was to be made permanent Chief Exec, this matter would be resolved once and for all, one way or another, on the condition of my appointment. I am very clear that’s how it should be resolved it shouldn’t be determined by our cisgender board, or by me, but by close consultation with the widest range possible of transgender people.

As well as all existing supporters, there are lots of people who currently fund us and give us money, so it has to be a very open consultation to that end. I have been trying to use every method possible to be as open as possible as I can. We have kept that as light as possible in terms of Stonewall’s involvement because the number of people involved who are not ‘out’ are high, and we have to respect the confidentiality, and for that reason I am the only one conducting meetings. I’m the only one having the conversation, as I’m the only one reading the e-mails.

Dates

Between July and December the 22nd, anyone who wants a conversation with me or a meeting with me – we’ll have one! Between December the 22nd and January the 22nd, a paper will outline how Stonewall will behave in these matters, and that paper will go to the Board of Trustees and will be made public and distributed as far as possible. Between the end of January and April we will conduct a second consultation. How we implement the finer detail where we’ve got to. So there is a two- stage consultation process. In May, the final results will go to the Board, and between May and October Stonewall acknowledging that if we are to change the status quo, training for existing staff and transitional issues will be effectively taken. That being said, any opportunities that arise between now and then, to be trans inclusive, we are not going to miss a trick, nor are we going to too fast and screw it up basically… if that makes sense? So the question at the moment and what we will be consulting on is should stonewall be trans-inclusive and if we do, how will that work? And the most fundamental point on that is that Stonewall isn’t going to change its way of working. Stonewall is controversial organisation, we are both loved and hated from all sorts of different people. We don’t get government money and we are good at what we do. If we were to become trans-inclusive we would do it in pretty much the same way. It will be strategic, it will be high level interventionist, it would be educational, it will be awareness.

Stonewall CampaignSo the question is, should stonewall become trans-inclusive, and if so, where [do we focus] our resources and where is it appropriate to include trans. For example our 700 employers had the “some people are gay get over it” campaign, we could include, “some people are trans get over it”(?) for example . So in my mind it is relatively straight-forward, because it is about exploiting existing opportunities. Stonewall staff will need training to do that right, and it will be a process of going through all our [staff] and creating trans-inclusivity. A question mark remains about trans-specific work, and when i say trans-specific work, I am talking about reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Campaign around health access, campaign about education, and access for young people who or wherever they’re at, because that requires a significant amount of resources and a significant amount of expertise. Also. the effectiveness of any transpacific work rests entirely on the legitimacy of the person running those campaigns, [my concern] is about if it is appropriate that I. as a Lesbian. head up that work, and that we upscale and empower trans*people to run their own campaign? There is a huge array of different options to enable that.

The first is about perhaps creating a ‘Trans Department’ for trans-specific work.

The second is about creating a separate trans organisation, but sharing our more expansive resources such as HR and IT, things like that. And that will give the [Trans] organisation the autonomy to work in a way they want, and in a way that someone wants. It will still be a department within Stonewall. So it would have to be done the Stonewall way and that might not be where the movement is. But my intention is to ensure whatever we decide is led by trans people, it’s owned by trans people, it’s a tricky area that will take a bit of untangling, the conversations we are having, out there, are addressing the fundamental questions of what does a trans*movement look like, and what does a trans movement need to achieve, the similar sort of things Stonewall has achieved? So that rests on the assumption Stonewall’s ways of working are good, if it stalls that’s nothing to do with Stonewall, that’s none of my business.

In terms of the next stage of consultation, I am very aware that the meeting held on the 30th of August invited those that have been most vocal in a criticism of Stonewall over the last 10 years, mainly because i don’t want the situation that I only got my mates in a room and had a cosy meeting, and i wanted a day where we could try some of this out. It would be very easy for that meeting to turn around and say, “No! No! Stonewall! You have lost your right to be party to this conversation,” but that was not the outcome of the meeting.

But the next set of meetings I’m just going to read them out the dates have not been made public yet … so don’t write it down dates its is not a secret i’ll send it all out in an e-mail.

[…]

But they will include older people, FTM, disabled, non-binary, intersex and people of colour.
Dates and locations omitted as requested.

[…]

Ruth – I’ve made a note regarding the awareness of Gay men to work with LGBT people and it’s well understood and their ability to [do so] is similar to that of heterosexual men, and don’t get a ‘pass’ because they are Gay – and that is Stonewall’s philosophy.
Sophia then raised the concern that Stonewall may give an Award to a transphobic person without being aware of it.

Ruth said, this would be unlikely as that is not Stonewall’s ways of working. We have a zero tolerance in the same way, how we respond to TERFS actually… zero tolerance! But i am not going to boycott them, and tell them they are not able to express their view, as preventing people from doing so generally feeds into the issue – that is our way of working.

We would not talk about the pretty side of trans in the same way we would not suggest that a ‘good Gay’, is a man who has female friends, or a good Lesbian has short hair or is a stereotype.

So there’s a limited and restricted idea about what ‘Gay’ looks like and the same applies to trans.

So if i can reassure you, it’s not just going to be the aesthetically pleasing trans*people who may well be anodyne, and we barely use images of people anyway deliberately, so to avoid portraying [as stereotype or cliché] individuals as they are rarely representative of the broad community today. We are concerned about UKip.

Sophia – speaks up and mentions that there have been a couple of transgender members of UKip namely Nicki Sinclaire and Kellie Maloney. Ruth mentions there are also Gay people in UKip . That’s the challenge. Ruth mentioned she will attend the UKip conference next year, and engage.

I (Samantha Johnson) asked Ruth some questions and summarised about what she had said.
Samantha – You do not engage with the people directly but rather engage ‘strategically’. You say you’re not meeting lots of gay people every 10 minutes it’s the bigger picture?

swa2014Samantha – The Stonewall Awards issue? What i would say is any award may be given to GLBT people, and even Non-GLBT people, you may assume are supportive of your efforts and especially Television personalities. We can often demonstrate transphobia that you maybe unaware of – this can be a concern. This is why TransgenderZone.com document evidence, as we can demonstrate with dates, times, channels, stills and video clips this occurs as this is a required in any dispute – especially with OFCOM.

Samantha – A number of less vocal trans*people have difficulties with the idea of engaging with Stonewall. A relationship maybe seen more as in-laws rather than siblings. As you don’t always get along with your in-laws but you are still related to them (sort of) to make more sense as a metaphor in this instance. The issue of bolting-on trans issues to existing work is important, especially schools, as it is educational, as long as it is made clear that ‘not all trans are gay lesbian (or bisexual)- that’s a very important caveat. It’s tempting for Stonewall to say, “we are from Stonewall, we are the Gay organisation and trans people run a workshop and omit this fact because it somehow may confuse.

Ruth – I have got to address trans*straight people. Where do they fit? And i think the answer is because we do not represent Gay people, or Lesbians, or Bisexuals, we wouldn’t represent Trans*LGB, or Trans*straight people either. What we do is change how things are done in this regard, so we don’t train people, we don’t do awareness raising, and “things you need to know about lesbians”, it’s just not how we work. What we would do is say, an example would be, “OK Barclays you are training your staff training on equality and diversity, does your training currently include sexual orientation component? I would like to see it inclusive of lesbians…” So that is what i mean, so if we did gender identity, 10 things you need to know about lesbians put this above . We would like to see more inclusive duh duh duh duh… if we do gender identity questions we would ask them to please demonstrate how your course includes trans, so we would not be teaching gender identity any more than we would sexual orientation.

Samantha (me) – Do you review literature that’s going to have your name (Stonewall or Ruth CEO) on it? I would assume you would at least give it the ‘once over’ with Barclays (for example) as the diversity department document was something you are a part of and your name’s on the document. Are you saying you don’t review it in general?

Ruth responds – Generally not. We award points on how good it is, and the more points you get the higher you get in the rankings. So we benchmark. The document, I just reviewed it, was a policy around sexual orientation to ensure that all lesbians know they can use the male toilets so they would fail on that as they have not understood. We do not train them, I would say no he’s got this really wrong you need to do x y and z and sometimes they say, “will someone come and help us do that?” Generally we say no, you need to work with your LGB staff, educate and inform them to help you. It’s all about delivering through other people and empowering individuals to affect the change they want we don’t have to nor do we want to. If a member of staff from Barclays phones [us up] explaining that they were suffering from homophobic bullying we would say to that person, would you like to raise this with Barclays, would you like us to raise that you are experiencing the homophobia in the workplace? We would say you need to phone the Equality and Human Rights Commission – here is the helpline. We could talk to Barclays about some of the things that went wrong – the role is kind of strategic. Where we do something different is our are ‘role-model work’ and ‘leadership work’.

So what we do in our ‘role-model and leadership work’ is take groups of 36 people for 2 days, and we basically work with them to understand the importance the impact their identity has on their leadership capacity to be a role model, and we do it for young people under 21 before they go into the workplace. and we [would] do in-house programmes that we want to be trans-inclusive. So whatever somebody wants we could see doing a role model programme the 36 people who identify as trans and we would run that in order to create campaigning motivation behind this. To make a better network of people to draw strength from each other. so one of the first things I want to do is get 36 trans people in a room, men, women, bisexual people, people of colour, disabled people.

Samantha – I then interrupt… I’ve learnt a lot in a short time, but there are a lot of people that are under the illusion that Stonewall is a cross between an advisory council and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau … you can go to Stonewall and and it will act on your behalf like some ‘unionised-style’ thing. Or. “leave it with us and we’ll have a word…” Clearly it is not like that at all. I was under the impression that Stonewall was more omnipresent for GLB than you are?

Ruth – Our hands are not tied it is how we choose to work for them [GLB], if i go back to how we are set up it is about strategic intervention. So we get 8000 queries on our information service a year, so we’re running an information service, but it is not advisory service, it’s not a voice line. It is an information line. If someone phones up and says, “I’m experiencing discrimination with…” we will refer, if someone phones up, we don’t help individuals. that’s why it was important that somewhere like the Metro Centre was inclusive much, much sooner so they didn’t turn away GLBT from the door for sexual health screening. We don’t have people dropping into the office. Stonewall housing is not us that is a separate organisation. Most of the resentment toward Stonewall is under a misunderstanding, because if we were delivering services to young people and we had been excluded trans*people for the last 10 years that would be a travesty!

[Bit of a Freudian slip there as some may spot Travesty, see: in Latin/French it means Transvestite in English a ‘bad imitation’, our version of ‘that is so GAY!’ But unintentional, as the pedantic may report that].

Sophia – it would also be a crime!

Ruth -Yes it probably would. We are advising Department of Education on the curriculum. We would advise {schools) to speak to ‘Gendered Intelligence’

Samantha – Can i just ask what would be your 5 main things that you bring to the table what can you offer trans*people?
Ruth – Number 1 – Visibility, people know more about Gay people due to their interactions with Stonewall and I’m talking about heterosexual people, if trans became part of the organisation, the education of the nation about trans issues would increase exponentially.

Ruth – Number 2 – We will be able to point out much more easily where organisations and institutions and government policy are not trans-inclusive. We may not be able to provide the answer, but we will be able to refer [at present] we do not even say the word “trans” in meetings.

Ruth – Number 3 – We have a much bigger platform, and we are there to highlight some of these issues. For example, on the main stage of the Liberal Democrat Conference I had 4 minutes with the Deputy Prime Minister (Nick Clegg) present, and the question was, what is the future for the LGBT movement and has it attained all the goals, [we were told] we were the cream, [and we] have achieved the legislative goals in regard to sexual orientation. I said but with my trans friends there is significant work with regard to the Gender Recognition Act, more broadly speaking we have significant challenges around education, so that opportunity to say that, is worth its weight in gold to be honest, they were not going to turn around and say 4 minutes and then we’ll get someone else for a another 4 minutes, so [the fact]we can widen the agenda with different stakeholders is very important, visibility is really important, our reach is greater than any single transaction.

We sent out tonnes of mail last year, resources to every single secondary school, even if within that we include trans-inclusive work or sign post trans*specific organisations, that is more effective than what we are currently doing, so our reach is greater. Finally we have expertise in what we know works in campaigning, and I think that we are at that stage with a trans movement…
Sophia – We are 15 years behind you.

Ruth – Stonewall knows how to influence, I may not agree, you may not agree on how we do it, oh my god we are good at it! And it makes sense to share our bread. And break bread with trans*people. I know there are things we want to learn from you too.
Samantha – I then ask the big question the one most have asked me – what do you think trans will bring to you, as it seems a very one-sided thing at the moment. I wonder what is in it for you?

Ruth – What’s in it for us? Ok what is in it for us?… We are at a stage where we no longer have to be very simple about our community, and in the olden days where people had a limited understanding, keeping it really simple with the media is important, [today] the community is much more complicated, with knowledge, Stonewall benefit. Having a richness and diversity, so since I started doing this I know people who have come out as transgender. There was a suggestion that Stonewall will just make grants [of cash] to organisations, and that’s to me so incredibly paternalistic.

Sophia – raised concerns regarding any funding for community projects that might be possible. But feared only high profile or the more ‘glamourous’ groups would be taken seriously, leaving the grass-roots Cinderella groups wanting, when they maybe able to benefit far more.

Ruth – Stonewall does not have pots and money, Stonewall has a restricted income that we spend on restricted activities. We’d have to get it [additional funding] from external sources anyway, and that would be scrutinised. But the idea of giving donations [to transgender projects] in this way would be very paternalistic, we would judge what is a very good organisation and what I want to achieve. I think of us more like siblings actually (rather than in-laws) it is about changing hearts and minds and that is so transformative. Additional funding raised would be quite small and limited.

Closing down

Then there was a conversation about dates and times of the upcoming meetings and events Ruth mentioned, space is planned for the transgender groups and that she will move a group meeting that clashes with LGBT Labour AGM that Sophia mentioned earlier – a lot of diary checking took place.

We ended with a conversation about accessing the disabled group meetings; I was concerned that many simply would not be able to attend. She said that Stonewall will help with travelling expenses, she mentioned she will speak to anyone trans who wants to be involved, or just ask questions on the phone, or she will even speak to people on Skype, Ruth states she’s been to people’s houses up and down the country. Ruth doesn’t want anyone to feel they have not had a chance to speak. She said that some people prefer to speak in open meetings, but if she is free she can visit people up and down the country or simply call her.
Ruth – E-mail me here trans@stonewall.org.uk as some people are uncomfortable about having someone in their home. I will happily take a phone call to ensure their voices are heard.

Ruth – If i can encourage anyone to contact us at our email and to request a meeting, to be patient, as only two people looking at the inbox for confidentiality reasons. I’m one of those!

And I have also gotta run an organisation, and doing it quick as I can, and anyone who wants a meeting will have one, FaceTime (Apple Iphone, IOS, Ipad), on iphone, Skype, or can travel? Expenses will be covered if you travel.

Selfie time, goodbyes and handshaking.

[ENDS].

Comment

There are a number of contradictions here and some of the discussion may be upsetting to transgender people. Whilst others may see this as a positive move. It really is as close as that.

Negatives –

  • We (Stonewall) have a better home, car and skillset than you do… (Metaphorically speaking).
    Stonewall are the cream and everyone else is? Ruth is justly proud, but it can so easily come across as arrogance.
  • Any future will be done ‘The Stonewall Way” – or the highway (presumably?)
    Meeting politicians is over-sold a bit here. It is not hard to meet your MP (I did it a lot in the run up to the GRA, as they all have ‘surgeries’ where you would likely be able to speak to them one-to-one. Even the PM has a constituency – if you are trans and live within it attend one.
  • The confusion remains that Stonewall do not engage with individuals and are a ‘strategic’ organisation. Yet for the next year Ruth is meeting with individuals. Stonewall seem to suggest they do not ‘train’ and rather ‘refer’ (to whom and are they any good?) and say they do not read training materials, but rather they ‘benchmark them’. I would question (and did). How do they benchmark what they do not read? I know if a pamphlet was made with Transgender Zone on it (I was aware of) I would read it! Stonewall have done ‘awareness campaigns’. But they can and do go wrong, as this one showed. When ‘Tranny’ was used in their materials – http://forum.transgenderzone.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=769 Again this resulted in mixed messages from Stonewall, you cannot be all things to all people as you end up pleasing no one.
  • Not all trans are gay. How this fits within a Gay organisation, without being seen as “Gay by association” remains confused.
  • Risk that Stonewall will cherry-pick trans people and award/reward those who best ‘fit’ their organisation and starve out those that do not, perhaps even hiring “yes-men” (yes-trans*people). Which will fracture the community again! Keep your enemies closer! As they tend to tell you the truth! Not what you want to hear!
  • I feel Trans* will be railroaded back into Stonewall, and it is already a foregone conclusion, but “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” I would be amazed if they U-Turned even at this stage, and as such Stonewall maybe seen as a bulldozer that will get it’s way no matter how many people they meet, is this just the equivalent of a ‘show trial’ when the decisions are already made? The question remains with an organisation that is truly struggling in Gay awareness in sport,that there are very few if any ‘out’ professional footballers. Yet espouse their success? Some may say Television only hiring classic Gay camp men is a failure the modern offerings of Gok Wan, Graham Norton, Paul O’Grady (who ironically started in drag) and Alan Carr are not so different from Larry Grayson, John Inman, Julian Clary and Kenneth Williams of many decades past. So not really Gay progress. Some may say stereotypical? And back then noone used ‘Gay’ as another word for bad either.
  • Some may feel Ruth is looking to earn her stripes and Stonewall? Stonewall may have run out of steam and this is a boost they need, and as such it might be far more advantageous to them than to the trans community.
  • Stonewall suggest they get more column inches (metaphorically speaking) than trans. I disagree… The value of Trans-Currency is Sky High – Just look at the press atm and Kellie Malonie who were a sensational story, a person comes out as gay and although it is important to them of course it is a bit of a damp squib these days in media terms – unless you play for Manchester United for example – thats what they need I think! Gay news is kinda dull now by comparison to trans-currency. And trans-currency is very attractive, not only to the press and media, but to organisations that can tap into it! That is their problem, their success is also the architect of their own destruction. A bit like finding the cure for cancer when you run Cancer UK. What do you do then?
  • They will hold all the aces, the purse strings and as a consequence the power, and will unlikely ever cede enough of that powerto control them. They suggest trans will run their own services, but ‘The Stonewall Way’. It remains unclear what that will mean in the long run. And may result in a clique of GLB transpeople, who could be sidelined by the mainstream as ‘turncoats’.
  • They were a bit sharp with Press For Change I felt, (and even though she added a caveat before she said it) and that Stonewall have succeeded and PFC have diminished. I was there back then in the build up to the GRA 2004 and it felt a bit like an icicle through my heart when she stood on this issue as an example of their success. “It just felt like whilst you have failed since – we have succeeded…” Again Gays in premiership football? Rainbow Laces and Paddy Power is not working and the use of “That is SO GAY!” as a negative with young people is rife. Yet you cannot move for transgender people in the press and media and it is for the most part positively received. So I wonder if this will restrict rather then open the trans community who are now more mainstream – trans doing it for themselves. Some may see Stonewall as yesterday’s organisation floundering on the riverbank looking for some trans ‘omph’ to become relevant again.

Positives –

  • Ruth is a smart and likeable person – shame she is not trans and starting an independent ‘National Transgender Alliance’! (or similar named global group). She seems focused on bringing T back into Stonewall.  She is going to some lengths to ensure all voices are heard. (Although all voices will clearly not be heard as many trans are in the closet, some hate the sound of their voices even).
  • Stonewall is a well respected organisation for gay, lesbian and bi people. If you are gay then you can already benefit as they do that well already.
  • They have a zero-tolerance policy now on ‘unsavoury’ behaviour. (so hopefully no more of this http://forum.transgenderzone.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=769 . And what constitutes unsavoury? Heavily sexualised transpeople, trans sex workers? Trans who write sexy stories? This is a very subjective and hard to define term.
  • They are listening to elders, disabled and ethnic minorities and not just the ‘usual suspects’ (I include myself in that btw). Older transpeople do tend struggle more as they have a careers, and family responsibilities they can tear apart, so can remain in some pain. So ensuring their voices are heard is brilliant.
  • Stonewall have access to the establishment (many powerful people are GLB after all), and they are taken seriously by policy makers, that would be useful to tag along with. (But the trans community can and have already done that).
  • Know how to fund-raise well.
  • Have IT, HR, office space in the capital that would elevate trans activists from their home office to a more impressive address. After all as they say, “Location, Location, Location!”
  • There is a long and complex discussion to come and they are inviting you to be part of that! BE PART OF IT now and arrange a chat now! trans@stonewall.org.uk

 

Don’t complain later – you have a few months to think about it!

Ice Maiden

 

 

Samantha Johnson

About me

 

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