Putting the T Back in Stonewall

Today was a long day, starting at 3.30 am (when I rolled out of bed after 3 hours sleep thanks to a long night at work. Oh, the perils of self-employment) and ending at about 10.30pm (when I finally got home). The reason it was a long day is because I had to travel down to London to attend the first meeting between Stonewall and activists (I can’t say representatives because nobody can claim that title) from the trans* community.

A lot has already been said about this meeting so I’m first going to link to a few blogs and articles in the pink press about it. Feel free to skip ahead if you’ve already read these, or re-read them if you fancy it. It’s your choice.

Apparently the five points on that star equate to the five original goals of the organisation. Personally, I see less of a star and more of a cave painting of a man. Each to their own.
Apparently the five points on that star equate to the five original goals of the organisation. Personally, I see less of a star and more of a cave painting of a man. Each to their own.

Because it’s been a long day and I have now been awake for over 20 hours, this post is not going to be a work of art. Instead, I want to go over what happened at the meeting, because I am acutely aware that although 50 people were able to attend, far more than 50 people wanted to be there (and my goodness did some of them try to take out their frustrations about that on me earlier this week. Protip people: it’s not my fault).

Ruth Hunt started the meeting by introducing a facilitator, Caroline, who did an excellent job of keeping the large group focussed on the tasks at hand. She also made a very welcome effort to ensure that those of us who are deaf or hard of hearing (which includes yours truly) could participate by making sure only one person at a time talked. I cannot stress how important this was for making the group deaf-inclusive. Without this effort, myself and the majority of the people I was sat with may as well have walked out right at the start for all the good it would have done us to be there.

So thank you Caroline, your efforts were very much appreciated.

Next Ruth talked about all of Stonewall’s many, many screwups. I’m not going to go into too much detail and I’m certainly not going to start putting out quotes because I haven’t asked anyone for clearance to use their words here. What I will say is that Ruth showed genuine regret for Stonewall’s past transgressions and she has demonstrated today that Stonewall really does want to change. We won’t always agree with what they do but that’s nothing new. Besides, half the trans community doesn’t agree with the other half’s way of doing things any day of the week (c.f. all the people on the Facebook group set up for before this meeting who decided to spend the latter half of the week screaming at me and sending personal insults at me simply because I’m a Conservative) so we’re used to that.

I personally believe Ruth allowed this part of the meeting to go on too long. We all know Stonewall has done wrong in the past and we all knew that they wanted to change. Getting the anger and frustration out into the open was necessary to clear the air but this took up about an hour of our time, which was far too long. We had come together to look to the future, not the past and too much time was spent looking backward.

So it was past midday before we actually got going on what we had come together to discuss: how Stonewall could become trans-inclusive from now on. Ruth started this part of the meeting by saying that from now on, Stonewall was going to be a trans ally. This was great news. Then she presented 3 options for us to discuss. These options were about how Stonewall would be a trans ally. The options were:

  1. Have Stonewall change its constitution and other articles in order to become a full LGBT organisation in its own right, and conduct trans-inclusive work from there on in.
  2. Have Stonewall create a spin-off trans organisation that would receive initial funding and training from Stonewall in order to get it on its feet, but which would then become a fully separate organisation that worked with Stonewall on trans issues while Stonewall itself remained a trans ally LGB group.
  3. That Stonewall change its constitution and other articles in order to become a grant-providing organisation that would give money to existing (and possibly future) trans organisations in order to help them do their work better.

There was an implied fourth option: That Stonewall stay the hell out of trans rights and leave us to do it ourselves. Everyone rejected that right off.

Everyone also rejected option 3. Changing Stonewall into a grant-providing organisation for trans groups is not only an unwieldy and patriarchal idea but it also creates an extra layer of administration that would mean trans groups would have to follow Stonewall guidelines in order to receive funding, while in addition Stonewall would have to follow funding guidelines of its own; so the poor trans group has to dance to two sets of strings in tandem. It’s an unworkable idea but a fair few trans groups had been suggesting Stonewall should give them money, so we had to look at this as an option. Thankfully it was dismissed en masse.

I am personally more in favour of option 1 but I will admit I posited option 2 in Stonewall and the Trans Community, my paper submitted to Stonewall and the Facebook group before the meeting. Setting up a separate group runs the risk of that group eventually degenerating into another Press For Change, rather than remaining strong and effective. It also has the problem of having to build up its own brand in the shadow of a larger organisation, rather than simply taking advantage of that larger organisation’s existing reputation.

Nevertheless, option 2 also has some clear advantages of its own – autonomy being the prime one. There’s a lot to still consider here, and I’m sure staff at Stonewall will be working on it.

Discussing these three options took up the majority of the rest of the day; with a final presentation of findings being the finale of the meeting. In the end, there was a fair amount of consensus, which I was pleased to see. We don’t all see eye-to-eye and we all have our different reasons for being activists in the community but, as I’ve said many times before, we all want the same thing in the end and today we showed that. We all want to work together and now that Stonewall is wanting to work with us rather than against us, we are willing to give them a chance to do that.

I’m interested to see what happens from here. There will be more consultations in the next few months, with trans people of colour; disabled trans people and also intersex people. Their views will feed into the deliberations, as will our views from today. Apparently we can expect a report some time in January, followed by a final decision in April on how Stonewall is going to pursue trans rights in the future. Personally, I’m looking forward to a bright future.

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