Most people are probably aware by now of the fuss over the well-known lesbian feminist and transphobe Julie Bindel being nominated for a Stonewall award. There’s a lot of anger in the community over this, understandably. With the Bitch protest earlier this year and also the Zucker/Royal Society of Medicine protest, there was a sense of “This is the kind of thing we need to make our voices heard over” but we understood that largely it was education that was the problem – we were there mostly to make the organisers sit up and notice the trans community and take our views into account. It’s notable that these aren’t “organised” events in the standard sense. There’s no political lobby group trying to score points behind it all and the only coordination was someone letting the police know there would be a bunch of people handing out leaflets outside the RSM (So they could come and babysit) and someone actually knocking up a few of those leaflets to hand out.
There was nowhere near the level of anger there has been over the Stonewall awards, because it was recognised that these organisations were not involved in LGBT politics. But this is bigger, far bigger, than the previous two demos, largely because Stonewall should have known better. The trans community has long been uneasy about Stonewall (Witness the “Some people are trans, stonewall need to get over it” posters at Pride London 2008) and these awards have generated multiple spontaneous groups arranging protests, including people organising group trips via a hired coach from places like Manchester – it would be pretty hard to argue that there’s anything but solid grass-roots support for a protest against Stonewall.
The Gender Trust then joined in the fight. Lunchtime yesterday, they posted a newsletter in which they wrote Julie Bindel has “…publicly stated views on the care and treatment of trans people which the Trust considers are seriously transphobic”. They continue: “The Gender Trust opposes this nomination which it considers is inappropriate for an organisation such as Stonewall, which holds to the principle of acting to overcome prejudice and discrimination” and close by urging everyone to write to Ben Summerskill, the Stonewall Chief Executive, “as soon as possible… to stop this pernicious attempt to reward an individual who undermines the lives and needs of the transgender community.”
All good stuff. But it didn’t last. Just before 8pm tonight, another newsletter appeared. Apparently, it would be “churlish” (They like their long words, don’t they? I had to look that one up to check it meant what I thought it did) to protest further because of “reassurances given”. Stonewall apparently claimed they “stood foursquare with the trans community in fighting transphobia” and “nominations had had to meet criteria which related to the work that a nominee had been involved in during the preceding year”, so prior work of Bindel’s wasn’t taken into consideration. That’s a pretty fine line to walk, given that the anti-trans-themed debate on Radio 4 that Julie Bindel herself proposed and claimed was “her mission” took place in August 2007 – 14 months ago. But wait, 30 seconds with my web browser and I find an article about this years Lesbian and Gay Film Festival where Julie Bindel whines about the very trans-inclusive policy of the organisers of having unisex toilets. The date? 10th April, 2008. I don’t think I need to start counting pages on the calendar to figure out that’s less than a year ago.
Julie is someone that the NUS LGBT voted this year to refuse to share a platform with, because her views were so blatantly transphobic. (As far as I’m aware, she’s the only person to have that honour. She was certainly the only one to have a motion to that effect even proposed in 2008)
I, for one, am calling the Gender Trust out on this. Why have they so quickly done a U-Turn and sold out the community they are supposed to be representing? One can only assume politics are involved somehow. Someone knows someone, or someone put pressure on someone on the Gender Trust board and they turned their back on the community they were supposed to be helping over the one issue that has the community the most incensed it’s been since I’ve been a part of it – and all without doing any basic research on the issue at all.
It’s clear there’s a growing grass-roots movement against many organisations that inadvertantly act transphobically. It’s sad that it seems that the “grass roots” are also turning against many of these groups that claim – but fail – to represent us.