Parliout? Drop the T, please.

I just couldn’t resist a quick blogpost when I saw the news that the UK parliament is creating an LGBT group for MPs, Lords and staff with the not-so-catchy title “Parliout”. There’s going to be a party at the speakers house and everything! Being a self-professed LGB and T group, they will of course be inviting all the high profile Trans parliamentarians… except we don’t have any. How about anyone who is Trans who works in Parliament itself? Or even some senior Trans civil servants from other departments? Nope, none I’m aware of.

In fact, I would hazard a guess that there will not be a single Trans individual present at next Monday’s event, much as there were no Trans individuals present at the Prime Ministers LGB-supposedly-T reception prior to Pride London earlier this year. I would be really happy to be proved wrong, but sadly I’m getting cynical about such things. Hey, I’m sure I can free up a space in my diary on Monday if they want someone to come along! I don’t mind tokenism if it means I’m the one who gets to eat the canapés and Champagne for a change…

Guess who they consulted over the formation of this group? None other than our old friends Stonewall, which explains quite a bit.

Please do not claim the T unless you can show you are entitled to it. We have a word for that: It’s called “Appropriation”. And it makes me cross.

6 comments

  1. I’m still not convinced there was any B representation at the LGBT garden party either. Certainly I’ve not managed to track down anyone actually doing B activism work who was there.

    However I’m not persuaded that they shouldn’t include the T in the remit because they don’t have any T prospective members yet; given that is the situation, if they duly made it an LGB group we’d then have to spend time wrangling it round to being LGBT as and when that situation changed.

    1. It’s a tricky thing to call and I was concious when I wrote this that it’s not clear-cut. I am playing devil’s advocate just a little because I felt it needed to be said and said concisely to draw attention to the issue, without all the necessary caveats that the topic really requires. My gut feeling is that the Trans LGB-separatism vs. LGBT-assimilationist pendulum is swinging in favour of separatism, purely because our voice gets drowned out otherwise. The EHRC has no Trans commissioners and the GEO has a head of LGBT Equality, with no post dedicated to T.

      You’re quite right that there’s a danger organisations can be attacked for being non-inclusive if they don’t add the T on, but in those cases I suspect it’s quite reasonable to caveat the LGB with “we have no out Trans staff, so can’t add the T on yet but will if required”.

      There are also Trans folk who do not in any way identify as LGB and as such would be uncomfortable in or being represented by an LGB organisation… it’s a really difficult topic overall.

  2. (as a gay man/trans ally, I’m trying to come at this cautiously so the following questions are genuinely intended as questions where I’d be interested in your view, not as challenges to what you’ve said)

    Interesting post! Like Jen, I’m quite curious what alternative you would favour.

    Also: you mention S*onewall, who of course unlike Parliout do not have a T. I’ve heard two arguments against that:

    1) Given S*onewall’s monopoly on LGBT funding and political contacts, it squeezes other organisations out of the picture
    2) Given that many politicians do not understand the difference between LGB and T, they do not realise that an LGB organisation is not able to help them with regard to trans issues.

    Of course, the solution to this doesn’t have to be making S*onewall an LGBT organisation. It could be S*onewall working with (and forwarding queries to) partner trans organisations combined with educating politicians and donors to distinguish between LGB and T.

    But with Parliout, in the absence of a trans organisation or trans representation in parliament, at least in the short term isn’t it better to include the T (as opposed to not having a trans organisation at all)? Trans-related issues would likely be directed their way even if they were only LGB, and so surely it’s better that they have an actual mandate to represent trans people (so they can be asked to do so or held to account for not doing so)?

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with two points – firstly, “It could be S*onewall working with…partner trans organisations” which is something I’d cautiously welcome. (There is a possibly problem here in that private conversations may have happened between trans organisations and S’onewall pre-2008, which lead to those trans organisations losing grass-roots support for failing to come out against S’onewall over the whole Bindel thing) This is the approach I’d rather Parliout took.

      And secondly, “surely it’s better that they have an actual mandate to represent trans people (so they can be asked to do so or held to account for not doing so)?”. Given the membership requirements for Parliout, it appears impossible for them to actually have any T representation within their leadership so there is nobody to hold them to account. They’ve already made the usual mistake of holding a launch party for an LGBT organisation apparently without anyone T even being present. (Given one would not have needed to be T in order to be invited to the launch party, this is a problematic oversight indeed!)

  3. Interesting post. (and I know I am replying nearly 2 years after the fact!)

    I’m the current co-chair of ParliOUT (since March) and can’t comment on Trans membership 2 years ago., However, we do have ‘T’ membership within ParliOUT and only last week held a Transgender, Society & Workplace event to highlight visibility of the ‘T’ in LGBT. 2 members of staff talked about their experiences – one as someone who had transitioned themselves, and one as the mother of a child who had transitioned. You are correct that there are no Trans members of Parliament (within either the Commons and the Lords). However, ParliOUT is a work-based organisation for people who work within parliament – not just MPs and their staff, but for the House service. I know this is not ideal but I definitely agree we should be an LGBT network – even if we had no ‘T’ membership. As an employer, Parliament should be doing everything it can to encourage and foster inclusivity amongst it’s staff, but also make it an attractive place to work for prospective employees.

    The situation is not ideal but big steps are being taken all the time. I hope this addresses some of your concerns – even if it is 2 years after ParliOUT was launched!

Leave a Reply