This seems to be creating quite a fuss – I’m not sure why though. I’m not going to get too wound up if some computer system only lets me choose Miss or Mrs, but labelling an initiative to get rid of it as “political correctness gone mad” seems a bit… patriarchal.
OK, so it’s a deliberately tabloid attention-grabbing headline, but I don’t think they realise what they’re doing with this story.
As an ISP, this disturbs me greatly. We have customers that pay for bandwidth and the BBC are using that bandwidth? And did they bother to consider the fact that DDoS and spam attacks can have an detrimental effect on networks in the middle as well as their “willing” targets. The full BBC article makes it clear they just purchased an existing botnet from someone online, but supply and demand means this will just stimulate the botnet economy. The BBC even report themselves on the link between organised crime and botnet herders – fraud, blackmail, all that sort of thing. This isn’t just scare tactics, it’s part of my day job to deal with the fallout from such things so I’ve seen it first-hand.
And just because they didn’t have “criminal intent” it doesn’t make it legal – they freely admit to multiple violations of the computer misuse act.
g3 Magazine, a free magazine for gay/bi women mentioned the whole S’onewall/Bindel thing in their December 2008 edition. (Ed’s letter on page 5 and Bindel’s piece on page 98) Bindel’s piece is the usual stuff, but I thought I’d correct some of the editors misconceptions and wrote them a quick letter…
I guess I’m not the first person to mail g3 about this and I’m sure I won’t be the last. This isn’t a comment on Julie’s piece – Julie is a lost cause as far as I’m concerned – but rather about the comments in “Ed’s letter”.
Yes, many of us there did have better things to do with our time and certainly I for one don’t think Stonewall should explicitly include T in their mandate. However, so much of homophobia and transphobia is linked as an attack by the privileged majority on those perceived to transgress the gender norms. In that regard, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a champion of diversity such as Stonewall to be an ally. How are we supposed to fight transphobia in the wider world when even those we would like to think of as our allies don’t get it?
As well as the 2004 article for which she only apologised for the tone of, I’m sure Stonewall were aware of the 2007 Radio 4 hecklers debate she appeared in, proposing the motion that “Sex change surgery is unnecessary mutilation” and her 2008 piece objecting to unisex toilets at the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.
Despite all that, this was never about Julie, even if she’d like to think it was. She has a right to free speech, we just don’t think Stonewall should have nominated someone so opposed to diversity and this made it more likely that her work will continue to be published.
It’s been done elsewhere (Including on my journal!) but here’s a roundup of press coverage and a selection of blog enties from people who where at the protest. Many thanks to everyone who turned up – there were 150 of us in the end!
I should point out that some of the articles rather unfairly give us credit for organising the demo – we didn’t, we just did a few press releases. Natacha deserves the credit for organising things with the police and Queer Youth Network were also instrumental in publicity and getting people to turn up.
Original Press Releases
- Trans community to protest at high profile London awards ceremony against Stonewall “Bigotry”
- Trans Rights protest is largest ever in the UK
- Pink News – Celebs split over trans protest at Stonewall Awards
- Indymedia – Trans gender demo at Stonewall awards
- Homovision.tv – The Stonewall Awards 2008
- Lesbilicous – 150 people protest at transphobic Stonewall awards (We’re also expecting further coverage from Lesbilicous this week)
- PinkE – Stonewall Awards Winners Announced
- European Tribune – Stonewall: Hypocrisy or Ignorance ?
- Southern Voice – Friend or Foe?
- Mark Vallee – Transgender Rights protest
- Bird of Paradox’s writeup and photos
- Sarah Brown’s write up and photos – Part one and part two
- Sylvia Knight’s video
- Queer Youth Network’s video
- Photos and video from Loz Flowers
- Photos from AbsolutQueer
- For those who have no idea what I look like, here’s a photo from the pub after the protest
Other blogs from people who were there
Other items of note
Issued: 7th November 2008
The London Transfeminist Group
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Around 150 protesters turned up outside the Stonewall awards at the V&A yesterday to take part in what is believed to have been the largest trans rights demo ever to have taken place in the UK. Activists from transsexual, transgender and queer organisations as widespread as London, Liverpool and Manchester held the noisy but peaceful protest against Stonewall’s refusal to withdraw their nomination of Julie Bindel for Journalist of the Year, a journalist known for her anti-trans opinions and writings.
“It was great to see so many people turn up to this event”, said one organiser, “particularly when the larger transsexual organisations have refused to support us or give us any publicity. The event went peacefully which was good to see and the police even commented on how well behaved everyone was. Many of the people attending the event seemed genuinely surprised at the protest and were happy to talk, take leaflets and ask questions. This should make organisations like Stonewall sit up and take notice – if you trample on trans rights, you will get called out on it very vocally and very publicly.”.
Contact: Zoe O’Connell
Notes to editor
1. Previous press release announcing the protest available at http://www.transfeminism.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=44&Itemid=1
2. Press reports (http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-9517.html) state that Dr Miriam Stoppard won Journalist of the Year although the winners list had not been published officially by Stonewall at the time of writing.
3. A copy of the leaflet handed out is available at http://www.transfeminism.org.uk/Stonewall.pdf and photos of the event at http://www.transfeminism.org.uk/stonewall/
Issued: 3rd November 2008
The London Transfeminist Group
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Outraged at the nomination of the notouriously transphobic Guardian writer Julie Bindel for “Journalist of the Year” award by Stonewall and the silence from established Trans campaigning groups, the transexual and queer communities have come together to stage an unprecedented protest outside the Â£125-a-head “champagne and canape reception” for the Stonewall awards at the V&A Museum in London on Thursday, 6th November 2008. In what will be a major embarassment for Stonewall over it’s controversial nomination, over a hundred people are expected to be attending the protest from all over England and will be waiting outside the V&A for the arrival of the guests, which is expected to include celebrities such as actor Richard Wilson, who is hosting the event and award nominee and Daily Mirror agony aunt Miriam Stoppard.
Under pressure from the community to retract the nomination, Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall labelled any retraction of the nomination an “empty gesture” and nothing more than a “publicity stunt” when speaking to some of the many people who complained to Stonewall. However, beyond vague reassurances added quietly to their web site that the nomination does not endorse all the views of the nominees, Stonewall itself has failed to comment publicly on the issue, further calling into doubt their already shakey credentials as so-called “champions of diversity”.
Speaking out against the nomination, veteran campaigner and journalist Roz Kaveney said “[Bindel] is advocating talking therapies for trans people in a way that almost entirely parallels the advocacy of talking therapies by the Christian right as a way of extirpating all LGBT people. If she does not understand that, as a lesbian, she is a turkey advocating Christmas for turkeys in an adjacent bit of the farmyard, then she is being obtuse; what she is doing is betraying not only the trans community but the entire LGBT community, and it is wrong to honour her for her other work when there is this colossal stain on her career.”
Contact: Zoe O’Connell
Notes to editor
1. Stonewall UK, the LGB rights campaigning organisation, is holding it’s annual awards this year on 6th November 2008 at the V&A Museum. Further details on Stonewall and the awards are available at http://www.stonewall.org.uk/events/1404.asp
2. Julie Bindel became notorious within the Transexual community for her controversial 2004 article in the Guardian, “Gender Benders Beware”, which resulted in an apology from the newspaper and carefully worded apologies from Bindel herself for the “tone” of the article. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/jan/31/gender.weekend7) She further caused controversy by proposing the motion “Sex Change Surgery is Unnecessary Mutilation” for a “Hecklers” debate on BBC Radio 4 in 2007. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/hecklers/pip/o29wl/)
3. As a result of her controversial views, the National Union of Students LGBT Campaign voted to “No platform” her – i.e. their officers would never share a platform with Julie Bindel. (Motion available at http://resource.nusonline.co.uk/media/resource/CD6%20Motions%20Document%20LGBT.doc)
4. Roz Kaveney is an author, co-founder of Feminists Against Censorship, ex-deputy chair of Liberty and an independant journalist who also writes reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and Time Out Magazine.
5. The London Transfeminism group meets once a month to discuss how feminism and feminist discourses can be applied to the issues that we as transpeople face in today’s world. We as transwomen and transmen, through our experiences are acutely aware of the rigidity and oppressiveness of stereotypical gender roles and we seek to challenge this and instead to promote the idea of allowing people to flourish as individuals. Members of the group have, in the last 12 months, also been involved in protests at the Queer Up North festival, who booked outspoken anti-trans performer “Bitch” and against Dr.Zucker, a doctor who believes in reparative therapy for gender variant children as young as three.
Back on the 15th, which seems ages ago now, I wrote that I felt that many transpeople had been “Sold Out” by those that represent us and that there were some sort of backroom politics involved. It seems that, at least in the case of Press for Change, this is true.
Christine Burns herself wrote on Facebook “…I don’t share the view that’s clearly held by others about Stonewall. That’s based on the working relationships I have and agreements long ago now about how to avoid tripping over one-another when the Gender Recognition and CP bills were about to be tabled.” I guess us “mob”, as she calls us, have upset the applecart by not being party to the agreement and stirring up trouble for Stonewall.
I can understand that in politics, one does need to make deals to keep a consistent approach when dealing with the opposition. However, what I don’t like – and I know I’m not alone in this – is the apparent secret deals and politicking that has been done behind the scenes that we’re clearly not worthy of knowing about. Are Stonewall, PfC and The Gender Trust really so naive that they expected that this was a sustainable situation in the long run, once the next generation of political activists stepped up to bat? Stonewall and PfC were the “mob” once too and they don’t have a monopoly on political activism. Sad though it is to say, I’m starting to wonder if PfC might turn out to be one-trick pony now the Gender Recognition Act has gone through – and even the GRA might turn out to be an own-goal in some respects for trans people.
There is already a demonstration planned outside the V&A but I’m not sure that will do enough to embarass Ben Summerskill, the Chief Executive of Stonewall, into realising this isn’t just some small group of troublemakers who have nothing better to do but whine about things, which seems to be his view. However, if even one nominee or celebrity refuses to turn up to the event (The Metropolitan Police, it’s reported, have already withdrawn their support) because of Julie Bindel, that’s a more major embarrassment.
Are there any organisations out there that would feel happy putting their name on the bottom of a letter to the various nominees (I don’t mind drafting something for people to approve) pointing out, politely, that Stonewall are anything but champions of diversity? Individuals would be good too but the names of a few established organisations would help make it look less like a bunch of whiners who have nothing better to do.
Another approach is to gather the email addresses/contact details for the same group of people and put them in one place (Ethically, I think I would have to send out a list on request rather than just posting it on the internet) so that people can write to all those we know who have been invited in their own words trying to persuade them to make a stand.
(Now I think about it, perhaps we could get a few badges produced and send them out to nominees, see if we can get anyone to wear some sort of Trans solidarity badge while getting their award…)
The following text was published in The Metro (A free London paper) last week:
We do show some archive stuff, but new work and new relevances keep emerging all the time. Like the current outrage over Julie Bindel’s nomination for Stonewall Journalist Of The Year, despite her absurd views about gender surgery being just a kind of modern-day gay or lesbian aversion therapy. Our speaker, Roz Kaveney [Wed, Static Gallery, 7.30pm, free], the well-known trans author and cultural commentator, should have a lot to say about that.
Christine Burns interviewed Julie Bindle this week, in a long-planned interview – very topical given recent controversy. The initial chat wasn’t about the Stonewall nomination controversy, but it hints at it – at about seven and a half minutes in she says that she doesn’t set out to be controversial only to start debate and doesn’t necessarily stand by things she’s said in the past.
At eveven minutes, half way though, the conversation turns to recent events and she explains her position – classic 1960s and 1970s “Second wave feminism“. In her own words, she’d like to see an “end to gender” and it’s this key point that means second wave feminism and the transsexual movement are never going to see eye-to-eye. Second-waveists believe gender is socially constructed but we’re rude enough to disprove their argument by our mere existence. She also still believes that psychiatrists from the 1950s until very recently used a diagnosis of transsexualism to offer a surgical solution to anything that was seen as gender-inappropriate, thus defending gender. Amusingly, she later tries to claim that she wasn’t misinformed but just holding a different opinion when Christine challenged her with a quote from Stuart Lorimer, a psychiatrist at London’s Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic, that she was “spectacularly misinformed”. I would suggest that if she thinks one might accidentally get a diagnosis of GID when going to the GPs, that she has a look at what most people have to go through to get the diagnosis, hormones and surgery in the first place. If you’re not desperate and already know what’s wrong, you’re not going to get anywhere!
According to Press For Change, Julie said a “very clear sorry for things she agrees she had got wrong”. I didn’t hear that apology myself – she chose her words carefully and apologised for the tone in which she said things that might have caused offence and promoted more discrimination but I didn’t get any more from it than that. Whilst I agree with PFC that she has opened the door for more dialogue I’m not sure this is really that positive as she claims to just be misunderstood and wants to clarify and defend her position, which she’ll do in writing soon. She’d like a “heated debate” but not a “heated argument” but I get the impression she will pick her adversaries very carefully – it’s clear the recent controversy has gotten to her and she attacked those that had “closed the door in her face” while saying that others such as Christine and Stephen Whittle had engaged with her. I don’t believe she understands the position we feel we’re in, as she’s a columnist for the Guardian and we’re… well, not. She even goes so far as to acknowledge herself that writing a column like that gives her immense power. Given that she is on one extreme, it would seem reasonable for her to openly engage with the other “extreme” – the bloggers and others who are angry about her nomination – rather than the more “moderate” and conservative old-guard of the trans activism community such as Stephen and Christine.
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.