I ran across some numbers on the BBC and felt I should probably post them as they related to my last post.

They give counts rather than percentages and cover openly gay male MPs (Lesbians aren’t mentioned, I have theories as to why but that’s another topic) and work out at: (Quoting to 1 significant figure, as the numbers are low enough for it not to make much sense to quote more)

Of 306 Conservative MPs, 258 are Male. 10 are openly gay, which is 4%. (3.8% to 2 S.F.)
Of 258 Labour MPs, 177 are Male. 8 are openly gay, which is 4%. (4.5% to 2 S.F.)
Of 57 LibDem MPs, 50 are Male. 2 are openly gay that the BBC know of, which is 4%. (4.0% to 2 S.F.)

So it looks like parliament is pretty well balanced across the parties and reasonably close to representative of the population as a whole if government figures are accurate

Interestingly, the LibDems are only party that doesn’t produce stats on gay MPs. Not sure if that’s a privacy thing or just nobody ever got round to it? If the BBC missed someone that’s openly gay, we could be doing rather better than the other two parties. Conversely, it could be argued that the numbers are low enough any difference between the parties is just noise.

Anyone in the UK who has been following the news – and I suspect that’s a small number of people because if you’re not involved yourself, I don’t blame you if you’re sick to death of politics by now – will know there’s been a LibDem conference this weekend. I’ll point out the usual that’s been pointed out by many others before me now, which is that despite the best efforts of the press to portray the party as split over the deal it’s not. There is concern and trepidation about what might come to pass but we’ve got a good deal out of it and most people there recognised that.

Zoe O'Connell speaking at the Lib Dem's Special ConferenceBut the reason for my post is that I stood up to talk in an “intervention” slot. 30 people (Picked randomly from 110 who put their names down, so I was lucky) got to stand up to speak from the floor for 60 seconds. Those that have met me will know that I’m not great with social situations but for some reason, standing up in front of an audience of 2000 people that includes government ministers and the Deputy Prime Minister didn’t at the time seem like such a big deal. Despite the microphones and lights and cameras and being projected on a huge screen it’s oddly somehow more impersonal than knocking on the door of some stranger you’ll probably never see again and asking who they’re going to vote for. This is completely at odds with , who is supremely confident socially but thought standing up to talk was too much!

On to the reason I stood to talk. As with most people who stood up, it wasn’t to acclaim nor oppose the motion, but to make a point about policy that risked getting overlooked and in my case it was equality. Here’s what I said: (Emphasis is from my notes, so that I could emphasise the appropriate words when speaking)

Equality. It should not be a dirty word. It is a word we have heard here today when the press are not present, yet it does not appear in the coalition document. I do not have easy access to statistics on LGBT, ethnic and other power minorities being represented in the new parliament but certainly in terms of women, we are now third in equality behind the Conservatives.

It is unfortunate that much of the good effort in this area did not bear fruit on May 5th but against a possibly, in equality terms, dark background of a conservative-lead government, should we not lead from the front more in terms of public voice and policy rather than silently reinforcing a typically conservative and, as Lynne Featherstone said, “Male and Pale” cabinet and agenda.

Did it make a difference? I hope so, but sadly I don’t think people pay too much attention to the intervention speakers in general. You only get 60 seconds and you’re speaking from the floor, not the stage. This seems to make a difference in terms of how the audience view you, despite the fact that everyone looks as you on a huge screen in front of them rather than having to turn round to see you.

I’m not sure how I came across as I’m not used to public speaking and unfortunately it’s unlikely there’s any video. However, a couple of people did come up to me afterwards with positive comments particularly as I was one of the very few speakers who did not run over their 60 seconds and need to be cut short by the chair. We’d already had a DELGA representative propose an amendment to the motion reaffirm LGBT support plus Lynne Featherstone and the vice-chair of the Gender Equality group within the party speak on, unsurprisingly, gender equality in the parliamentary party.

What did strike me however was that I was the only speaker who pointed out that tackled equality as a whole and spoke for the fact we need to be more vocal publicly about it. The other speakers just mentioned their own area of concern and wanted to “reaffirm their commitment” to it rather than stating we need to, as politicans would have it, “get the message out there”. (Does the fact I spoke at a conference make me a politician now?)

I’d been offered the chance by Belinda Brooks-Gordon to be introduced to Lynne Featherstone after the conference but unfortunately there wasn’t much chance of finding people in the crowd. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to be meet to her soon as she could be a very interesting and useful person to know.

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

News Stories


Other blogs from people who were there

Other items of note

Issued: 7th November 2008
The London Transfeminist Group

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

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 £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.