Stonewall’s new strategy

About the event

Link to event on Eventbrite here. It was also an opportunity to raise funds for the beleaguered charity.

LEGAL PRIDE 2021 | THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF LGBT+ RIGHTS

Please join us for a very special part of our Legal Pride 2021 celebration where we explore the past, the present, and the future of LGBT+ rights and activism in the United Kingdom and across the globe. 

We will kick off with a panel of intersectional icons who were seminal in the birth of modern LGBT+ rights and activism, including founders of Stonewall here in the United Kingdom as well as trans leaders from the United States and the United Kingdom. Each of the speakers will talk about their personal journey, as well as their contributions to LGBT+ equality and activism. We will also explore what activism means to them and how we can each play our own role as allies to each other within the LGBT+ community. 

We will then have a fireside chat with the Chief Executive and Chair of Stonewall to discuss their newly unveiled strategy, Free to Be (2021-2025), encompassing the present state of the LGBT+ rights as well as looking towards the future. 

The panel and the fireside chat will be followed by a Q&A session with all of our speakers. This is a once in a lifetime event and not to be missed!

From the blurb for the event

Speakers

  • Lisa Power MBE, Founder, Stonewall; Sexual Health Expert; LGBT+ Activist
  • Mia Yamamoto, Lawyer; Civil Rights, LGBT+ and Trans Activist 
  • Professor Stephen Whittle OBE, Professor of Equalities Law, Manchester Metropolitan University; LGBT+ and Trans Activist
  • Michael Cashman CBE, Founder, Stonewall; Member of House of Lords; Actor; LGBT+ Activist
  • Nancy Kelley, Chief Executive, Stonewall
  • Sheldon Mills, Chair, Stonewall; Executive Director, FCA; Co-Lead Race & Ethnicity Network, InterLaw Diversity Forum
  • Daniel Winterfeldt QC (Hon), Founder & Chair, InterLaw Diversity Forum; General Counsel EMEA and Asia, Jefferies (Moderator)

Of the above, you will note that of the non-Stonewall people, two are gender identity activists, Stephen Whittle (always value for money) and Mia Yamaoto, who is a trans-identified male who practises law in California.

Hard times

The previous few weeks have been very hard for Stonewall; Liz Truss had recommended government departments dump them, leading to all sorts giving them the jib, CEO Nancy Kelley had been ridiculed for likening statements about biological sex to anti-semitism, Maya Forstater had part won her employment tribunal (though remember she still isn’t allowed to swing a cat in a very small room), and questions were starting to be asked about the role of the Good Law Project, currently engaged in trying to strip LGB Alliance of its charity status (Stonewall had been mentioned in the initial statement as being supportive of the action, but was swiftly removed). And of course, Benjamin Cohen (CEO of Pink News) had helpfully explained the Stonewall position on the Today programme when they refused to attend. This event to unveil the new Stonewall strategy was organised before those things had happened.

InterLaw Diversity is the overarching LGBT network group which spans the whole of the legal sector and has very close links to Stonewall and a number of gender identity activists, notably Global Butterflies who have trained a huge number of corporates.

Introduction

The webinar was introduced by the ‘inclusion partner’ of the sponsoring law firm Addleshaw Goddard (‘a premium international business law firm’).  Over the last year LGBT people had lost their ‘safe spaces’ (boo) but Pride was upon us and its attendant sense of belonging (hooray).  The firm was developing a mentoring scheme called the Rainbow Connection (bleurgh).  

Our man from Interlaw Diversity reminded us all how far we’ve come.  Why just ten years ago if you came out at work you would likely be out the door the following day!  

Then we had a special video message from Sir Ian McKellen.  He thanked Interlaw Diversity, he had wanted to attend the webinar (he’s a good actor) and said that Stonewall had achieved a lot, but it had to change further and looked forward to the future.  Ian McKellen is appearing as (an 82 year old) Hamlet and you can book your tickets now.  If you donated as part of the fundraiser tonight you would automatically enter the raffle and would get the chance to win tickets to see McKellen as Hamlet at the Theatre Royal Windsor (book now).

Another prize for the raffle was a photograph of Lance Dustbin and his husband (why the fuck would anyone want that?).

Personal journeys

The panel shared their ‘personal journeys’.

Lisa Power

Lisa Power told us that she was ‘serial interferer’, especially in history.  She started by misremembering that Islington was a trendy place in the 70s when she squatted there.  Then she revealed she was historical consultant on the recent C4 programme It’s a Sin, which might explain some of its inaccuracies (see blog from someone who was there). 

Power told us today’s backdrop of media hatred was just like the early 80s.  She was previously a member of ILGA (which recently called for removal of laws prohibiting sex with or between adolescents) and claims she was the first out homosexual person to address the United Nations.  She helped set up Stonewall and though not officially involved today, she joshed she would stop interfering soon (Nancy Kelley winced in feigned amusement).  Nowadays she is a Trustee of Queer Britain, the UK’s first LGBTQ+ museum.  I can’t wait.  

Lord Michael Cashman

Michael Cashman told us to enter the raffle ‘cos we might win his biography and learn about the ‘dubious and frightening’ world he entered when he first came out.  Another one with a poor memory, telling us that Eastenders was on 3 days a week when he was in it and was watched by 14 million people (roughly halved when he had a scene).  The tabloids were outraged by the first gay soap kiss and there were calls for Colin the Cabbage to be removed.  

Cashman wobbled throughout, always on the verge of righteous indignation, sadly the immortal ‘together, only together’ was never uttered, but he made clear that the ‘defamation’ of ‘trans people’ reminded him of Section 28.  The thing which really upset him though were the ‘attacks from within’ which was also like the past too when the gay press took the piss out of Colin.  Sorry, no that was his claim the gay media had attacked Stonewall when it was first set up.  

Cashman said that he has been discriminated against his whole life and said that there was a time he could have been denied service in a restaurant (though critically failed to tell us if this had ever happened).  

Then in a clearly pre-prepared speech he told us:

Stand in the shoes of the other and imagine. Stand in the shoes of that trans woman, trying to live her life, and to become herself, and look at the hatred and discrimination that she faces every single day. Stand in her shoes. And if you wouldn’t want it to happen to you, standing in her shoes, then how dare we allow it to happen to others.

Michael ‘together, only together’ Cashman

Mia Yamamoto

Mia Yamamoto went for the racial segregation comparison (which we have never had in the UK) – not only had schools been segregated in the US, but also the Bar.  He ‘came out’ as trans-identified at least 20 years into his law (and second) career it seems.  Prior to that he had seen many transgender people treated terribly in the court system so was very worried.  He was the first lawyer to do so in California and was prepared to ‘lose everything’.  

Yamamoto says that coming out as trans is ‘more in your face’ than coming out as gay, because you will need to use a different bathroom, you might look very different, and have new pronouns.  

Stephen Whittle

Stephen Whittle was very concerned about trans youth feeling unwanted but still reflected that there had been huge changes since she started campaigning in 1975.  Whittle claims that the papers referred to transsexuals as ‘perverts’ then.  She read all the medical literature but couldn’t find herself mentioned (forgot to look under N for narcissistic) and considered for a time that she might be a lesbian, a stone butch, or a radical lesbian feminist.  She has been with her wife since they were 18 years old and began the path to ‘transition’ aged 19.  

In 1992 Whittle set up Press for Change and learnt how to lobby from Lord Carlyle.  They were a ‘mandated voice’ and not top-down (I don’t see how this would be possible given the lack of communication possibilities).  

Whittle told us that when her wife sought fertility treatment she received a letter which told her ‘you’ll never be a good enough woman for us to consider you as a potential mother whilst you live with something like that‘.  Of course, the letter wasn’t worded like that, but it’s what was meant, orwite?  

Then came the achievement of the Gender Recognition Act.  Despite the recent cases bought by feminists, Whittle is confident that children rights and non-binary rights will be ‘taken forward’.

What is the biggest obstacle? 

Lisa Power believes we are our biggest obstacle and always believe in yourself. 

Cashman had another funny turn and repeated his disdain for gays and lesbians alienated by current Stonewall policy.  He felt it was terrible that ‘in order to find your identity, your place within our movement, that you have to be scarred and hurt’. Unfortunate words when so many young women, mostly lesbian, literally have mastectomy scars. 

Whittle agreed.  Back in the day lesbian and gay people had walked out of meetings she had been present at or else transsexual campaigners had been asked to leave.  In 2005 there had even been a few people from her side who had suggested that ‘sex change surgery’ should be a minimum requirement for a GRC.  Now, of course, the LGB Alliance is the thorn in the queer side.  ‘They won’t include people like me,’ the Press for Change founder whined.  They don’t know what my sexual orientation is (Whittle has a newly discovered orientation – farkinoyin*).  

*Trust me, this is a far funnier than the lame joke Whittle cracked.

Cashman said that the parents of children were a powerful tool in the battle to win hearts and minds and should be exploited more.  Whittle and Yamamoto agreed.

Yamamoto mumbled something about transgender people being regarded as ‘flamboyant’ and told us he has a wife.  He wanted the movement to be about Black Lives Matter.  Parents were very powerful and more persuasive than the voices of LGBT people themselves, because they were expressing ‘love’. (It’s funny, but I don’t recall the parents of gays and lesbians doing activism on their children’s behalves.)  

Interlaw Diversity, a capital investment lawyer, said ‘no justice, no peace’ without a shred of embarrassment and told a heart warming (for me at least) story about a boss who threw people’s Pride mugs in the bin in an act of sabotage.  

The Stonewall Strategy Section

The new Stonewall strategy thus far has included tweeting broadsheet newspapers ‘U ok hun?’ in response to valid criticism, updating their branding to more closely match the ECHR and Mermaids and, being the all-round shit bags they are, started mass blocking accounts on Twitter.

Sheldon Mills has been part of Interlaw Diversity since its inception and is also a lawyer.  He was there to talk about how excited he is about the new Stonewall strategy, which makes his heart sing.  It really does have it all.  

The strategy has three strands; Freedom (legal stuff), Equity (intersectional stuff) and Potential (potential stuff), which includes expanding the Rainbow Laces paid programme and all the other revenue producing grift.  

Mills assured us that the Board was delighted with Kelley’s new plan, but she never stopped looking uncomfortable once.  

Mills told us that the ‘trans community’ were yet to gain their rights and that conversion therapy is still happening even today!  He reflected that perhaps as a ‘cis gay man’ he was now too privileged but then George Floyd’s death reminded him he is just a black man when he walks the streets (though presumably he has never tried to fence a bent note high on crack).   Transgender people, of course, are abused all the time on the street.  The new strategy will also expand on LGBT people rights to have a family (i.e. men to have access to third world women for surrogacy).

Mills then made a plea that Stonewall was under attack and needed the money (the coffers were now at £2,200 – not bad for a night).  

Question from floor – how can we support Stonewall? 

Kelley – give us the money!  But also join our campaign to end conversion therapy.  Use our hashtags!  Joining the Ambassador Programme (a snip at £150 per month) would also help (and gets you networking opportunities to meet other nitwits).  

Interlaw Diversity seconded this and said that it would help Stonewall plan for the future (since they can’t at the moment, heh heh).  

Mills told us he was most excited by the Equity strand and that he was looking forward to bringing people of colour into the work and, in another bit of revisionist history, said that in recent times they had been forgotten.  

Kelley sheepishly told us that you need to learn from your mistakes and when you do a bad, just pick yourself up and carry on (a reference to her disastrous interview with the BBC, surely?).  

Mills told us that his mum and grandma were supportive of him when he came out and would go to the local gay bar with him to see what it was all about.  They probably wouldn’t have understood the lofty conversation we were having now, mind.  

Someone asked something about intersex inclusion and they were told to contact Stonewall direct (another new strand?). 

A warning about the UK ending up like 1930s Germany from Lord Cashman was the perfect prelude to the next question.  

Question: How can we deal with accelerating hate?  

Kelley said there was a lot of misinformation online and people were being radicalised.  Engaging with provocative comments was bad for mental health and could take you down a ‘dark path’.  Money was going into it and money was being made (stickers and ribbons rather than exogenous hormones and surgical removal of healthy genitals, but point taken).  

Yamamoto just ignores the trolls.  Ignores them.  Not worth the time.  

Question:  Does the acceptance of gender critical beliefs as a protected characteristic, as a result of the EAT in Forstater, give the panel cause for concern?  

Whittle said that freedom of belief is protected, but ‘what Forstater did is not necessarily protected’ and that a tribunal was yet to decide whether Forstater had crossed the line regarding the Act or Company Policy (which turns out to be true). There had been a lot of misreporting of the case and Whittle blamed this on ‘anti-trans organisations’.  

Interlaw Diversity also made a comparison to Nazism and said that people need education on the Equality Act (first I’ve ever heard him mention).  The info war was being lost and it was time to stop being precious and simplify language, if this meant dropping ‘cis’, so be it.  

Last words. 

Whittle’s mum was the best ally and she reflected that she had given many talks to ladies’ groups across the country to great effect (proof we all love a Damascene conversion story) and that the lobby should be prepared to talk to anybody (I don’t think this extends to women’s groups they don’t like).  

Yamamoto said we should remember that Stonewall was lead by trans women of colour. Mills raise a clenched fist – pathetic.  

Cashman gave his final bleat (see previous).  

Kelley was given the last word, much to her dismay.  She had found the job overwhelming but the collective job was to move forward.  She told us she had been crying off camera when she heard all the beautiful stories at the beginning.  Where will Stonewall be in 30 years’ time? she pondered.

Interlaw Diversity finished by telling us that you can’t get it wrong if you’re doing it with love.  He obviously hasn’t seen the Benjamin Cohen interview.  


Post meeting the McKellen greeting and webinar were posted.


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2 comments

  1. “if this meant dropping ‘cis’, so be it”

    That’s an interesting comment. Did anyone in the meeting respond?

    Like

    1. No, no one responded specifically to that, but both Whittle and Winterfieldt understand that the terms of engagement have definitely changed and that No Debate isn’t going to work for them. I don’t think they’re quite ready to meet the other side but they do want to play their hand differently. Most notably it was said that many allies now feel alienated and shouted at, and that it needs to be taken down a few notches. Unusually they have made the video public and I have now linked them in the blog post.

      Like

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