Stonewall – the organisation that lesbian and gay people formed to fight for the right of same-sex attracted people to live full lives, just like everyone else: they weren’t about right or left, they weren’t progressive or conservative or religious or humanist any more than anyone else was. They were just same-sex attracted people who wanted, please, to stop being arrested for being themselves, to be allowed to form and formalise marriage-style partnerships, just like just about everyone else did.
They won. The 2010 Equality Act includes same-sex orientation as a protected characteristic, thus giving them legal protection against the kind of treatment the police used to be paid to mete out, and same-sex marriage was legalised across mainland UK in 2014, and in Northern Ireland in 2020. Probably Stonewall UK’s biggest and most famous battle was against Margaret Thatcher’s infamous ‘Section 28’, which framed teachers telling kids it was okay to be gay as ‘promoting homosexuality’, and demanded that they stop it. Stonewall won. Section 28 is long gone.
But life still isn’t that easy for same-sex attracted people. That’s what my idea is about. First though, an outline of the problem (if you already know about the problem, do skim on down to where it says ‘Wake up, Stonewall’…)
Fear of redundancy
Many people suspect that somewhere along the way, someone at Stonewall started worrying that there was nothing left for them to do, and they would lose their jobs. This is a very, very well-known phenomenon. Whatever organisations are founded for, there is a danger that eventually, they exist purely to promote and develop their own existence. Stonewall had such a bad case of it that author Simon Edge’s book about the phenomenon (The End of the World is Flat) has become a sort of primer for anyone who’s trying to understand what happened to Stonewall. (It’s also a very funny and engaging novel. Do read it, if you haven’t already.)
I’d say Stonewall’s first strategy to avoid redundancy was to start taking on more letters of the alphabet. Instead of being an LGB organisation whose job was largely done, they became an LGBT organisation, then an LGBTQ one, and then as more letters got added, and people failed to remember them all, they decided to just use a + sign. The current CEO of Stonewall regularly manages to say LGBTQ+ as though it were a word. Others go for LGBTQIA, or whatever they need to get their own particular niche in there – but just as corporate publishers and film makers only produce a mass of books/films in the hope of finding that one bestseller, Stonewall quickly found the letter that would save their jobs, and now appear to be almost entirely a ‘T’ organisation.
So, they needed to find a ‘T’ cause the public would sympathise with. Openly demanding ‘self-ID’ proved to be a liability, because the general public didn’t take long to work out that ‘self-ID’ means allowing any bloke who’s willing to say he’s a woman to follow their daughters into the changing rooms or the loos or anywhere else. For a time, Stonewall did well with ‘transwomen are women’. Only later, when people realised this was still a campaign to let any bloke who’s willing to say he’s a woman follow their daughters into the changing rooms etc, Stonewall hastily added ‘transmen are men’. Then, realising that many non-conforming young people were finding it easier and more pleasing to opt for ‘non-binary’, it became ‘transwomen are women, transmen are men and non-binary identities are valid’. (We still await definitions of any of those words).
But being in a time-loop was working for Stonewall in some quarters. Using the gay liberation template on their ‘T’ crusade gave some of their neglected LGB clients pleasant echoes of past campaigns. It took quite a while for people to wake up to the fact that ‘trans rights’ was not the same as ‘gay rights’, and campaigning to have males in your daughter’s loos and on their football teams was not the same as campaigning for same-sex marriage.
Conversion therapy, anyone?
Stonewall had one final card to play in their time-loop trick: “ban conversion therapy”. In the last year, more and more people have been waking up to the fact that when organisations like Mermaids go into schools, promoting ‘gender identity’, they tend to scoop up any kids who are feeling alienated, or “different” – the gay kids, the autistic kids, the traumatised kids – and the Tavistock/GIDS service was waiting in the wings to “treat” those youngstesrs with hormones and ‘a new identity’ as a simulacrum of the opposite sex.
There were plenty of people trying to stop this happening to vulnerable kids, most of whom needed counselling, not puberty-blockers or a fancy new name. At a meeting in Lewes, on 21st July, Woman’s Place UK ran a session on ‘Whistleblowers’, two of whom were former Tavistock employees.
The time-loopers inspired by Stonewall realised that campaign groups trying to stop the “transing” of all those alienated kids looked a bit like the whole anti-gay, Section 28 thing, and could be spun as a new form of conversion therapy. I suppose in our creaking political system, MPs are always slow on the uptake – Stonewall successfully persuaded a lot of MPs who wanted to look modern and progressive to back a campaign that assumed we needed a ban on “trans conversion therapy”. People are waking up to this too, now. Those MPs got teased a lot, all over Twitter.
Wake up, Stonewall
Stonewall, now looking increasingly desperate, appears to be spending a fortune seeking people who “haven’t got it” yet, so they can continue to sell the idea that they are protecting trans and non-binary youngsters from mythical conversion therapy. I realised recently that I had been getting these ads in my timeline on Facebook at least once a day. Below are screengrabs that I collected in a single week. It’s possible that if they run those ads for long enough, and spread them widely enough, they may get an apparently meaningful number of signatures from people who haven’t realised what is really going on.
It’s a long shot though, isn’t it, Stonewall. I’d like to suggest that there may be a better plan. Why not go back to your roots? The ‘trans rights’ campaign you ran has caused a small war, right across our country, and it has given a platform to many, many misogynists and homophobes. It has given Mermaids the sense of entitlement that led them to attack the LGB Alliance…
This gives me an idea for something actually useful that Stonewall might do, to win back its credibility and its role in life – are you listening, Stonewall? Here’s my idea…
LGB people and organisations are being attacked, Stonewall. If you want to keep your jobs and your reputation, you could start defending LGB people!
Stonewall, please stop trying to whip up anger between LGB and T, and between T and feminists. We know you only stoke the problem so you can pretend to be mending it. Stop trying to tell people that talking to troubled kids is conversion therapy, stop trying to persuade the world men are women, stop trying to sell something (we’re not sure what) to non-binary kids, and go back to your roots. Defend gay and lesbian people. Do that, and everyone will love you again. Then, you can all keep your jobs and when everything calms down enough, the rest of us will work out how to resolve the conflicts over various groups’ legal rights that you have created.
I think it’d be worth a try. If you agree, please share this blog post!
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