The chair of a Manchester transgender discussion group has praised national charity Stonewall for its decision to finally start campaigning for the trans community.
TransForum leader Jenny-Anne Bishop OBE, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Forum on Gender Identity, has applauded the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) rights charity Stonewall for ‘using its platform and experience to help create real change’ for trans people.
Jenny-Anne spoke to MM about this fresh direction, which comes after Stonewall’s 25-year-old history of campaigning for LGB communities, but not trans too (LGBT).
“Stonewall are a very good campaigning organisation and the trans community could do with a bit of a push and some help with campaigning – this move is extremely positive,” she said.
“They [Stonewall] are obviously a much bigger organisation than we have.
“It is sad that we weren’t part of the organisation before because it was our community that started the Stonewall riots, so it was a little ironic not being part of it, although they didn’t choose the name for that reason.”
The Stonewall riots took place in 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York, and are considered by many to be the catalyst for LGBT civil rights in the United States.
They began when LGBT customers at the popular Stonewall Inn began to protest, following anger at their lack of rights and harassment by the police.
The news eventually spread and the riot swelled in numbers and lasted for days.
In its wake, there was lots of discussion about LGBT rights amongst the people of the city, encouraging the formation of organisations and publications for its community.
Jenny-Anne discussed how trans individuals were instrumental in the Stonewall riots, which encouraged the very first gay pride marches in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and near the Stonewall Inn in New York.
She added: “The first people involved in the riots were Transsexuals and Drag Queens. It is widely accepted that Silvia Rivera, a Trans activist, was the first to resist the police who were raiding the Stonewall bar.
“Silvia became a big community hero and founded several Trans and human rights organisations, one of which still advocates for LGBT right today. Back in the late 60s, the whole LGBT community was together and supported each other.”
But despite the role of the trans community in the Stonewall riots and its rightful place in the LGBT world, the road to trans equality has not been a straightforward one, according to Jenny-Anne.
She told MM: “There hasn’t always been cooperation. We [trans] said we won’t do LGB if you don’t do T, and there were some informal agreements about that.
But I have personally always been part of the LGBT community, and I was much happier when it was LGBT.”
That lack of unity is starting to resolve itself, through charities like Stonewall playing their part in the movement.
With over 60% of the UK trans population having felt discriminated against or harassed because of being perceived as trans, now is as good a time as any to implement these new policies.
Jenny Anne said: “The reason they are doing it now is because Trans has become much more visible and they have started to notice all the things that need doing.
“They’ve got to a natural point with same sex marriage where they haven’t got quite so many issues. There are still some, like homophobic crime, but there are lots of battles that have been won.
“And working with us, and together being a bigger organisation, we can more easily access funds and help both groups.”
This historic move is taking place after widespread discussions with more than 700 trans people.
Stonewall have said that they will ‘develop new work on trans specific issues’, and Jenny-Anne believes that the key lies in consulting the community you are aiming to help.
“Stonewall have gone about this change in a really good way through the report that they did. By having conversations with over 700 trans people, they have a really good input,” she added.
“They have said that they are now looking to recruit some trans people to work with them full time, which is great, because often it is hard to find employment if you are trans. And by taking on lots of trans volunteers, that re-educates charities like Stonewall.
“They said they are going to work with us, rather than taking us over. And that is always how I like to work, in a collaborative way.”
Ruth Hunt, Stonewall Chief Executive, talked about the charity’s ‘responsibility’ to use its voice to prevent bullying in school, tackle hate crime and make sure that ‘public services [are] truly equal’ for its users.
She said: “This change marks a significant moment in Stonewall’s history. As a community we can achieve much more by standing together.
“This is an exciting but huge undertaking – we recognise that we are not instant experts, and will work closely with the trans community to achieve real change for LGBT people.”
Stonewall have apologised for their previous mistakes, and they have had the necessary conversations to devise the most effective ways of working for the trans community to create a better future.
Jenny-Anne said that it is impossible to hear every single opinion on the subject, but she is confident that by having these conversations, Stonewall are going in the right direction.
“If you are trans, it is obvious, whereas you can be LGB and it isn’t always the case. Because of that, trans people have tended to receive more discrimination. So we try not to be too vocal.
“But with all the new equalities legislation, and through the media, we’ve seen attitudes towards our community start to change, and this really helps.”
Over the next 18 months, Stonewall will ensure that its board of trustee will reflect trans expertise, as well as recruiting experts to work with their staff, cooperating with trans organisations and introduce a whole range of new projects which focus on LGB and T.
Jenny- Anne added: “We feel much more able to come out and campaign. And having help from an organisation such as Stonewall, that has got over 25 years campaigning experience at the top level with government, we can really benefit from that.”
Image courtesy of Welsh Government via YouTube, with thanks.