Stonewall Has Lost Its Way
A timely reminder from Matthew Parris, one of Stonewall's founder members, that a once respected organisation has lost its way and has been hijacked by trans zealots.
Ye Gods - How Did We Get Here? (June 27, 2022)
I first became interested in the sex vs gender debate after reading this article by Matthew Parris - first published in The Times in May 2021.
Seemed to me then that Matthew Parris was absolutely right - Stonewall has managed to hijack the lesbian/gay rights movement and is focused on trans rights to the exclusion of all other considerations, as if no one else matters.
Standing Up To Stonewall (May 26, 2021)
Matthew Parris is a founder member of Stonewall and he makes a powerful argument that the group has lost its way in taking such a strident stance in the debate over women's rights, sex and gender identity.
"Gay men do not want to be women. We like being men. I doubt that being a lesbian is about not wanting to be a woman. Our issues have nothing to do with identification or changing our bodies: we know what we are and nobody disputes it. Most gay men would strongly resist the suggestion we’re boys who want to be girls. I can’t think of anything I’d like less."
Well said, sir!
Stonewall should stay out of trans rights war
The organisation I helped found has lost its way since winning gay equality and is mired in an issue that isn’t its concern
By Matthew Parris - The Times
Imagine (in my case the effort is minimal) you are a gay man, and open about it. Thirty years ago this would have brought huge difficulties, attracted hostility, excluded you from many careers, and made you feel almost an exile in your own country.
Things have changed — and how! Broadly speaking life in Britain has been normalised for you. Yes, you may still face raised eyebrows and residual prejudice; there remain anomalies and you’re aware there’s further progress to be made in shifting attitudes in (for instance) schools, churches, ethnic minority communities and the world of sport. But frankly these are details. Today you can marry, be a tinker, tailor, soldier, spy. Or MP. There’s no crushing sense of victimisation. You do not feelsociety is against you.
You hear talk of “identities” but your gay identity overlaps with so many others you feel that it needn’t define you. Nevertheless, as “a member of the gay community” (a fiction that can make you grind your teeth) you may feel there’s still a need for an organisation to speak up for gay men and lesbian women’s rights and needs: to do “outreach” work in British schools and workplaces, and maybe abroad where your fellow gays still face the gallows. You might join and pay your subs to such an organisation.
I did — until last year. I was one of that organisation’s fourteen founders. Stonewall, formed on May 24, 1989, was set up during the furore over Section 28 of the local government act, engineered by a Tory government to ban the “promotion” of homosexuality. Most of us founders had been part of an ad-hoc group to oppose the legislation. I remember well the windowless little lounge where previously we’d met in the gay nightclub, Heaven, under the railway arches at London’s Charing Cross station. We were the guests of its proprietor, Richard Branson. I remember the advice and support we got from outsiders like Peter Mandelson, and our sorrowful defiance when Section 28 became law. A defiance that led to that gathering on May 24.
I remember, too, the sense of solidarity between stalwarts such as Ian McKellen (kindly, conciliatory and shrewd) and Lisa Power (punchy, motherly and fun). I remember Michael Cashman (he of the first gay kiss in EastEnders): thoughtful, civil, and empathetic. We didn’t always agree on aims (I was for reducing the age of male homosexual consent from 21 to 18; the majority were for full equality at 16, so 16 it was) but the big thing we wanted — for gay men and lesbian women to come out of the shadows and into the sun — was so clear and strong that our differences melted in its glare. We rented a little office, engaged a CEO, and Stonewall was launched.
Monday marks the 32nd anniversary of that Wednesday in 1989. But Stonewall has lost its way. The sun we all thought we saw has gone behind clouds of anger, intolerance and partisanship. The organisation is tangled up in the trans issue, cornered into an extremist stance on a debate that a charity formed to help gay men, lesbian women and bisexual people should never have got itself into.
You may have seen the latest on this in The Times on Thursday (“Stonewall ‘gave bad advice’ to university in free speech row”). A nasty little spat. After complaints from students, and advice from Stonewall, Essex University “cancelled” appearances by two outside professors in the fields on which they were to speak: two women whose opinions students claimed were “transphobic”. The university has now been advised by Akua Reindorf, an investigating barrister, to review its relationship with Stonewall, which, she said, “appears to have given university members the impression that gender critical academics can legitimately be excluded from the institution”.
What is the charity I helped to found doing, getting entangled in attempts to deny free speech at a university? This column should avoid getting into the trans debate itself. My single, tight focus is on this question: why Stonewall?
There’s something perversely 20th-century about linking gays to trans. Gay men do not want to be women. We like being men. I doubt that being a lesbian is about not wanting to be a woman. Our issues have nothing to do with identification or changing our bodies: we know what we are and nobody disputes it. Most gay men would strongly resist the suggestion we’re boys who want to be girls. I can’t think of anything I’d like less. The whole history of the gay liberation movement is inseparable from what people do rather than what they are. Central to trans concerns is being, not doing. The one thing that links gays and lesbians with trans people is empathy with anyone excluded, oppressed, marginalised or rejected. Indeed this was what influenced some gay groups into supporting the 1984-5 miners’ strike, and Stonewall was perhaps drawn into the trans arguments because a group was fighting for what it considers to be its rights.
But this has led it straight into a confrontation with another such group: feminists. Stonewall should have stood clear. Now it seems to have dived into the judicial issue of whether would-be trans children can consent to chemical or surgical intervention. This is not something on which gays, lesbians or bisexuals can speak with greater authority than any other citizen. I repeat: it has nothing to do with us.
Perhaps the truth is that, after success in our great 20th-century drive for equality, Stonewall was left with bricks and mortar, an admirable staff, a CEO and a fund-raising team and, unconsciously, craved another big, newsworthy cause. Well, sometimes a big army with only small battles to fight does best simply to scale back. I know many gay men have become embarrassed by Stonewall and see (as I do) the paradox that some of its activities are actually damaging the standing of the gay community. We don’t want to be associated with sallies in the trans wars. We want to feel proud, not hurt, not victims. Trans people cannot yet feel that: they need a support group. But that’s for them. Gays (to use the lingo) should not be colonising their issues.
I’ve mentioned on these pages before a new Stonewall initiative, entitled “Decolonising Queer Leadership Programme”, a “3-part programme for LGBT people of colour, who want to develop their skills in creating lasting change in their communities and build collective power through challenging society’s constructed power norms”.
Ye gods, how did we get here?