In an historic move, equality charity Stonewall has announced that it will begin lobbying on trans issues.
The charity, which previously lobbied only on gay, lesbian and bisexual issues in England and Wales, has announced today on PinkNews that it would now also include trans issues in its brief.
Ruth Hunt, Stonewall Chief Executive said: “Whether we’re challenging bullying in our schools, tackling hate crime on our streets or working to make our public services truly equal for users, we have a responsibility to use our voice and share our 25 years of experience.
“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.”
In the report, ‘Trans People and Stonewall’, which was the result of a consultation period on trans issues, Ms Hunt sets out that “Stonewall no longer needs to maintain a strict distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The report later states, however that “we would have to work hard to make sure that people understood the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation.”
She goes on: “We recognise the impact of mistakes we have made in the past. We are aware that we have missed opportunities to open up this conversation far sooner. And we apologise to trans people for the harm that we have caused.”
Following the consultation, Stonewall will now amend its ways of working to include trans people and trans issues. Advisors will be appointed, including a trans expert board member, and staff will be trained to include trans issues in the work they do.
The report also sets out that Stonewall will do its utmost to fully represent the trans community as a whole, stating: “We recognise that there is no universal experience of being trans… In order to get the input of traditionally under-represented groups within the trans communities, we held a series of targeted roundtable events.”
In an interview with PinkNews, to be published later today, Ms Hunt said: “I am absolutely committed to creating a world through Stonewall where everyone has the right to be themselves, where everyone can be who they want to be, and I think that the artificial divide between trans and sexual orientation hasn’t been particularly helpful in the kind of disagreements that we have had, so I wanted to move it forward.
On the process of consulting with the trans community on whether Stonewall would begin lobbying on those issues, Ms Hunt said: “I was really inspired by how positive people were in that initial conversation and how much appetite there was for exploring this further, so not just a case of ‘no-Stonewall-no’ but actually of ‘Yes, maybe and let’s see what that looks like.’ So yes it was very inspiring.”
Jonathan Lawrence, partner of the law firm, K&L Gates, and chair of its London office diversity committee commented on the change, telling PinkNews: “K&L Gates was very proud to have been ranked in Stonewall’s 2015 Top 100 employers. We think it is the right move for Stonewall also to join in furthering the rights of the trans* community.
“Reflecting our own commitment to diversity and inclusion and led by associate, Aritha Wickramasinghe, we are representing Christie Elan-Cane on a pro bono basis in per’s campaign for the legal recognition of non-gendered identity and persons.”
Christie Elan Cane, who campaigns on Gender X issues, said: “It is good news for the trans* community if Stonewall can get this right. Too often trans* issues are side-lined and we suffer at the hands of policy advisors who fail to understand there is a T in LGBT. I am encouraged that Stonewall wants to move forward as a trans* inclusive organisation.”
Stonewall in England and Wales did not previously campaign or lobby on transgender issues. Stonewall Scotland campaigns on transgender issues and its research is trans-inclusive.
Benjamin Cohen, Chief Executive of PinkNews also commented, saying: “It is welcome that Stonewall is finally adding trans issues to the areas that it will campaign on. This will help not just in terms of the lobbying power of the combined LGBT community but also in tackling transphobic bullying given Stonewall’s strong experience in combating homophobic bullying in schools across the country.”