The annual Stonewall Awards at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London last night had their first protest in their three year history.
Activists from transsexual, transgender and queer organisations from London, Liverpool and Manchester held a noisy protest against “Stonewall’s refusal to withdraw their nomination of Julie Bindel for Journalist of the Year, a journalist know for her anti-trans opinions and writings.”
Organisers said it was the largest trans rights demo in the UK, with 150 protesters.
The award went to Dr Miriam Stoppard of the Daily Mirror.
Around a dozen members of the London Feminist Network mounted a counter-protest in support of Ms Bindel, who has defended her views on gender reassignment surgery.
“It was great to see so many people turn up to this event, particularly when the larger transsexual organisations have refused to support us or give us any publicity,” said a trans protest organiser.
“The event went peacefully which was good to see and the police even commented on how well behaved everyone was.
“Many of the people attending the event seemed genuinely surprised at the protest and were happy to talk, take leaflets and ask questions.
“This should make organisations like Stonewall sit up and take notice – if you trample on trans rights, you will get called out on it very vocally and very publicly.”
There were mixed reactions to the protest from people attending the awards.
Sue Perkins, who won Entertainer of the Year, told PinkNews.co.uk she supported their decision to picket the event.
“I feel incredibly upset that anyone has been offended – I think we all do. Nobody wants isolate or offend the transgender community.
“I am a huge fan of all protests to be honest, all power to them, they’re in the cold and I feel for them.
“But if they feel that Stonewall does not reflect the issues that they want to address they are right to campaign.
“And I hope Stonewall will address those and I am sure they will. Stonewall is a very reactive and sensitive political machine and they will not want to disenfranchise any of their members.”
Joe Galliano, editor of GT, said:
“I think we would do well to remember that Stonewall is named after a riot by drag queens. That is all I want to say.”
Comedian Amy Lame, nominee for Entertainer of the Year, told PinkNews.co.uk:
“I think it is insulting to Stonewall, to be honest.
“I think Stonewall has achieved so much for so many people – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – all of those people have been included in laws they helped to change. I think they do not know they’re born, really.”
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said:
“We are happy that everyone seems to be having fun.
“We were told there would be 400 and there seems to be about 60, but everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and that is what an event like this is about.”
Stella Duffy, winner of Writer of the Year, told PinkNews.co.uk she hoped dialogue could sort things out.
“Some of those protesters outside are my friends,” she said.
“Julie Bindel is one my friends. My take on it is that we need to have a dialogue.
“I would love us to be talking together rather than shouting at each other and I do not think it is impossible.
“But I completely get why people are upset but I would love us to be able to talk together and I would be really happy to talk to people about this.”
London Transfeminist Group claim that Ms Bindel’s articles are transphobic.
Campaigner Ros Kaveney said:
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“Ms Bindel is advocating talking therapies for trans people in a way that almost entirely parallels the advocacy of talking therapies by the Christian right as a way of extirpating all LGBT people.
“If she does not understand that, as a lesbian, she is a turkey advocating Christmas for turkeys in an adjacent bit of the farmyard, then she is being obtuse; what she is doing is betraying not only the trans community but the entire LGBT community, and it is wrong to honour her for her other work when there is this colossal stain on her career.”
Ms Bindel has apologised over the tone of a 2004 article Gender Benders Beware but stands by her view that people should question the basis of the diagnosis of male psychiatrists, “at a time when gender polarisation and homophobia work hand-in-hand.”
“Iran carries out the highest number of sex change surgeries in the world,” she said.
“It is unnecessary mutilation – in my opinion there is nothing ‘wrong’ with those who are currently seen as candidates for transgender surgery – they just don’t fit the gender stereotype.
“Surgery is an attempt to keep gender stereotypes intact. The diagnosis of childhood GID (gender identity disorder) follows old-fashioned notions of what constitutes appropriate behaviour for those assigned to the sex classes of male and female.
“It is precisely this idea that certain distinct behaviours are appropriate for males and females that underlies feminist criticism of the phenomenon of ‘transgenderism’. This view is shared by a large number of feminists of all ages and backgrounds.”
Trans activists had called for Ms Bindel’s nomination to be rescinded.
A spokesperson for Stonewall told PinkNews.co.uk: “All the complaints came after voting had taken place, so it would not have been honest in any circumstances to say that the nomination had been withdrawn.”