Ruth Hunt: People didn’t want a lesbian to represent gay people

Ashley Chhibber July 5, 2014
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Stonewall’s acting Chief Executive Ruth Hunt has said that she received criticism when she was appointed, because people didn’t want a woman in charge of an LGB group.

Ruth Hunt took over as acting chief executive of the charity following the resignation of executive Ben Summerskill in January.

Speaking at Stonewall’s Education for All conference yesterday she revealed that when she was first appointed to the role, people were resistant to the idea of a lesbian leading the movement.

She said: “What I was really struck by, was – this is somebody who was on Twitter, highlighting that experience [of women being marginalised in the LGB movement] – was [the criticism] ‘how can a lesbian represent gay people?’

“And I was really struck by that, as an idea. Not, ‘how can a lesbian represent gay men?’, but ‘gay people’. And I think that’s certainly something which is still a re-occurring theme.”

Of her own background, she said: “I was told [at school] it would be unlikely that I would get into university.

“I was told that, despite being elected Head Girl, I could only be Deputy Head Girl, because deputy head girls were the ‘fun’ ones and head girls were the ‘serious’ ones, and a head girl who was openly gay would be a bad influence on the younger pupils.

“In 2004, when I was 24, I got a job as a Senior Policy Officer at Stonewall. I was told I would never be employed anywhere else again; I would be perceived as ‘militant’ and I would ruin my career. At 34 I am now Acting Chief Executive, so, whatever!”

PinkNews spoke to her afterwards.

How has the event gone today?
There’s been just incredible energy today from everyone who’s been here: teachers, people from local authorities, and the young people as well has just made it all really present and tangible in terms of some of the things that are going to happen and I’m just really convinced that some amazing things are going to come out of this; it’s really exciting.

Where does Stonewall move forwards now with this event?
We follow up now with all the local authorities and schools who’ve been here today. We also stay in regular touch with the young people, keep sending out our campaign packs and campaign plans, and help them where they encounter difficulties; because this is difficult work, and people experience different problems. So, what we’d like everyone to know is that Stonewall’s here to help them through those problems and those differences.

What has been the biggest achievement for you in your time as Acting Chief Executive?
In the last six months? That’s not a big time period, but I guess I’m really proud that Stonewall has continued to deliver everything that we said we were going to deliver.

It’s hard when you’ve got a change in regime to do that. But I’m also really proud of the new conversations we’re having with the trans communities, and I think that’s incredibly important.

Can you tell me a bit more about those conversations?
We’ll be holding a roundtable with fifty of the leading trans activists about what they want from the future of the trans movement, and Stonewall’s role in that. We are also having an open consultation at, where people can tell us whatever they’re thinking about these things; and there will be more conversations going forward.

Finally, this year Stonewall has marked twenty five years since its foundation; where do you see Stonewall in the next twenty five years?
In the next twenty five years? I hope we don’t exist. I hope our work is done.

More: Children, Education, Education for All, Employment, England, homophobic bullying, London, role models, Ruth Hunt, schools, Stonewall

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