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LGB before the T

How did the term “LGBT” become ubiquitous in a decade?

On the 24th April 2014, Sam Dick, Director of Campaigns at Stonewall, wrote a piece for the Guardian, reflecting on the charity’s work since it was founded 25 years prior.

He walked through the core campaigns of the organisation over the years. Primarily, these had focussed on repealing Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which had prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality”. However, Stonewall had also ploughed campaigning resources into “repealing the ban on serving in the military, workplace protections, protections from discrimination in the provision of goods and services, adoption by same-sex couples, legal recognition of same-sex relationships, an equal age of consent”.

All of this was done, according to Dick, in the unwavering pursuit of “lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) equality”.

Notice anything missing?

When I first read this article and saw the acronym “LGB”, my brain, subconsciously, added a letter to the end of it.

If you were presented with a drinks menu in a bar and saw the acronym G&*, I can hazard a guess as to which letter your brain would automatically add to the end.

Or imagine you enter a sandwich restaurant and are presented with a menu offering a BL*. Again, without even meaning to, your brain will likely add a particular letter to the end.

That is a sign of familiarity. More than this, it is a sign of conditioning.

It is unsurprising how easily “LGBT” rolls off the tongue, given the way in which we have been bombarded with this phrase, day in and day out, over recent years.

Yet less than 10 years ago, this term was all but alien to the UK. There was no such thing as “LGBT”. It was “LGB” — and Stonewall, the largest charity of its kind in Europe, was striving for “LGB” equality.

In Dick’s Guardian article, there was not a single mention of the ‘T’. These days, you would be hard pressed to find a Stonewall campaigning tool not focussed squarely on it.

Why is this?

By 2014, Stonewall had, essentially, served its purpose. It had, thankfully, secured its goals. Sam Dick, in the aforementioned article, specifically stated: “today we stand in an almost uniquely privileged position of saying that each of these early legal changes has now been secured”. He went even further: “it still takes my breath away when speaking to human rights defenders around the world, fighting for similar freedoms in their own countries, how far we’ve come”.

This level of praise for the United Kingdom may come as a surprise to many. These days, Stonewall is known for essentially arguing that rights in the UK have never been worse. In fact, as we can see, even a decade ago, things had never been better.

However, in light of these achievements, questions were being asked as to whether Stonewall had run its course. As Dick wrote: “the question that is posed to us frequently since equal marriage was secured is: what next?”. The only thing he could suggest was to “remain ever vigilant of attempts…to roll back the progress we’ve made”Hardly a roaring call to arms from a charity centred around proactive campaigning and advocacy.

It is clear, even from this article alone, that Stonewall were considering their relevance in modern society. They needed something to attach themselves to. A cause. An ideology. An opportunity.

That opportunity presented itself less than 3 months later.

In July 2014, Ruth Hunt was appointed as the new CEO of Stonewall. In an interview with the Guardian on the 28th July, Hunt stated that the biggest challenge facing Stonewall was “creeping complacency”. She went on to say: “some people think because we have achieved significant legislative goals, the job is done”.

Then, it came.

Hunt made the announcement that she would be “opening conversations with the trans community at a meeting at the end of August”.

This was significant. Stonewall, by its own admission, had never previously campaigned for “transgender issues”. In fact, Stonewall had stated that they were “firm about not campaigning for trans equality”This was unsurprising, given the threats posed to the LGB community from gender ideology (something which will be considered later in this book).

However, here we had an organisation that many considered had fulfilled its purpose and a newly appointed CEO keen to cement her own relevance. As the old saying goes: “any port in a storm”.

Little did we know that this single decision would set off a chain of events, drastically changing society in the UK beyond anyone’s wildest nightmares (or dreams, depending on the viewpoint).

On the 30th August 2014, Hunt set up a meeting with “trans professionals, campaigners and activists to discuss the possibility of Stonewall becoming trans inclusive”. This was followed by a 6-month “consultation with over 700 organisations and individuals”.

On the 16th of February 2015, Stonewall made an official announcement that they would “start campaigning for trans equality”. The same day, they put out a Tweet with a re-branded version of their historic slogan. It read: “Some People Are Trans. Get Over It”.

The Guardian reported that: “Britain’s biggest campaigner for lesbian and gay rights, Stonewall, has announced that it will also start working for trans equality, describing the move as a significant moment and apologising for its past failure to do so”.

A plan of action was quickly established. It was announced that a new post of “Director of Trans Integration” would be appointed. An “Advisory Group” would also be set up to support the new workstream. High-level policy areas were identified, including: trans healthcare, public services for trans people, tackling transphobia, and legal anomalies in the Gender Recognition Act.

Announcing the release of a Report entitled “Trans People and Stonewall” (which has since been taken down from their website), CEO Ruth Hunt stated: “this change marks a significant moment in Stonewall’s history…This is an exciting but huge undertaking…We will work closely with the trans community to achieve real change for LGBT people”.

Just like that, “LGB” became “LGBT”. Stonewall had found its new opportunity.

Previous concerns about gender identity, and in particular, the impact on LGB people, were swept under the rug

Previous concerns about gender identity, and in particular, the impact on LGB people, were swept under the rug. As the Guardian reported: “Hunt said the organisation had previously maintained a strict distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity. She said: “historically, we thought it was the right thing to do,” but added she had now changed her mind.”

What followed throughout 2015 and 2016 were internal meetings within the organisation to agree actions for taking this new policy initiative forward. The result of these meetings came in April 2017, when Stonewall published ”A Vision For Change”  — a five-year roadmap to trans equality.

The “Vision” was based around 3 overarching aims: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Institutions, and Changing Laws.

What was unfolding, even at this early stage, was striking.

Firstly, the promotion of policy changes that, in current times, are embroiled in public division and controversy. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Prisoners to be housed in prisons that align with their self-identified gender;
  • Survivor centres for domestic abuse victims to become “trans-inclusive”;
  • Children to be able to consent to medical treatment, including hormones and surgery;
  • Athletes to be able to participate in competitions that align with their self-identified gender;
  • Schools to provide a “trans inclusive” learning environment;
  • Employers to allow staff to use the toilets that align with their self-identified gender;
  • Amending the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to enable “Self-ID”;
  • Amending the Equality Act 2010 to formally recognise “gender identity” in law;
  • Legally recognising a third sex of “non-binary”;
  • All ‘LGB communities’ to become “trans inclusive”;
  • Transphobia to be challenged by everyone;
  • Representation of trans people in public life;
  • Upholding the privacy of trans people around needing to disclose their ‘trans status’ in “sex by deception” cases.

Secondly, we witnessed the clout that Stonewall already felt it had amongst UK institutions. Stonewall pledged to strongly lobby government departments and public bodies (including the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the NHS). It also pledged to make its “Diversity Champions Programme” and “Workplace Equality Index” fully “trans-inclusive”.  Given the consensus today that many of our public bodies and corporations have essentially been ideologically captured by Stonewall, this is telling.

Finally, we witnessed a complete shift in Stonewall’s strategy; one which would pave the way for the attack on free speech we witness in today’s society. Historically, Stonewall’s approach could be described as “winning hearts and minds”. In 2014, Sam Dick said that Stonewall’s success was down to: “collecting robust evidence, being assiduously non-partisan, resonating with your audiences”.

However, it was well known that, when stepping into post, CEO Ruth Hunt was often criticised for being too timid. Under her leadership, “winning hearts and minds” morphed into “forced compliance”. In an interview with the Guardian, Hunt said that Stonewall’s position was “helping people to change how they think about things”. In the “Vision Report”, they went a step further, pledging to “confront individuals who refuse to recognise the legitimacy of trans identities”.

Fast forward less than 10 years to the present day:

The failed introduction of self-ID in Scotland and subsequent resignation of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the closure of the Tavistock, the Charity Commission investigation into Mermaids, legal battles in the Courts, the emergence of detransitioners suing former doctors, individuals losing their jobs for stating that they believe in sex, companies mandating pronoun badges, sexualised drag queens performing to children, primary school pupils being taught it is possible to be born in the wrong body, “trans” rapists in female prisons, gay charities such as the LGB Alliance being branded a “hate group”, international guidance recognising “eunuchs” as a distinct gender identity, male athletes smashing records in female competitions, and even our leading politicians being asked, for the first time in history, whether women can have a penis.

All of the above can be traced back to the pledges first outlined in Stonewall’s Vision. While Stonewall as an organisation may have fallen out of favour with much of the public, the tremors of its activism continue to be felt today, with many of our institutions remaining ideologically captured.

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