A co-founder of Stonewall, the largest LGBT rights group in Europe, is among the gay rights activists and feminists threatening to form a breakaway group in opposition to the organization's championing of pro-transgender policy.
The United Kingdom-based organization was founded in 1989 by political activists and named after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. The nonprofit’s motto is “acceptance without exception.”
However, the letter alleges that Stonewall has silenced debate when it comes to transgender policy issues even though lesbian, gay and bisexual supporters felt as though the group erred when it began campaigning on transgender issues in 2015.
According to the letter, a group of gay rights supporters asked Stonewall over a year ago to “commit to fostering an atmosphere of respectful debate rather than demonizing as transphobic those who wish to discuss, or dissent from, Stonewall’s transgender policies.”
But since then, the letter alleges, Stonewall has refused requests to enter into dialogue with the activists.
“The government continues to treat Stonewall as if it represented the views of progressive thinking in general and specifically LGB opinion. It does not,” the letter stresses. “We believe it has made mistakes in its approach that undermine women’s sex-based rights and protections.”
The letter voices concern with the fact that “primary-school children are now challenged to review their ‘gender identity’ and decide that they may be the opposite sex if they do not embrace outdated gender stereotypes.” Over the last 10 years, the U.K. has seen a drastic increase in children seeking to transition to the opposite biological sex.
“The architect of this policy, Ruth Hunt, who recently resigned as Stonewall’s chief executive, has — surprisingly — been made a life peer,” the letter states. “Her exclusion of any alternative views has divided supporters of gay and lesbian rights in a way that may be irreparable.”
The short letter concludes by arguing that if Stonewall “remains intransigent,” there should be an opening for a new charity “committed both to freedom of speech and to fact instead of fantasy.”
Along with Fanshawe, a radio and television personality, the letter was signed by former Stonewall trustee Gill Butler, and feminist Julie Bindel, who was once nominated by Stonewall as a journalist of the year.
“If Stonewall can’t defend lesbians then we will have to look at setting up an organization that will,” Fanshawe said in a statement provided to The Sunday Times. “A number of us are discussing that. This is heartbreaking.”
In a tweet, Fanshawe spoke out about Hunt’s unwillingness to engage in debate on the transgender issue. He argued that Stonewall built its reputation with a “reliable, credible, fact-based argument.”
“RH’s refusal to encounter and answer these questions has compromised Stonewall and created division,” he wrote. “Heartbreaking.”
One of the signatories, activist Johnathan Best, launched a petition calling for Stonewall to “reconsider its approach to transgender policy.” The petition criticizes Stonewall's support for the Gender Recognition Act, which would make it easier for transgender individuals to change their gender.
The petition was signed by over 9,000 people.
“Stonewall’s promotion of the concept of 'gender identity,’ which has it that a man or woman is anyone (of either sex) who identifies as such, is also undermining the basis of lesbian, gay and bisexual identities as orientated around same-sex attraction,” the petition argues. “Lesbians, in particular, are coming under pressure to accept male-bodied trans women into their spaces and as sexual partners.”
In a statement given to The Sunday Times, a Stonewall spokesperson said that it’s “central” to the organization’s goal to ensure that “every lesbian, gay, bi and trans person to be accepted without exception.”
“We know that there is huge support for trans rights from lesbian, gay and bi communities and within the feminist movement,” the spokesperson argued. “Now is the time to make that support even more visible and vocal.”