Stonewall Has a Vision for Change

This morning Stonewall released their long-anticipated trans rights campaign strategy. It is called A Vision for Change, and you can find the press release and document here.

The first thing to be noted is that this marks a sea change in British LGBT+ politics. The old Stonewall, before Ruth Hunt took over, was very much LG(b)-focused. If trans people were mentioned, it was more likely to be as targets for lesbian or gay transphobes as it was for positive reasons. The new Stonewall is very much trans inclusive. Indeed, it recognizes trans rights as one of the major issues facing the LGBT+ community at the moment. Ruth can take a lot of the credit for this turnaround, but she could not have done it without the backing of the Stonewall staff, or without the help of the group of trans people they recruited to develop their policy (some of whom I am honored to call friends).

It is also worth noting that this support is unconditional. The subtitle of the report is, “Acceptance without exception for trans people”. There is no, “we’ll help you as long as you conform to certain stereotypes,” as there has been in the past.

So what is Stonewall actually going to campaign for? The document lists six specific policy goals:

  • A reformed Gender Recognition Act (it needs a thorough overhaul)
  • A reformed Equality Act (to ensure all trans people are protected)
  • Removal of the infamous “Spousal Veto” from marriage legislation*
  • Action on the so-called “sex by deception” prosecutions which have led to trans people being sent to prison for having sex without disclosing they are trans
  • Legal recognition of non-binary people including, but by no means limited to, an X option on passports
  • Reform of the Asylum system (which is also a priority for LGB people)

Interestingly coverage in the national media has focused solely on the passport issue. This has been so uniform that I suspect it must be the result of a specific briefing from Stonewall (journalists are notoriously busy and will always prefer to be spoon-fed a story). There are potential banana skins here. No one wants this to be made mandatory for all trans people and for it to become a sort of trans id card. However, this is something that many other countries have done (including Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan) so it is easy to shame the government on this point. The government argument that it would upset the Americans is no longer valid because everything upsets the American border control people these days, and hardly anyone wants to go to the USA anyway.

There is, of course, a long way to go. However, Stonewall is a well-respected and highly effective campaigning organization that does have the ear of government and of the media. The trans community has badly needed someone like them to step forward and help for a long time. This is a real opportunity to make progress.

And yes, I am really looking forward to all of the articles in the Guardian and New Statesman complaining about what a dangerous, radical organization Stonewall has become.

* The Spousal Veto is a system that allows an existing spouse to block a change of legal gender, even if the person wishing to change gender has undergone full medical gender reassignment.

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