Yesterday I attended a workshop in Bath given by Stonewall. This was the first event in a new initiative aimed at helping build activism capacity outside of major cities. Given that it was a first event, some of the course probably needs a little tweaking, but nevertheless I was very pleased with the day.
The main thing we learned is how to actually construct a campaign that has focus, stands a chance of succeeding, and will result in beneficial change. This is important. Too many of the things that LGBT activists spend their time on, and I include myself in this, is poorly focused and ill-thought out. Given how tiring activism can be, good use of your time is important.
Of course this does mean that you need a willingness to build alliances and accept when you have made a mistake. The Stonewall team chose to illustrate the process using the Rainbow Laces campaign which challenges homophobia in soccer. Because they needed money and good contacts within the UK soccer establishment, Stonewall initially chose to partner with the betting company, Paddy Power. While this did get them off to a good start, it caused a number of problems. It meant that they were unable to work with schools on the campaign. And it got them a lot of bad press in certain quarters because of Paddy Power’s horribly transphobic advertising. The partnership with Paddy Power no longer exists, but the campaign has continued to go from strength to strength.
Interestingly, the Paddy Power advert that caused all of the trouble had been developed in partnership with the Beaumont Society. This was a classic example of a group of cross-dressers not understanding that what they were doing would be very damaging to trans women. Issues of community cohesion got quite a bit of airing in the workshop. Kudos here to the lad who raised the issue. It is good to see a gay man taking the lead on such things.
Of course the issue is very much in the spotlight right now thanks to the frankly appalling behavior of celebrity trans woman, India Willoughby, in attacking non-binary people. Thankfully Stonewall is very much on point these days and is solidly behind the non-binary community. Unfortunately, given Willoughby’s high media profile, many organizations that claim to work for the LGBT community will continue to pay her to represent trans people.
For me the biggest benefits of the day were the number of people who attended and the new contacts that I made. I think I counted 28 people at the workshop. They came from Cheltenham, and from small towns in Somerset and Wiltshire, as well as from Bath. They came from universities, local councils and the private sector as well as activist organizations such as the Diversity Trust and Bath Gender Equality Network. I have a long list of things to follow up. If Stonewall offers to do one of these workshops in your region I recommend that you go along.