Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:02:10 PM EST
Last night at its awards ceremony at the Victoria and Albert museum, the Stonewall gay civil rights advocacy group awarded Iris Robinson, the Democratic Unionist Party (ultra-Protestant conservative) MP in Northern Ireland, an award for being "Bigot of the Year". It was a heartily justified award given her claims that gay people could be cured with Christianist "talking therapy" (aka pray away the gay) and her statement that homosexuality is an abomination.
Which made the nomination of Guardian journalist Julie Bindel as "Journalist of the Year" at the same ceremony especially interesting, given her claims that the transgendered can be cured by "talking therapies" and that sex change surgery was "mutilation".
Indeed, Bindel has a long and, frankly, awful history of
Essentialist-inspired transphobic bigotry. Indeed, both the Guardian and Bindel were forced to issue apologies about the tone
of one of her articles, "Gender Benders Beware
", presumably to prevent the involvment of the the Press Complaints Commission. Not surprising when you read it, containing as it does amongst others, the following choice phrases;-
....Also, those who "transition" seem to become stereotypical in their appearance - fuck-me shoes and birds'-nest hair for the boys; beards, muscles and tattoos for the girls. Think about a world inhabited just by transsexuals. It would look like the set of Grease.
I don't have a problem with men disposing of their genitals, but it does not make them women, in the same way that shoving a bit of vacuum hose down your 501s does not make you a man.
But it's worth remembering that she only apologised for the tone, not the substance of the article. On its own it would be reprehensible, but she is a serial offender. Indeed I wrote about attending the recording of one such polemic here last year, Transgenderism and Julie Bindel
What really annoyed the community was that when we protested that a gay civil rights group shouldn't be in the business of rewarding somebody who insults another part of the queer community, we were given a rather dismissive brush-off. We already knew that Stonewall was only an LGB organisation and tended to be dismissive of the "T", but the level of disdain was an eye-opener. And following on from "Toiletgate" earlier this year where trans people were prevented from using gender appropriate facilities at the rally following the London Pride march, and the whole kerfuffle last year in the USA regarding the debacle of the anti-trans stance by the US gay advocacy group, Human rights Commission (HRC), over the Employment Non-Discrimination-Act (ENDA) that I discussed in my essay We have been betrayed before, there was a general feeling that enough was enough.
So a protest was organised. Initially we hoped that perhaps 50 people would turn up, the Facebook ticklist indicated that perhaps 100 might turn out, but on the night 150 people showed up (naturally the Stonewall friendly gay press reports only 70). This makes it the largest protest ever organised by the trans community in Britain. We had a nice little area organised by the police, with whom we'd been in consultation, handily placed for embarrassing many of the expensively attired suited and booted straight-acting sensible gay community who looked alternatively sheepish or affronted at the scruffy queers trying to ruin their night. However, I should in fairness note that several came over to talk to us sympathetically, as was noted in an early article in the Pink Paper Celebs split over trans protest at Stonewall Awards. Equally it was funny to see the Stonewall organisers look distinctly put out when they were told by the police that our stewards were entitled to hand out leaflets to the attendees explaining our action and there was nothing they could do about it.
A good time was had by all, shouting our prepared chants of "El, Gee, Bee, where's the Tea ?" and "Stonewall !! Hypcrites!!" before we decided after an hour and a half that we'd made our point and drifted off to the nearest pub for a hard-earned beer or two.
One of the organisers, Sarah, the Bringer of Tea, (see up date below) has a much more detained blog of the events of the protest including a lot of detail of which I was unaware. Please go read, she even has pictures. But I like this bit as it shows the diversity of the crowd.
The crowd which turned up was very varied. Apart from the usual suspects from the London trans scene, we got many feminist, queer, socialist and other allies turning up, all keen protest what we all saw as Stonewall's hypocrisy. Especially welcome was Dr Stuart Lorimer, one of the gender specialists from the Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic. I've propped up a bar with him before (and ended up doing so after the protest), and find him very likeable. He had a personal reason to be there, aside from showing solidarity with the trans community; Julie Bindel had professionally insulted his whole profession in the "Hecklers" debate by implying that medical transition was some sort of conspiracy by 1950s psychiatrists, and to hear her argument, one would think they're practically clubbing people on the street, dragging them in and having them wake up in an ice-bath minus their breasts/penis
No news that Stonewall are going to be a little more respectful in future, but we have plans to do something about that.......
Update [2008-11-8 6:18:26 by Helen]: There is a video of some of the protest posted downthread, I'm in the foreground with a hat holding the banner.