Anyone who has read my blog on LGB&T issues may have noticed a scepticism in my tone about the work of Stonewall, the biggest and most influential equal rights campaign in the United Kingdom, this despite being listed by them amongst 17 LGB ‘Role Models’ in their publication of that name back in 2012.
In recent years, Stonewall, and more particularly its egregious Chief Executive, Ben Summerskill, has put itself on the wrong side of debates – arguing for example in 2010 that there was no need to campaign for equal marriage as civil partnerships were quite sufficient. Furthermore, Summerskill steadfastly refused to allow Stonewall in England to support trans* people in their battle for equality; and, most recently, he has consistently used the term ‘gay’ to cover all queer folk, which risks excluding those who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or in some other way that best suits them.
Then, last Thursday came the news that many LGB&T activists across the UK have long been waiting for. Ben has gone.
In his place as Acting Chief Executive is Ruth Hunt: Ben’s Deputy since last last April and a leading campaigner with the charity since 2005. In my experience of Ruth she is not only a highly effective lobbyist but also far more considered in approach and willing to listen to all sections of our communities.
Ruth has already made clear that she wishes to adopt a far more open and inclusive approach to Stonewall’s work. In her first tweet as Acting CEO she loyally said that she was proud to carry on Ben’s legacy but recognised that there is lots to do in Britain and around the world to end homophobia and biphobia.
The very mention of biphobia, recognising that bisexual people do face distinct discrimination both within LGB&T communities and beyond, is already a major step forward for Stonewall becoming genuinely inclusive in its campaigns.
Later on the same day – in a debate on Facebook – Ruth opened the door to Stonewall potentially taking up the baton on behalf of trans* people in their desire to achieve full equality in Britain and overseas.
I believe that there remains a major role for Stonewall. Discrimination against LGB&T people still exists in the hearts and minds of far too many people and institutions in our own country and around the world. The change in Stonewall’s leadership marks a new dawn for the charity and I wish Ruth well in her role as Acting CEO, and hopefully in the post substantively should the trustees find in her favour after their open recruitment process.
For now though I have reinstated my donation to Stonewall as a sign of my faith that they will change for the better. I hope others who, like me, had doubts about Stonewall under Summerskill will join in supporting Ruth Hunt as she takes the charity through its next stage of development.
If you feel inclined to do so, follow this link to make a donation to Stonewall.